Welcome to the hoops version of Grand Theft Roto, where we'll talk trades, steals and blown deals all season long.
For those of you unfamiliar, Grand Theft Roto is a column dedicated to the art of the rip job or, to put it more politely, the art of exchanging what has absurdly less value for what has ridiculously more. We'll sell bridges, sea monkeys and waterfront property on the Aral Sea if that's what it takes to land our target players. We call it pulling a GTR. (I trust you can figure out what the initials stand for.) There will be no hint of conscience, ethics or honor. Guilt and shame can wait until the season ends, because this column is all about winning. Winning and making the other guy look bad. Check your regard for your fellow man at the door, and get ready to swindle. It's time for Grand Theft Roto!
Sounds good, doesn't it? All that bravado and bluster. But there's one problem with trying to rip people off: People don't like it, and after a few of your attempts, they won't like you, either. A good salesman gets his customers to like him or at least trust him. Sending obviously absurd offers such as Chris Duhon and Marcus Williams for Derrick Rose won't build trust. Two pennies don't equal a dime, after all. Unless you are playing with a league full of first-timers (or displaced hockey fans), your leaguemates will sniff this kind of offer for the garbage it is.
This brings me to the first tenet of my Grand Theft Roto philosophy: It isn't a GTR if the trade never happens. The key to getting a trade to go through is to convince the other owner of the value of your offer. In a game in which most players read multiple sites for fantasy analysis (though none finer than what you read here at The Worldwide Leader), you probably have to offer value to get what you want. This week, we'll look at a great tool to help you in your quest to land the players you target.
Casing the joint
Of what mysterious device am I speaking? Average draft positions, of course. ESPN.com is kind enough to provide the ADP of every player on its live draft results page. The ADP averages the results of fantasy hoops drafts and shows where each player is being taken.
"Great," you tell me. "I looked at those before my draft, searching for bargains. Why look at them now?" Because they are an excellent way to tell how the fantasy world values players. I like to combine the ADPs with the draft results from my league so that I can see how players are being valued in general and specifically in my league. The key to getting the most out from ADPs is to compare them with your cheat sheet and locate key differences.
For example, let's say I am very high on Brandon Roy (whose ADP is 57.9) but less bullish on Jason Richardson (whose ADP is 34.9). That's greater than a two-round difference in 10-team leagues, presenting a buying opportunity for the Richardson owner who covets Roy. I can offer Richardson and my third center for Roy plus his second center with a reasonable chance of pulling off the deal. Always double-check the ADPs against your actual draft. ADPs account for all leagues, most of which follow the standard settings. If your league has different categories and positions, you should focus more on your league's draft results.
Here's the key: Use the ADPs now. Once we are a few games into the season, they are pretty much out the window. Owners tend to stay loyal to the draft results in their league longer than ADPs because no one likes to admit he was wrong about a draft pick after only a handful of games, so you still can use that information a few weeks into the season.
Three I'm stealing
Caron Butler, SF, Wizards (35.1 ADP): He is healthy and is the No. 1 fantasy option on the Wizards. So long as Gilbert Arenas is out (and he's expected out until January), Butler will put up first-round numbers. Last season, he posted career highs in points (20.3), assists (4.9), steals (2.2), 3-pointers (1.1), field goal percentage (.466) and free-throw percentage (.901). Butler's greatest defect is his penchant for injury; he has averaged 58.3 games per season during the past three seasons. He is healthy now, and his value will only rise as he puts up sick numbers through November. Use his early-season magnificence as leverage, and have him in your back pocket for a future trade. Act now before his value jumps.
Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls (93.7): This ADP is already out of date. Rose's first game (11 points, 9 assists, 3 steals and 4 turnovers) wasn't spectacular, but the nine dimes will be enough to convince owners they have something good. The 30-point game in the preseason should be convincing as well. Still, if you are willing to part with a player selected several rounds ahead of Rose, there is a chance you could snag the rookie. There likely won't be a time this season when he will come more cheaply. Play up the turnovers and rookie mistakes and offer something solid in return. I will take the potential of landing a star rather than a solid choice any day, but many owners are risk-averse. Use this to your advantage.
Mehmet Okur, PF/C, Jazz (77.0): Pray his owner doesn't spend too much time mooning over his second-half splits and playoff averages from last season. If he does, you might be out of luck. On the other hand, Okur's overall numbers were not mind-blowing, and he turned in rather pedestrian preseason numbers: 10.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.3 blocks and 63.6 percent shooting from the line. Still, trust me on this: Okur is a beast. He averaged 15.4 points and 11.8 rebounds in the playoffs last season and could average close to a double-double per game plus add 3-pointers, a bonus for someone who has center and/or power forward eligibility. Fantasy players are sleeping on him. Those who have more standard centers with higher ADPs, such as Al Horford (57.1) and Andris Biedrins (68.7), should consider making a move for Okur plus a little extra.
Three I'm dealing
Jason Kidd, PG, Mavericks (24.2): Yes, I know he already has fallen down many cheat sheets, but 24.2 remains far too high for a player who hurts you badly in points and field goal percentage. I currently have Kidd pegged in the mid-to-low 40s. Kidd will give his owners assists, rebounds, steals and 3-pointers, so it is not as if he is bereft of value. The fact that Keith McLeod was waived last week gives Kidd owners a great pitch: Kidd should take on even more minutes at the point. This is good news early in the season, but with Kidd's age (35), he could fade in the second half. Look to move Kidd for younger players who have lower ADPs and higher upsides such as Kevin Durant (32.5), Jose Calderon (36.4) or Caron Butler.
Jason Terry, PG/SG, Mavericks (48.1): I'm not trying to pick on the Mavs, but in Terry we have a clear case of nostalgia's overwhelming the present. Follow the mantra of that old hippie Ram Dass, and be here now! Terry has for years been a nice value at point guard, providing owners with points, 3-pointers, steals and excellent percentages. He still will do some of this, but as the sixth man for the Mavericks, he won't do it as much. These days, Terry gives you some 3-pointers and great free-throw shooting, but everything else is way down. With Jason Kidd on board, Terry's low assists won't improve. Look around; many shooting guards out there have better assist numbers. Locate the Arizona Wildcats fan in your league, highlight Terry's shooting prowess and try to unload history for current events.
Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, Jazz (60.1): Here are some of the small forwards going later than AK-47 according to their ADPs: Luol Deng (61.2), Gerald Wallace (61.7), Josh Howard (69.7) and Corey Maggette (79.8). What distinguishes them from Kirilenko, other than that they've been taken after him in drafts? Each is starting for his respective team. Kirilenko opens this season as the sixth man for the Jazz, and it is almost certain that his minutes will take a hit. After the All-Star break last season, Kirilenko averaged just 27 minutes per game, and his stats plunged. We could see a repeat. If you can sell him based on last year's averages instead of his second-half splits, I would do so quickly.
Pulling the job
I have no trades to report yet. I am still drafting teams under various aliases to set up trades for the season. Send me your trades or trade questions, and we'll see whether you pulled a GTR or analyze what we can do to help you maximize your value.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN. He may be reached at Guy.Fantasy@gmail.com.