While you explore potential trade proposals in your league, it's important to take a step back and target players who fit well within the framework of your league settings. On a basic level, this is fairly intuitive: In a 10-team league in which depth doesn't matter much because there's a higher quality of talent available on the waiver wire, the studs should (and normally do) come at a higher price. Of course, that is why you should be trying to make it a point to work out a 2-for-1, even if, on the surface, it looks like you're overpaying: You can replace that extra player much more easily than your opponent can replace his stud.
On an even broader level, however, it seems this is an often overlooked part of wheeling and dealing. I often get e-mails asking me my thoughts on a trade or a potential player to drop, and the reader forgets to mention whether it's a rotisserie or head-to-head league. That's a particularly important fact to note because depending on the league, certain players have a bit more or less value.
In roto leagues, for example, it's harder to make up deficits since statistics pile up over 82 games. That puts extra value on players who can contribute in as many categories as possible, so you can make up as much ground as possible using fewer games played. But it's the opposite in head-to-head leagues: Moderate production is frowned upon because you can make up 3-4 games of marginal production by picking up and dropping a player every day to get seven games of replacement-level production. Quantity is worth more than quality since you need to win only one more category than your opponent per week to move on in the playoffs.
So to arm you with the information you need to rip off your unsuspecting owners, let's look at certain players who help your team out more than you think, depending on what type of league you play in. This does assume that every head-to-head league has daily transactions; in weekly leagues you really can't stream very well.
Andrei Kirilenko, Utah Jazz: The Jazz are surging, winners of eight in a row and 12 of their past 13, and the main reason for that surge is the play of Kirilenko, who has been on fire the past month. It usually makes little sense to try to "buy high," but AK-47 may be an exception: The only other players who shoot at least 50 percent from the field, average 2½ assists and pick up a block and steal per game are LeBron James and Josh Smith. Kirilenko ranks among the top 30 players in the past 30 days, and in 20 games as a starter he is shooting 58 percent from the field with 15.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Would his owner sell high on him for a top-50 player like a Troy Murphy or Chris Kaman? Maybe, maybe not, but it's sure worth finding out.
Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks: Players who excel in field goal (and free throw) percentage tend to be underrated in roto leagues, and that's definitely the case for Marion. It's no fluke, either, since he attempts nearly seven field goals per game from within 10 feet, according to hoopdata.com. His solid production in field goal percentage, rebounds, steals and blocks can really add up over half a season, making him a sneaky low-cost option to reinforce a few key categories.
Boris Diaw, Charlotte Bobcats: Players who don't score very much are always underrated, and on most nights Diaw struggles to hit double figures. But it's a fair trade-off, because the only power forward-eligible player who averages more assists than Diaw is Josh Smith. Meanwhile, Diaw also holds his own in 3-pointers, steals and blocks, and if he can get his field goal percentage up to his career level of 49.4 percent, watch out! In head-to-head leagues, you can stream the waiver wire and replace much of Diaw's production, but in rotisserie leagues, in which every game is valuable, that kind of jack-of-all-trades production is quite rare.
Mike Miller, Washington Wizards: Can you believe that, over the season, Miller ranks 59th on our Player Rater when sorted by averages? That may sound ridiculous, but aside from blocks, Miller helps you in every other category. He provides above-average production in field goal percentage, 3-pointers, rebounds and assists. (Just imagine if he ever decided to shoot the ball!) Because he doesn't pour in gaudy point totals and has been injured most of the season, he's underrated -- he's unowned in more than half of ESPN leagues -- so you should make it a priority to scoop him up on the cheap.
Kenyon Martin, Denver Nuggets: Martin is perceived to be injury-prone. However, the reality is that while he will miss his share of games for assorted dings and ailments, it's not as much as many people would believe. It's a lot easier to take advantage of that issue in head-to-head leagues, because even if a serious injury does strike, it is easy enough to stream in players every day until settling on a solid replacement. That may sound unpleasant, but at least it's a backup plan; in a roto league you'd be out of luck, so you may as well take advantage of the convenience of replacing marginal players in head-to-head leagues.
Andris Biedrins, Golden State Warriors: Meet the poor man's Andrew Bogut! Let us learn a lesson from Samuel Dalembert: Rebounds and blocks are valuable even in limited minutes, and if Biedrins is ever able to snag just a handful more minutes per game (an eminently reasonable proposition), he would turn into a stud overnight. Biedrins is a great value in any league, but particularly in H2H leagues considering he could carry your team in two categories overnight; in roto leagues you have a whole season's worth of statistics to make up.
Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets: In head-to-head leagues you prefer players with significant strengths and weaknesses, since across-the-board production can be easily replicated by sheer volume (the streaming strategy). Since it doesn't matter how many categories you win, so long as you win the majority of them, that puts more of a premium on players who are extremely good in a handful of stats and awful in a few others. You can assemble a team of similar players and end up being unstoppable in just enough categories to win each week, no matter how good a team your opponent has. That's why a guy like Ariza has more value: You can just punt field goal percentage to help ensure you rarely lose 3-pointers, assists and steals. If you have a team like that, acquiring guys like Ariza, Rodney Stuckey and Manu Ginobili could have a ton of value to your specific team, much more than their places on the Player Rater would suggest.
Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. Feel free to hit him up about any potential deals in your league at firstname.lastname@example.org.