Fantasy Basketball Trade Analyzer: Potential deals to pursue ahead of NBA deadline

By Alex Barutha, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Constant injuries and the impending trade deadline are creating many opportunities for waiver wire pickups and deals in fantasy. If you play your cards right, you should be able to manage risk and shoot for upside with trades.

A handful of players without a write-up in this article could be mentioned every week until the deadline, those being veterans on tanking teams. So, if you're rostering someone like Jakob Poeltl, Mason Plumlee or Bojan Bogdanovic, start making exit plans as soon as possible. The veterans on expiring contracts are the ones you especially have to worry about. Teams don't want to lose those guys for nothing. They'll take a lowball offer if they have to.

Still, there are opportunities to buy low and sell high outside of those trade deadline names. Here are four to consider:

Buy Low: John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

As it has been for years, Collins' name is among those in trade talk. Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports explored interest in Collins, which includes the Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards.

It's hard to imagine any team acquiring Collins and giving him fewer responsibilities than he has now. Plus, as Atlanta is well aware, paying someone a four-year, $98.42 million contract and only passively featuring him in the offense is poor optics.

This is the fourth straight season that Collins' usage rate has declined. Notably, during his 2019-20 campaign, the big man ranked an astonishing SEVENTH in per-game nine-category production behind 21.6 points on 58.3 percent shooting, 10.1 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.5 assists and 1.4 threes in 33.2 minutes. That was also the year he played the most center (before Clint Capela arrived).

Ideally, the team that deals for Collins has a floor-spacing five — I really like the fit in Washington, and there are lineup combinations that make sense in Utah — because he's been underutilized as a lob threat since Capela arrived in Atlanta. Still, no matter who trades for Collins, his productivity should increase.

A trade could change John Collins' fantasy value. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)
A trade could change John Collins' fantasy value. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Buy Low: Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors

Wiggins has struggled in his first five games back from a groin injury, averaging just 12.6 points on 35.6 percent shooting, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 27.2 minutes. Whoever is rostering Wiggins probably assumes he'll return to form sooner than later, but it's still a good time for you to swoop in with an offer.

Ultimately, I like trading for Wiggins because he's one of the most underrated fantasy assets in the NBA. There are plenty of ways to win a trade, especially if you're constructing a balanced roto squad. In per-game nine-cat value this season, Wiggins ranks a surprising 39th — above bigger-name players like Trae Young, Zach LaVine and Rudy Gobert. I'm not recommending dealing Young to get Wiggins; you won't have to. You can probably move someone like Tre Jones, Marcus Smart or Wendell Carter — all of whom rank outside of the Top 80 and provide stats that look better than Wiggins'; they aren't. Wiggins is solid across the board and notably provides 2.2 combined steals-plus-blocks and just 1.3 turnovers. Plus, we know his role is safe.

Sell High: Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers

If you've been looking for your sell-high moment to move Westbrook, it's here. Over the past seven games, the point guard is averaging 22.7 points on 48/36/67 shooting, 8.6 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 34.0 minutes.

The efficiency isn't sustainable for him. Over the past three seasons, his splits are 44/30/67 on less volume. Maybe he's figuring stuff out; maybe he's just on a seven-game hot streak. I lean toward the latter.

Speaking of the volume, it's inflated. The Lakers have been down Anthony Davis (foot) since mid-December, while Lonnie Walker (knee) and Austin Reaves (hamstring) have both missed the past six games. That means more minutes and more touches for Westbrook.

Not only that, but the Lakers, no matter how reluctant they've been, are still a candidate to make a win-now trade using the most-talked-about picks in the NBA. This hypothetical win-now player(s) would also take volume away from Westbrook. It's best to back away from the situation and move him while he's hot.

Sell High: Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans

Valanciunas has seen increased usage since Zion Williamson (hamstring) started missing time early this month, plus Brandon Ingram (toe) has been out since late November. Over the past seven games, Valanciunas is averaging 21.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 29.1 minutes. In his 37 prior appearances, the center averaged just 13.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 24.4 minutes.

The hope is for Williamson to return late this month or early February. Ingram has been day-to-day for what feels like months. Eventually, though, they'll both be back in the lineup. When that happens, Valanciunas' workload should normalize. Plenty of fantasy managers will deal for him just for the rebound stability, but you should be able to take advantage of the current situation and get a nice return.