Fantasy Basketball: Let the NBA trades begin!

By Nick Whalen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

The NBA trade deadline is still two days away, but that has not stopped some of the major dominoes from already falling.

In this week’s look around the league, we’ll bypass most of our usual musings to instead focus on the fantasy fallout of four trades featuring several big-name, top-100 players.

Let’s take a look at the framework of each deal and assess which players could be set to gain or lose value down the stretch.

Scroll to continue with content

Blazers send McCollum, Nance to New Orleans

On Tuesday morning, the Blazers pulled off an even bigger trade than the one they executed last Friday with the Clippers, shipping CJ McCollum, Larry Nance and Tony Snell to the Pelicans in exchange for Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Tomas Satoransky, Didi Louzada, a protected 2022 first-round pick and two future second-rounders.

[Play in one of Yahoo's NBA DFS contests]

  • As was the case with the Powell-Covington deal from Friday, Portland’s motivation is to clear its books for a rebuild around Lillard. The trade purges the nearly $70 million remaining on McCollum’s deal from the Blazers’ books, while also generating a $21 million trade exception. Looking ahead, Portland could be armed with as much as $60 million in cap room this offseason, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Blazers will also have their own draft pick, as well as New Orleans’ pick, provided it falls between 5th and 14th overall.

  • Trading McCollum officially means the Blazers are punting on the remainder of this season, and it (likely) means that Lillard will not return from the abdominal injury that’s plagued him since the summer. It remains to be seen whether Portland will look to dump Jusuf Nurkic before the deadline, but either way, the rotation will likely skew heavily toward younger players after the All-Star break.

    • Outside of Anfernee Simons, who’s already rostered in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues, Trendon Watford, CJ Elleby and even Ben McLemore could emerge as lower-end fantasy options on the Blazers’ gutted roster.

    • Assuming he sticks around, Alexander-Walker may be the most appealing option, as he’d likely find himself in a consistent, high-minute role with Portland looking to fully evaluate the 2019 first-round pick (and also tank for a better draft spot).

      • In the 15 games this season in which he’s played at least 30 minutes, Alexander-Walker averaged 17.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.3 threes, though he shot just 37.8 percent from the floor.

  • On the McCollum front, he finds himself in a more-competitive basketball situation, but he’s in an objectively worse fantasy situation. With Lillard out, McCollum was the obvious No. 1 option in Portland. With the Pelicans, he’ll fall in line alongside Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas, Devonte’ Graham and maybe even Zion Williamson, if he ever returns to a basketball court. McCollum should easily remain an effective fantasy player, but his ceiling is definitively lower.

  • Nance hasn’t played in more than a month, but he’s been a lower-end fantasy option in the past and could factor into the Pelicans’ rotation after the All-Star break.

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum is on a new NBA team
The NBA (and fantasy basketball) world shook after the CJ McCollum trade. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Pacers swap Sabonis for Haliburton

On Tuesday afternoon — just as I was putting what I thought would be the finishing touches on this column — the Sacramento Kings went full Sacramento Kings and shipped Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson to the Pacers for Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday and a future second-round pick.

  • Haliburton and Sabonis had both been tossed around as potential trade targets over the last several weeks, but Tuesday’s deal seemingly materialized out of nowhere. The Pacers and Kings are in almost identical spots in their respective conferences, so from a basketball standpoint, Sabonis and Haliburton are simply going from one bad team to another.

  • In Sacramento, Sabonis will immediately step in as the co-No. 1 offensive option alongside De’Aaron Fox. While Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes and rookie Davion Mitchell remain, the Kings don’t have a ton of offensive options, so Sabonis’ production shouldn’t see much of a drop-off — unless the Kings limit his workload down the stretch in an attempt to tank.

  • The same is essentially true for Haliburton. Who knows when — or even if — Malcolm Brogdon will return from his Achilles injury, so there’s a world in which Haliburton is the Pacers’ No. 1 option for the rest of the season. In that respect, the move is probably a slight boost to his fantasy potential, though if Brogdon does return and stays healthy, the situation wouldn’t be all that different from the Fox-Haliburton dynamic in Sacramento.

  • On the fringes, Thompson, Lamb and Holiday can continue to be ignored in most fantasy leagues. All three players could be candidates to be re-routed before the deadline, however. Thompson, in particular, is of little use to a Pacers team that has Myles Turner and a glut of young big men it will likely look to develop down the stretch.

    • Speaking of which, with Sabonis out of the picture, at least one of Goga Bitadze, Oshae Brissett and Isaiah Jackson should emerge as viable fantasy options — especially in deeper leagues. All three have shown flashes, so it’s difficult to assess who Rick Carlisle will favor, but the Pacers have the most invested in Jackson – a first-round pick in 2021.

  • As far as Hield’s value goes, he could end up finding himself in the starting lineup for the Pacers with Holiday and Caris LeVert out of the picture. While he’s shooting a career-low 36.8 percent from three on the season, Hield ranks third in the NBA in made three-pointers (182) behind only Stephen Curry (233) and Fred VanVleet (185). And speaking of LeVert ...

Caris LeVert lands in Cleveland

The Cavaliers finalized a trade Sunday to acquire Caris LeVert and a 2022 second-round pick from the Pacers in exchange for a lottery-protected 2022 first-rounder, two future second-rounders and Ricky Rubio’s expiring contract. Conveniently, the Pacers and Cavs happened to be squaring off in Cleveland on Sunday, so it was a quick transition for LeVert, who was born and raised in Ohio.

  • The trade broke shortly before game-time, so LeVert obviously did not suit up for either team Sunday, but he’ll likely debut Wednesday night against the Spurs. His final game in a Pacers uniform was Friday’s loss to the Bulls, in which he finished with 42 points, eight assists and five rebounds.

  • LeVert will slide into the lineup at guard, essentially filling the spot vacated by Collin Sexton and, later, Rubio. Both players were lost for the season with knee injuries. When the Cavs are at full strength, they’ll start Darius Garland, LeVert, Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.

  • With LeVert gone, Chris Duarte becomes a more valuable fantasy option — especially with Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles) having only played in two games since Christmas. The additions of Haliburton and Hield do lower Duarte’s ceiling, but he should still be set for consistent minutes the rest of the way. Ultimately, his value will hinge on Brogdon’s health.


Portland deals Powell, Covington

While the trade deadline is still two days away, the Blazers have wasted no time gutting their roster for what appears to be a rebuild-on-the-fly around Damian Lillard.

[So many reasons to play Yahoo DFS: Learn more now and get in on the fun]

On Friday, the Clippers acquired Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Blazers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson and a 2025 second-round pick.

  • For the Clippers, it’s a signal that they won’t be waving the white flag on the season if Paul George and/or Kawhi Leonard aren’t able to return. Los Angeles isn’t winning the title without its two superstars, but adding a pair of starting-caliber wings significantly raises the talent level and makes the Clippers a much scarier team in the event Leonard and George do come back.

  • For Portland, the deal amounts to a salary dump of the four years and more than $74 million remaining on Powell’s deal, which he inked just seven months ago.

  • Fantasy-wise, the location change likely won’t change much for Powell, who will likely be installed as the starting shooting guard, pushing Amir Coffey back to the bench. Covington could challenge Marcus Morris or Nic Batum for a starting spot, but either way, he’ll be part of a deeper rotation than the one he left in Portland. He’ll have a difficult time matching the 35.1 minutes per game he averaged over his final 14 games (all starts) in a Blazers uniform.

  • On the other side of the deal, Portland is an interesting landing spot for Winslow, who found himself in and out of the Clippers’ rotation throughout the season. With Portland seemingly backing its way out of playoff contention, Winslow could be handed big minutes over the next two months. He’s still a shaky fantasy option, but he’s worth monitoring — especially after Larry Nance was shipped out to New Orleans.

    • As for Bledsoe, there’s a good chance he’ll be re-routed at the deadline. Directly after the trade, Bledsoe popped up on the injury report for the first time all season with a mysterious “Achilles injury.” He’s yet to play or practice with the Blazers, so the team appears to be exercising caution ahead of the deadline.


The Kyrie conundrum

After Sunday’s rout at the hands of the Nuggets, the Nets have now dropped eight straight games and are just 2-9 since Kevin Durant (knee) went down. Kyrie Irving has played in six of those games, and while his numbers are strong — 24.0 points, 5.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 2.8 threes per game — he’s struggled to mesh with James Harden, who will sit for the fifth time in the last seven games Tuesday against Boston. Amid reports that the 76ers are aggressively pursuing Harden via trade, the Nets find themselves at a crossroads ahead of the deadline.

Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets jokes with James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets
Kyrie Irving and James Harden haven't meshed as well as many hoped. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

In true Harden fashion, he hasn’t exactly gone out of his way to quell those reports. And in true Irving fashion, he hasn’t gone out of his way to embrace his superstar teammate. Some of Harden’s alleged frustration with the Nets stems from Irving’s refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which has rendered him ineligible to play in Nets' home games.


While the Nets welcoming Irving back as a part-time player back in early January was a major storyline — both in fantasy and non-fantasy circles — the reality is that Irving will only be eligible to play in 10 of the Nets’ remaining 29 games.

  • He’ll sit out Tuesday’s home game against Boston before being able to play at Washington (Thursday) and at Miami (Saturday). After that, Irving will miss the final three games before the All-Star break (vs. SAC; at NYK; vs. WAS), as well as the Nets’ first game after the break (Feb. 24 vs. BOS).

  • Assuming nothing changes on the vaccine front, Irving will only be able to play in one of the Nets’ final seven regular-season games, which could be exceptionally important to determine playoff seeding.

LeBron is back (again)

LeBron James, who coincidentally turned 37 in December, has dealt with more injury issues than usual this season. Most recently, it was inflammation in his knee that kept him out of five straight games from Jan. 27 through Feb. 3.


James’ return could not arrive soon enough for a Lakers team that went 1-4 without him, and he came to the rescue Saturday against the Knicks. After falling behind big in the first half, James and Malik Monk spurred a big second-half run to push the game into overtime, where the Lakers would eventually prevail, 122-115.

  • In 40 minutes of action, James finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season.

  • In a season filled with low points, Russell Westbrook may have finally hit rock-bottom Saturday. Westbrook finished with just five points on 1-of-10 shooting while committing four turnovers. For much of the night, Westbrook was met with a healthy mixture of “boo”s and “for the love of God please don’t shoot that!”s from the home crowd in LA.

    • Frank Vogel left Westbrook on the bench for the entire overtime period, opting to ride with James, Monk, Trevor Ariza, Talen Horton-Tucker and Anthony Davis.

  • Davis continued his strong run since coming back from injury, putting up 28 points, 17 boards, three assists, three steals and four blocks in 41 minutes. Over his last five games, Davis is averaging 29.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.8 blocks (37.2 MPG).