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For the first time in several years, there's no one NBA superstar holding his franchise hostage with a "should I stay or should I go" trade deadline routine. We're not waiting for a decision from a LeBron James-caliber free agent. (Is there such a thing?) We won't have a Carmelo Anthony forcing a blockbuster trade. It's possible that Dwight Howard – who has more trouble making decisions than anyone since Hamlet – could shake things up by telling the world that he won't re-sign with the Lakers this summer, but for now, it appears he's staying put.
The players that are generating trade buzz currently are several tiers below those guys in terms of star power, name recognition, q-rating, and whatnot. But if they're traded it could have much bigger implications for fantasy leagues.
The most intriguing trade possibility these days might be Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe. The third-year guard out of Kentucky has played well when given an opportunity – well enough to reportedly convince several teams he should be starting – but with Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups in town, he's limited to spot duty. Of course, that assumes both Paul and Billups stay healthy, and right now, CP3 is not. Bledsoe has started the Clippers' last three games and posted impressive numbers in his first two starts before having an off shooting night Thursday. That could enhance his value on the trade market – or make him too valuable to the Clippers to give up.
Bledsoe is available in about 81 percent of Yahoo! leagues – though that number will drop if Paul misses significant time. If I have an available roster spot, I'm grabbing Bledsoe. He's got big upside if one of the Clippers' guards is injured or if he gets traded.
Another name that keeps popping up is J.J. Hickson of the Trail Blazers. Hickson has emerged as a quality starter this season and has been the anchor of the Blazers' frontcourt rotation. He's been an absolute steal, considering the Blazers picked him up off waivers after the Kings cut him loose last season and were then able to sign him to a low-risk one-year deal this offseason. Portland could opt to sell high, to parlay a player they picked up off the scrap heap into assets for the future.
Of course, that whole "scrap heap" thing complicates matters. Hickson – like Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak and Billups – was part of last summer's arbitration case that decided that players picked up off waivers would keep their Larry Bird rights. Because he'd lose those rights when traded, he has the right to block any deal.
From a fantasy perspective, Hickson is probably best off staying right where he is. As impressive as he's been this season, let's not forget that he was a near-total washout in Cleveland and Sacramento. He's been an ideal fit playing center alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, but there's no guarantee that he'd be as effective in another situation.
Hickson is still available in about 23 percent of Yahoo! leagues, a number that seems low given his production. But fantasy owners might be wise to seek trades – to consider selling high – on the off chance that a trade does go through and Hickson ends up playing a smaller role somewhere else.
Picks for the Week
All percent-owned stats are from Yahoo! Your league's mileage may vary.
Amar'e Stoudemire (89%) – Team doctors have upped Stoudemire's playing time limit to 30 minutes per game. It appears he'll continue to come off the bench, but that could be an advantage. If Stoudemire is at anything close to healthy, he could thrive matching up against opposing teams' reserves.
Tristan Thompson (60%) – Thompson's value gets a boost as he is picking up the slack for the injured Anderson Varejao. He's averaging 12 rebounds per game in January.
Jarrett Jack (52%) – Stephen Curry tweaked his ankle this week. Yes, that ankle. It's not yet clear how long Curry will be sidelined, but given his history, it seems fair to expect the worst, which means Jack could be playing major minutes.
Kosta Koufos (27%) – We have to assume that Koufos' percent-owned is held down by a general belief that he won't hold on to the starting job, but it seems even more clear lately that Nuggets coach George Karl does not share that belief. Koufos' timeshare with JaVale McGee hurts his value, but he's still a worthwhile option, particularly in deep leagues.
Earl Clark (13%) – Pau Gasol (concussion) returned Thursday, but he came off the bench. Clark's minutes are going to take a hit, and he'll move back to the bench soon. However, he should remain a part of the rotation and get enough minutes to be of use in deep leagues.
Iman Shumpert (11%) – Shumpert made his season debut on Thursday when the Knicks played the Pistons in London, and he was immediately inserted into the starting lineup. He'll play limited minutes initially, but it seems clear he'll have a major role once he gets up to speed.
Jimmer Fredette (4%) – The Jimmer has passed Aaron Brooks on the Kings' backcourt depth chart and is starting to play like the guy many thought he'd be coming out of college. He has scored in double figures in each of the Kings' last two games.
Lance Stephenson (2%) – Stephenson has quietly become a very effective player for the Pacers, playing about 30 minutes per game and producing numbers all over the stat sheet ñ particularly in the rebounding column.