If there are two things I love, they are fantasy basketball and bragging. Wondrously, I have the opportunity to do both right here. I'm particularly happy about doing the former, because I retired from fantasy basketball at the end of last season. Winning every year just became so dull.
Fantasy basketball is simple. Player production is relatively steady from year to year, unlike baseball. Surprise long-term injuries to otherwise durable players are less frequent than in football. You are instantly familiar with the major players, unlike hockey.
Also, because of the NBA's small rosters, your best players are likely to still be playing heavy minutes in the final weeks of the season, making a weekly formatted league actually fun, instead of the torturous and incremental death it can be in other sports.
I'll discuss FanDuel's daily and weekly format in coming weeks after I've acclimated myself to it and hopefully found some way to game it. From an academic standpoint, I am curious to see whether the fantasy philosophies I've developed will translate to success in a different context. If you're interested in checking FanDuel out, go here, sign up, and play their NBA games.
For this first installment, I want to do my court-mandated community service by imparting my fantasy riches unto you, the indigent reader. Unfortunately, this benevolent gesture does not arrive in time for most of you to save your 2014-2015 fantasy leagues, but it's never too late to begin preparations for next year, especially if you suck.
I won't call this a manifesto, because those are primarily written by psychopaths, so without further bloviating, these are my tried-and-true winning rules for fantasy basketball:
- Weekly leagues are stupid. You can call it head-to-head, week-to-week, weekly, whatever. I call it moronic. Your first strategic move should be to diminish the impact of luck on your league. Weekly leagues are to rotisserie leagues what War is to Blackjack. I can't help you win your weekly league in the same way that I can't help you win Russian Roulette. Choose your battlefield wisely.
- Be patient. You pick him because you thought he would be good. He has four bad games to start the season, so you drop him. A week later, he's right back where you had him pegged in your preseason preparation, and that obnoxious dude from work emails you daily for the next 6 months to thank you for defenestrating him prematurely. (He writes defenestrating because it's on his word-a-day calendar and that's the kind of guy he is.) I love seeing my buddies tally 200 transactions during the season. It means I got a lot of players I didn't get to draft.
- Points and rebounds are easy to get. These are opportunity stats. Someone has to score and rebound, even on the 76ers. During the season, some power forward is going to come into a 25-minute role and give you 14 and 8 with 50% shooting after you grab him hot off the waiver-wire. Worry about the special stuff in the draft and have faith that you can pad these two columns in-season.
- Punt free throw %. Excuse my mixed metaphor, but in every fantasy sport you can always ignore one stat. For basketball, I choose FT% for a couple of reasons. First, there are many fantastic basketball players who range from mediocre to cover-your-eyes awful at the free throw line. LeBron James has never surpassed 80%. Tim Duncan has done it once. Shaq's percentages look like batting averages. Clips Nation's own Blake Griffin has managed a career mark of 64.4%. If you want to ignore men like this in your draft, you do so to my benefit. Second, FT% is boring. Is that really the stat you want to pay attention to? Because if you care about it, you'll spend all of February and March looking for it.
- In your draft, play it safe early and go for broke late. It's tough to win your league in the first two rounds, but it's stunningly easy to lose it. For years, I had to nail my late-round sleeper picks to atone for my early-round yips. I wanted sexy when I really needed steady. Save your gambles for later. With your first few picks, you are building your foundation. Don't buy your rug before you buy a floor. This rule goes hand-in-hand with...
- Pick well-rounded players early and save your specialists for later. Back when he was in Milwaukee and Milwaukee still wore purple, I picked Ray Allen in the first round. I wasn't crazy to do so, because he carried a solid first-round grade. Many of you will recall that Ray Allen was a very good player, but even with his scoring, his primary value came from his 3-point shooting. I spent the rest of the draft trying to fill holes like a cartoon character with too few fingers and a failing dam. In recent years, do you know which players I have selected early? Josh Smith. Andre Iguodala. Blake Griffin. (It always comes back to Blake). I like to get multiple players who can contribute to nearly every column. Kyle Korver will still be there if you want threes. Darren Collison will still be there if you want steals. Mario Chalmers will still be there if you want laughs (or cries). Also, as you mix and match the bottom of your lineup, it's easier to target specific weaknesses when your everyday guys give you a solid starting point in every stat column.