The trade deadline is almost two months away so I wanted to take an early look at some under-the-radar players who might benefit from some of the transactions. Please note that most of these players belong on the waiver wire in most leagues, but as February 23rd draws nearer, keeping an eye on these guys below and the latest rumors around the league could give you an edge over your opponents. For NBA news and fantasy advice, click here to follow me on Twitter!
Mike Muscala- I discussed in today’s Roundtable column why I believe that Paul Millsap is a candidate to be moved, as he’s in the last year of his deal (if he expectedly opts out this summer) and the Hawks are just 12-13 in the East. Atlanta lost Al Horford in free agency last summer and can’t afford to do the same with Millsap this time around. The Hawks are thin at power forward with just Muscala and Mike Scott behind Millsap, but Muscala has been playing well all season and should benefit the most if the Hawks move on from Millsap. His upside is obvious with per-36 minute averages of 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.8 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers. He’s also a career 83.9 percent free throw shooter.
Chris McCullough- Trevor Booker is on a bargain of a contract and is having a career year, and he’s one of a few assets that the Nets have to work with. I would expect a lot of contenders to inquire about Booker before the deadline, and if he’s moved that would just leave McCullough and Anthony Bennett at power forward. There’s no need to grab McCullough in any format unless Booker is moved, though.
Justin Hamilton- The Nets are going to hold onto Brook Lopez for now, but they are in the beginning stages of a very long rebuild and he’s the best trade asset they have. If the Nets want to move on from Lopez in exchange for some younger players and draft picks, that would open the door for Hamilton to start at center. Similar to Muscala, Hamilton has a great skill-set for standard fantasy leagues and he has per-36 minute averages of 11.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers. That’s fantasy gold.
Caris LeVert- The rookie has shown some flashes, but the Nets could use a rotation with 13 players on any given night and they’re still limiting his workload as he works his way back from a serious foot fracture. I’d expect the Nets to ramp up his minutes after the All-Star break and the best thing about him is that he can play positions 1-4. If the Nets part ways with veteran wings Randy Foye and Bojan Bogdanovic, LeVert could have a nice role in the last couple months of the season.
Terry Rozier- The Celtics are going to make a blockbuster trade at some point and many believe that Marcus Smart could be on his way out the door. Isaiah Thomas is going to be the floor general for many years to come, and Rozier has proven that he can handle 25 minutes off the bench and may be a better fit on offense than Smart. He’s only averaging 6.7 points per game on the season, but he scored 12+ points in three out of his last four games with Thomas nursing a wrist injury. If Smart ends up leaving via a trade, Rozier would become the team’s sixth man.
Bobby Portis- He shouldn’t be owned almost anywhere, but it’s worth mentioning that Taj Gibson is playing the best ball of his career and is in the final year of his deal. The Bulls have shopped Gibson in the past, but his value has never been higher than it is now. If they decide to move on, Portis would be intriguing since Nikola Mirotic has taken yet another step back this season.
Juan Hernangomez- The Nuggets are struggling in the West and it’s just a matter of time before they start tanking. Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler are not only prone to injuries, but they could be on the way out the door as they are the most valuable trade pieces on the roster not named Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris. If just one of Gallo or Chandler is moved, Hernangomez would be the pickup for fantasy owners to target. He has per-36 minute averages of 10.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.9 blocks and 1.7 triples!
Jusuf Nurkic- He’s been a huge letdown since his promising start to the season and he’s since been benched for Nikola Jokic. He won’t be moving back into the starting lineup for the foreseeable future, but Kenneth Faried could be on his way out the door which would leave just Jokic and Nurkic at center. I think the move to the second unit will actually bolster his value, as he won’t log as many minutes next to Emmanual Mudiay and the offense will run through him a bit more. I will never give up on Nurk Alert!
Boban Marjanovic- Aron Baynes will hit free agency this summer and Stan Van Gundy hinted that it’s very unlikely the Pistons will be able to afford to re-sign him. Trading him before he walks for nothing would be the smart move, and SVG is no idiot. There’s a reason the Pistons signed Boban to a three-year deal and it could be just a matter of time before he’s unleashed as the backup center. Like we saw in San Antonio last season, his per-minute production is outrageous.
Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones- The Wolves are arguably the most disappointing team in the NBA based on preseason expectations. Ricky Rubio has been a little better lately, but for the most part he’s been a bust. He’s not a great fit in the Wolves’ offense and the team may shift their focus towards the future if they don’t turn things around soon. You could argue that Dunn has been outplayed by Jones this season, so both players would be on the radar as stashes as we approach the deadline.
Tyler Johnson- I won’t go into too much detail here because Johnson is already owned if your league is competitive. Goran Dragic could be on the way out of Miami and that would leave just Johnson and Josh Richardson in the backcourt.
Thon Maker- This is a stretch, but it’s possible we could see a lot more of Maker in a few months. If the Bucks are able to deal Greg Monroe AND if they fall out of playoff contention, the rookie should get some chances behind Jabari Parker and John Henson down the stretch given Miles Plumlee’s struggles.
Cheick Diallo- The Pelicans have two of the worst centers in the league in Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca and I would expect at least one of them to be moved prior to the deadline. Diallo has only played meaningful minutes in one game this season, but he made a huge impression with 19 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. He will be a sneaky stash if the Pelicans keep losing.
Cameron Payne- The Thunder have been linked to Rudy Gay and the Kings reportedly would want Payne in return. Darren Collison would be an obstacle for Payne in Sacramento, but both players could coexist given Sacramento’s comical depth in their backcourt.
Mario Hezonja- The Magic are willing to move him in exchange for a proven scorer because they are determined to get blown out in the first round of the playoffs. If Hezonja ends up in the right situation, he could be a great source of 3-pointers.
Tyler Ulis- Anyone think Brandon Knight will still be in Phoenix two months from now? I don’t either. His experiment as the team’s sixth man is not working out and the Suns will want to give impressive rookie Tyler Ulis some burn down the stretch.
Alex Len and Alan Williams- Tyson Chandler could join Brandon Knight on his way out of Phoenix and it’s no secret that he’s not a fan of being on a rebuilding team. If Len and Williams each get around 24 minutes of action with Chandler gone, they would be worth owning in standard leagues. Most people would think that Len might be the better add, but I wouldn’t be so sure. It’s a small sample size to work with, but Williams has per-36 minute averages of 15.2 points, 16.0 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 2.6 blocks. Are you kidding me!
Omri Casspi- To be honest, he should probably be owned right now with Rudy Gay injured. Gay is also rumored to be on his way out of Sacramento prior to the deadline, as he already informed the Kings that he will not re-sign with them when he opts out of the last year of his contract this summer. With Matt Barnes in legal trouble, Casspi is the clear pickup here.
Trey Lyles- Over the next year, the Jazz will have to figure out a way to pay George Hill, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward. Many people seem to believe that Favors will be the odd man out, so trading him before the deadline could be on the table. If that happens, Trey Lyles is the next man up.
Dwight Powell- Andrew Bogut is currently on the shelf with a knee injury, but he could be on his way out the door once he proves that he’s healthy again. He’s already been linked to the Celtics and Blazers and the Mavs pretty much know that he won’t be re-signing with them during the offseason. They might be able to snag a young player or draft pick in return. if Bogut bounces, that would leave just Powell, Salah Mejri and A.J. Hammons at center. In terms of upside, Powell is the best gamble here.