Pre-emptive strikes

Act now on players whose values could change at NBA trade deadline

Updated: February 15, 2013, 8:48 AM ET
By Josh Whitling | Special to ESPN.com

The trade deadline occurs during a lull in the waiver-wire season, when the game-changing early-season additions are universally owned and it's hard to find monumental value available in free agency. Trades create a refreshing midseason shakeup in the fantasy landscape, as they typically elicit notable value from a handful of widely-unowned players who benefit from team's altered rosters.

But once integral players swap teams, there's a mad scramble for this new value, and it's often too late to add them after the trades have gone down. Thus, shrewd fantasy owners make preemptive strikes by adding players who'll most likely benefit from likely trades before the trades actually happen. This week I'll identify players who could benefit if the names mentioned in trade rumors are eschewed from their teams, as well as some other widely-available options who can breathe life into fantasy teams in need of assistance.

Patterson
Patterson

Patrick Patterson, PF, Houston Rockets (30.8 percent owned): 2Pat's offensive game has taken a step forward this year, as he's improved his true shooting percentage and Player Efficiency Rating with an increased usage rate and a further improved pick-and-pop game. Additionally, he's taking more shots and converting at a higher percentage at the rim, which has allowed his field goal percentage to improve despite the fact he's added the 3-pointer to his arsenal. He's averaging 15.6 points on 59.5 percent shooting in February, scoring in double digits in seven straight and nine of his past 10 games. Unfortunately, as he's developed his offensive game, his rebounding has dropped off, and it's critical to view Patterson as a power forward who will provide small forward-type production. He'll give you about half a steal and half a block per game, but Patterson's primary value comes from efficient scoring with 3s from the power forward position. Of the 154 players averaging at least 0.8 3s per game, Patterson, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the only players shooting over 50 percent from the floor. That's impressive company, and if you're looking for some scoring punch, Patterson is a productive, but not well-rounded, addition.

Valanciunas
Valanciunas

Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto Raptors (26.2 percent owned): He returned Feb. 1 after missing 18 games with a broken finger, is in line to start at center for the Raps going forward, and has two double-doubles and seven blocks in his past four games. He's still assimilating to the league, but his aggressiveness on both ends of the court and combination of explosiveness and skill lead me to believe he'll improve upon his statistics going forward. He takes 64.2 percent of his shots inside 10 feet, so look for him to continue shooting over 50 percent from the floor. He'll be swooped up in most leagues soon, so if you need a gainful source of rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage, add the talented rookie now.

Humphries
Humphries

Kris Humphries, PF, Brooklyn Nets (21.2 percent owned): He's fallen out of favor in Brooklyn due to the redundancies between his and Reggie Evans' skill sets, and has been involved in numerous trade rumors, including being sent to Charlotte and Atlanta. If he's traded, he'll likely earn more than 19.3 minutes per game, and when given PT, Humphries is a double-double machine who can block a shot per game. He ranked 48th on the Player Rater last season, averaged a double-double in two straight seasons, and is still averaging 15.5 rebounds per 48 minutes, good for 13th in the league. Despite his diminished role, his total rebounding rate (percentage of total rebounds a player grabs during his time on the court) is up to 19.2 compared to last season's 18.3. We've already seen he's capable of top-50 stats, and his skills haven't diminished, so he's worth a speculative roster spot on the chance he finds himself in a more statistically-lucrative situation after the trading deadline.

Bradley
Bradley

Avery Bradley, PG/SG, Boston Celtics (4.3 percent owned): Now that Leandro Barbosa has joined Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger as Celtics out for the year, Bradley's responsibilities have been even further augmented. He's hit double-digit scoring in four of his past five games, has 10 steals in his past four games, and has even upped his assists a bit, averaging 2.6 per game over his past five contests. But Bradley's contributions come primarily on D, where he's posting Thabo Sefolosha-type defensive stats from the guard position, with 1.4 steals and 0.7 blocks per game this month. His 0.6 blocks per game ranks second among point guard-eligible players, and his 2.23 steals per-48 minutes ranks 27th in the league. Don't expect much on the scoring end, but he should see a bump in assists with fantastic defensive stats and play as many minutes as his body can handle, especially if the Celtics don't make a move for another guard at the deadline.

Chandler
Chandler

Wilson Chandler, SG/SF, Denver Nuggets (3.8 percent owned): Denver's depth at the wing is a detriment to Chandler's value, but his skill set is made for the fantasy game, with his ability to provide 3s, steals and blocks all at a high rate. He's averaging 0.9 steals, 0.9 3s and 0.4 blocks per game in just 19.4 minutes, and of the 32 players averaging at least 0.9 steals and 0.9 3s per game, Jae Crowder is the only other averaging fewer than 20 minutes per game. He's a per-minute beast, so even if the Nuggets don't make any trades, I'd rather invest in a high-upside guy like Chandler for my bench slot than a player who starts for his team but has a limited ceiling.

Johnson
Johnson

Ivan Johnson, PF, Atlanta Hawks (0.1 percent owned): Josh Smith's name is swirling in trade rumors, and if they don't replace him with another frontcourt player, Johnson should see more playing time. His per-40 minute stats of 17.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals reflect fantasy potential, and the fact he attempts over half his shots from inside 10 feet and converts 72.4 percent of his shots at the rim bodes well for his field goal percentage. I find it difficult to ignore his resemblance to Kimbo Slice, which is fitting on the court since Johnson doesn't shy away from contact and can be an enforcer down low. He's an active rebounder with quick hands that has the potential to contribute in rebounds and steals if a Smith trade opens up more playing time.

Kanter
Kanter

Enes Kanter, C, Utah Jazz (0.1 percent owned): As I pointed out last week, Derrick Favors stands to go nuts if the Jazz trade away Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap. But Kanter will also see a bump in value, and his sparkling per-minute stats indicate he'll be a factor in deep leagues if given more run. Kanter's total rebounding rate of 16.6 is the best of any healthy center averaging fewer than 15 minutes per game, and he ranks seventh overall in offensive rebounding rate. His 13.7 rebounds per-48 minutes is identical to Favors', and he's flashed improved face-up game, shooting 46.1 percent on shots between 10 and 23 feet. In the eight games this season in which he has played at least 20 minutes, he's averaging 10.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 23.0 minutes per game. Those are realistic numbers to project if he becomes the No. 3 big in Utah, so if Favors is already owned and you're looking for a high-upside center, Kanter could be a savvy preemptive addition.

Ellington
Ellington

Wayne Ellington, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers (0.1 percent owned): Like Marreese Speights, Ellington has benefited from the trade from Memphis to Cleveland, as he's become a valid scoring option off the bench. He's scored in double figures in six of the past nine games, and is averaging 11.6 points and 2.0 3s per game in his past five. He's averaging almost four more minutes per game in Cleveland and is emerging as a legitimate 3-point specialist. Only 23 players are averaging two or more 3s per game, and Ellington is doing just that in his seven games this month with the Cavs. If he continues getting 20-plus minutes per night he should remain a valuable source of 3s for deeper leagues.

Udrih
Udrih

Beno Udrih, PG/SG, Milwaukee Bucks (0.1 percent owned): Brandon Jennings' name has surfaced in a number of trade rumors with news of his "irreconcilable differences" with the Bucks' organization. If Jennings is jettisoned, it could open up a role for the wholly capable Udrih, whose assist rate (rate of assists against possessions used) of 31.2 ranks 21st in the league among players averaging at least 15 minutes per game, and is tops of any Bucks player. He's shooting 48.1 percent from the floor, and should provide ample assists with a handful of steals and 3s if Jennings leaves and Udrih gains a larger role in the Milwaukee offense.

Josh Whitling

Fantasy Basketball
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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