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Who would win a Melo-Love fantasy trade?

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a rotating panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic. Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Jim McCormick, Joe Kaiser and Kyle Soppe.
On Wednesday, when asked about Carmelo Anthony-for-Kevin Love trade buzz, LeBron James said, "I have no reaction ... We can't play fantasy basketball." Fair enough -- let's leave playing fantasy basketball to the experts. Who would you rather have in a Melo-Love fantasy trade right now? How much would their fantasy values change if the Knicks and Cavs actually consummate the rumored trade proposal?
Jim McCormick: I value Love a good bit more than Anthony at this stage. Their numbers are incredibly similar in regard to shooting percentage, scoring, assists and defensive rates, yet Love is averaging 44.5 percent more rebounds, which offers differentiation in value. We net greater 3-point volume with Love, and we can consider them similar in their respective injury risks.

I can envision some improvement in efficiency for Anthony as Cavalier, if we assume fewer contested shots on a team with two superstar offensive forces in James and Kyrie Irving, affording him spacing he hasn't enjoyed outside of Olympic play. I don't project a sizable shift in his counting stats, and his utter lack of defensive upside precludes me from getting very excited about Anthony's fantasy ceiling.

That said, I think the greater boon in this hypothetical goes to Love, as he could enjoy an uptick in usage and shooting volume for New York. Anthony has averaged 3.2 more field goal attempts per game than Love this season, while the Knicks' patchwork frontcourt depth chart past Kristaps Porzingis could afford Love an uptick in rebounding opportunities.

Joe Kaiser: I'd rather have Love than Anthony in fantasy leagues right now, even with Melo scoring like it's 2005 as of late, and if the two players were traded for each other in real life, I think it'd only give more weight to Love as the better fantasy option. Plus, Anthony is averaging 34 minutes a game this season at the age of 32, and with the Knicks spiraling in the standings, there's always the chance that the veteran could be shut down again if his knees start to bother him. You have to consider that. So, if you're going to try and swing a fantasy deal involving Love and Anthony, make sure you're on the Love side of the deal. The Cavs have a lot more at stake -- championship or bust, right? -- so the need to keep Love on the floor throughout the rest of the season is much greater.

As much of a long shot as it might be, if the trade did go down, it'd be a huge win for Love. I think that much is obvious. He probably wouldn't return to his numbers from his Minnesota days, but he'd have the freedom to do more scoring in New York, while Porzingis would probably move to center. The trade would be less beneficial for Anthony, who would go from sharing the rock with Porzingis and Derrick Rose to sharing it with James and Irving. Anthony, who many say is one of the best pure scorers the game has ever seen, would probably cut into the scoring of James and Irving more than Love has over the past few years, too.

Kyle Soppe: Assuming the two players stay put, I prefer Love to Anthony, and I'm not sure it is all that close. Love is enjoying his best season in Cleveland, and given the defensive attention paid to James and Irving, is there any reason to think that changes? Anthony's slight edge in scoring and assisting is not worth the rebounding disparity -- not to mention the risk that comes with playing an unhappy Anthony.

Melo's usage rate inside of 8 feet is at a career low, so I don't prefer Love for the rest of the season only in terms of total numbers, but I'd bet on him being the more consistent option as well for DFS owners. Love ranks 13 spots higher on our per-game Player Rater, and I think they finish the season separated by at least that much if they stay put.

Am I crazy to think both players involved would lose value if they swapped NBA teams?

Love's not a takeover player. The Knicks aren't going to be a very good basketball team with or without this trade, and I'm not confident that Love can carry an offense. With Porzingis being a skilled big and Willy Hernangomez pushing for more playing time, I'd guess that Love would spend even more time on the perimeter, thus making his current 11 rebound average a thing of the past. Consider this: Love's usage rate from inside of 8 feet has decreased with every season of his career. The rebound rate would dip, and I'd expect the scoring to as well, as the players responsible for creating Love's looks simply aren't as good in New York as in Cleveland.

As for Melo, his usage would decline, something he would have to do if winning is actually the goal. We know what he is: a gifted scorer who doesn't bring much else to the table. In the best case scenario, Melo's point total drops a bit and a slight rebound bump stabilizes his value, but I'm not comfortable in betting on him if the scoring figures to decline, as that is his one skill I trust.



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