The trade deadline is officially one week away and me and my colleagues are going to do our best to make sure you and your fantasy team are well prepared for anything that happens. In these six division previews, we’ll be highlighting some possible names that could be on the move in addition to the fantasy implications and stashes that could give your team an edge as the fantasy playoffs draw closer. Today’s installment focuses on the Central Division, which has three teams jockeying for playoff position and two headed to the NBA Draft lottery.
The Bulls are currently 12-40, 13 games out of eighth place in the East and well on their way to the draft lottery. And there are some questions to answer with regards to this roster as well. The obvious candidates to be moved are veterans Jabari Parker and Robin Lopez, with both names having come up in trade rumors in recent months. In the case of Lopez, who will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, he could be an attractive option for playoff teams in need of additional depth at the center position. It’s clear that Lopez isn’t in the Bulls’ long-term plans, so even if he doesn’t move by the February 7 trade deadline that March 1 buyout deadline is another date to watch.
The same can be said of Parker when it comes to his fit in the Bulls’ plans, as earlier this season the franchise was willing to have the forward do nothing more than rack up DNP-CD’s. Injuries led to his being inserted back into the rotation, but with a team option worth $20 million for next season it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which the Bulls bring him back. The problem when it comes to a trade is the salary, as that won’t be an easy one for potential trade partners to match. Parker’s averaging 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 47.4% from the field and 32.5% from three-point range.
After those two names things get a bit cloudier, with the Bulls needing to make some decisions on young talents and their viability in the team’s rebuild.
Kris Dunn - Dunn, who averaged 11.2 points, 6.5 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.6 turnovers per game in January, is eligible to sign a contract extension in the summer. The Bulls did pick up his option for 2019-20, but the question is whether or not the team believes that he’s a player who should join the likes of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. as key pieces in the rebuild. Dunn has a .493 true shooting percentage (which is actually a career-best for him), but with LaVine seeing so much of the ball (LaVine’s usage of 31.1% is tops among Bulls regulars) within the Bulls offense where does that place Dunn? This will be a question that Chicago will need to address, either over the next month or in the lead-up to this summer’s NBA Draft.
Bobby Portis - Portis and the Bulls were unable to come to terms on a contract extension by the October deadline, meaning that he will be a restricted free agent this summer. While the power forward has been a bit banged-up this season he’s been productive when on the court, averaging 13.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 44.0% from the field and 35.9% from three. In Wednesday’s win over the Heat he played 24 minutes, tallying 26 points with four rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot. Portis is certainly valuable when on the court, but he has missed time this season due to two separate injuries (knee, ankle). Unless he himself is traded, Portis should get good minutes so long as he remains healthy. Markkanen is the focal point in the front court — and this likely factors into why he’s been paired up with Lopez, who isn’t much of a threat offensively, in the starting lineup — but Portis is a good option as well.
Outside of those players there aren’t many players on the Bulls’ books that will spark excitement on the trade market. Cristiano Felicio is out of the rotation, and with the center due to make over $15.5 million in the final two years of his contract it’s extremely difficult to envision a scenario in which he’s traded. If Lopez were to be moved — or have his contract bought out after the deadline — maybe Felicio (who’s averaging just 9.5 minutes per game) sees an increase in playing time. But it’s unlikely to be enough to turn him into a viable fantasy option.
The Bulls waived Carmelo Anthony Friday, and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent once he clears waivers. This obviously won’t impact the Bulls rotation, as he never suited up for the team after being acquired from the Rockets. The team also acquired Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and cash considerations from the Thunder in exchange for a protected second-round pick. Luwawu-Cabarrot was out of the rotation in Oklahoma City, averaging 1.7 points in just under six minutes per game, but the move to Chicago gives him another opportunity to earn playing time with rookie wing Chandler Hutchison currently out due to injury. He won’t be an impact addition fantasy-wise, but TLC gives the Bulls another option to work with at a position where it lacked depth.
In the immediate aftermath of LeBron James announcing his move to Los Angeles, the Cavaliers openly stated that the plan was to continue to be competitive in the hunt for a playoff spot. That hasn’t happened, with Tyronn Lue being fired after six games, Kevin Love undergoing toe surgery and J.R. Smith being exiled. Cleveland’s in the midst of a youth movement, with players such as rookie guard Collin Sexton and forward Cedi Osman being mainstays in the starting lineup. Those two are unlikely to be going anywhere, but there are other players on this roster that Cleveland could move with relative ease if it chose that route.
Rodney Hood - Hood’s making $3.47 million on a one-year deal, which would be pretty easy for trade partners to match. In 44 games this season he’s averaging 12.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 43.1% from the field, 36.0% from three and 91.8% from the foul line. Hood would be able to refuse any trade since he’s playing on a qualifying offer, so that would have to be taken into consideration.
Alec Burks - Like Hood, Burks is also on an expiring contract and for that reason could be an attractive target for other teams. He’s started 22 of the 32 games he’s played in Cleveland since being acquired from the Jazz, averaging 11.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest. Burks hasn’t shot the ball well, making just 39.6% of his attempts from the field (he’s a 38.9% shooter from three), but landing with a team that can provide better spacing could benefit the veteran guard.
Jordan Clarkson, who’s been one of the league’s most effective bench scorers, and Tristan Thompson would be tough to move due to the fact that both have one more year remaining on their respective contracts. Thompson’s currently out due to injury, which has freed up minutes for second-year center Ante Zizic. In his last 12 games Zizic is averaging 12.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per, and should continue to get quality minutes as the Cavaliers use the remainder of the season to evaluate the team’s younger prospects.
As for Love, with the power forward set to make in upwards of $120 million over the next four years it’s difficult to see him being moved. And it isn’t as if Cleveland’s looking to move Love, either. That being said when healthy Love, who has returned to practice recently, is one of the NBA’s best at his position. Were something to happen on that front, Larry Nance Jr.’s fantasy value would be locked in.
The Pistons have one of the NBA’s better front court tandems in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but the fact of the matter is that this time needs some help on the perimeter if it’s to reach the postseason. Reggie Jackson has been underwhelming, and that “Semi-Pro” sequence between he and Griffin during Thursday’s win over the Mavericks did anything but inspire confidence. None of those three players are likely to be on the move due to their respective contracts, but there are other players on the roster who have deals that would make them easier to trade.
Reggie Bullock - Bullock’s on an expiring contract, and when combined with his perimeter shooting ability could make him a target for other teams. Averaging 11.8 points per game, Bullock’s a 37.1% shooter from beyond the arc and has the potential to be even better when given proper spacing to work with on a consistent basis (he shot 44.5% from three on 4.5 attempts per game last season). The problem here is that Detroit, which holds Bullock’s Bird rights, would be parting ways with its most consistent three-point shooter if it were to make a move. However this would free up more playing time for a player like Luke Kennard, who’s averaging 20.3 minutes per game in his second NBA season. The Pistons are currently two games out of the final playoff spot in the East, so the team may want to hold onto Bullock with the hope that Dwane Casey’s bunch can get going.
Ish Smith - Smith has the ability to change things for the Pistons tempo-wise when he’s on the court, but the problem has been the fact that he’s missed a significant amount of time due to an adductor injury. Not only has Detroit been unable to take advantage of his speed as often as it would like — which would be a nice luxury to have given Jackson’s struggles — but it also limits Smith’s trade value. When on the court Smith is averaging 8.7 points and 2.8 assists per game this season, after playing in all 82 games and averaging 10.9 points and 4.4 assists per in 2017-18. He’s in the final year of his current deal, and with a price tag of $6 million that wouldn’t be a difficult deal for a playoff team in need of a backup point guard to take on. Moving Smith would leave Detroit a bit thin at the point guard position, but as one of the few veterans on this roster with a “friendly” contract his name will continue to come up as the deadline approaches.
Fourth-year forward Stanley Johnson, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, has struggled on the offensive end of the floor and is playing just under 20 minutes per night. Could he be a player the Pistons consider moving in order to bolster its bench production? Detroit has some smaller deals that could be moved, but the problem is that this would do little to impact the team’s bottom line given the amount of money tied up in contracts that most other teams would deem to be undesirable when it comes to making a trade.
Injuries have impacted the Pacers roster in a big way, with Victor Oladipo out for the remainder of the season after suffering a ruptured quadriceps tendon earlier this month and Tyreke Evans being hampered by a lower back injury. Add in Doug McDermott’s recent rib injury, and the Pacers are nowhere near full strength at this point in time. Indiana’s still fourth in the East, but with four straight losses Nate McMillan’s team is trending in the wrong direction. But would Indiana be willing to give up some of its roster flexibility, with the team due to have a substantial amount of cap space this summer, in order to add another scoring option with the hope of competing with the likes of Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia and Boston in the East? And if so, who can the team move?
Kyle O’Quinn - Of the six players in the final season of their contract on the Pacers roster, O’Quinn is the only one who isn’t a factor in the team’s rotation. The veteran forward, who agreed to a one-year deal in the summer, is averaging 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in 7.1 minutes per game. Moving him would not have a significant impact on the Pacers’ front court rotation, with Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young being the starters and Domantas Sabonis and the aforementioned McDermott being the top reserves. Freeing itself of O’Quinn’s salary (he’s making nearly $4.5 million this season) won’t do much to the Pacers’ books, and how likely is it that Indiana would land an impact addition in exchange for him?
Young, Evans, Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph are all in the final seasons of their respective contracts. But as noted above each is a key figure in the team’s rotation, especially with Oladipo out of the lineup. If anything it can be argued that the All-Star break, which would give Indiana (from the front office on down) some time to fully evaluate how it will move forward without Oladipo. Each of those players should have more opportunities to produce on the offensive end of the floor, and the same can be said of the team’s franchise big man, Myles Turner, in Oladipo’s absence.
In that regard Evans may be the player who should be watched the most, as he was signed in the offseason with the hope that he would give Indiana consistent production off the bench. With Oladipo sidelined, Evans (when healthy) stands to have the ball in his hands even more. As a starter this season Evans is averaging just 10.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game with shooting splits of 35.8/32.6/84.6, so one could argue that he would be better served coming off the bench.
The Bucks boast the NBA’s best record, and the team has already made a trade this season as it acquired George Hill and Jason Smith in exchange for John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova and a first-round pick in December. That’s helped the Bucks when it comes to future salaries, as the team needs to play for the pending free agencies of Eric Bledsoe (unrestricted), Khris Middleton (player option) and Malcolm Brogdon (restricted). Milwaukee has a good rotation, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, and there aren’t many tradable players/assets available either. So if anything Milwaukee is more likely to stand pat at the trade deadline.
That being said, it was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski in late January that backup Thon Maker is looking for a change of scenery. Maker’s fallen out of the Bucks rotation, and he’s under contract for next season as Milwaukee picked up his 2019-20 option. But how much value would a player who’s received inconsistent minutes — and has been passed in the rotation by D.J. Wilson — have on the trade market? In 35 games the 7’1 center is averaging 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11.7 minutes per game, shooting 44.0% from the field, 33.3% from three and 54.1% from the foul line.
Given the Bucks roster Maker would be the most likely player to be moved if the team were to do something at the trade deadline. And if he were to be moved it’s unlikely that Maker’s departure would have much of an impact on the back end of the rotation with both Wilson and Ersan Ilyasova ahead of him in the pecking order. Given how good this group has been, it may take a significant injury to one of the Bucks’ key weapons to spark a change.