Commentary

Grand Theft Roto: Not too early to trade

Updated: November 2, 2010, 3:10 PM ET
By Tom Carpenter | Special to ESPN.com

You need an intervention. Yeah, I'm talking to you! You've had this problem for a long time. Maybe years. Maybe decades. It could be that you just picked up the habit. But deep down inside you know it's a problem, because deep down inside is where it lurks. It never really leaves and it never stops messing with your head and your very existence.

It keeps you up at night and it's the first thing on your mind when you wake up. It interferes with your work, friends and family. Girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives? They won't even look you in the eye, because they know nobody's home. Even your dog thinks it's a problem, because you have to feed your habit instead of throwing him a damn stick!

Cousins
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireFoul issues are limiting DeMarcus Cousins' minutes and production, but that could be fixed in due time.

Sadly, for others, your addiction even leads to a life of crime. In order to feed your incessant desire for it, you commit Grand Theft Roto as often as possible. Without it, you'll never be able to feed the dragon. That's right, you are a genuine fantasy hoops addict and you can't stop stealing better players from your opponents in trades. You need an intervention.

Oh, but I'm not going to say, "Hi, I'm Tom. Your family, friends and I have gathered today to help you break this habit."

No. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm more like your best friend (some might say worst friend) and dealer all rolled into one. I'll feed your habit and tell you how great you are for submitting to your addiction. When your kids want you to play with them, I'll ask you whether your point guards are strong enough. When you're in that really important meeting with your boss, I'll beg to know if you're going to take another shot at pilfering that last place team in your league. And when your spouse wants to get romantic, I'll slyly turn your laptop so you can still examine rosters and concoct trade proposals at the same time.

While most fantasy hoops owners enjoy playing, it's only the rare baller like you and me who knows that the best part of the fantasy hoops experience is trading to make our teams better. Let's meet at this corner every Tuesday all season to discuss the best ways to commit Grand Theft Roto. I'll give you all of the dire plots I've devised over the past 15 years of playing fantasy hoops. I'll show you the ins and outs of improving your roster and ripping off your fellow owners.

By the time mid-April rolls around and the fantasy hoops season ends, there's a good chance you will be fired, dumped, ridiculed, destitute and despised. But the important thing is that your fantasy hoops rosters will be peaking, and you will be holding championship trophies in hand!

The season has just started, so most owners are just easing into things. Not us, though. Let's take a look at a few things we can do right now to improve our rosters through trades.

Examine Your Roster

In rotisserie leagues, I'd recommend making a spreadsheet. Insert your roster and add their projected stats for this season. This will give you a pretty good look at the stats you are going to be lacking and the stats you'll have in excess. If you look at your roster projections and see only two players who are expected to average as many as 1.5 3-pointers per game, you'll need to seek out triple production. If you realize that you have three good point guards plus three forwards who average four dimes per game, you clearly can deal away some of your assist production.

In head-to-head leagues that use points, particular categories don't matter as much. It's more likely that you'll need to address issues with position scarcity. Maybe you scored five good centers in a two-center league, but your guards are thin on talent. You should look for another roster that's thin at center and heavy at guard and start making offers.

Good Draft Value Players

For the first month or so, a lot of fantasy hoops owners can't get past where a player was drafted. Regardless of stats, if you offer a player taken in the fifth round for a player taken in the third round, most owners will recoil in horror. That's all right; we can use that reaction against them. Suppose a player you like sank to the fifth round and was taken by another owner. And suppose that the player you took in the fourth round is a safe player everyone likes. If you offer the fourth-rounder for the fifth-rounder, most owners are going to listen.

Know Your Owners

Early on is a great time to take advantage of the likes and dislikes of other owners. Hopefully you noted comments from them during the draft. Say a guy drafted Devin Harris and said, "Crap! Why must I always draft thee, Devin?!" (For the record, I uttered those exact words in one league when I took him at the end of the fifth round.) Take a look at your roster to see if there's a player he likes but whom you value less than Harris. Make an offer. Maybe even mention all the downsides of Harris, like how he gets hurt all the time and carries such an awful field goal percentage. Then pump up your guy and how he's reliable and shoots well from the field.

Target Slow Starters

Nobody likes a player who comes out of the gate slowly. We spent all summer waiting for stats, and if a guy isn't churning them out right away, we are visibly annoyed. On the other hand, impatience is a weakness in fantasy hoops and we junkies should exploit it when we see it in another owner. Offer up a player who is playing better than you think he will over the course of the season for a player who is performing below your long-term expectations. Consider targeting guys like Danilo Gallinari, DeMarcus Cousins and John Salmons, all of whom should be reliable fantasy assets long term, even though they've produced limited stats thus far.

Or you can aim high. Even though LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have churned out some quality stats the first week, they're both going to be a lot better as they get comfortable with each other and their teammates. Barring injury, their trade value won't be any lower than it is right now. This may be your only chance to get either at a relatively reasonable price.

I'll be back next Tuesday to feed your fantasy hoops trade habits some more. Same time, same corner, same crime: Grand Theft Roto!

Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

Tom Carpenter

Fantasy and Insider
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball and football analyst, co-host of the Fantasy Focus Basketball podcast, and an NBA, NFL and NHL analyst for Insider and Rumor Central.

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