Fantasy Basketball: Toronto Raptors Front Court Trade Implications

By Jeff Rosenberg
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last week, there have been various reports linking the Toronto Raptors to trades around the NBA. The Raptors are 16-29, good for surprisingly 11th in the Eastern Conference, and currently are on another losing streak. They’re clearly looking to retool for the future. As such, fantasy basketball implications are looming.

The latest trade speculation surrounding the Raptors have them in deep talks with the Memphis Grizzlies in which the Raptors are ready and willing to offer up PG Jose Calderon and/or PF/C Ed Davis in a deal to land F Rudy Gay. The hold up seems to be surrounding Calderon, as a third team would be warranted due to Memphis currently having the depth they desire at point guard with Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless.

Another trade scenario that has been attached to the Raptors, this one seemingly for the entire 2012-13 season, has the team aggressively shopping former NO. 1 overall pick PF/C Andrea Bargnani. The problem with Bargnani is that he’s been injured for most of the season, and has drawn limited-at-best interest from other teams. Bargnani is expected back within the next 10 days, as is Raptors’ 2011 fifth overall pick C Jonas Valanciunas, according to Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.

While no trade scenario is considered imminent at the moment, the Raptors are certainly at the top of the list in terms of teams likely to make a move by the Feb. 21st trade deadline. While the Raptors are also likely to move one of Calderon or PG Kyle Lowry, they are just as likely to move one of their big men.

In the absence of both Bargnani and Valanciunas, third year PF/C Ed Davis and eighth year PF/C Amir Johnson have shown surprisingly consistent value; both in real life and for fantasy teams. Bargnani has been out since Dec. 10th, while Valanciunas last played Dec. 21st.

Over the last month in their absence, Johnson has been rather reliable. He has posted a 57.8 FG percentage on about 9.5 shots. AJ is also shooting 70.0 percent from the charity stripe, while averaging 13.6 points, eight rebounds, two assists, slightly more than one steal, slightly more than one block and about two turnovers per game.

Davis has a 54.7 FG percentage on 11.6 attempts per game in their absence. He is shooting 51.2 percent from the charity stripe with 13.9 points, eight rebounds, almost two assists, half a steal, one block and 1.5 turnovers per game.

The best move for the Raptors is the move that sends out Bargnani, because he’s the highest paid of the bunch. He’s also less attractive next to Davis and Valanciunas, who are both years younger than Bargnani and have less injury concerns. Conversely, Bargnani is likely the hardest of the Raptors’ big man quartet to pawn off on another franchise, as we haven’t seen him perform in over a month.

After a less-than-stellar performance last night from Johnson, over 1,000 Yahoo! owners have dropped the veteran in the last day. If the Raptors do make a move involving one of their big men, Johnson will be the one guaranteed to succeed in Toronto for the rest of the fantasy season.

Valanciunas is obviously the future of the team, but he has under-performed when healthy this season. With either Bargnani or Davis being dealt, the other will hold down the starting center role for the Raptors, next to Johnson. Valanciunas will be well entrenched in the rotation, but following his injury, he will be coming off the bench in either scenario.

If either Bargnani or Davis are dealt, the other obviously retains must-start value. At this point, it’s a waiting game to see if either player actually gets moved.

If Amir Johnson is available in your league, make the pickup. He’s the speculative add in response to Toronto’s trade talks. Worst case scenario, there’s no trade, and Johnson will need to be outplayed by Bargnani or Valanciunas to lose his spot. Not only is an Amir Johnson stash the safe play, it’s the smart fantasy play.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jewish_Jeff

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