Navigating Midseason Trades

Part 1 of 2

(Originally published on 10/29/18)

Deron Williams was once a superstar. Don't laugh. I'm serious.  Through 53 games with Utah in 2010-11, WIlliams averaged 21.3 points, 9.7 assists on 45% FG/34% 3pt/85% FT. Then he got traded to the Nets midseason. After the trade, his FG% fell by over 10 percentage points, three-point percentage dropped from 34.5% to 27.1% and he stopped getting to the line. 

OCCUPY THE PLAYOFFS drafted Williams 8th overall in our league the following year -- ahead of Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant -- and rode him to the championship despite his declining productivity. That was Williams' last relevant season in the league. Injuries, disinterest and pressure of being "the guy," were all factors that contributed to his slow and depressing demise. 

Williams played six seasons after the trade but never recovered his efficiency and stardom. The trade from a organized, structured and discplined environment in Utah to a New Jersey franchise coached by Avery Johnson and featuring Kris Humphries, Travis Outlaw and Terrence Williams could drive any man to insanity but especially someone like Williams, who was overly conscious and insecure about his receding hairline.

Trades can ruin a player's career but more importantly for us -- they can derail a promising fantasy season. In 2014-15, Brandon Knight on the Milwaukee Bucks was providing top-30 fantasy value before being traded to the Phoenix Suns during the season. Knight hasn't been heard from him again since the trade three years ago. That same year, Rondo was averaging 10.8 assists/game through the first 22 games for Boston. He was traded to Dallas and failed to make their final playoff roster. Rondo's been scavenging for one-year deals ever since. 

In most cases, it's fair to assume that a trade will result in a decline in a player's production. New city, team, coach, and system is an overwhelming midseason adjustment. However, there is one glaring exception of the opposite being true. One instance where a midseason trade rejuvenated a player's career. Yes, my friends, we are going to talk about the Vince Carter trade again. My first heartbreak. A personal turning point. The darkest days of Ratpors basketball. 

Vince quit on the Raptors during the 2004-05 season. There's no other way to say it. He stopped dunking, leaked the team's late game sets to opposing players, did I already mention that he quit?

Here's the pre- and post-trade comparison of Carter's numbers during the 2004-05 season: 

Raptors (20 games): 15.9 points, 3.3 rebounds,  3.1 assists, 41.1% FG, 32.2% 3pt, 69.4% FT on 3.6 attempts 
Nets (57 games): 27.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 46.2% FG, 42.5% 3pt, 81.7% FT on 6.8 attempts. 

The numbers are so damning. Vince is a career 80% FT shooter. The 69.4% from the FT line was the lowest stretch of his still ongoing career. Was he bricking the few free throw attempts he managed on purpose? Oh, I fogot to mention, he started dunking again in New Jersey. I guess he regained his lost smile after the trade.

Personal angst aside, beware of midseason trades this season. Trades can shakeup everything you think you know about your fantasy team and our league. Every fantasy team is one unfavorable trade away from losing its balance and position in the standings.