By Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
We're nearing the halfway point of the season, and we're past the halfway point in many fantasy leagues. Check to see when your leagues' trade deadlines are so you don't get caught trying to swing deals at the last second.
Below are a couple of players worth dealing while you can, plus a couple of players worth targeting if their managers are getting impatient.
Sell High: Julius Randle, Knicks
It was challenging to gauge where to draft Randle this season. After an impressive 2020-21 campaign, when he won the Most Improved Player award and took eighth in MVP voting, he crashed back to earth last season. His improved shooting percentages normalized, and his counting stats fell nearly across the board.
Through his first 24 appearances this year, Randle was underwhelming again, averaging 21.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 46/33/78. However, he picked things up in early December and has been scorching hot over the past two weeks. Over the past seven games, Randle is averaging 32.4 points, 12.9 boards and 4.9 assists on 51/41/69 shooting. What's most encouraging is his improved efficiency from deep despite increased volume, with Randle launching 10.1 threes per game during this stretch. Before December, he was shooting 6.5 threes per game.
But don't get greedy. Randle has been doing the most damage with Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett sidelined. Brunson missed three of the past four games, and Barrett has played just two minutes during this stretch while recovering from a lacerated finger. He's expected to return soon, though. Once Barrett is healthy and on the floor with Brunson, the offense should normalize, and Randle's volume will likely decrease. Maybe the improved efficiency from three will stick, but I believe it's simply a hot streak, given that his free-throw percentage has decreased sharply. Try to secure a top-40 player for him. Players like Rudy Gobert or Jrue Holiday come to mind, both of whom provide tougher-to-find defensive stats.
Sell High: DeMar DeRozan, Bulls
DeRozan started the year a bit slow, with some lagging rebounding and assists numbers, but began picking things up in mid-November. He's looked more like himself since then, matching his production from last season almost perfectly. The Bulls are a mess, and DeRozan's steady production is key to keeping them even remotely afloat.
However, it makes sense to be wary about his rest-of-season production. We're nearing the halfway point of the season, and Chicago is 16-21, sitting in the 11 seed. Making the play-in tournament is possible, but that's not the future the organization foresaw when constructing this team. It would be a sunk cost to tank this season since Chicago owes its pick to Orlando, but what's this team's ceiling moving forward?
Nikola Vucevic's contract expires this summer, and DeRozan is on an expiring contract next year. Paying them would be a mistake. I think Bulls management will strongly consider selling at the deadline. DeRozan should be part of that. His value may be at an all-time high. And if he lands in a better situation, his usage will likely decrease. That makes me want to preemptively trade him in fantasy as well. Fantasy managers rostering Vucevic should feel the same way.
Buy Low: Paolo Banchero, Magic
Each of Banchero's past five performances has been below his average GameScore (essentially an updated version of Player Efficiency Rating). He's averaged 16.2 points on 36/28/71 shooting, 6.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists with 3.2 turnovers. The defense needs to improve as well, with just 1.0 combined steals-plus-blocks, plus he's totaled 13 fouls in the past three games. It's easily the worst stretch of his young career.
There's no reason for fantasy managers to panic. Rookies go through highs and lows often. Banchero is graded on a curve since he was the No. 1 pick, and he started his career with a bang. He's still a top-100 fantasy asset if you're punting turnovers.
The most encouraging thing is Banchero isn't being passive during this stretch. He's still taking 15.4 shots per game, including 5.6 free throws. Some young players overthink poor performances and crawl under a shell. Banchero is trying to break through his slump head first. If there's a fantasy manager somewhere panicking, take advantage.
Buy Low: Jaden Ivey, Pistons
Ironically, Ivey was playing better before Cade Cunningham's season-ending shin injury. With less defensive focus on Ivey, he could be more effective. And the extra effort he's exhausting on offense is affecting his defensive numbers as well. Since Dec. 1, the rookie is averaging 13.7 points on 39/31/72 shooting, 3.7 assists to 3.1 turnovers, 3.0 rebounds and a combined 1.0 steals-plus-blocks.
That said, I'm still banking on him having a strong second half of the season. His 5.2 free-throw attempts per game during this stretch are encouraging. That's an excellent mark for a rookie guard, and his aggressiveness should make for some huge performances when his shot starts falling.
Plus, the Pistons will likely trade veterans away at the deadline and begin resting those they can't move. It will be a boost for Ivey if Bojan Bogdanovic is dealt since he's the team's leading scorer. The rookie sees a 10.8% usage increase with Bogdanovic and Cunningham off the floor. Per 36 minutes in that scenario, Ivey averages 24.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals. Trade for Ivey now before the Pistons commit to featuring him.