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A buyer's market is emerging. Multiple changes of scenery following the trade deadline and teams rounding into ultimate form down the stretch of the season have created some intriguing fantasy basketball trade candidates.
Trade for: Darius Garland, Cavaliers
Garland’s production across eight contests since returning from a broken jaw has underwhelmed, yielding 12.8 points, 1.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists. Shooting 48.1% from the field on 10.1 shots over that span is solid efficiency, but it constitutes low volume for a player who averaged 16.4 shots per game last season and is averaging 14.4 shots across 28 total appearances in 2023-24.
Garland is being dragged down by connecting on just 27.8% of 4.5 threes per game since returning from injury. Garland's limited production is also partially attributed to a dominant campaign from Donovan Mitchell, who has emerged as the clear best player and focal point of Cleveland's offense. While Mitchell’s presence does cap Garland's fantasy ceiling, the pathos involved in this matter creates a solid buy-low opportunity for Garland, who almost certainly has better days ahead — even as a sidekick.
Garland rained in a career-high 41.0% of 412 threes alongside Mitchell last season, following the 2021-22 campaign without Mitchell in which he fired 454 threes at a 38.3% clip. Case in point: his current 32.9 three-point percentage is unsustainably low. Garland's dribble jumper has been good this season, ranking in the 79th percentile for efficiency league-wide. His off-ball shooting has been the lackluster component, as the 24-year-old is hitting just 29.6% of his catch-and-shoot attempts after knocking down 42.3% of such attempts last season.
Holistically, catch-and-shoot attempts are easier than off-the-dribble attempts because shooters can be ready and set, as opposed to being on the move or self-creating looks. Garland is a lead ball-handler by nature, so he's potentially an exception to this principle because rhythm and usage fuel his game. I still feel that his shooting pedigree is too strong to not bounce back. This trend correlates strongly with the idea that Garland is amid a serious adaptation to Mitchell morphing into the pure alpha in Cleveland.
Monday marked Garland's first game with three-plus made triples since returning from injury. He is due for more moving forward. His playing time has been consistent and his workload should return closer to his aforementioned season volume down the stretch. Even if he doesn't fully ascend to 14-plus shots per game, Cleveland’s potent offense and winning ways are a good fantasy environment to live in.
Trade for: Bojan Bogdanović, Knicks
Bogdanović has posted middling performances in two games with the Knicks thus far, compiling 26 points and seven rebounds on 23 shot attempts across 56 minutes of action. Approaching the 20.2 points per game averaged across 28 appearances for Detroit would be his ultimate ceiling in New York. That feels crazy to say in an offense dominated by Jalen Brunson, but Brunson is running out of help right now.
Julius Randle’s shoulder dislocation is without a clear timeline and is susceptible to aggravation, so his absence scares me. Given that the Knicks parted with a substantial package to acquire OG Anunoby and will re-sign him for the foreseeable future, the franchise will certainly want to exercise caution following in-season surgery on his elbow. Donte DiVincenzo suffering a hamstring injury in Monday's loss to Houston is the potential absence most correlated to Bogdanović's production ascending.
Whether DiVincenzo will face a substantial absence after the All-Star break is unclear, but he is the Knicks’ best shooter right now. Brunson has uncharacteristically logged 10-for-39 shooting from beyond the arc across his last seven games, while DiVincenzo is erupting to the tune of 40.5% shooting on 12.1 threes across his last 10 contests.
Bogdanović’s shooting prowess can fill a sizable role in New York even if DiVincenzo returns from the All-Star break healthy. Jalen Brunson's mammoth workload may be catching up to him. Bogdanović ranks in the 59th percentile by knocking down 38.5% of his catch-and-shoot threes, and his 374 catch-and-shoot attempts easily lead the league. The below image also serves as a testament to the importance of DiVincenzo in the offense:
DiVincenzo profiles as a buy-low candidate along with Bogdanović. Slight mystery and concern surrounding his injury creates a dip in value. He attempted to return to Monday's contest, so I would assume that the severity is not grave.
Trade away: Julius Randle, Knicks
While on the subject of the Knicks, I’m not panic selling on Randle, but New York is juiced with playmakers and weapons, so his usage will decline upon his eventual return. His current timeline appears extremely rosy. He is set to be re-evaluated shortly after the All-Star break, but a re-evaluation does not necessarily indicate that a return will promptly follow. Given that there were initial rumblings of surgery being on the table, I would assume the re-evaluation will then lead to an official recovery timeline. The optimism surrounding the upcoming rest granted by the All-Star break creates momentum to sell Randle at a fair price.
Randle’s fantasy floor is solidified by his fiery rebounding, especially in the context of a poor 31.1% clip on 5.3 threes per game this season. How physically imposing will Randle be while playing with a shoulder that is susceptible to re-injury? That train of thought is what fuels my speculation that his absence will extend deep into March.
Additionally, Precious Achiuwa and his rebounding prowess are going nowhere. Achiuwa brings defensive versatility similar to what Jarred Vanderbilt does for the Lakers, defending guards on the perimeter and possessing enough lateral agility to protect the paint. His 6-foot-9 frame makes him the only player on the Knicks truly capable of defending on the perimeter and offering secondary rim protection. Overall stout defense from Anunoby makes a fair case, but Achiuwa has blossomed as a dynamic defensive athlete that the Knicks previously lacked.
The 23-year-old is averaging 13.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.9 blocks and 41.1 minutes across his last seven appearances. Achiuwa should not be on the wire and deserves a roster spot immediately, if available. Slotting in as a workhorse for coach Tom Thibodeau has been a seamless and endearing fit. Achiuwa erases all small-ball-five minutes from Randle’s portfolio. He and Bogdanovic reduce the need to push Randle’s usage.
When Randle ultimately returns to health, competition for possessions will be at an all-time high.
Trade for: Buddy Hield, 76ers
While it may seem counterintuitive to buy on Hield after he has combined for 67 points across three games with the 76ers, I don't think his acquisition price is exorbitant enough to detract from the fact that he’s in a position to thrive down the stretch. Flipping two fantasy rotation players for Hield or getting him added into a larger deal would be savvy.
Hield’s ability to screen on the perimeter, and slip out of screens to get open shots for himself is a trademark skill that made Indiana's offense so potent alongside Tyrese Halliburton. Tyrese Maxey is multiple rungs below Haliburton’s young point god status, but Maxey’s downhill driving power combined with Hield’s gravitational spacing is a beautiful Yin-Yang in Philadelphia.
Playing alongside Haliburton in Indianapolis allowed Hield to focus on his shooting specialty. However, across 37 games during Hield’s Indiana tenure where Tyrese Haliburton didn’t play, Hield delivered 13.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals in 28.1 minutes per game. He has flashed secondary facilitating when needed, and Philadelphia needs him badly.
Trade for: Jaime Jaquez Jr., Heat
Miami is banged up. Terry Rozier being week-to-week with a knee sprain is a best-case scenario after a scary incident where he nearly busted his right knee on Sunday. Josh Richardson is facing a multi-week absence after dislocating his shoulder in Sunday's contest, which combines to create a shorthanded rotation for the Heat.
Enter Jaquez, who has averaged just 7.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals in 25.8 minutes across eight appearances since returning from a six-game absence due to a groin injury. The rookie is shooting just 35.6% from the field over that span, and while hitting the proverbial rookie wall is plausible, erring on Jaquez to prevail feels more realistic.
Following a four-year collegiate tenure at UCLA, the 22-year-old is more seasoned than the average rookie at overcoming ups and downs. Coach Erik Spoelstra showcased confidence using Jaquez in a large role across 25 contests prior to suffering his injury, which yielded 16.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 34.0 minutes per game.
His two-way play, youthful athleticism and connective ball movement make him a strong fit in Miami's rotation. It's unclear if he can retain his early season success — a rookie shooting 51.3% from the field on 10.6 shots per game is a high bar — but Jaquez is at an excellent buy-low junction right now.