Grand Theft Roto: 'Ah, what the heck' trades
There is a point where, if you're not writing a weekly column on trading, you might need to take a breath. That point is where you've offered so many owners in your league so many deals that you could be branded as something of a loose cannon.
Do you think NBA general managers actually got excited when Trader Bob Whitsitt would put in a call, late in his tenure? It could be momentarily entertaining, but eventually, you'd probably start telling your assistant to take a message.
If you're firing out multiple trade offers each week within one league, and you find you're not getting responses at the same old speed, it may mean you've been branded a loose cannon.
I know what I'm talking about here. When I first started playing fantasy basketball -- before I became haggard and hung over by the scarcity of joy life had to offer -- I made multiple transactions every week.
If I couldn't make a trade, I'd drop players up and down the waiver wire the same way Pat Riley dropped poor Penny Hardaway last week & swiftly, without warning and with little regard for decorum.
I was borderline manic. And I like to think it was kind of cute. It's certainly better than the alternative: an owner who makes moves with the same speed that Pluto orbits the sun. I hate those owners. OK, "hate" is a strong word, but at the very least, I intensely abhor them.
One of the reasons I started writing this column was that it allowed me to scratch my itch without fear of messing my roto rep with longtime friends. I am in 11 leagues. Nine of them are ones I joined via the ESPN Draft Lobby, or various other sites that put together leagues at random.
I like the anonymity. If I tick people off, I just move on to the next league, wait for a couple of weeks, then come back. But on the average, I make about five or six trade offers a week.
If you're in one of these random leagues, surely by now you've noticed that a couple of owners don't seem to give a flying fig about their teams. Every week, I make sure to send out a couple of offers to these owners. Why? Because you never know when you're going to strike oil on an "ah, what the heck!" trade.
An "ah, what the heck!" trade, as opposed to a "what the heck?" trade, is when you toss a Hail Mary to a pseudo-comatose owner who currently resides at the bottom of your league. He's not picking anyone off the waiver wire. He's not making any trade offers. He may be on the verge of giving up. For all you know, he may actually be comatose.
You send out an offer, not too outrageously one-sided, in the hopes of catching said owner in a whimsical mood. The owner may be miffed that he's getting his rear kicked, or just plain bored, but his last place status may make him amenable to say "ah, what the heck" and go along with it.
It's a long shot, but pretty painless. If you want to try it, you'd better hurry, because once you get towards midseason, these people tune out completely.
To keep in the holiday spirit, I will offer this method in recipe form.
1. Identify the worst owner
• He's usually the one that still has Shaq as his No. 1 center.
• He hasn't made a transaction since Veteran's Day.
• His team name usually contains some sort of veiled slur directed at an alternative lifestyle, a Michael Vick reference, or both.
• He's a Knicks fan. I'm not saying this as an insult. I'm saying it because there's a good chance that a Knicks fan has written off the game of basketball for the rest of his or her natural life.
2. Inspect their roster
The pickings are probably going to be slim. There's a reason they're in last. They had a terrible draft. But they should have something of worth.
3. Use the PR15
This is going to be where a sleepwalking owner looks first. If you're lucky, he may not look that far beyond it. Target a player that's coming off of a temporary hiccup in production, such as Raymond Felton or Chris Bosh.
You're going to have to offer a player or players that are higher on the PR15 meter. The deal must leap off of the screen in a way that says "hey, I'm just an honest owner looking to try something different."
4. Avoid transparent value
You can't offer an obscure player, even if they're having a good season. Bad owners are usually hooked on transparent value, which we talked about two weeks ago. Former stars on their way down (Peja Stojakovic, Ben Wallace) are good. Players that score and not much else (Ben Gordon), or those that have long injury histories (Jermaine O'Neal) are even better.
5. When in doubt, offer a center
6. Send out the offer
Send out your first offer, ideally, a 2-for-1, in which you offer two reasonable players for a really good player and change. Make the second person on their side the worst player on their roster.
7. Attach an e-mail
This is key. Something along the lines of "I'm looking to shake my team up a little." Make it nice, but not pandering. Put the onus on the fact that you're the one acknowledging the need to improve. If you come in with something along the line of "your team needs my help," that owner will just go back to online poker. But, if you're nice about it, the other owner, in the spirit of the season, may just say "ah, what the heck" and put the trade through. He knows he has nothing to lose at this point.
Now, I'm not saying this works all that often. I find that maybe five percent of these offers are even considered. But if you get lucky, it's well worth it. Think of it the same way that you think of that buddy of yours that hits on every girl with a pulse. It's not very noble, but it does occasionally succeed.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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