Understanding This Fantasy Hoops Season
By Johan Lang
It was just another crazy night in the Association, and I’ve decided that managing a winning fantasy hoops team might be the most difficult thing to do in fantasy sports. It’s an everyday job, and there are lineup tweaks and injuries every single night. This week’s victims include Andray Blatche, MarShon Brooks, Jameer Nelson, and Nicolas Batum.The lock out shortened season has wrecked havoc on NBA teams and fantasy teams alike. Regardless of if you were burned on a long term injury (ZBO, Lopez, Manu, Horford, Gordon) or a short term (Bargnani, Lawson, Rondo, Wade, Paul) one, everyone’s feeling it. It’s frustrating, but know that you are not alone. Yes, in the NBA and some fantasy teams have survived the carnage of fitting 66 games in 3 and a half months with no training camp, but for the majority of us we have felt the sting of way too many DNP-INJs.
You can get mad, curse computer screen, and maybe even punt the cat, but remember it’s the same for everyone. Every NBA team must deal with it, and the same goes for your fantasy league. In weekly leagues especially, it makes line up decisions that much more difficult, the smallest bruise or twinge now sits players 2-3 games rather than just one. The best way to approach this season and DNPs is add a game or two to every day-to-day time table, and an extra week to every monthly injury, two weeks to any injury longer than a month. Kevin Martin had the very painful planter fasciitis this week, he was only set to sit out one game, but even after lobbying to play on the 2nd night of a back to back he was held out. Baron Davis was supposed to be back this week, surprise surprise he won’t be ready until next week. Finally, many owners were hurt by Andrew Bogut this week, make his 8-10 time table 10-12 and hopefully you were smart enough to pick up Drew Gooden by now. Know your injuries by Sunday night and plan accordingly. A guy with a 3 game week that may not play the first game should be an automatic sit (in most cases). This year more than ever you must pay attention to your line up before it’s set. A tweaked ankle needs to be monitored rather than ignored; otherwise you’re going to get burned by coaches playing it safe with their stars.
The lockout-altered schedule has also made a huge difference in quality of play. Averages are way down across the board, especially in points and blocks. The condensed schedule has led to many nights of weak legs for aging superstars. Subsequently, the amount of twenty point scorers is the lowest it’s been in many years. Dead legs also lead to the inability to rise up and defend, it could be apathy, but blocks have become almost a specialty stat. To put this in perspective, only 16 guys in the NBA are averaging 20 a game, 4 of them are hurt (either short or long term), and only 5 of them are besting their average from the previous season. League wide filed goal percentage is down from 46% to 44%, with the same 2% dip from 3, and not only are turnovers up, but teams are scoring 4 points less per 100 possessions than they were last year. Maybe it’s the dead legs, or the lack of training camp resulting in simpler, less cohesive offensive sets, but either way if you’re a team contending in points your going to have to lean on your entire squad and not just your superstars.
It’s just as ugly in the blocks category. Dikembe Mutumbo has taken the season off and his finger wagging taunts apparently left with him. Only 9 guys are averaging over a 2 blocks a game, and of those 9 only 4 are every week starters, with another (Bogut) soon to be on IR. Dwight Howard, normally the league leader in blocks by a wide margin, is not even in the top 5 per game, and his numbers are half a block a game lower than his career average. Of the top 25 shot blockers in fantasy, there is one guard (Wade), and only 5 would qualify as a top 25 player. Whether its product of the overloaded schedule and more of a committee style approach to minutes because of it, players just aren’t rising up and either knocking them down or sending them to the seats like they used to. Strange fact though, NBA teams are actually 9-6 so far this season when playing for the third straight day. The over has hit 8 times over that span as well. Where you would expect a lull from players lacing it up for the third night row, are actually producing better fantasy stats than expected.
Finally, anything can happen on any given night. In other words, the rules of small sample size are magnified. In a season where NBA teams will be searching for a different option each night to grind through the schedule, mediocre guys that you ignored draft day will become immensely valuable. Marshon Brooks, Drew Gooden, Iman Shumpert, and Richard Hamilton have all provided value in different ways and were plucked off the wire. Teams that are already looking to develop for next year are going to run guys out that you have never heard of, but you will after they blow up, so have a keen eye for the big line from an unknown. In a month you may be screaming BISMAK BIYOMBO!!! after every blocked shot or rebound.
If you are an owner, you can attest that it’s been an incredibly maddening fantasy basketball season, but it sure has been fun.