- Seth Landman, Fantasy Basketball
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With the NBA trade deadline now nearly a full week in the past, it's time to take a look at players who deserve some special attention based on their new situations. In many fantasy leagues, you might be running out of time to make trades of your own, so it's important to try to target players who are in beneficial situations heading down the stretch.
Continuing a theme from last week, we'll focus once again on players who might be risky acquisitions but could pay off if you are trying to make a last-minute push to make up ground and win your league. We'll leave these players' current rankings out of it this time, as they are largely irrelevant due to previous lack of playing time and bad situations.
Sergio Rodriguez, PG, New York Knicks: Rodriguez got almost no opportunity on a Sacramento Kings team that featured point guard types like Beno Udrih and Tyreke Evans, but he's now on the Knicks, a fast-paced team on which he immediately became the best point guard on the roster. It's hard to imagine a better situation for Rodriguez; this started to prove itself true Tuesday night, when he played 38 minutes against Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics, and put up 18 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals. For the season (even though his minutes overall have been extremely limited), he's posting a Player Efficiency Rating of 16.2, which is comparable to those of Mo Williams, Devin Harris and Aaron Brooks. It's important to realize that although he's not a great shooter, he is an assist machine and should be owned in all leagues. Considering he's still owned in less than 2 percent of fantasy leagues as I'm writing this, chances are he's available in yours.
John Salmons, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks acquired Salmons from the Chicago Bulls to make a push toward this season's playoffs, and they certainly are using him as much as they can in the early going. In his first three games with the Bucks, he's averaging 37 minutes per game, which is four more than his season average. That's a modest bump, but it's an important one, considering he's putting up more points and assists since the trade, too. Salmons is not a superstar, but he's a good player who has found himself in a much better situation than he was in a week ago. If you can get him from someone who thinks his current production might be a bit fluky, he's certainly worth taking a shot on for help in points, 3-pointers, steals and assists from the small forward spot.
Carl Landry, PF, Sacramento Kings: The important thing to consider here is that Landry now is in the starting lineup, which -- despite his effectiveness -- was not the case in Houston. The Kings clearly like Landry's scoring ability, and he has scored 18 points in each of his past two games. He's playing big minutes, too, which should continue for the foreseeable future. Because the Kings had Jason Thompson, it was hard to say whether Landry would see more minutes in Sacramento, but it now seems pretty clear that he'll be getting more than 30 minutes each time out. That should mean more scoring, and more benefit from his great percentages from the floor and the line. He's a good bit more valuable than he was a week ago, and if you can pry him away from whomever owns him in your league, you'll be making a great move.
Tyrus Thomas, PF, Charlotte Bobcats: Speaking of blocks, Thomas is blowing up in a big way now that he's out of Chicago, and fantasy owners who held on to him through the tough times are about to reap the benefits in a major way. Three games into his Bobcats career, Thomas is averaging 10.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and an amazing 4.3 blocks per game. His minutes are up, too, and considering the numbers he's putting up, it's hard to imagine Larry Brown taking away those minutes anytime soon. With Thomas, it's always been a question of opportunity, and there seems to be a pretty good chance that Brown will help him get his act together and take advantage of the playing time he'll be getting. If you can trade for him now, you might end up getting the player who was such a dominant force down the stretch last season, which would be quite a coup in most leagues.
Drew Gooden, PF/C, Los Angeles Clippers: On Monday night, in his first game as a Clipper, Gooden played 28 minutes and finished with a pretty modest 10 points and nine rebounds. Still, those are pretty reasonable numbers for Gooden in those minutes, and if those were his averages, they would be nothing to thumb your nose at in fantasy. Gooden is and has always been a pretty productive player for all his flaws, and if he's playing 25 to 30 minutes per game, he's definitely going to be worth owning in just about all fantasy leagues. As of this moment, he's owned in only 6 percent of them, so now's the time to pick him up.
Darko Milicic, C, Minnesota Timberwolves: Considering Milicic had played in a total of seven games before getting traded to the Timberwolves, it's not a huge stretch to say he's in a better situation now. How much value does he have in fantasy? Well, not much. Even when he shows some promise, we've been down this road enough to begin to understand that it never lasts. Still, the guy is a really good shot-blocker, and seeing as blocks are always at a premium in fantasy, if you are desperate, you could do worse than Milicic. He's yet to prove he's worth owning based on his performance in any other categories, but there's a decent chance Milicic will put up somewhere in the vicinity of two blocks per game for the remainder of the season, and based on that number, he'll certainly be worth owning in some situations.
Tracy McGrady, SG, Knicks: McGrady didn't look great Tuesday night against the Celtics, but it's a positive sign that he played even while dealing with some sore knees. While Tuesday night's performance wasn't stellar, it's worth noting that McGrady is averaging 15.7 points and 4.7 assists in just less than 30 minutes in his first three games as a Knick. He's owned in 60 percent of fantasy leagues, which means he's probably unavailable in most of the leagues in which people are actually paying attention. But if you're willing to offer up a proven commodity for him, you might still be able to get him on the cheap, and while he's anything but a sure thing, there are few fantasy basketball stocks out there with a higher ceiling than McGrady's on the Knicks. Basically, if you're out of contention and you need to take a risk, McGrady is a great place to look.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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