Grand Theft Roto: Anatomy of a deal
I'm glad to see you've returned to this corner today. I knew you wouldn't be scared off by the possible consequences of learning the ins and outs of Grand Theft Roto. Not everyone can stomach the stress and dedication needed to pull off brilliant trades. But then again, not everyone is cut out to be a champion like you and me. It's clear you are in for the long haul or you wouldn't have come back.
Deciding which players to trade, for whom and why is what we spend most of our time discussing when it comes to making trade proposals. Is it a good idea to trade these two players for those three players? Will it make my team better? What's the risk? Answering these questions is a key to improving your team during the season.
None of that means anything, though, if you aren't able to actually pull off a trade. It's a rare situation when you can offer another owner a single well-crafted trade proposal that gets accepted straight up without any alterations. It's usually going to take a series of proposals to get anything accomplished. So if you don't know how to haggle, you'll never get anywhere in Fantasyland. Let's break down some tricks of the trade for getting the most value when you commit Grand Theft Roto.
Ideally, when you look at another team for trade purposes, you'll see one of those simple one-for-one deals that helps both teams. I made a proposal last season in a league in which I was desperate for rebounds and blocks but strong in dimes and steals. Another team was weak in dimes and steals but strong in boards and swipes. So I offered up Rajon Rondo's dimes and steals for Dwight Howard's boards and blocks, and it was accepted minutes later. A swap like that is the rare exception, though. I made seven trades in that league, and that's the only one that took fewer than three trade proposals to complete.
Still, there's something important to be gleaned from that example. Unless you're trying to trade with a total novice you can sucker, you'll need to come up with a trade proposal that helps the other owner's team in some recognizable way. Maybe it's a boost in talent. Maybe it will give him/her stats in a category in which he/she is weak. Maybe it will sap stats only from his/her strong categories. But basically, nobody is going to trade just for the sake of trading.
Put yourself in the other owner's shoes. Look at his/her team as if it were your own and try to come up with a proposal that you would be enticed to accept if your roles were reversed. Keep that one in mind, but don't offer it up right away. This should be the trump card you drop on the other owner after warming him/her up with some lower offers. There are two reasons for this: First, you never know, maybe the other owner values some players differently than you do, in which case you might be able to give up less than you think. The other reason is that you really can warm someone up to a trade by swapping proposals.
A smart teen girl doesn't just ask her dad for the car to go to a party on Saturday night. Instead, she warms him up by doing some chores and offering to drive her little brother to his friend's house, which just happens to be near the aforementioned party. She mentions how nice it will be for dad to just stay home on a cold Saturday evening and enjoy watching some football instead of driving his son all the way to his friend's house. She gets the keys.
It's the same with trading. You need to put the other owner in the right frame of mind by making that trump card of a trade proposal look even better than it is. Let's say you know another owner loves Danny Granger and you have him. You come up with a five-player deal involving Granger that you think he/she will take. Why not offer up Rudy Gay or Andrea Bargnani before putting Granger in the mix? You can mention how their stats are similar in that they fill in stats across the board. After rejecting offers involving those two, he/she will be thrilled to see Granger in your next offer and will be more likely to accept the final proposal than if he/she just got it blind.
Last season, I made a trade with a friend in my home league. We made a series of proposals, through which I gathered important information about which players he liked, disliked and was willing to trade. They also loosened him up to the idea of trading and receiving the exact players I wanted when the trade finally was consummated. Here's a look at most of the actual proposals:
Notice a theme here? Clearly, he's trying to get Durant. I'll give him credit for persistence, but after four tries, he finally got the message: I wasn't going to trade Durant to anyone for anything. But I did pick up a little piece of information, which is that he liked Westbrook and was willing to deal Gay. At the time, Westbrook was shooting about 40 percent while Gay was shooting about 49 percent and averaging about four points more per game. I needed scoring and a boost in field goal percentage, and he needed dimes and steals. So, with that in mind, we swapped some more proposals:
• Dec. 7: I reject Pierce and Gay for Roy and Bargnani.
• Dec. 11: I propose Westbrook and Rose for Pierce and Gay (he rejects).
• Dec. 12: I reject Pierce and Gay for Roy and Westbrook, and trade talks stop for a little more than a week.
• Dec. 21: I propose Westbrook for Gay, straight up. He rejects offer by saying, "Give me one good reason why I'd do this." I must have given him some good reasons (such as how it would help his team make up ground in dimes and swipes, and that he obviously liked Westbrook) because a week later
• Dec. 28: He proposes Gay for Westbrook, with this message: "Let's just do this and get it over with then we can revisit something bigger down the line."
I knew that offer was a good one for him and that the odds were good that he would take it. Obviously, I had to do some more talking to make him see it as the good deal that it was, but in the end, you can see the advantage of making a series of trade proposals to loosen an owner up before dropping the proposal on him that you think will work.
I recommend that you get to work right now concocting a trade you think will work for another owner. Then start haggling with some low-ball offers until dropping your trump card for a successful deal. Keep honing your thieving skills until next Tuesday, when I return to feed your fantasy hoops trade habits once more. Same time, same corner, same crime: Grand Theft Roto!
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.