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The trade deadline in two of my leagues is this week, and for my remaining leagues, the deadline is next week. I've written a lot in this space about different trends that I look for when making mid-to-late season trades. Five weeks ago I spoke about how the "tired old men" tended to rest a bit in January and February but normally hit their strides late. Two weeks ago I suggested that you count who has the most games in your fantasy playoffs in head-to-head leagues, and that you make sure that any trade you make actually has the chance to move the needle in roto leagues. And I've written several times about how some of the recipes for late-season player surges include impending free agency, veteran players on teams competing for playoff spots, and young players on bad teams getting more minutes.
Based on all of this, today I've put together a list of several players that I think make the best acquisition targets for your stretch run.
Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Jeff Teague: I've written about these Hawks before, but they are kind of the perfect storm for the trends that I look for. Smith is a high-profile free agent, but the entire team is potentially facing a re-org in the offseason if the team decides to stop edging into the playoffs as a low-seeded one-round-and-out squad. The Hawks have 12 games in the H2H playoffs window, tied for most in the league, and a team full of players with great production and a lot to prove.
James Harden and Chandler Parsons: The Rockets only play 10 games during the three weeks of the H2H playoffs, but Harden and Parsons have separated themselves from their teammates as the clear go-to options, and their numbers translate beautifully to roto production. And when you factor in that Kobe and the Lakers are absolutely breathing down the Rockets' necks for that last playoff slot, you know that Harden and Parsons will continue to push it to the max down the stretch.
Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green, and Avery Bradley: The Celtics play the max 12 games in the H2H playoffs. Pierce and Garnett get the old-man boost I mentioned above, but the flip side to the old man coin is that they may also get the occasional game off to rest. That's where Green and Bradley come in, as they are good producers on the daily with upside to really shine on the days that the vets sit.
Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Amar'e Stoudemire: Anthony's knee is potentially scary, which may drive his demanded trade value down slightly. But the Knicks are fighting for as high of a seed as possible because they desperately want to make some postseason noise this season, and the way the Celtics are coming on they may have to push harder than expected just to win the division. Smith is here because, as shown on Thursday night, he's an absolute microwave that can shoot your team up the standings in treys by himself. Stoudemire has had a down season, but the team dynamic seems to favor him having a larger role down the stretch as a vet with playoff experience that has more upside than his current fantasy value. The Knicks are another team with the max 12 games in the H2H playoffs.
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis: When I started this article I didn't intend to have these two here, but their team dynamic makes them interesting. They are the starting backcourt on a backcourt driven team that looks solid to make the playoffs, but has to be desperate to get out of that eighth slot to try to avoid the Heat. Plus, since the Bucks traded for J.J. Redick it has re-emphasized that Jennings and Ellis are probably not a winning combo long term which gives both of them the free-agent-style impetus to finish the season strong to a) claim their jobs moving forward and/or b) to tryout for their next gig.
Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Derrick Williams: Call the Wolves "team lottery," and both ways of looking at it are true. The Wolves will be in the lottery for the umpteenth straight season, which means they're playing for the future. But also, the Wolves are full of high-talent/high-risk prospects which makes them a team of lottery tickets down the stretch. Rubio is considered their future, and there was sentiment as recently as last week that he should be shut down if he continues to struggle on his newly repaired knee. But in the meantime he's shown flashes of his old self, and if he can stay on the court, he's likely to continue to approach the potential that made him such an international star. We all know what Love can do if he gets healthy, but his health makes him a huge risk/huge reward play. And suddenly Derrick Williams, recently a No. 2 overall pick, is starting to produce some of the double-doubles we'd expected from him. With Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko both limping - and with the Wolves having 12 games in the H2H playoff window - they make intriguing options.
Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Andre Drummond: You could really re-name this group to encompass all rookies on lottery teams. Several in this group are currently battling injuries, but all of them are on teams that would be best served in force-feeding their youngsters as many minutes and opportunities as possible down the stretch.
Around the League
Melo's knee: While I have Carmelo Anthony listed above as a valued trade target, I still am a bit leery due to that injured knee. There's just a lot of mystery surrounding that knee right now. He apparently asked to come out of the game before really aggravating it, but then he hurt it more in a non-contact injury (which is always scary). The Knicks insist that it's just a sore/stiff knee due to fluid build-up and that he should be back soon, and that's all we can really go by. But he was a late scratch on Thursday, so until further info is forthcoming or I see him out on the court, I will continue to be slightly nervous about that knee.
Parker's ankle: Tony Parker is expected to miss most of the next month with a Grade 2 sprain of his left ankle. While this puts a crimp in the "Parker for MVP" campaign that was trying to pick up steam (but was obviously doomed to fail in the wreckage left by LeBron James), this probably works out fine for Spurs coach Greg Popovich who notoriously loves to rest his stars. Unfortunately, this also signals a relative death knell for Parker as a fantasy threat this year. He may get back on the court in late March, but there's also the chance that he's brought back slowly to ensure full health and thus may be unsafe to use for the rest of the season.
Jefferson's ankle and Mo's return: As I pointed out last week, both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap were struggling with sprained ankles that opened the door for young Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter to shine. And shine they did, with both youngsters posting at least one huge double-double in Jefferson's absence. Millsap is already back on the court, and Jefferson is expected to return possibly as soon as Friday. The only reason that Jefferson and Millsap aren't in the above list of trade targets is that the youngsters played so well in their absence that I could picture them stealing some minutes down the stretch. But that said, the Jazz are fighting for a playoff spot and I would think that Jefferson is the safest bet of the four to maintain big minutes when healthy.
Randolph's ankle: Zach Randolph is struggling with a sprained ankle. He has missed two games, and his return timetable has not been announced. Ed Davis has been starting in his absence. Consider him day-to-day until we get a more formal announcement about an expected return date.
Gortat's foot: Marcin Gortat is expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks with a Lisfranc sprain in his right foot. This could possibly be a season-ending injury, which conspires to give Jermaine O'Neal and Luis Scola more playing time. Despite my reluctance to own him, I had to put O'Neal in the New Additions section last week due to his high level of play. With Gortat down, and when you factor in the famed Suns training staff's ability to get old players going, O'Neal actually is starting to look like a more attractive add.
Granger's knee: One of my followers tweeted me (follow me @ProfessorDrz) this week to ask whether Danny Granger (knee) was worth picking up off the free agency wire. His logic was that there may not be enough time for Granger to recover enough to reach full speed. While there may be some truth in that, Granger is an impact player when healthy and, even though Paul George has exploded, the Pacers have every impetus to get Granger back to full capacity by the time the playoffs roll around. While I wouldn't trade for Granger, if he's available on your free agent wire, he absolutely is worth a roster slot.
Sessions missing his time to shine: Ramon Sessions initially made his name in roto circles by exploding down the stretch in the garbage time of the season. He has since replicated this several times, though never to the extent that he did that first season. Sessions has been in extended garbage time this season for the Bobcats, and played well enough to stay on the radar. But he has a sprained MCL that will keep him out for the next two-to-four weeks, which may shelve him right as the season gets to the time when he usually shines.
Jeff Green (44% owned) and Avery Bradley (43% owned): Seriously. Green has taken up permanent residence in this space, and will continue to be here until he is owned in more than half the leagues. He's been balling for more than a month now, and only seems to be getting better as he settles into his role as a relied-upon leader in the post-Rajon Rondo days. If he's available in your league, pick him up. Now.
Bradley got some buzz when he returned from injury in January, but that buzz died down when he re-established himself as an excellent on-ball defender but didn't post a lot of offense early on. His shot seems to be rounding into form, though, and last season around this time, he put together an impressive stretch of double-digit scoring on excellent efficiency with consistent 3-point range and solid steals numbers. It appears that he is on the verge of a similar streak moving forward this season.
Al-Farouq Aminu (31% owned): Aminu has turned himself into the kind of defensive beast that he was touted to be when he was drafted. He's averaging more than two blocks per game from the small forward position for the last month, in addition to almost two steals as well, and he has 38 rebounds in his last three games.
Maurice Harkless (16% owned): Harkless is another of the unsung Magic players that seems to be settling into his larger role and putting up solid numbers. He has scored double-digit points in 10 straight games now, and is a solid source of treys, defensive stats and rebounds from the swing position. He's a bit like Tony Allen with better shooting range.
Andre Drummond (14% owned): There had been some buzz over the last week that Drummond (back) would return soon, but he still isn't able to fully able to work out yet so his return date is still not set. That said, if/when he returns, he could be a big man difference maker in your H2H fantasy playoffs if the Pistons follow through on their plan to give him starter minutes. It's hard to carry an injured player on your team, so maybe this is more of a "keep an eye one him" case if you don't have the roster spot, but I just have the feeling that if you don't pick him up then one of your competition eventually will.
Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 87, Sirius 210.