The fantasy playoffs are fast approaching, or maybe they’ve already arrived for you. Tough decisions will need to be made—the game is survival. Some of you may be in win-now mode. Others may be planning ahead, looking for keeper value on the wire, or last-minute trades with an eye toward the future.
The primary league I play in is a 9-cat Yahoo keeper league. You’re allowed to keep five players. I enjoy the keeper format because it’s an (extremely mild) replication of the control and decision-making required of an NBA general manager. You don’t start with a brand-new team every year in the NBA (as you do in re-draft leagues). You pay a price for the bad decisions of yesteryear or reap the benefits from the good ones. Keeper and dynasty leagues also force you to do the most scouting and projecting. If you insist on waiting until a player pops, you’re going to miss out on a lot of players. A competitive league ups the pressure to be first, it pushes the timeline of your decision-making forward. Of course, if you’re wrong about a player, that comes at a cost too.
Keeper values incorporate a value estimation and vague salary cap structure, at least during the offseason and through the draft. In the Scorekeeper League, you’re allowed 5 keepers and your draft capital is $200 minus the cost of your keepers. Every player’s cost increases by five dollars each year and you can only hold a player for four seasons. Keepers force you to always be thinking about the future even as the present rages on.
With the playoffs two weeks away, my Fat Mamba fantasy team is sitting in 9th place. I’m faithfully looking ahead to next season. Just in case you are too, here are some thoughts.
In the lead-up to the February 6, 2020 NBA trade deadline, there was a flurry of activity. Reports of a quiet deadline were greatly exaggerated. Below, I take a look at two of the biggest deals and break down how the new environments might affect the fantasy production of the players involved. So much of team and player success is about fit. How are roles assigned? Can a player fulfill his adequately? Would he be better suited for something different? How do the surrounding pieces in a lineup accentuate the strengths or weaknesses of any individual player? Not all of this information is necessary to make sound fantasy decisions, but it can certainly help. I won’t be doing any in-depth trade analysis or draft pick tracking. I’m strictly focused on how each of the key players will fit in their new environment.
Hassan Whiteside missed yesterday’s shootaround. As a result, those who traveled from all corners of the Earth to witness a Mt. Whiteside explosion became despondent. They cried. They fainted. They cried some more. Then they all gathered around and sang Kumbaya. Because Joe forgot the drums and Sally left the flute in the hotel room, singing was eschewed for the more conventional Lord’s Prayer. As the group began to feel hope permeating throughout their bodies, they heard a voice over the PA: Ladies and gentlemen. Tonight’s starting lineup for the Portland Trail Blazers will be….Gary Trent Jr., Rodney Hood, C. J. McCollum, Anthony Tolliver, and Carmelo Anthony. Shrieks began to echo througout Fiserv Forum. Joe and Sally began to makeout because the end was near. But then with 4:52 left in the first quarter, Skal Labissiere checked into the game. And all was right with the world, as the expected Mt. Whiteside explosion was superseded by the Labissiere eruption.
In 28 minutes off the bench. Now, prior to last night, Skal was averaging only 15.3 minutes per game, but with all the injuries, he could be entrenched as the backup to Hassan with the possibility of becoming the Messiah? Beep. Boop. Bop. You know what’s Messianic? The Stocktonator. Naw, but 20 minutes per game with the occasional start wouldn’t be a bad thing. I know. I know. We’ve been down this path before with Skal, but fourth times a charm? Look, Skal is a skilled offensive player who has range from downtown. And he gets his block on. I’m good with taking a chance on the upside. Why? The Blazers need shooters on the floor so the path to more playing time is there. They signed Carmelo Anthony for goodness sakes.
The NBA is a heart-stopping, fist-pumping, high-fiving, chemical-imbalance-inducing procreator of basketball nirvana. The squeak of the shoes, talk of the trash, swish of the nets, and thunder of dunks fill our ears with melodic harmony. We gawk at the freakishness of the giants who jump like fleas and midgets who careen around defenders like a cheetah about to catch lunch. We mental masturbate over pick-and-rolls, alley-oops, Euro-steps, and ICE defense. Bascially, the NBA is faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnntastic! Now, what happens when you combine the NBA with MMA? You get elbowing, pushing, eye gouging, headlocks, and submissions…..which is exactly what happened last night in, coincidentally, the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. Karl-Anthony Towns (meow) and Joel Embiid got tangled up, started shoving each other, then went sumo style to the ground. Benches emptied, players sprinted, and Ben Simmons ended up with the fatality….
I don’t condone violence, but it’s refreshing to see things actually going down; instead of the “hold me back” shenanigans. Anyways, both KAT and Embiid were ejected and will likely get some sort of suspension. Ben Simmons as well. Probably a bunch of other players for leaving the bench. The main thing I took away from the whole fracas, though, was that KAT is truly a different animal this season. Not only has he taken his game to the next level, but he’s showing that he has some…..dog in him.
I now understand why this forward position is named power, as it is a microcosm of society at large. There is the 1% vs everyone else. For fantasy basketball, there is Giannis Antetokounmpo vs womp womp womp. While all the other positions have multiple players who could legitimately vie for the top spot, everyone bends the knee to G. This is 1985-1989 Mike Tyson-esque domination. Could a Buster Douglas come out of nowhere? Sure, as black swan events can never be discounted, but outside of injury to G, that scenario is highly unlikely.
Terry Stott’s Dame Dolla-led team flourished in the second half going 29-12, finishing with the 3rd seed in the Western Conference. They dispatched the Thunder and the second-seeded Nuggets before succumbing to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. This was accomplished with their best big man, Jusuf Nurkic, cheerleading from the bench due to a broken leg.
This year’s edition has an entirely new look and will be hard pressed to repeat that success. Both starting forwards, Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu are no longer on the roster, ditto for sharpshooter Seth Curry and playoff star Meyers Leonard. But don’t count out the squad from lumberjack territory too quickly, as Coach Stotts seems to successfully find ways to mesh enough spare parts around his high-scoring, backcourt duo.
The roster of the Sacramento Kings reminds me of a second-hand jigsaw puzzle that is bought from a car boot sale, only to get home and find that it has too many pieces. Despite drafting De’Aaron Fox, one of the fastest point guards in the 2017 Draft, the Kings complicated matters by not only playing at the league’s second slowest pace at just 98.1 possessions per game, but also signing George Hill as a veteran presence. Fast forward 12 months and things are more clear, as the over-priced Hill is no longer on the roster and the current personnel portends for an uptempo style of play to utilize the strengths of Fox and this years premium draft pick of Marvin Bagley III. The Kings have complicated matters in the front-court, though, with Harry Giles now healthy and the acquisitions of Nemanja Bjeilica, Wenyen Gabriel, and Deyonta Davis added to an already stacked core of Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufas, Skal Labbissiere and Zach Randolph.
Sorry Andre, but there is breaking news: Joel Embiid will have surgery to fix an orbital bone fracture and will miss at least 2 games but could be out as much as 4 weeks. I would wait to hear something more sound before dropping him, but it definitely makes Richaun Holmes a nice pick-up. Ok, back to your regularly scheduled recap:
Andre “Beast Mode” Drummond had his old school ground and pound game working last night as he led the Pistons to an 11 point win over the playoff-bound Washington Wizards. Even without Blake Griffin, who went through warm-ups but could not play and is now headed for an MRI on his injured ankle, the Pistons were able to blow the game wide-open in the 3rd quarter mostly because of Drummond’s pure dominance in the paint.
Andre put the beat down on Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi to the tune of 0/24/23/4/0/1 with only 1 turnover in 37 minutes. Drummond shot 10-16 from the floor and 4-7 from the line, which is the type of efficiency spoiled fantasy owners have come to expect from Mr. Drummond this season. The free-throw shooting still isn’t Curry-esque, but it has become strong enough to elevate Drummond to the elite fantasy player level.
Besides the lesson in classic center play that Drummond gave the Wizards, here is what else I saw last night:
When my wife was pregnant, the experience was…..interesting. At least for me. I can’t even begin to try and understand what my wife was feeling. All I know is that women are the GOAT. Anyways, after the initial gamut of emotions, things became very business-like. Doctor’s office. One month. Two months. Three months. Everything was mapped out and the “ride” was slow and steady. Then, the due date approached and….well, I was Robert DeNiro in Heat. The bags were packed and the routes were mapped out with contingencies for all possibilities. At the same time, though, I was like my five-year-old son in the back of the car on a long trip: “Are we there yet? When will we be there? Why is it taking so long?” Damian Lillard and his girlfriend had been expecting the birth of their child for the past few days. Lillard had been struggling a bit with his shooting efficiency, but the raw production was still there. It could have been the matchups or anxiousness with the pregnancy. Regardless, it was Lillard Time for the whole family last night.
A 40-burger!!! On Damian Jr.’s birthday. Y’all know what time it is.
Average. Middle. Meh? I guess it all depends on perception. Someone born into poverty would be praised if he/she achieved average economic status. On the flip side, if you are a one-percenter, I assume that average would prompt seppuku. Average is often associated with boring. He/she was average in the sack. The higher above the line probably correlates well with intenstity of orgasm. For flip side? Supplant higher with lower. Why does average get such a bad rap? It ain’t great, but it puts food on the table. It often gives 1.5 children and a white picket fence, if you are so inclined to have either. With that said, we are a “what have you done for me lately” society. We are all about celebrating the highs, while conveniently eschewing the trials and tribulations. Well, yesterday Joe Harris was not your Average Joe.
The CLE defense is atrocious, but let’s not forget about the……REVENGE!!!! Harris was drafted by the Cavaliers back in 2014. He played two seasons there, never averaging more than 10 points or scoring 3 points a game. During the 2016 season, though, Joe underwent surgery on his foot and was traded to ORL a week later. Then he was immediately waived. BKN picked him up and the rest, as they say, is history. Two years with the Nets has produced…..wait for it (an homage to HIMYM)…..average results. This season, in particular, Joe is averaging 10.3 points, 3.3 boards, 1.5 dimes, and 1.8 downtowners in 25.1 minutes a game. He’s scored double figures in 41 of 71 games played, but has not eclipsed the 20 point threshold once. Anyways, I clowned him earlier in the season, but Harris is no Average Joe, and the Nets don’t think so either. Even with all the wing players that they have, Joe has been getting consistent playing time for most of the season. He can shoot and is able to drive strong to the rack and finish. An Average Joe on most nights, but yesterday, he was anything but.