I’m the big, fat loser this year in our 9-cat league’s championship game. Am I happy I made it this far in a totally insane season? Yep. Am I upset I lost? It always stings, but one week can make or break you and I don’t feel bad losing to a team I lost to the only time I faced them in the regular season. It feels like the right team won.

All that said, this season was completely wackadoodle and probably the most benefit you’ll get from reading these words is this introduction where I’m going to attempt to break down my thinking on the season and how we all got here.

In most seasons, I’ll view anyone who is around top-120 value as strong “holds” if it looks like their schedule during my fantasy playoffs is going to be a strong one. What does that mean? Games. Plain and simple, the number of games in the last 2-3 weeks of your fantasy league is something you should be cognizant of in everything you do. Have a team that has 5 games in two of those weeks? Target them heavily in the last month of the season in your adds and hang tight to the guys you already have.

In this season, however, it was quickly clear that between the league’s “health and safety protocols” and the truncated schedule, we were going to have to do something different. As a result, I wound up with only three of the thirteen players I drafted. I truncated my “undroppable” designation to the top 60 or so and was quick to drop anyone who was injured for an extended period of time. We also increased our IL slots from two to three midseason and I abused that during the season, picking up players who were given the designation by Yahoo! during the week who were certainly due back the following week. That gives you three extra moves basically as you can just drop someone and slot your IL guy into an active position without using a “move.”

I also stayed super active in the trade market. I’m usually not one to trade at all, but jumping on guys who were slumping or not playing much to start the season was a clear winning strategy as I knew that the truncated second half of the schedule was coming up. And now we’ve seen the results of teams playing four or five games in seven days: Nearly every team has a star that is injured, or teams are sitting their key rotational players in “easy” games. I managed to unload Aaron Gordon for Robert Covington, Devonte’ Graham for a pick swap a round higher, John Collins for Russell Westbrook, Coby White for Kelly Oubre Jr., Immanuel Quickley for a pick swap, and Gary Trent Jr. for a pick swap. I’m not upset with getting rid of any of these guys, and everything I got back built value for me this season or in the future.

The new play-in structure was an added layer on top of all this confusion, which made this an especially hard season for noobies to join, but a noobie won our league. So props to him. The play-in games have kept more teams active at the end of the season than they would otherwise be and I hope it sticks because no one wants to watch games where nothing is on the line aside from truly hardcore fans. And even then it’s a slog, let me tell you.

So all in all, if you wanted to boil down my strategy this season in bullet points it’s like this:

  • Be extremely flexible: Determine where your cut off is and look to the playoffs. If a player doesn’t have a ton of games in your playoff weeks, cut bait in a trade or simply drop them in the weeks leading up to the playoffs.
  • Keep an eye towards next year (if applicable): In a season where there is a ton of uncertainty, you need to play the long game. Next year should bring a lot more normalcy as people get vaccinated (and please DO get vaccinated if you haven’t already), and with it we can go back to making sound logical choices. If you have to give up a little bit of value in an uncertain year, view that “value” as less certain as well. There were no guarantees this year.
  • Try to abuse as many rules as you can: For me it was the three IL spots and then it was the fact that we have a bye week for the top two seeds in the league. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those rules. They are good rules. But they are also abusable. I can get three extra moves in a later week by picking up three extra “IL” bodies this week, if I can afford to burn those moves now. The bye week also allows a player to stock up for the following week, then ideally use their moves in that next week for the following week, and so on and so forth in the playoffs.
  • Try to abuse the “tank mentality”: And here’s where I went wrong and it ultimately spelled out my doom as I stocked up on three Thunder players for our championship matchup simply because they had a 5-game week, and Kenrich Williams and Aleksej Pokusevski barely played. This is a risky strategy and it can easily backfire, as it did here, because no one player’s role is certain on a team trying to lose.

That’s it. Outside of all the regular, standard strategies I employed, these were the top things I was focusing on to win my league. In the end, my method of scrubs vs. stars didn’t pan out, but I think it was still a fine strategy to employ.

But hey, I’m not the only star of this show. Let’s take a look at the players and see their highlights and lowlights. We’ll introduce each team in reverse order from last place to first place. Remember that this is a keeper league, so some of the guys drafted late providing great value are keepers from previous years.

12. Zach’s Splendid Team

Number of Adds: 12

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Jimmy Butler (9th/11th)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): De’Aaron Fox (13th/5th)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): Jordan Clarkson (115th/79th)

Draft Position: 3rd

My Draft Day Grade: C

11. Trae Duds

Number of Adds: 43

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Richaun Holmes (31st/28th)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Richaun Holmes (9th/3rd)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): John Collins (51st/41st)

Draft Position: 9th

My Draft Day Grade: C-

10. Skeeter Adams

Number of Adds: 15

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Kyrie Irving (4th/6th)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Fred VanVleet (9th/3rd)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): Norman Powell (72nd/40th)

Draft Position: 10th

My Draft Day Grade: C+

9. Rock Chalk Me Bro

Number of Adds: 14

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Nikola Jokic (2nd/1st)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Zach LaVine (13th/3rd)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): Josh Richardson (136th/125th)

Draft Position: 8th

My Draft Day Grade: C-

8. Julius Randle

Number of Adds: 112

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Julius Randle (35th/14th)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Julius Randle (5th/2nd)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): Anthony Edwards (128th/76th)

Draft Position: 6th

My Draft Day Grade: D

7. Money Ballers

Number of Adds: 31

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Stephen Curry (3rd/2nd)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Jayson Tatum (2nd/1st)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): Thaddeus Young (100th/70th)

Draft Position: 12th

My Draft Day Grade: B-

6. King of the Gs

Number of Adds: 73

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Tobias Harris (24th/20th)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Donovan Mitchell (13th/5th)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): Enes Kanter (85th/51st)

Draft Position: 11th

My Draft Day Grade: B

5. The Boris Diaws

Number of Adds: 76

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Bradley Beal (14th/9th)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Pascal Siakam (13th/5th)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): Danny Green (84th/53rd)

Draft Position: 4th

My Draft Day Grade: B-

4. Los MangosTenebrosos

Number of Adds: 81

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Nikola Vucevic (10th/3rd)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Tyrese Haliburton (11th/5th)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): TJ McConnell (78th/48th)

Draft Position: 5th

My Draft Day Grade: A+

3. ChillAKillA

Number of Adds: 64

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Rudy Gobert (23rd/7th)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Mikal Bridges (5th/2nd)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): Jae’Sean Tate (113th/68th)

Draft Position: 1st

My Draft Day Grade: D+

2. Scalabringitbitch (My Team)

Number of Adds: 118

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Clint Capela (26th/19th)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Christian Wood (11th/11th)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): Russell Westbrook (91st/78th)

Draft Position: 7th

My Draft Day Grade: B

1. Luka & Co. (The Winner!)

Number of Adds: 118

Best fantasy player (per-game value/total value): Damian Lillard (11th/4th)

Best draft value (round drafted/total value round): Luka Doncic (33rd/23rd)

Best Acquisition (per-game value/total value): Terry Rozier (44th/21st)

Draft Position: 2nd

My Draft Day Grade: A+