Here are a few Monday thoughts from the Hoops Lab, as we prepare for Week 17 of the fantasy basketball season. Keep in mind, the Fantasy Basketball Rest of Season Rankings also update on Mondays, so check those out as your prepare for this week's games. Between the rankings and this article, we'll also help you identify some good Buy Low/Sell high candidates. So, without further ado, let's dig into it.
Is KD next?
Welcome to life at the NBA trade deadline, when players and fantasy fortunes can rise and fall in an instant. The Nets traded Kyrie Irving, officially ending the era that began when Kyrie and Kevin Durant signed with them five years ago. Now, all eyes turn to the other team pillar, Kevin Durant. Durant reportedly wanted out of Brooklyn last summer right after the rumblings that Irving might be traded, but both ultimately returned to the fold. This time?
I went on record on Friday, when Kyrie asked out again, that I believed Durant would be right behind him out the door. On First Take today, Stephen A. Smith said he was hearing rumblings that Durant could end up in Boston. On the fantasy front, if Durant were to be traded to a contender like the Celtics, it would potentially hurt his FBA value. After all, in Brooklyn, the Nets were built with KD, Kyrie and role players that allowed their main guys to shoot as often as they wanted. If KD were to move to a team that already had championship aspirations, they most likely also have other stars already in place. KD will always get his, but his biggest slice of the pie would likely be in Brooklyn.
Could rumored Kyrie offers from LA and Phoenix mean more action?
Another interesting aspect of the Kyrie Irving trade is the rumored offers from other teams that the Nets reportedly turned down. Reportedly the Lakers offered Russell Westbrook and two future first round picks; the Suns offered Chris Paul, Jae Crowder and a first round pick; and the Clippers offered Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, a future first round pick and two first round pick swaps (plus would've had to add another contract to the deal for it to work financially).
There is a lot of interesting discussion that could be had around which package the Nets chose and why... one rumor according to Marc Stein is that Nets owner Joe Tsai absolutely didn't want to trade Kyrie to the Lakers, his preferred destination... but let's look at the fantasy ramifications of the offers that weren't taken. To me, this signals clearly that the Lakers, Suns and Clippers are all willing to shake things up in a major way to try to improve their championship odds. And the players in the offers tell a story as well.
If Westbrook is traded to any other team, it's hard not to think his fantasy hoops value doesn't increase. After all, he reluctantly accepted a sixth man role on a Lakers team featuring LeBron James. It's hard to imagine him accepting a lesser role for any player less prominent than LeBron, so if he does play on another roster you'd have to think he'd be back starting. And if he ends up on a bad squad, he might still have a bit of his old triple-double magic in the tank.
For Paul, the story may be the opposite. His production has fallen precipitously since he hit his 37th birthday, but he's still the unquestioned starter in Phoenix, particularly with Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet sidelined by injury. If Paul is traded to a contender, he could struggle to maintain his same level of responsibility. And if he's traded to a rebuilding team, there's every chance he could be shut down for the season. Westbrook shares some of this shut down risk as well, though he seemingly has more gas still left in the thank than Paul.
Steph out again
Stephen Curry is reportedly out until at least the All Star Break, and possibly beyond, with leg injuries including partial tears to his superior tibiofibular ligaments and interosseous membrane as well as a contusion to his lower left leg. The Warriors haven't given an official timetable for his return, but it's reportedly measured in weeks, not days.
Curry's absence has major ramifications on the Warriors' chances to return to the playoffs, but on the FBA front, it signals a Jordan Poole return to the elite. When Curry sat out from December 16 through January 7, Poole started and boosted his averages to 27.9 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.0 RPG and 2.7 3PG.
Also, while many will race out to pick up Donte DiVincenzo (available in 90.3% of leagues) for good reason, you should also keep an eye on Ty Jerome (available in 99.7% of leagues). Jerome is likely the best pure point guard left on the team, and he's looked good in limited action. He dropped 22 points and 8 assists in a spot start against the Cavaliers two weeks ago, and scored 18 points with 3 3-pointers and 3 assists in 27 minutes against the Pistons earlier in January. In fact, Jerome has scored at least 17 points in all five games where he's played at least 27 games this season.
Other Players rumored to be on the block
It's almost guaranteed that more players in my FBA top 150 rankings will trade teams this week, we just don't know who. Names like Caris LeVert, Kyle Kuzma and John Collins stay on the rumored trade block. Myles Turner signed his extension with the Pacers, but teammate Buddy Hield didn't. Bojan Bogdanovic is one of my favorite "over points scored" bets in daily betting, but he's a 30-something year old vet on a rebuilding Pistons team full of 20-somethings. Gordon Hayward is now in a similar position with the young and underachieving Hornets. There are any number of players that could be moved, and if/when they are it shakes up everything. From an FBA perspective, these next few days are probably the most important for managers to stay locked in on for the rest of the season. Trades almost always shake loose unexpected value for players currently on the free agency wire.
On Friday, when Kyrie Irving requested his trade, I wrote that Cam Thomas could see a value increase. I also added him in one of my competitive FBA leagues, and started him on Saturday. He scored 63 fantasy points, and my team ended up winning this week by six points. Identifying and acquiring the diamonds in the rough before your leaguemates can absolutely be the difference between wins and losses for your fantasy hoops squads.
LeBron catching Kareem
While this is a FBA article, I have to give a nod to NBA history. This week, LeBron James will surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Considering that LeBron is considered more of an all-around player than a pure scorer, it's amazing that he will soon have scored more points than any other player in history. He already holds that mark if you factor in both regular and post season, but the regular season version of the record is the NBA's version of the home run chase in baseball or all-time goals scored in hockey. While the steroid era muddied Barry Bonds' surpassing of Hank Aaron in baseball, and Alex Ovechkin still has some work to do to catch Wayne Gretzky in hockey, LeBron is all set to break the unbreakable NBA record... very likely on Thursday, in prime time, against Kareem's old team the Bucks. We're talking once in a generation... perhaps even once in a lifetime type achievement, so I'll absolutely be watching for LeBron to score point number 38,388.