Knicks guard J.R. Smith's murky future in N.Y. may open the door for others.
The NBA is a league of opportunity. Its fantasy offspring is forever at the mercy of the ever-changing NBA rotation.
With the NBA trading deadline looming, opportunities are certain to open for some players while disappear for others. If you are curious about the effect opportunity has on the fantasy value of an NBA player, look no further than the Dec. 8 trade between the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings.
The Raptors sent Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to the Kings for Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. Before the deal, backup point guard Isaiah Thomas' fantasy value was muffled by the minutes allocated to Vasquez. Thomas averaged 17.8 points, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.5 three-pointers made in 27.7 minutes per game while playing backup to Vasquez.
After Vasquez was shipped north of the border, Thomas is averaging 21.3 points, 7.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.5 three-pointers in 37.8 minutes per game.
The skills have always been there for Thomas. He just needed an opportunity to let those skills flourish.
Here are a few more players who are readily available to benefit from newfound opportunity.
All stats taken from Basketball-Reference.com unless specified otherwise.
Iman Shumpert may step into a larger role soon.
It's the worst-kept secret in the entire league. Knicks head coach Mike Woodson doesn't care much for J.R. Smith.
Woodson went so far as to bench the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year winner on Thursday against the Miami Heat. Woodson declined to comment on his decision to bench Smith repeatedly after the Knicks win. Earlier in the season, reports surfaced that Woodson and Smith traded verbal barbs at one another in the locker room.
Smith has exhibited some strange behavior on the court, attempting to untie Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion's shoelace during New York's 92-80 win over the Mavericks last week.
The NBA warned Smith about his actions, but he attempted to untie the shoelace of Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe. That act of defiance cost Smith a $50,000 fine and a seat on the bench on Thursday.
Woodson said Smith's recent behavior was "unprofessional" and he was "not happy" with Smith while on ESPN's The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show radio show. The Knicks are also reportedly shopping Smith to other teams, via Ian Begley and Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
For the immediate future, it looks like Smith is in the doghouse, opening the door for Iman Shumpert. Shumpert played a season-high 43 minutes against the Heat on Thursday. He chipped in four three-pointers along with nine rebounds.
If the minutes are there, Shumpert should be a nice addition for teams looking for a boost in steals and three-pointers. Monitor the fragile Smith situation and keep Shumpert, along with guard Tim Hardaway Jr. on your fantasy radar. Shumpert is owned in 29 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Jordan Hill could be unleashed following the NBA trading deadline.
Jordan Hill's fantasy value is directly tied to the Lakers' ability to move free-agent-to-be Pau Gasol.
Despite numerous efforts to move Gasol, CBS Sports' Ken Berger reports the market for Gasol has "plummeted." Berger also notes the Lakers are "combing" the trade market for an athletic forward to fit Mike D'Antoni's offensive system.
In just over 20 minutes per game, Hill has averaged 9.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks on 56.1 percent shooting from the field. His 36 minutes per rate would put Hill at 16.7 points, 13.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.
Hill is owned in 22 percent of Yahoo! leagues and would be a hold in standard formats until the Lakers make their play on Gasol.
Greivis Vasquez may become a hot commodity after the NBA trading deadline.
From freeing up Isaiah Thomas in Sacramento to biding his time in Toronto, Greivis Vasquez can still be a considerable fantasy force for the rest of the season.
Vasquez's value will remain anchored until the Raptors make a move on starting point guard Kyle Lowry. The problem for prospective Vasquez owners is Lowry's recent play and the Raptors' position as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
New York Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly vetoed a proposed deal that would've sent Lowry to the Knicks in exchange for multiple players. Since then, rumors of Lowry's stance with the team have shifted more toward signing an extension with the club as The Star's Cathal Kelly reports.
Taj Gibson could assume a larger role in the offense.
USA Today's reporter Sam Amick reports the Bulls will use their amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer. Amick also reports that Kirk Hinrich could be on the Bulls trading block.
If the Bulls continue to shed personnel, Taj Gibson could prove to be a fantasy stud. Gibson is averaging 12.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks over 27 minutes per game. If Boozer leaves town, the 42 percent-owned Gibson will become a must-start fantasy option.
Al-Farouq Aminu could benefit from injuries and trades in New Orleans.
The New Orleans Pelicans have been decimated by injury so far this season. Jrue Holiday (stress fracture in his leg) and Ryan Anderson (herniated disk) are both out indefinitely. According to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News, the Pelicans remain "active" in trying to trade guard Eric Gordon.
If Gordon is dealt, there leaves a lot of minutes to be had in the Pelicans' starting rotation. Brian Roberts started for the Pelicans on Friday night against the Mavericks in place of Holiday.
In Anderson's absence, athletic forward Al-Farouq Aminu could see a push in minutes. He's averaging 7.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks in 25 minutes per game this year. Aminu makes for an interesting steal and block-per-game-type player to own.
Keep a close eye on the rotations in New Orleans moving forward.
You can follow John Otano on Twitter @MisterOtano.