This has been an uncommonly busy season for player movement so far, which means Thursday's 3 p.m. EST trade deadline can go either one of two ways. Either every big move that was going to happen has already gone down, and teams just decided to pull the trigger months ago rather than waiting it out. Or, with the salary cap set to jump in two offseasons and a number of big-name players in precarious spots with their teams, we could see a number of teams get desperate and take the arms race to another level.
Personally, I'm hoping for the latter, and not just because I enjoy chaos. With the Knicks and Lakers in full-on tank mode and teams like the Timberwolves and Nuggets still trying to sort through crowded rotations where players struggle to stand out, I am all for shaking things up for the second half of the season. We seem to have more competent players than rotation spots in many cases, especially in the backcourt, where teams like the Suns and Thunder sport an embarrassment of riches that leaves Fantasy-relevant players buried.
More than in year's past, it seems like this NBA trade deadline could change the shape of countless Fantasy championship races, and I'm all for that. Here are the five players who should be hoping it is a busy deadline, and the five who would like to see things stay just how they are when Thursday afternoon rolls around:
Most to gain
Reggie Jackson, G, Thunder
Though it came under extreme circumstances with both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sidelined by injuries, Jackson gave us a tantalizing glimpse of his Fantasy upside early in the season, averaging 20.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game in 13 starts to open the season. He has played like waiver-wire fodder in 37 games since, but is still owned in 82 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, largely based on that upside. The trade rumors are going to heat up over the next few days, with teams like the Kings and Heat expressing interest in acquiring the fourth-year guard. If he lands somewhere he can get starter's minutes, Jackson has a robust all-around skill set that should make him a no-doubt starting Fantasy option, but the downside here is also just as obvious. If the Thunder opt to hold on to Jackson past Thursday's deadline, dropping him is an easy call, because he only really has value as a handcuff in case Westbrook gets hurt. Nobody has as much to gain or lose by Thursday.
Isaiah Thomas, G, Suns
Over the last few days, the Suns have been involved in a number of trade rumors regarding their glut of talented point guards, and the fate of Thomas' Fantasy value hangs in the balance. Whether the Suns opt to move Goran Dragic or, as seems more likely, Thomas himself, Thomas could have a much different outlook by Thursday afternoon. Unlike Jackson however, the situation isn't quite as dire with Thomas, who has retained a level of Fantasy relevance even in his sixth man role. However, as he proved last season, Thomas can be a premier Fantasy option if given 35-plus minutes per game, given his efficient, high-usage scoring and solid playmaking. You won't be dropping Thomas if he doesn't get moved Thursday, but you might end up acquiring a top-15 guard if he lands in the right place.
Mason Plumlee, C, Nets
The Nets have already reportedly rebuffed the Kings in their attempts to acquire Plumlee, even though it would haven meant getting out from under Deron Williams' albatross contract for the Nets. It seems clear Plumlee isn't going anywhere, so this isn't a question about him being moved; it's about Brook Lopez. The Nets have reportedly been shopping Lopez, but have so far turned down offers that would have allowed them to just dump his salary -- they are looking for value in return. It seems unlikely they will find what they are looking for, but owners still hanging on to Plumlee know what can happen if Lopez is moved and Plumlee gets a starting role. Plumlee is averaging 13.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a starter, while shooting 64.6 percent from the field and averaging 2.1 steals plus blocks per game. He could be a low-end No. 1 Fantasy option at center if the Nets find a way to move Lopez.
Lance Stephenson, G, Hornets
I was hoping Kemba Walker's absence might help Stephenson find his way following his return from injury in January, but he has somehow managed to be even worse, posting a dreadful 33.0/15.4/50.0 shooting line over his last 13 games. His playmaking skills are still impressive, but Stephenson's regression as a scorer has been unbelievable this season. Playing in Charlotte clearly isn't working out for him, and a change of scenery seems necessary if he is going to turn things around. Of course, with how bad he has been all season long, it's hard to expect much of anything from him, no matter where he goes. Still, it would be best for all parties involved if the Hornets could find a taker for Stephenson's relatively team friendly deal.
Enes Kanter, C, Jazz
It's hard to blame Kanter for being frustrated with his lot in Utah; despite making real improvements to his game at every step along the way, he has failed to really be rewarded the way young big men with his kind of offensive talent usually are. His defense remains an issue, but Kanter has established himself as a useful high-usage offensive hub in the frontcourt, and yet it's hard to feel like the Jazz value him the way other teams generally do their young offensively skilled bigs. The presence of two elite defensive big men in Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert helps explain why the Jazz aren't so keen on investing in him, but Kanter's frustration is still understandable. He doesn't draw many free throws and is an outright bad defender at this point in his career, but Kanter has Nikola Vucevic-type upside as a Fantasy option, if he can land in the right spot. The Jazz are overloaded with young potential at pretty much every position, so finding a trade midseason may be tough to do. If he does end up somewhere with less of a log jam in the middle, Kanter has top-10 Fantasy center potential.
Most to lose
Kevin Martin, G, Timberwolves
Sports Illustrated reported last week the Timberwolves may look to trade Martin, who has two years and $14 million left on his contract after this season and doesn't really make sense for the Timberwolves rebuilding plans. He might be able to help a contender that needs scoring punch and shooting off the bench, though we don't have to look too far to see what kind of impact that could have on his Fantasy value. Martin is someone who needs to score to have much value at all, and the last time he came off a contender's bench, he was a borderline Fantasy starter at best, averaging 14.0 points and 1.4 assists per game in 2012-13 for the Thunder. Of course, we may just be delaying the inevitable with Martin no matter what the Wolves decide to do at the deadline; with guys like Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad around, it is only a matter of time before his role starts to diminish.
Despite playing on a bad team with relatively little standing in their way, neither Chandler nor Afflalo has exactly set the world on fire. They have been fine, useful Fantasy options, but inconsistency has made them tough to rely on. Now imagine they get shipped off to a contender, which already has its rotations set and just needs them to fill a role for 25 minutes a night. That kind of consistency might help either player settle down, but it would hardly help their Fantasy value. The example set by Jeff Green is instructive; his minutes are hardly down much from his time in Boston, but his usage rate has plummeted, leaving him on the fringes of Fantasy relevance. And Green was playing much better than either of these two before his trade. The Nuggets are reportedly demanding a first-round pick for either player, and Fantasy owners should hope they hold firm; as bad as things have been, they won't get any better somewhere else.
Jordan Hill, C, Lakers
Hill can put up numbers when he gets the opportunity; he has proven that over the last two years. What he hasn't proven is whether he can actually help a team win while doing so, as he has been saddled with the "good numbers, bad team" tag in his time with the Lakers. As a third or fourth big man, capable of playing both power forward and center, I think Hill has the ability to contribute for a contender, and if the Lakers can get even a second-round pick plus an expiring contract for him, he's probably gone. Unfortunately, there is almost no way he ends up landing somewhere as good for his Fantasy value as Los Angeles, where he gets to take 11 field-goal attempts per game and doesn't have a ton of competition on the boards. For Hill's Fantasy owners, the fact that he is injured right now might be a blessing in disguise, if it keeps the Lakers from finding a trade partner for him.
Darren Collison, G, Kings
The Kings stunned the basketball world by essentially choosing Collison over Thomas last summer, but Collison has been a fantastic fit for them and has largely justified their decision. He has helped keep the ball moving on offense, and his high free-throw rate and solid 3-point shooting has made him a good fit on a team that doesn't necessarily need a dynamic, do-everything point guard. However, rumors continue to swirl that the Kings are looking to make a big trade to bolster the roster under new coach George Karl, and SportingNews.com reported in recent days that Reggie Jackson is a potential target. That fits with the Kings' recent trend of buying low on players who seem to be struggling in their current situation, but it would undoubtedly hurt Collison's Fantasy value. If you've been enjoying Collison's ride as a high-end No. 3 Fantasy guard, pray the Kings make it through Thursday without finding a deal.
Eric Gordon, G, Pelicans
Gordon has enjoyed an unlikely resurgence over the last month, averaging 14.5 points and 4.9 assists per game since returning from his latest injury in early January. He has helped keep the Pelicans afloat in Jrue Holiday's absence, and has thrived as a playmaker in a way he hasn't since his days with the Clippers. Of course, it helps that he gets to run pick and rolls with an unstoppable force on the receiving end, just like it did when he played with Blake Griffin in Los Angeles. Gordon actually looks healthy and is playing fantastic ball, and it would be a shame to see him uprooted from New Orleans just as he is starting to become a positive for them. There haven't been many rumors surrounding Gordon, and that's a good thing.