Once National Signing Day has come and gone, college coaches across the country must turn to the clipboard to provide any further improvements to the quality of their team. With their personnel set in stone, teams must make do with what they have; there is no buying or selling at the deadline, no dumping of prospects in exchange for a current star. But what if wheeling and dealing was as integral a part of roster building at the college level as the NCAA’s pseudo-free agency (the recruiting period)?
We went ahead and looked at who the most valuable trade assets in the Big Ten would be should trades be allowed and encouraged. The exercise was not simply a ranking of the conference’s top talent. Taken into consideration were the following: current ability, years remaining in the program (whether lost to graduation or to the draft), and potential. So, for example, the value of an ultra-talented player like Romeo Langford takes a hit as a result of his all-but-guaranteed departure for the draft, while D’Mitrik Trice is given a boost due to his potential to grow into seasoned college veteran.
Most teams have different areas of weaknesses, so differentiating between the value of a consistent three-point shooter and a dominant post player seemed arbitrary. Thus, we chose to rank the players by position group but included a combined list at the bottom since this was an entirely subjective exercise to begin with.
Top 10 Forwards/Centers
1. Nick Ward (6’8”, Junior) - Michigan State
Averaging 16 points and seven rebounds per game on an efficient 63 percent from the field, Ward is the key cog for the conference-leading Spartans. Any Big Ten team would welcome him with open arms as its new foundational piece inside. His junior status takes away a little from his value, but his ability with his back to the basket and on the glass would immediately lift any team for the next one and a half years.
2. Ignas Brazdeikis (6’7”, Freshman) - Michigan
Now, there’s a chance Brazdeikis leaves after just one year as a Wolverine, negating a lot of the return a team would get for acquiring him. Assuming he returns in hopes of elevating his draft stock (currently projected to go in the later first/early second round), Brazdeikis will continue to be an elite presence on both sides of the floor. At 6’7”, the freshman has the height to guard multiple positions and has earned a reputation as one of the better defenders on a team that allows the third-least points per game in the nation. Add in his ability to stretch the floor on offense, and it’s not hard to see why Brazdeikis is amongst the most valuable in the conference.
3. Bruno Fernando (6’10”, Sophomore) - Maryland
Averaging a double double at 14.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Fernando leads the Big Ten in field-goal percentage and has taken a big step forward in his sophomore year. Along with his productivity on offense any team would love to have his rim protection, as he is second in the Big Ten in blocks at two per game. Fernando would be a bit of a risky player to trade for given the fact that there is a chance he may leave for the NBA after this season. However, if he stays he would provide a rock solid presence in the paint for the remainder of this year and more.
4. Ethan Happ (6’10”, Senior) - Wisconsin
Happ’s gone after this year, and there’s no denying that. Still, any contender that made a mid-season trade for the double-double machine would see its odds of winning the Big Ten skyrocket. Happ is as fundamental as it gets inside the paint, consistently beating defenders with a wide-array of post moves that almost always require a double team to stop. Lacking any sort of outside jump shot, his versatility is somewhat limited, though he frequently brings the ball up the floor for the Badgers and is one of the best big-man passers in the country. A stat line of 19 points, 10.4 rebounds and five assists per game largely speaks for itself.
5. Jalen Smith (6’10”, Freshman) - Maryland
A former five-star recruit, Smith has the potential to be one of the most talented players in the Big Ten. His numbers may not jump off the page at 12 points and 7 rebounds per game, but he has proved to be a consistent contributor for the Terrapins. What makes Smith such a valuable commodity is his potential. He has shown some ability to stretch the floor, defend the rim and finish inside which bodes well for the future given his length and athleticism. It’s unlikely that Smith will enter the draft after this year, meaning that the team trading for him would have Smith’s services for a year and a half - if not more.
6. Matt Haarms (7’3”, Sophomore) - Purdue
For any one who values size and good-looking hair on the basketball court, Haarms is your guy. Following in the footsteps of A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas, Haarms is yet another massive Purdue center with a plethora of a’s in his name (an astounding 11 a’s combined between the three big men if you use Hammons’ real name, Aaron Jarrell). On to stuff he does on the basketball court, Haarms is still raw, deriving most of his value from the potential that comes with his gigantic stature. He’s shown flashes, scoring just under eight points a game on over 60 percent shooting, but it’s the 87 inches he brings to the table that make his next two and a half years particularly compelling.
7. Jon Teske (7’1”, Junior) - Michigan
Teske, also a true seven-footer, adds the ability to stretch the floor to his arsenal. He’s shot 50 percent from three over his last five games, including a 3-5 performance from beyond the arc against Northwestern. After witnessing Teske go for 17 points and 11 rebounds on 64 percent shooting against his Wildcats, Chris Collins should have mortgaged his entire front court - starters and bench players - to secure a lone, competent big man of the future in Teske.
8. Jordan Murphy (6’6”, Senior) - Minnesota
Leading the Big Ten in rebounds and fourth best in the nation in the same category, Murphy is a walking double-double. He makes contributions all across the board, averaging 14.6 points, 12 rebounds, nearly three assists and a block per game. Last season Murphy tied Tim Duncan’s NCAA record for double-doubles to start the season with 17, and he hasn’t missed a beat in his senior season. He is among a group of players tied for fifth in the nation in double-doubles at 12. While he is undersized at 6’6”, Murphy carves out space underneath the rim and simply inhales rebounds. Indeed, his trade value is limited by the fact that he’s a senior, but any team in win-now mode would be hard pressed to find a more consistent player than Murphy.
9. Tyler Cook (6’9”, Junior) - Iowa
Cook has had a standout season, carrying an Iowa team that is certainly exceeding its preseason expectations. The junior is averaging 16.6 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting an incredibly clinical 58 percent from the field. His efficiency - in addition to being the clear focal point of the offense - is incredibly impressive, as defenses game plan to stop him every night. Still, it hasn’t seemed to slow him down at all. His trade value suffers a bit due to his age, but Cook is not a great draft prospect, meaning any team would be getting one and a half years of efficient, consistent production from the big man.
T-10. Daniel Oturu (6’10”, Freshman) - Minnesota
The Minnesota native has had a strong start to his freshman year, averaging 10 points and seven rebounds while blocking the third most shots in the Big Ten in only 22 minutes per game. A first-year player with no draft interest as of now, Oturu seems likely to be a contributor for years to come; a team trading for him would likely be getting a four-year player with a lot of room for improvement.
T-10. Kaleb Wesson (6’9”, Sophomore) - Ohio State
At 270 pounds, Wesson is a load in the paint and has kept Ohio State afloat even after losing last year’s Big Ten player of the year Keita Bates-Diop. The departures of Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate have thrust Wesson into an expanded role this season, and he has responded by averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game. As only a sophomore with limited NBA potential, Wesson will likely have two and a half more years to improve on the jump he has taken in his sophomore season.
Top 10 Guards
1. Cassius Winston (6’0”, Junior) - Michigan State
One of the premier guards in the Big Ten, Winston is leading the charge for 18-3 Spartans, scoring 18 a night on top of a little over seven assists per game. Winston’s six-foot stature matters little with how deadly he is from deep. He is converting on 45.5 percent of his three-point attempts and makes more than two a game. In addition to his offensive prowess, Winston’s remaining year and a half of eligibility would make him the conference’s most sought after commodity at the guard position should trades be legal.
2. Carsen Edwards (6’1”, Junior) - Purdue
After considering entering the NBA draft last season, Carsen Edwards has had an absolutely phenomenal junior season. While only 6’1”, Edwards is sixth nationally and first in the Big Ten in scoring at 24.2 points per game. Edwards has not been scoring very efficiently, but much of this has to do with just how much of the scoring load he has carried this season. Edwards may leave for the NBA draft after this season – his status is fairly uncertain – which makes him a risky trade target, however even if he were to leave after this year he would immediately provide any team with a go-to scoring option who can take over for long stretches.
3. Jordan Poole (6’5”, Sophomore) - Michigan
While Poole is best known for his legendary game winner against Houston in the NCAA tournament last year, he has really made a name for himself as an all-around player and lethal shooter in his sophomore season. Poole is averaging 12.6 points and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 42 percent from three, and those numbers would undoubtedly be higher if he were playing for a team with fewer scoring options than the Wolverines. Poole’s ball handling and shooting would allow him to seamlessly transition to any other team in the conference. The only worry with Poole is that his breakout season may cause him to jump to the NBA after this year.
4. D’Mitrik Trice (6’0”, Sophomore) - Wisconsin
Trice appears to be slowly but surely stepping into the shoes formerly filled by Badger legends Bronson Koenig, Traevon Jackson, Jordan Taylor and Trevon Hughes. Koenig and the latter played the role of the team’s primary ball-handler and clutch playmaker, frequently raining threes and occasionally canning buzzer-beaters. Trice has begun to do just that and ranks within the top three in the conference in three-point field-goal percentage. At Wisconsin, he’s practically a guarantee to stay four years, and considering how good he already is, Trice is about as safe of a bet as you can make.
5. Ayo Dosunmu (6’5”, Freshman) - Illinois
The 36th-ranked recruit in the 2018 class, Dosunmu has stepped in for the Illini immediately and leads the team in points and assists per game. Dosunmu’s numbers are certainly partially a product of his usage, but the lengthy freshman will benefit from the heavy workload going forward. His upside is capped by his rising draft stock, but should he stay another year, he’ll be among the top tier of guards in the Big Ten.
6. Anthony Cowan Jr. (6’0”, Junior) - Maryland
The leader of the young Terrapins has contributed in all facets of the game this year averaging 17.4 points, 4.6 assists and four rebounds per game. While undersized at only six feet, Cowan has been consistent all season. Due to his size, Cowan is unlikely to garner much interest from the NBA, meaning teams would be getting a full year and a half out of him, making him an attractive trade target.
7. Joshua Langford (Height, Junior) - Michigan State
A former five star recruit, Langford has consistently increased his production over his career. Langford is now averaging 15 points per game on 40 percent shooting from three for the sixth-ranked Spartans. Langford is experienced, and his ability to space the floor would make him a valuable commodity with another year and a half left in his college career.
8. Joe Wieskamp (6’6”, Freshman) - Iowa
While Wieskamp is likely not the player to carry his team to a conference title on his own, he would be a key asset on nearly every championship team. A lengthy three-point shooter, Wieskamp is already giving the Hawkeyes 11.2 points per game with what appears to be at least a couple years left in the program.
9. Romeo Langford (6’6”, Freshman) - Indiana
Langford had perhaps the most hype surrounding him out of any Big Ten player heading into the season. He’s held his own, leading the Hoosiers in scoring with 17.2 points per game, though, thus far, he hasn’t been the transcendent talent that many expected the former fifth-ranked recruit to be. Langford is projected to be a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, making him a better player than trade asset.
10. Amir Coffey (6’8”, Junior) - Minnesota
At 6’8”, Coffey is taller and longer than most guards which has allowed him to lead Minnesota in scoring at 16 points per game. Coffey’s size gives him the ability to comfortably slide between positions and switch defensively. With another year left in college, Coffey’s versatility and scoring prowess would make him a nice addition to any roster.