The buyout market has always been a contentious topic in the NBA, but especially this year as LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin went to the Nets while Andre Drummond signed with the Lakers. These moves would normally cost teams current or future assets, but this is not the case in a buyout situation. This is especially a concern for smaller market teams that lack the allure to convince players to join them via the buyout market, essentially widening the margin between big and small-market teams. I am not sure if this is in the immediate agenda of the league but even as a fan I have to admit that it feels a little bit like cheating for a team to get players of that caliber for essentially no cap space hit. Another unfortunate side effect is that trades for these players are unlikely to happen, as rival executives know that the players will be eventually bought out and are reluctant to give anything of value for them. All in all, it seems like a situation that needs to be further explored for potential changes next year.
Getting back to the fantasy talk and regarding last week’s suggestions, I hope you followed my advice on selling Al Horford, as the Thunder announced he will not play again this season as they shift their focus to tank…ahem to player development…Tyler Herro was also featured as a “Buy” candidate and has since improved his shooting and peripheral stats, while Jordan Poole also had a good run but is a drop due to Stephen Curry’s return.
Chuma Okeke: If you didn’t immediately grab Okeke when the trade news regarding Orlando emerged there is a high chance that he is taken in your league, but with 46% ownership as of this moment, there is still a chance to grab what is, in my opinion, a major fantasy difference-maker. The Magic decided to clear house, shipping away Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier (more on him later) while getting little immediate production back and this has resulted in Chuma Okeke starting, getting major minutes and feasting. After the trade deadline, Okeke is ranked 38th in per-game value by averaging 17.8/3.0/4.8/2.3/1.3/0.3/1.5 on 62.8%/83.3% shooting. The efficiency is indeed unsustainable, but the stats look juicy and he will have every opportunity to produce for a rebuilding Magic team.
Gary Trent Jr: Despite Trent’s slow start in his Toronto career, I believe this move is a net positive for his fantasy value. He avoids Portland’s very crowded backcourt and with Kyle Lowry being 35 years old, there is a good chance he increases his average minutes. He was dropped in many leagues, but I would be rushing to pick him up as I believe in his rest of the season potential (43% owned).
Jaden McDaniels: The Timberwolves are going nowhere for another season and player development will be a focal point for the franchise for the rest of the season. This bodes well for rookie Jaden McDaniels who has seen his minutes rise to 30 per game during the last two weeks. McDaniels is a great and long defender and can hit the open jumper. The eye test suggests he could potentially be a useful building block for Minnesota. His blocking rate is particularly impressive for a forward and he is worth a long look as a great add for the remainder of the season (16% owned).
Hamidou Diallo: The trade that moved Diallo to the Pistons was not highlighted as much as other deadline trades, but it could potentially have a great fantasy impact. The Pistons reportedly view Diallo as a building block and are willing to give him serious minutes in the wings. Granted, Diallo’s game is not particularly fantasy-friendly, mainly due to a lack of triples, but if he can carve a 30-minute role he would be worth an add even in standard leagues (27% owned).
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Another starter from Oklahoma featured in the “Sell” column for the second straight week. Shai suffered plantar fasciitis in his right foot and was declared out indefinitely. Usually, plantar fasciitis takes 3-5 weeks to heal for NBA athletes, but the Thunder have zero incentive to play him anymore this year as they are actively trying to lose as many games as possible (see Al Horford). I don’t see a need to keep him rostered in redraft leagues as even if he returns in time for the fantasy playoffs, he will likely be rested in half of his available games regardless. Trading him to a team that can afford to wait for him is a great option right now, but I even took the bold step of dropping him in a league where I am struggling to make the playoffs (98% owned).
Evan Fournier: One of the losers of the trade deadline, Fournier moves from a prime production spot in Orlando to a 6th man role in Boston. In his first game he even went 0/10 from the field with Jaylen Brown unavailable. I still think he can maintain some low-end value coming from the Celtics’ bench, but he will have a hard time matching his top80 production for the season.