There was one “game” last night, the Rising Stars Challenge. While it was an entertaining exhibition, and Kyrie Irving a deserving MVP, we’re here to report fantasy news. Kawhi Leonard skipped the game with a sore calf that shouldn’t be an ongoing issue. Among the other rookies and sophomores, with no defence being played, a few performances were disappointing. Jeremy Lin, looking tired, was limited to 8:55 on the court and Blake Griffin (10:33) was also given plenty of rest, while Derrick Williams played 18:33 without doing much. On a more positive note, if you’re a frustrated owner of Evan Turner, maybe that 8-9 shooting line will give him some momentum when the real games resume.
The Unwritten Rules
This break is the perfect time for owners to start thinking seriously about trades. The NBA trade deadline is March 15, but the default for many hosts is March 8, so be sure to check your league’s settings.
Don’t wait for the last minute to start negotiating. Before Tuesday, examine your strengths and weaknesses. Try to determine the positions, categories and where you can benefit most from an upgrade. In a Roto league where you own Serge Ibaka, chances are you’re solid in BLK. Try to trade him to an opponent whose strengths fit your needs. Before you make (or accept) an offer, read on.
My #1 rule of trading is, don’t try to fleece your opponent. Especially in a keeper league, a trade is a business deal between partners. You want it to work out for both sides and avoid burning bridges. Anyone who makes a ridiculous offer — or worse, lots of them — isn’t a good fantasy owner, just a nuisance. In some leagues, it’s so refreshing to get an inspired, win-win offer, I have accepted without even countering.
That doesn’t mean you don’t want to gain an advantage in a trade. There’s nothing wrong with dealing a player you fear may be slipping for another you expect to improve.
Which leads to my #2 rule — integrity. Do not break promises. You may be conducting an “auction,” with multiple teams interested in a player, but don’t lie to someone in an effort to squeeze out an even better deal. Playing one team off another while making up stories is a sure way to burn those bridges. Whether or not you believe in karma or the oft-fickle fantasy basketball gods, it’s better to be known as a straight shooter than untrustworthy.
Rule #3 is always include a note. Tell the other owner exactly how your offer helps his team. Something like, “You could use some BLK,” or “REB for you, AST for me.” Avoid over-selling and keep it brief.
Rule #4 is offer a choice, whenever possible. Let’s say you covet Kevin Durant and think his owner might bite on a 2-for-1 of Pau Gasol and Jrue Holiday, but you also own Darren Collison. Make the initial offer Gasol and Collison, while being sure to mention that you wouldn’t rule out Holiday. Often, you’ll get exactly the deal you wanted all along — as a counter-offer. On occasion, someone will even bite at the initial version, which is always a pleasant surprise.
My #5 rule is caution. If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. Take a few minutes to search Twitter or Google News for the latest information on any player offered below his value. You see, not everyone follows Rule #2.
Buyers and Sellers
In keeper leagues, there are often three groups of owners as the trade deadline nears: contenders who are trying to win this year and willing to mortgage their future, rebuilding teams looking to deal veterans for prospects, and those who prefer to stand pat.
If you can’t win, why not do whatever it takes to improve your chances next season? If you have only a longshot chance in H2H playoffs, don’t ruin next year’s chances by being a buyer. But if you do stand pat, don’t complain when a rival beefs up at the deadline.
In the Peach Baskets league, I was a beefer-upper every year, trading away keeper after keeper for three depth guys in a futile effort to win a title. We can also trade draft picks there, which can be a path to ruin. After a second-place finish, then a fifth, I’d gutted my team of talent and chose to punt the entire 2009-2010 season. Announced myself as a seller before we even drafted, and limped in 14th of 20, but collected some extra picks along the way. It paid off with a championship last year.
However, I did trade two high picks for Chris Bosh to help me win, and am paying dearly for that this year. A seller again, I’m looking forward to another title run next season. Flags fly forever.
Who to Deal
It all comes down to “buy low, sell high” — if you were skilled and lucky enough to get Jeremy Lin as a free agent, he’s already paid unexpected dividends. You can cash in a second time if you trade him for someone whose past value is better established and whose future is easier to predict. Likewise, I’m shopping Nikola Pekovic and Isaiah Thomas aggressively.
Job insecurity: March 7 has been mentioned as the day Zach Randolph could return. It may already be too late to move Marreese Speights, whose value will soon plummet. Other placeholders include Corey Brewer (get what you can before Danilo Gallinari is back) and Reggie Williams, who will lose time to Gerald Henderson.
Michael Beasley: Rumors persist that the Lakers are interested, and the Timberwolves have enough young talent that Beasley isn’t playing much. With only Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes at SF, Michael would get plenty of run and a change-of-scenery rejuvenation is possible. Best of all, his current fantasy owner is fed up. Send a lowball offer and hope for the best.
Rookies: In keeper leagues, unless you have a good chance to win this year, try to get younger. Nobody’s going to trade Ricky Rubio, but maybe you can pick up Norris Cole for an older player who is definitely not a keeper in a classic win-win deal. Predicting who will break out later this season, or next year, is more art than science. Bismack Biyombo and Tristan Thompson are on my list, and don’t sleep on someone like Alec Burks, who is being brought along slowly.
Injured guys: One gambit I like, in leagues where I can afford to play a man short, is trading for someone like Anderson Varejao while he is sidelined. Obviously, you aren’t going to pay retail, but if his current owner needs immediate help, it can be both a win-win and a bargain for you. Getting someone like Richard Hamilton as a throw-in is another variation.
Tomorrow, in addition to the usual updated news, I’m going to introduce you to an unusual fantasy format that’s more challenging than Head-to-Head and features way more action than Rotisserie or Points leagues. Join my dozens of loyal Twitter followers; there’s always room for one more.