The approaching NBA All-Star break means that season-long fantasy basketball leagues will soon be rounding the bend and hitting the stretch run. Roster management decisions are more imperative now than ever. This includes trade discussions with your league mates. No matter what the current standing of your team is, a well-executed trade could spring you forward into the postseason or make you a championship contender. Here are some players to consider buying and selling right now before the calendar turns to February.
Brandon Ingram, SF, New Orleans Pelicans
For fantasy basketball owners who are in the market for a small forward, the NBA debut of Zion Williamson went about as perfectly as you could have hoped. Williamson’s 22 points in 16 minutes easily overshadowed the fact that Brandon Ingram, New Orleans’ leading scorer on the season at 25.5 points per game (PPG), also had 22 points. Yet, when Ingram owners checked their fantasy box score, they were likely disappointed with Ingram’s performance, thanks to shooting just 6-22 from the field. That clip is nowhere near his season average of 47.1%, but you don’t have to mention that in trade talks.
Look to use the hype surrounding Williamson to your advantage and talk up a potentially reduced role for Ingram. Truth be told, Williamson is likely to remain on a minutes restriction in the early stages of his return and many experts don’t expect him to even suit up for all of the Pelicans’ remaining games. Add it all up, and it makes for a terrific (but potentially short-lived) buy-low window for Ingram.
Malcolm Brogdon, SG, Indiana Pacers
If there was ever a time to buy low on Malcolm Brogdon, it is now. If the announced January 29th return of Victor Oladipo to the Pacers lineup didn’t have owners panicking already, back-to-back five-point performances and a sustained concussion that will keep Brogdon out of at least Friday’s game against Golden State sure will. I’m more inclined to view Oladipo’s return as a positive for Brogdon. He may not have quite as many shots on a nightly basis, but those he does take are likely to be more open and effective with the presence of another gifted scorer to play off of. He also has proven himself serviceable in other categories as well, averaging 7.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds to go along with his 17.1 points. Given the circumstances, and his 30+ minutes per game average, Brogdon could be a buy-low fantasy steal ahead of the season’s stretch run.
Deandre Ayton, C, Phoenix Suns
Unlike the aforementioned Ingram and Brogdon, there isn’t really an apparent angle that would cause a current Deandre Ayton owner to sell low, especially when you considered he/she likely waited patiently for his 25-game suspension to run its course and is now finally reaping the rewards. With that said, even though you will likely have to pay up to get him, Ayton is worth negotiating for. Fellow Phoenix center Aron Baynes is swirling around in NBA trade rumors. Should he depart, it would only mean increased volume for the 2018 number one overall draft pick. Ayton is averaging a double-double, with 17.6 points and 11.9 boards in 14 games played. His 53.5% field goal percentage would slot in as the 14th-best mark in the NBA despite having played far fewer games. Throw in the fact that he will likely be fresh down the stretch after the missed time, and Ayton is a sound target for fantasy teams in need of some star power at the center position.
Derrick Rose, PG, Detroit Pistons
Derrick Rose has had his name swirling around many trade rumors recently. Rose has probably outperformed expectations this season, averaging 18.5 points on nearly 50% shooting and 5.9 assists. The concern going forward lies in the minutes he gets per night. Rose is currently averaging 26.2 minutes with Detroit, but that number likely drops, should he be traded to a contending team where he would almost certainly be the second option at point guard. Combined that with that fact that he would be playing on a deeper and more offensively talented roster, and his scoring would almost certainly take a hit. Use his strong season to your advantage to net a sound return now. At worst, you will avoid sweating out the Pistons’ own decision to move him or not at the deadline.
Norman Powell, SF, Toronto Raptors
Regression to the mean is a very real thing when it comes to sports statistics. While you never want to wish a statistical regression on any one player, there is a very high likelihood that Norman Powell will experience one soon. Prior to this past Wednesday’s game, Powell had scored 20 or more-points in all five games since returning from a shoulder injury. He supplemented his 18 points on Wednesday with eight rebounds to still finish with a sound fantasy scoring output. The problem is the defending NBA Champion Raptors are so deep offensively that it seems risky to count on consistent 20-point performances from Powell.
Adding into the cause for concern is that Powell has had to shoot at an incredible 51.4% clip from the field (41.2% from three) to achieve his scoring numbers while averaging just 28.7 minutes. Those shooting percentages cannot be sustained, and with the Raptors getting healthy as a team, Powell is unlikely to get the minutes increase he needs to continue his recent scoring production. Sell him high on the back of it as it is bound to regress sooner than later.
Khris Middleton, SF, Milwaukee Bucks
Before you write off the idea of selling the fifth-ranked small forward in fantasy this season and the second-best player on what appears to be the NBA’s strongest team, I want to again bring to your attention the concept of regression. As we just discussed with Powell, Khris Middleton is likely due for a somewhat similar regression, particularly on his three-point shooting, which currently sits at 42.1%. While the prospect of playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo bodes well for Middleton and all his Milwaukee teammates, there is in fact a drawback to the Bucks’ dominance from a fantasy perspective. A plentiful amount of garbage time means less playing time for Milwaukee’s key contributors. For Middleton specifically, that has resulted in his averaging just 28.5 minutes per game.
Am I knocking Middleton’s star status? Absolutely not. But there is reason to believe that his numbers could decline a bit as the season goes on, making now the perfect time to shop him for a maximum return value.