Trading Places

Downtown’s Guide to Fantasy Basketball Trading:

Louis: “Think big, think positive, never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy low, sell high. Fear? That’s the other guy’s problem. Nothing you have ever experienced will prepare you for the absolute carnage you are about to witness. Super Bowl, World Series – they don’t know what pressure is. In this building, it’s either kill or be killed. You make no friends in the pits and you take no prisoners. One minute you’re up half a million in soybeans and the next, boom, your kids don’t go to college and they’ve repossessed your Bentley. Are you with me?”

Billy Ray: “Yeah, we got to kill the motherf… – we got to kill ’em!”

I love that scene from the classic 80s comedy movie, Trading Places. Louis (Dan Aykroyd) is trying to give Billy Ray (Eddie Murphy) a crash course in derivatives trading as they look to ruin the Duke Brothers, Randolph and Mortimer.

Trading-Places-1983-movie-posterWhat Louis tries to teach is that, when you boil it all down, it comes down to how others perceive the value of what they’re trading with you. Whether buying or selling, if you can create the illusion of value or an environment where value may be skewed in your favour, and you are confident in your analysis of the true value of the asset or commodity, you will do pretty well in the trading game.

Fantasy basketball is no different.

The aim is to improve your team by giving up something of value and acquiring something of more value. Your trading partner may value those players differently, but as long as you are improving your team via that trade, the others’ valuation is irrelevant.

Now when I say irrelevant, that is only true post-fact. It needs to be very relevant during the negotiation phase, or else you won’t even have a trade partner to begin with.

And so, I am here to guide you through the process of identifying, negotiating and executing a Fantasy basketball trade.


Starting Negotiations

Pawnbroker: I’ll give you 50 bucks for it.

Louis Winthorpe III: Fifty bucks? No, no, no. This is a Rouchefoucauld. The thinnest water-resistant watch in the world. Singularly unique, sculptured in design, hand-crafted in Switzerland, and water resistant to three atmospheres. This is the sports watch of the ’80s. Six thousand, nine hundred and fifty five dollars retail!

Pawnbroker: You got a receipt?

Louis: Look, it tells time simultaneously in Monte Carlo, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Rome, and Gstaad.

Pawnbroker: In Philadelphia, it’s worth 50 bucks.

Louis: Just give me the money.

When you’re making a trade offer, it is important to have an understanding of how your trade partner values certain players. This will come down to the needs of their team. Which categories do they need help in and how do they perceive the value of what you’re prepared to offer? Just because you value someone highly, does not mean they will.

This is where it can pay to start a dialogue with a potential trade partner before making them an offer. So send them an email, text message or give them a call to discuss. Put out some feelers. That way when you’re ready to make an actual offer, you won’t be wasting your time and you won’t be offending anyone. If like poor Louis, your asset is only valuable to you, then perhaps it’s best to hold for the time being until others value that player as you do. Else you risk having to sell low.

A good example of this is Arron Afflalo this season. I own him in one league, and while he’s returning 2nd round value this season consistently, I’m having a hard time finding a buyer for him. I’m legitimately trying to sell him because I’m strong in points and threes, while looking to acquire more assists and a better A/T ratio, but my potential trade partners all feel I’m just trying to sell high. Even though he could help them in points and threes, they don’t believe he can keep this up for a full season so I’ve had no luck so far in constructing a successful deal. It all comes down to perceived value. I’ll continue to hold Afflalo for now – Louis probably should’ve done the same with his Rouchefoucauld watch.


Making an Offer

Billy Ray: “When I was growing up, if we wanted a Jacuzzi, we had to fart in the tub.”

When you’re ready to make your first offer, you do need to sell a little. Create a little hype around your player. Highlight a recent strong game. Tell your opponent you’ve had a lot of interest in the player. Let them know you’re not sure if you want to part with the guy but if you can get what you’re looking for then you’d be willing to think about it. All of these tactics will inflate their value a little, but don’t get carried away. There are plenty of shrewd traders out there who will see right through those tactics.

My biggest piece of advice is to make the offer one that will not offend your trading partner. Make it one that they could realistically feel good about accepting and could be viewed as a win-win.


Counter Offers

Randolph Duke: “Mother always said you were greedy.”

Mortimer Duke: “She meant it as a compliment.”

If you made the first offer, expect a counter offer. If you don’t get one and your trade is rejected, then ask why. Always ask why. Keep the conversation flowing, unless you are miles apart. Get them to tell you what it would take to get a deal done and work through that. It is a negotiation after all.

If you received an offer then you should nearly always counter. If the offer is fair but not exactly what you’re after, then counter with what works for you (accompanied by comments or an email of course). If the offer is preposterous, then don’t counter with an offer that’s preposterous in your favour, but one that signals what you find to be realistic. If the offer is massively in your favour, then of course take it and run.

Just don’t get greedy when countering. Nothing offends trading partners more than Mortimer Duke-like greed. Don’t over-value your guys and think you’ll be able to pull the wool over someone’s eyes. All you will do is offend them, deter them from wanting to trade with you in future and develop a reputation in your league as that guy. That can be hard to shake once it sticks.



If you manage to agree on a trade, then hopefully it was one that helped both managers. Be sure to send an email thanking them for the trade afterwards. This builds goodwill. It may sound strange, but I promise you when the time comes for that manager to make another trade, they will gravitate to those they’ve managed to trade amicably with previously.

Whatever you do, do not gloat after a trade. Do not try and analyse it to find a winner. The idea of trading is not to win or lose. The idea as I stated earlier is to improve your team by giving up something of value and acquiring something of more value. When I say more value, that is all relative to your team. If you value blocks more than assists because you are very strong in assists, then you can afford to give some up. The best trades are those that help both teams. So let others evaluate your trade post-fact but stay out of that conversation. You should feel comfortable with the outcome and so should your trading partner.


Of course, this is not always the case. Inherently, we all want to win. Trading is no different.

I was talking about this the other day with my good friend ‘Boomba’ who I’ve been playing fantasy hoops against for 7 years now. He had this to say, which I think sums it all up:

“Trading is a wonderful thing since deep down it isn’t an exercise in different team needs; we are all cocky enough to believe there are arbitrage opportunities from information asymmetry. Fact is, we all see the same stuff, there is just personal investment asymmetry in that we look at the players on our team more than those not on our team. Then we get upset when we can’t pull the wool over a sucker’s eyes and rip them off…”

Thankfully my good friend thinks in a similar vein to me. On the few occasions where we have traded with each other, we have both walked away feeling good about it. We traded to exchange something of value for something we valued (or needed) more. We did it to improve our teams.

At the end of the day, what more can you ask for?



Follow me on twitter @tomhersz.


Follow Downtown @downtownball.

Author of the article

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball