Fantasy Basketball Trade Analyzer: Rejuvenated Russ among buy/sell candidates

By Henry Weinberg, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Week 4 is underway, and sample sizes are starting to feel representative. The panic has settled, making it more challenging to find value by wheeling and dealing with fellow fantasy managers. But there are still opportunities to take advantage of. Let's examine a handful of trade options.

Sell High: Russell Westbrook, Lakers

Westbrook’s production has been rejuvenated by his demotion from the starting lineup. While with the second unit, Westbrook has averaged 19.3 points, 6.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals-plus-blocks in 29.2 minutes per contest across six games. He’s connecting on a stout 51.3% of his shots over that span.

I buy that coming off the bench is best for Westbrook’s reliability and peak value, but I think the production will return to earth soon. Westbrook is shooting 44.4% from the field in 87 career games as a Laker. Additionally, his 6.0 assists per game and 1.67 AST/TO ratio are career-worst marks. Relying on a sizable portion of Westbrook's fantasy value to come from efficient scoring isn't wise.

It’s worth noting that Westbrook is likely still on the trade block. Los Angeles is reportedly “expected to wait until after gauge the trade market,” but any trade talks are more about who's willing to take on Westbrook's salary rather than who wants Westbrook on the team. If traded, he may become a fantasy non-factor. Westbrook being bought out by a new destination is more likely than him receiving a featured role for that franchise.

If you can flip Westbrook for a season-long fantasy asset, it’s worth selling high as a chance to dodge a bullet later.

Sell: Jabari Smith Jr., Rockets

I believe Smith will eventually become a quality 3-and-D asset with rare shooting touch, but he's indisputably raw. The rookie is shooting 30.3% from the field and 30.0% from beyond the arc. His 3-point shooting is especially troubling, as it accounts for 55.1% of his shot attempts and was his signature strength as a prospect.

Monday was rock bottom for Smith. The 19-year-old recorded three points (1-4 FG), three turnovers and four fouls in a “showdown” against draft-class rival Paolo Banchero. Now marks a difficult position to trade him from, but start probing. If you can pitch his future upside/growth or his draft pedigree, converting Smith into any flier would be a worthy gamble.

Many feel that he’ll overcome his growing pains. I say not this year. Smith visibly struggles to create for himself, and he is finishing just 44.4% of his looks at the rim, ranking in the bottom 20 percent of all qualifiers.

Buy: Wendell Carter Jr., Magic

He’s simply an underrated basketball player. He’s been a model of consistency thus far, scoring between 14 and 17 points in eight of 11 contests, with the outliers being 11, 12 and 30-point games. Carter has averaged 18.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists while hitting 57.4 percent of his shots across his last five games. The 30-point boom is currently inflating his numbers, but if Carter's current shareholder overlooks his not-too-flashy production, go get him.

Factors to pitch in a Carter acquisition: Mo Bamba and Bol Bol are stealing his minutes; Jonathan Isaac (hamstring/knee) will return later this season; Carter has never played more than 62 games in a season; Orlando is tanking.

None of these "factors" actually concern me. Carter is a talented hooper. Orlando's trio of Franz Wagner, Banchero and Carter is an ascending core in the league. He’ll produce on a nightly basis.

Underrated Magic big man Wendell Carter Jr. has been a model of consistency in fantasy basketball.
Underrated Magic big man Wendell Carter Jr. has been a model of consistency in fantasy basketball this season. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) (Douglas P. DeFelice via Getty Images)

Buy Low: Deandre Ayton, Suns

By previous standards, Ayton is off to a slow start. The 24-year-old has recorded just two double-doubles across seven full contests after compiling at least 30 in each of the past two seasons. I think he’ll bounce back. The Suns lack big-man depth, and Ayton remains an efficient scorer and quality defender.

Still firmly in a buy-low window, Ayton hasn’t gotten into a groove yet. He connected on 63.0% of his shots from 2020-22, signaling that his 57.0% clip thus far is due for sizable improvement. Ayton takes high-percentage looks, and his midrange stroke is polished. Progress is almost inevitable.

He could be at a circumstantial discount as well. Ayton’s postseason collapse and free agency debacle are memorable. People in Phoenix question his motor.

In recent context, Ayton missed time with an ankle sprain, and he was ramped up cautiously — sandwiched between a couple of blowout contests where his normal usage wasn’t applicable. It’s a perfect storm to buy low on Ayton from the right seller.

Buy Low: Trey Murphy III, Pelicans

Murphy has shrunk to a bench role on a deep and versatile Pelicans squad, triggered by New Orleans getting healthier. At 6-foot-8, Murphy has the size to be a chess piece in the lineup, so he's one of the first in line to see increased minutes when his teammates suffer injuries.

Murphy has averaged 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in four games as a starter this season. He’s also logged an eye-catching 36.5 minutes per game in those starts. The Pelicans trust him with a boosted workload when absences occur. Even in standard leagues, he's worth playing on four-game weeks while in a bench role.