Points in the Paint

Fantasy Basketball Opinions, Strategy & Tips

TRADING – Art or Science?

Posted by Erik on January 11, 2008

Sometimes you’re not skilled, knowledgeable, talented, or lucky enough to draft a balanced UBER-team on draft day – few people are. When managers drafted on Draft Day, they picked players based on an expected value or production for the season, but as the season plays out, players’ values change and fluctuate. After several games have come and gone and you can clearly see from projections that your team simply won’t be making the podium this year based on the composition and performance of its existing roster. So you hit the Free Agency Market and you hit it hard. You make some adjustments to your roster and see that your team’s starting to look a lot better. Roughly 60% of my podium finishes in the past can be attributed to quality FA Market and Waiver pick-ups. This is relatively easy and everyone can do it. It takes a bit of vision to see trends and sometimes bit of balls to gamble on risky players.

There is, however, another way to shake up your roster. It’s a bit more tricky and in the end a lot more volatile than playing the FA Market, and that’s TRADING. 50% of all my FIRST place finishes are attributable to GOOD trades. I say it’s more volatile because the tendency is that you are looking to move and acquire higher valued resources than you would have access to in the waiver wires. You are trying to get MORE, but in that same vein the manager you’re trading with is, odds are, trying to get more out of you too – and that’s where things get tricky. I decided to share some of my thoughts regarding TRADES & TRADING with some of the newer players out there.

8 Things to Remember When Trading

  1. Be Pro-Active – Go for what you need and want.
  2. Know the Ranks
  3. Listen
  4. Everyone has Needs – Supply and Demand
  5. Buying Low and Selling High – Timing is Key
  6. Communicate – The Art of Persuasion and Persistence
  7. Quantity vs Quality – The Infamous 2 for 1
  8. Trade with the Cellar Dwellers

Be Pro-Active

In the few years that I’ve been playing Yahoo Fantasy Basketball it has been rare that any manager has sent me an initial trade proposal that I have liked and agreed to from the get go. I normally find my self sending a counter offer, if I am at all interested in consummating a trade with that team. I generally find it to be a good rule of thumb to be the person who offers the trades – at least initially. When a manager sends you an initial trade offer it has been studied, analyzed and crafted under his desired terms and parameters. He has mapped to get what HE wants from you and is hoping you’ll take what he has to offer. So this principle goes both ways – Be Pro-Active. Be the initiator. Take the time, crunch the numbers, study YOUR team’s needs and send an offer or counter offer accordingly.

Know the Ranks

Rank is effectively the numerical tag placed on players to designate their value based on their current production. This is the most basic and fastest way managers can assess the value of their players. So in a sense, it’s important to know your rankings because even though you may personally not be looking at the rankings, there’s a good chance that the other guy on the other end of the trade proposal is. Remember, that rank is the first piece of information that managers see when a trade is proposed. There is a psychological effect and impact to a good number of managers out there as they see the ranks of the players involved in a deal. Especially early in a season, some managers feel they are getting a fair deal if they’re being offered a player whose rank is only one or two steps away from the player they are being asked to let go of.

In Rotisserie, the teams that finish on top in the end are the teams that played and finished with the most number of TOP 50 (rank for that season) players on their active rosters.


Knowledge is POWER! Information is an important weapon in executing a trade that will favor your team. So keep your ear to the ground and get to know your competitors’ preferences and biases.

If some manager’s team is called “GUARDS BEAT YOU DOWN” or “YEAR of the YAO”, then this may be a potential indication of that team’s manager’s position and player preferences.

Pay attention to the chit-chat and small talk just before and during the draft on draft day. LISTEN for the likes of “Dang, I really wanted (Insert Player Name)!” or “Nice Pick! I think (Insert Player Name) will do well…

Another thing that you should watch out for is MANAGER FRUSTRATION. So always read the Yahoo Smack Talk Bubble and the Messages posted. Frustrated managers may more likely be interested in shaking up their pitiful rosters than say, the league leader.

Listening for these little bits of information just might make the difference in giving you the edge you need in coming out on top in trading.

Everyone has Needs

Yes, it’s true. Every team has needs. Sometimes the needs are in the form of lacking of players to play for a particular position or stats that the team is sorely deficient in producing. Study the Full Standings page of your league (for Roto) and see which teams are in need of particular stats. Know the league leaders and cellar dwellers in every category (CAT).

Look at your opponents’ lineups and see what they’re lacking in terms of position. This may be an opportunity to extract a higher ranked and better performing PG or SG from a team that is in desperate need of a reasonably qualified PF. This void may be the result of an off or bad draft or even due to injuries. Take advantage of these needs to get better players into your team, because the other guy, odds are, is in a greater need of what you have to offer than what he is giving up in exchange. This positional deficiency is more commonly seen in 2-Center leagues where it is sometimes difficult to swallow the choices of available alternative players remaining in free agency. Some team, in a 2-Center league just lost Shaq (his 2nd C) to a bad hip. You will find few managers willing to live with Rasho Nesterovic as their second C this season, as your Nene Hilario (who’s been relaxing on your team’s bench) will more likely than not seem like a more palatable alternative… BOOM! there’s your opening…

Example: In a 14-man Roto league I was able to acquire Andrew Bogut and Tony Parker for a healthy Chris Wilcox and a slumping Kirk Hinrich (Nov 21). I clearly came out on top in terms of overall value. The other manager was willing to take the deal because he needed a decent PF and was suffering through erratic and obviously frustrating games of Tyrus Thomas and at that time the FA market was very dry.

It’s about balancing the needs of your team and the need of the other manager’s team. You will never get or give exactly the same value in trades, because there is a subjective aspect in people’s perception to VALUE. Like a buddy of mine once said:

“There are no exact, equal trades; statistically speaking. But there are fair ones.” – The Ogre

Buy Low, Sell High

This is basically a “mother” principle in trading commodities and resources and experts assume most managers out there apply it when they trade. So I feel there is no need to discuss this principle any further. I’d just like to point out that this is where the talent/skill in projecting comes into play. Even after you’ve crunched all the numbers, expectations of comebacks from streaks and slumps can sometimes be a tricky situation. It is the timing that comes with the “Buy Low, Sell High” concept that plays a key role in making or breaking the adjustment you’ve just proposed to make for your team. Making sure you’ve done your fair share of research and analysis before offering a trade is .

On a whim, I “over-traded” for Paul Pierce in one of my roto leagues, early into the season. I had the pleasure of drafting KG and wanted to see if I could put together Boston’s Big 3. I sent Corey Maggette and TJ Ford to acquire Paul. At the time, I was giving up more production than I was getting in return. A week later TJ goes down with his stinger problem (a week hence, he throws TJ to the wires where he patient sits out the season to this day). Suddenly it was like I traded Corey for Paul – in which case I am obviously ahead there.

That was an example of how timing is key in coming out on top. If I waited too long to pull the trigger I wouldn’t have been able to use TJ to pad Corey to get Paul. The irony of the matter was that I was trying to off-load Maggette because I was anticipating him to miss some games due to injury and was hesitant to let go with TJ because he was the only PG backing up my Deron Williams. It just so happened that the guy I was expecting to drop low was the wrong player…


This is where the “Art” of persuasion plays a role in your trade. Of course if you’re in a league with a bunch of your buddies, I assume that you talk shop when you get together and make deals with your mates over a nice cold one every now and then.

What if you’re in a public league and don’t know anyone in the league?
When you send an offer use the “notes” space allowed to you. SELL your trade offer. Explain the merits of your offer and let the manager on the other end see how his team will be benefiting from the deal. It could be as short as “Need blocks?”, “This guy I’m sending you is on a roll and is expected to start soon!” or as comprehensive an explanation as you prefer. The point of making the note is that it can possibly shed light on an angle the other manager may have not seen on the deal or the players involved. It adds another dimension to what the person on the other end sees beyond just the normal players’ names and ranks.

This is where you can use all the information you’ve gathered from your “Listening”. You start the proposal note with “Since you hate Kobe! and the computer drafted him for you, you might want to take a look at this…

Now if you’re lucky/talented, you’ve sold the deal and got what you wanted. Of course, that’s not always the case and the manager rejects it. But when he does reject it, pay attention to the rejection alert in your inbox, as he may have sent you a note along with his rejection. This is a big step, because you are now in a conversation with the guy on the other end! Since your initial attempt of persuasion did not succeed, this is where the part of persistence comes in. Read the note. Put together another package, if you must. More importantly, keep the line of communication open.

Another avenue of communication is through instant messaging. Leave an instant message (IM). I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune to not only consummate good deals but meet new and interesting people after engaging in an IM conversation with another manager. This makes the game of Fantasy Basketball just that little bit more sociable than in it is. Some of my biggest “Blockbuster Deals” in the past have come as a result of chatting with a friend or with a stranger over IM, phone, or in person.

While chatting in Yahoo Messenger with a manager from a public league to discuss potential trades, I mentioned that he was lucky to have had Dirk Nowitzki as his first pick. I shared that Dirk was key in a first place finish in a custom league with some of my buddies last year. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he wasn’t all too fond of Dirk as a player. I jumped at the opportunity and orchestrated a trade to satisfy his desire to have a solid rebounding Center and add some 3-point shooting to his team and nab Dirk for what I feel was a bargain deal of Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic.

Quantity vs. Quality – The Infamous 2 for 1

The impact of this type of trade is felt more in the Rotisserie format than in Head to Head. Remember a principle everytime a 2 for 1 deal is on the table. The manager getting 2 players is getting more resources, but will have to place a resource into the FA pool by virtue of the player he has to drop in favor of the extra player he is getting. This means there will be some value made available to the “open” (of course this is tempered by the waiver priority system) market. You should not accept a 2 for 1 deal when your team is full of “playable” or “usable” players. Denial of resources is part of the game of Fantasy Hoops (Roto).

The 2 for 1 trade is not a bad deal in itself.

Q: When should I offer a 2 for 1 deal?

A: When you want to consolidate rank and talent in your team. This is a practical move in rotisserie when you have non-star, “playable ” players on your bench. You can offer one of your starters plus one of your bench guys to acquire a more talented player.

Q: When should I accept a 2 for 1 offer?

A: When you have a need for positions to be filled by more talented people. You can diffuse talent in a particular position by trading away a stud to get two decent players who can fill 2 positions in your starting line-up. This is also good when you want to acquire a good back up for one of your positions. Example: You have Marcus Camby as the only center on your team and you’re afraid he’ll eventually go down due to injury some time this season and you want to get a decent back up C to fill your team’s 5 spot when that unfortunate moment does arrive.

Trade with the Cellar Dwellers

It is generally more difficult to initiate a trade with the league leader. He might be subscribing to the adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Based on the concept previously discussed regarding manager frustration, it would be more likely that you will be able to succeed in consummating a deal with a manager who feels that he needs to shake up and change his team’s roster in order to become competitive in the league.

In rotisserie, if you’re leading the league in blocks and have extra shot blockers, it would be a safer move to trade your extra man to the guy last in blocks than to your closest competitor in that category. – No brainer there! But I feel it had to be said. You’ll be surprised at the number of rookie trade mistakes some people make.

Moving on to a wider perspective beyond one particular category: If you’re second in the league, trading with a team that’s placing somewhere in the bottom three is less of a threat that your your trade will allow him to catch up and challenge your position.


So is trading an art or a science? In the end, I suppose it’s a little bit of both. In any given fantasy season I make some good trades and some really bad ones. I’ve found out that as long as my good trades out way the bad ones in the sense that my team ends up more balanced and competitive, then I end up with a good year.

I keep telling my mates, drafting is half the fun of fantasy basketball. You get the rest of your kicks from good pick-ups, good trades, and watching your players rack up those numbers!


4 Responses to “TRADING – Art or Science?”

  1. Doug said

    Thanks for sharing these great ideas. I’m bookmarking this for future reference. Some of these I already do, so the point resonated most strongly with me. Keep feeding the creativity.
    I am currently on holiday so, for this reason, I’ve nothing better to do than surf the web for art, lie around and update my blog. Well, more or less anyway.
    Doug C

  2. Erik said

    I’m glad you liked what I had to say. Stay tuned for more soon.

  3. Rick said

    Yeah you came out ahead in the Pierce/Ford+Mags trade. Who knew that Horford was gonna take a cheap shot and take TJ out permanently? At least I packaged Mags and Butler for Boozer and Melo (BIG score there – I like Butler but not that much) and now I just shipped Boozer out of town for Billups (Roto GOD) and Curry (who’s gonna be dropped like the roto poison that he is). Billups for Boozer? Any day, twice on Sundays.

  4. Erik said

    Kudos on your move Rick! I feel the Chauncey is good move for your team.

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