The NBA trade deadline, besides putting an end to most major roster overhauls, is often a symbolic moment where teams decide whether they are "going for it" or not. This decision can take many forms. Teams over the luxury tax have to decide whether it might make sense to get under the threshold, especially before the new CBA's more draconian penalties kick in. Teams with young players need to decide whether they will prioritize development or wins. You get the idea.
The fact that this threshold can often seem arbitrary for teams that won't make trades this season doesn't make it any less significant, and the fact that it's coming up means this is a good time to assess which players you are buying and which you are selling, as the metaphor goes.
Today, we'll look at a few players on whom you might to consider selling high in fantasy leagues (ranking based on per game averages in parentheses):
O.J. Mayo, SG, Dallas Mavericks (20): I keep thinking Mayo is on the verge of a decline, and he keeps putting it off, but I'm putting him on this list anyway. Part of this has to do not so much with his overall game as it does with what I believe is some pretty fluky shooting results. According to hoopdata.com, the only area on the floor where Mayo isn't shooting a career-high percentage is right at the rim (and he's having the second best year he's ever had from that area, too). A quick look at the Player Rater will tell you that Mayo's best category is 3-point shooting, but at 42.5 percent from behind the arc, he's so far ahead of his career average that I can't help but see him coming back down to Earth in the coming weeks. A guy like Jeff Teague, for example, could help you in more areas than Mayo as long as you can afford the hit in 3s, and if you think Mayo is due for a regression in that area anyway, now's the time to pull the trigger on a deal like that.
Brook Lopez, C, Brooklyn Nets (27): The Nets have done a great job so far this season of limiting Lopez's minutes, which has appeared to help him play with more energy while he's on the floor. However, as the Nets have struggled of late, Lopez has had to play more. He's up to 34.7 minutes per game so far in February, a number that would put him ahead of all but three centers (Dwight Howard, Al Horford and Joakim Noah) league-wide. Lopez is not on the same level athletically as those guys, and probably isn't suited to playing heavy minutes in the long term (his rebounding fell off a cliff playing heavy minutes in his last full season before this one). Additionally, it's worth noting that his shooting, which is over 50 percent overall for the first time since his rookie season, has taken a nose dive down to 48 percent so far this month. Right now, he's still putting up big numbers and has major trade value, but he's likely to have some tough spells down the stretch, and if you can sacrifice his scoring, you might be able to duplicate the rest of his stats elsewhere.
David West, PF, Indiana Pacers (52): West has been great this season, tying for the second highest PER of his career and leading a really good Pacers team through some early struggles to the fringes of contention. It's a delicate balance, as he's 32 years old (even if he's traditionally been a pretty durable guy). Still, Danny Granger will be returning to the lineup soon, and given the league-wide trend toward small-ball, it stands to reason that West's minutes could dip from the nearly 34 he's averaging now to the 29 he averaged last season. That's pure speculation on my part, but the Pacers are going have more lineups at their disposal when Granger returns, and it makes sense to try to keep West fresh for what are sure to be some pretty intense playoff battles coming up.
Metta World Peace, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers (75): World Peace shot the ball much better for the first couple of months than most of us thought he would, and he's making 2.0 3s per game, which would be the second high total of his entire career. For the last two months, however, he's on a real cold streak, and is making exactly one 3 per game so far in February. That's not good, and if it keeps up, it's going to sap his value in a big way. He'd still be worth owning because of his steals, but if you can afford to lose a little ground in that category, he's going to basically be dragging you down everywhere else. Remember, he shot less than 30 percent on 3s last season, so there's no reason to think he's going to get hot again once he's cold. He's an aging player on a dysfunctional team, and you should try to trade him while he still looks like a top-100 fantasy guy. If you can trade him for, say, Joe Johnson (assuming Joe's owner is as fed up with him as everyone else seems to be), that would be a pretty good haul with some upside to boot.
J.R. Smith, SG/SF, New York Knicks (86): Smith has been on fire so far in February, averaging 15.3 points while making 3.3 3s per game. While 37 percent shooting on nine attempts per game from behind the arc will get you a lot of 3s, I'm not sure it's a sustainable number given that he'd shot under 30 percent from that distance over the past two months. Sure, Smith can get streaky and stay hot for a while, but with Iman Shumpert back in the lineup, the Knicks will be relying less and less on Smith. It's worth pointing out that in his 12 games since returning from injury, Shumpert is actually shooting 41.4 percent on 3s, which makes him just as valuable as a floor spacer. Smith, of course, is a superior shot-creator, but his steals, blocks, assists, rebounds and free throw shooting percentage are all in decline, so dealing him while he's still putting up big numbers would probably be a good idea.