By Henry Weinberg, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Happy New Year! We’re into the meat of the NBA season and quickly approaching the halfway point. Once the NFL season concludes with the Super Bowl, all eyes will be on the NBA. But now is as good a time as any time to make some trades, especially with the real-life deadline approaching next month.
Trade for: Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
In what feels like a painstakingly long season for the Bulls, LaVine’s absence just extended beyond a month after initially being diagnosed with a three-to-four-week recovery timeline from right foot irritation. In addition to carrying a re-aggravation risk, Chicago’s well-known list of available pieces — namely DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso — makes for a weird energy in Chicago.
That being said, there have been reports that Chicago does not want to blow it up. Regardless of the short-term direction, the franchise will be paying LaVine for another three seasons after the current campaign, so playing him, whether to win or to rehabilitate his trade value, is more likely than not.
Even with a return looming, LaVine’s value is near rock bottom right now. He is a worthwhile target for pooling two-three lesser assets to acquire. LaVine’s floor as a 20-point scorer and three-point bomber on a nightly basis moves the needle in fantasy contention.
Trade away: Coby White, Chicago Bulls
With the return of LaVine in mind, White would easily be the biggest loser. White has been stellar since the beginning of December, averaging 22.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 38.1 minutes per game. Combining his insane minute share with the fact that he has perfect attendance in the starting lineup through Chicago’s first 34 games, White leads the NBA in total minutes played. This could change upon LaVine’s return, as will White’s remarkably consistent shot volume, as he’s attempted at least 15 shots in each of his last 15 games.
Additionally, White is shooting a career-high 39.1% from beyond the arc, but he’s connected on just 22.7% of 6.3 threes per game over his last seven games. Pick-and-roll partner Nikola Vucevic (groin) is set to miss another week at minimum, and although White has averaged 18.3 points per game in his absence, subtracting a multi-level scoring weapon makes the Bulls’ offense easier to stop.
White looks extremely comfortable initiating the offense in Chicago, so his breakout has been real, but the league will adapt. Perhaps White will retain an immense role alongside LaVine, but it’s worth seeing what kind of value could be extracted from his run as the star of Chicago’s offense over the past month.
Trade for: Tyus Jones, Washington Wizards
Averaging a modest 12.3 points and 6.3 assists over his last three games, Jones’ recent production is similar to his season averages of 10.3 points and 5.2 assists per game. That being said, it was a strong month of December for the 27-year-old, who posted 15.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.5 steals while canning 2.1 threes per game at a 51.7% clip.
Jones is one of the most turnover-averse guards of the past decade, and he stacked up a 917:146 AST:TO ratio over the past three seasons. His role is extremely secure because of the stabilization he brings to a Washington offense that can be chaotic at times, and Jones has helped fuel that offense to 71.8% shooting at the rim, which leads the league.
Jones is successfully acclimating to a jump in workload, potentially hinting at December’s production being realistic for rest-of-season expectations for the point guard in his first season truly at the helm of an offense. His 28.0 minutes per game is a career-high mark, which has translated to all of his box-score metrics being career-highs as well. Ditto for his three-point shooting and overall efficiency. Jones improving throughout the course of the season is extremely plausible, and that is the current trajectory.
Trade away: Aaron Gordon, Nuggets
Gordon simply isn’t the dynamic, uber-efficient contributor he was last season, and it’s fair to wonder if a player of his athletic archetype could be due for a steep fall-off in future campaigns. I’m not speculating that he’s exiting his prime right now, but Gordon’s career-low 12.0 defensive rebounding rate, combined with a nagging heel injury that has plagued him for an extended stretch of the season are relevant considerations. An altered shot diet is another factor detracting from his versatility. Following three consecutive seasons of shooting at least 33.5% on 2.5 threes per game, Gordon is connecting on just 26.4% of 1.8 threes per game this season. He remains an extremely high-floor fantasy asset, but the fact that he isn’t booming makes him expendable
The 28-year-old has posted double-digit scoring in 10 straight games while shooting 63.0% from the field over that span, averaging 15.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 0.8 steals. In formats where efficiency is rewarded, that level of production is still coveted. Gordon’s ceiling is the main component of what’s lacking from his fantasy portfolio this season, as he’s exceeded 20 points just twice after doing so 15 times last year. This isn’t a panic sell on Gordon, but the boom appeal is less than it was last year. Operating in Denver’s consistent team environment, other managers might still regard Gordon as the same player from last season, which makes his value worth evaluating on the trade market.
Trade away: Jordan Clarkson, Jazz
Clarkson has thrived in a bench role of late, delivering 18.6 points and 6.8 assists over his last five games, including notching Utah’s first triple-double since 2008 on Monday.
A key extraneous factor is that Utah is a clear seller at the Feb. 8 trade deadline. Clarkson can get a bucket anywhere he goes, but he will not be tasked with sizable facilitating in the majority of competitive environments. His 27.0% assist rate through 24 appearances this season is easily a career-high, while his 29.1% usage rate is the highest mark of his career also.
Utah will likely want to transition that usage to Keyonte George and, to a lesser extent, Ochai Agbaji down the stretch. Talen Horton-Tucker has picked up DNP-CDs in back-to-back games, so the trend of non-future pieces being trimmed from the rotation is already underway for the Jazz.
For deep league managers, these principles apply to John Collins, Kris Dunn and Kelly Olynyk as well, while Taylor Hendricks, Walker Kessler and potentially Brice Sensabaugh should be larger factors down the stretch of the season.