We’re a little more than halfway through the NBA season and five teams are in full tank mode (Cavs, Hawks, Knicks, Bulls and Suns) with a few more likely to join the race over the next several weeks. The trade deadline is drawing closer in both real life and in fantasy leagues, so it makes sense to discuss which players have the most shut-down risk going forward so that your not blindsided in the fantasy playoffs. Steve Alexander will start things off for us this week.
Steve Alexander (@docktora)
Anthony Davis - The Pelicans are going to be road warriors for the next month and they're terrible on the road. They could easily be out of the playoff race by February. and if that's the case, I worry about AD finishing out the season. I'd have a hard time trading him, because he's incredible, but I have serious doubts as to whether or not he'll be around for the fantasy playoffs. Adding late: If the Pelicans go on the road and start winning games, completely changing their first-half trend, and make a playoff push, I'm with Jonas. AD should be good to go. My take is based on them being terrible on the road and having a ton of roadies in the next month. If they fix that and win on the road, AD is going to play, and play hard.
Devin Booker - His back is jacked up and the Suns are going nowhere. They need to play the kids and it won't take much for Booker to be shut down. I don't think he's going to be shut down for his latest back issue, but I do have a feeling in my gut that he's not all that likely to be around for the fantasy playoffs.
Zach LaVine - He's had injury concerns for the last year and the Bulls are tanking as hard as any other team. It wouldn't take much of a concern about LaVine's knee to have him shut it down. I'm not actively trade him, and own him in a lot of spots, but I may start to think about moving him sooner than later. He was SO good to start the season, but is no longer putting up those monster numbers. If I can find a taker, I'll likely set him free.
Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer)
The Grizzlies started out the season playing well, but have crashed back down to earth over the last month. As a result, they are currently tied for 14th place in the stacked Western Conference. Ideally, the Grizz would prefer to chase the 8th seed. However, that’s seemingly more and more unlikely. Memphis’ first-round pick in 2019 is protected for picks 1-8. Thus, Memphis will have an interesting decision to make in the second half of the season: Do they push for the playoffs or look to land in the top-8 in the lottery. It could impact both Gasol and Mike Conley.
Very minimal impact here, as Lopez is only on the fringes of fantasy value - but it’s almost certain that he will either be traded or bought out by March.
The Wizards are eight games under .500. However, because the middle of the East is so mediocre, they are only three games back of the 8th seed. However, if the Wiz continue to struggle and fall out of the playoff picture all together without John Wall and Dwight Howard, it possible that they may choose to greatly reduce Beal’s workload over the final month of the season and reduce the wear-and-tear on his body in preparation for 2019-20.
The Suns will be chasing ping pong balls, not wins, over the second half of the season. As a result, they may choose to play their young guns as many minutes as possible, which could result in Warren and Devin Booker sitting on the sideline.
Raphielle Johnson (@raphiellej)
He’s not too thrilled about coming off the bench in New York, especially with the team being so bad, and that could lead to the Knicks making a move. Even if the Knicks don’t move Kanter it’s tough to envision a scenario other than injuries in which they go “all in” with the young bigs later this season. Maybe Kanter winds up with a playoff contender that will give him good minutes if he were to be moved, but that’s tough to forecast right now.
As Tommy said in the Marc Gasol portion, Memphis appears more likely to land in the lottery than a playoff spot. With that being the case, maybe the Grizzlies brass looks to get Conley more rest as the season wears on in an attempt to improve the franchise’s chances of landing a high pick. This feels like a situation in which Memphis will look to at the very least “manage” his minutes during the latter stages of the season.
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
Some great answers so far, but I actually disagree with Steve about Anthony Davis. Even though the Pelicans are 12th, they are only three losses behind the 8th seed and have won four of their last six games. The Pelicans have a very short window to prove to Davis that they can build a contender around him, as he's only on the books for one more season after this one before he can become a free agent. Davis has said many times that he values winning over money, and a late-season tank will be the last thing he wants. With that in mind, this is why I believe the Pelicans will be buyers at the trade deadline (a 3-and-D wing maybe?) and make an all-out push for a playoff spot.
As for my shut-down candidates, I'll start with Devin Booker...
Devin Booker- I don't think anyone will be surprised to see Booker's name here so often. The Suns shut him down for the final 12 games of the 2017-18 season and the risk for another one this year is through the roof. Booker already has his long-term deal, and I'm sure the front office can get him on board for another tank with the possibility of Zion Williamson rocking a Suns' jersey. He's already racked up 12 DNPs this season and I have a feeling it's only going to get worse.
*Enes Kanter- I put an asterisk beside his name because it's possible a trade can save his declining fantasy value -- the Kings are one team that has already expressed interest. We've seen multiple reports that Kanter will be demoted to the third-string center once Mitchell Robinson is cleared, and he's already clashed with the coaching staff due to frustrations about his role on the team. He said he'd be fine with his role if the Knicks were winning games, but that's obviously not happening with the franchise prioritizing player development while increasing their lottery odds.
Zach LaVine- The shut-down risk with LaVine is more about the front office than LaVine himself. This is a team that told Lauri Markkanen to miss a flight last season so they could throw a game, and their rebuild hinges on their ability to land a top-3 pick in this year's draft. Patience is wearing thin in Chicago, and they won't hesitate to hold LaVine out of games when the calendar hits March. I still laugh when I remember how much the Bulls played Cristiano Felicio, Cam Payne and Sean Kilpatrick during their late-season tank in 2017-18.
Ryan Knaus (@Knaus_RW)
Dewayne Dedmon - A 29-year-old center on an expiring contract, who plays for a lousy, lottery-bound team? Yeah, that's a recipe for disaster if he isn't dealt before the trade deadline. I'll say the same thing about Kent Bazemore, too, although his contract may be harder for the Hawks to move due to the $19.3 million player option he can exercise for 2019-20.
Tristan Thompson & Kevin Love - This is almost so obvious that it goes without saying. The Cavaliers have the worst record in the NBA with a 1.5 game 'lead' on the Suns for that spot. The bottom four teams all have equal odds in the draft lottery, but that doesn't mean Cleveland will mess around and play veterans in meaningless late-season games. If Love returns in late-February I'll give him one month of production before he's shut down, and Thompson should get the hook around the same time. Just like Bazemore, it's hard to see another team taking on Love's max-salary or Thompson's remaining $18.5 million for 2019-20, which is fully guaranteed.
Nikola Vucevic - This is all dependent upon whether he's traded before the deadline, of course. If he is, it's hard to see him landing in a more favorable spot than Orlando, where coach Steve Clifford has empowered him offensively and allowed Vuc to soar to first-round fantasy heights. If he isn't traded, the 17-24 Magic could concede defeat soon after the All-Star break and pivot toward player development. With last summer's overall No. 6 draft pick lurking as Vuc's primary backup, it's not hard to see how this would play out to his detriment.
Mike Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher)
Devin Booker- I just did a deep dive on his injury impact and how it affects the Suns. You can check that out here!