by Dave Fuller
As the dog days of fantasy basketball come around (you know, the middle of the season and the time just before fantasy baseball starts to creep back up), as do the days of separation. The contenders will begin separating themselves from the pretenders, both in real and fantasy basketball. I've given you a wealth of information to continue to use as the season plays out, so all I can do is wish you good luck as you hang in there and fight through what may be the toughest weeks of the season. And hey, trust me, it will pay off.
So for now, I'll revert back to the idea of looking at NBA teams in my articles. I'll attempt to predict what is to come from each team whether it's general trade talks, needs, or subtle yet important aspects that can change the face of the fantasy game.
Current Record: 15-17, 3rd (Southeast), 8th (East)
Predicted Record: 40-42, 3rd (Southeast), 8th (East)
Predicted Playoff Outcome: First-round loss to #1 Boston Celtics in four
Atlanta should just sneak in ahead of the Indiana Pacers for the 8th spot in the East come playoff time. The Pacers have talent but due to injuries and playing style, inconsistencies continue to hinder their playoff hopes. The Hawks can only contend with teams like New Jersey, Cleveland, or Toronto if a deal for Andre Miller or maybe Jason Williams is made.
No trade rumors have surfaced for the Hawks, something that probably hasn't happened for this team in a while as they're finally a legitimate contender for the playoffs in the East. They do, however, need to at least evaluate the point guard situation. Yes, Anthony Johnson (33-year-old Anthony Johnson) has filled in with respectable numbers, but his aging body cannot continue to take the minutes he's been playing. His dwindling January stats reflect that. Josh Childress' return to NBA shape will help Johnson refrain from being overloaded, but this team needs a legitimate ball-handler who can set up the offense to back up or take minutes from Johnson. Jason Williams and Andre Miller are definitely players to look out for as the deadline draws near. Williams is in the last year of his contract this season, and the Miami Heat really have nothing to look forward to. Both players provide veteran leadership and playoff experience, and both players' expiring contracts are an added bonus. Neither player stands out defensively, something coach Mike Wood preaches, but I'm sure Mike Wood would sacrifice a little defense for offense if it means consistency at the point. Tyronn Lue's role as a backup is hurt by injury concerns, and may be enough for the Hawks to make an offer for Williams or Miller. Miller does come at a higher price, however, and it appears GM Ed Stefanski has little desire to deal Miller unless a strong offer is presented. He just likely isn't worth that offer for Atlanta right now. Damon Stoudamire is a third potential option, as he just wants out of Memphis following a big cut in his minutes due to Mike Conley, Jr.'s return from injury and Kyle Lowry's serviceable abilities. Stoudamire's agent is actively seeking a new team for him to play with.
Potential trades (in order of relative likelihood):
Miami Heat :: PG Jason Williams
Atlanta Hawks :: PG Tyronn Lue, PG/SG Salim Stoudamire, C Lorenzen Wright
This trade happens solely because both teams get expiring contracts in every player. ESPN.com's trade machine says it works, and no one gets stuck with a huge and poorly-constructed contract. Heat don't need Williams and likely wouldn't re-sign him, and the Hawks can do without any of those players.
Philadelphia 76ers :: PG Andre Miller
Atlanta Hawks :: PG Tyronn Lue, PG Anthony Johnson, C Lorenzen Wright
Once again, expiring contracts are the key here. Stefanski has said he'd like to "rebuild" the team around Miller and SG/SF Andre Iguodala, but come on. Have you checked Miller's birth certificate lately? Any attempt at doing so would require expiring contracts to free up cap room that can be used to sign free agents next season, so if no one bites at Samuel Dalembert (rumored to be on the trade block), Stefanski is best suited to give up Miller and take advantage of the expiring contracts.
Memphis Grizzlies :: PG Damon Stoudamire
Atlanta Hawks :: PG Tyronn Lue OR C Lorenzen Wright
Both teams get a guard in the deal, and Grizzlies get Lue's or Wright's expiring contract. This trade would not happen, however, because Stoudamire is just owed way too much next (final contract) season for what little left he brings to a team.
All-in-all, not a single one of these deals would really do anything but slightly raise or lower the already insignificant values of most players involved. Andre Miller would be the most impacted fantasy-wise in his deal, with an expected drop in scoring if this deal went down. Turnovers would also fall, but the team has players with solid scoring potential. His owners would be disappointed with that deal. Jason Williams' owners are disappointing for owning him, period.