Fantasy Basketball 2021: Players to Target Before Trade Deadline Ends

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 25, 2021

Fantasy Basketball 2021: Players to Target Before Trade Deadline Ends

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Attention all fantasy basketball managers: Please finalize your transactions and start working your way toward the fantasy trade market's nearest exit.

    If you play in a standard Yahoo league, you have only until 11:59 p.m. PT on Friday to make a deal. Once the fantasy trade deadline passes, the only avenue left for roster relief will be the waiver wire.

    There might be some helpful pieces available there, but the trade market is where you can find legitimate difference-makers. Three in particular stand out as players to target ahead of the cutoff.

Caris LeVert, Indiana Pacers

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Bargain buys might be the best moves you can make via trade, and Caris LeVert could be underpriced for a few reasons.

    For starters, he only recently returned from a two-month absence for cancer surgery, and he looks as rusty as you might expect after that kind of layoff. He has only cleared 42 percent from the field in two of his seven games back, and he shot worse than 38 percent in four. He is a much better player than he has shown, but an antsy manager in need of instant production might not be willing to wait.

    Then, there's the chance his role balloons should the Circle City have a busy real-life trade deadline. The Pacers are down to ninth in the Eastern Conference, and they're reportedly discussing deals on just about anyone. Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports reported they were "listening on pitches" for Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis. B/R's Jake Fischer added Myles Turner, Aaron Holiday and Doug McDermott to the list.

    Obviously Indy isn't trading away everyone, but even one or two prominent players being sent out could have a big impact on LeVert's touches. He's actually shooting less in Indiana than he did in Brooklyn despite playing more minutes. His shots and assists should climb over time on their own, and any of Indy's deadline dealings could just accelerate the process.

Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets

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    Carmen Mandato/Associated Press

    A busy trade deadline in Space City could mean big things for Kevin Porter Jr.

    Shrewd fantasy managers should target him before his opportunities skyrocket—perhaps taking his production and trade value with them.

    The Rockets have already traded away James Harden and P.J. Tucker, but more moving and shaking could be in the works. They're reportedly "likely" to trade away Victor Oladipo, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and they have several other win-now veterans to attract buyers.

    The more subtractions there are, the brighter Porter's rest-of-season outlook becomes. He's already been granted an impressive amount of offensive control, having averaged 14.9 points, 14.0 shots and 6.4 assists in 29.1 minutes across his first seven contests in Houston. But all of those numbers could perk up after the deadline if a featured player like Oladipo is let go.

    Porter hasn't helped anyone's percentages yet (41.8/20.9/65.0), but all three levels of his slash line were significantly better over 50 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season (44.2/33.5/72.3).

Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Admittedly, prying Fred VanVleet away from a fantasy manager won't be easy when he's averaging 20.1 points, 6.5 assists and 3.3 triples per night. But if you're reading the tea leaves around the Raptors, you could talk yourself into all three of those numbers having growth potential—which could make him worth even a steep trade cost.

    Toronto is going nowhere fast this season, and that has the gears grinding on the trade market. The Raptors are discussing deals involving both Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Powell and Lowry are the team's third- and fourth-highest scorers respectively. Get them out of Toronto (or, this season, Tampa Bay), and that should put even more on VanVleet's plate. If Lowry goes, the Raptors put the ball in VanVleet's hands more and need more playmaking. If Powell exits, they'll task VanVleet with extra scoring and three-point sniping. If both are gone, they'll be scrambling to replace roughly 37 points and 27 shots.

    Once the deadline passes, VanVleet could be feasting buffet-style on all the offensive opportunities he can handle. The Raptors made an $85 million commitment to him this past offseason, and they'll soon give him a chance to earn every cent.