First of all, what a great NCAA Championship game we saw on Monday night, despite some pretty shady officiating. I went to college just down the river from Louisville and have a lot of friends who are celebrating right now. Congratulations!
Secondly, I’d like to apologize for going MIA last week. Spring break for the kids falls on that week every year, and I took the week off to spend with my family. And it was quite easy to get away from the NBA for a week after LeBron James’ shutdown knocked one of my main teams out of the playoffs, while the other was ruined by Brandon Jennings’ disappearing act. I’m not going to lie. I became a bitter “get out of my yard” type of old man after my hopes were shattered in a couple leagues that are very important to me.
Great players taking games off during the fantasy playoffs ruin teams every season, and I don’t think there were any more shutdowns this season than in most, although LeBron’s missed games, and the crazy numbers Carmelo Anthony put up had huge impacts in leagues all across the land.
Some leagues play to the final game of the regular season. That’s fine in rotisserie leagues, and in the ones that don’t use playoffs, but any way you slice it, the fact the NBA’s “silly season” always falls during the fantasy playoffs (as well as my kid’s spring break) is just a huge buzzkill for owners who put in so much time, effort and research year after year.
There’s not one single answer or format to fix the system, but here are a few things you can do for your league that may help ease the pain going forward.
- Keep your head-to-head format, as well as the playoffs, but pay the regular-season division winners a bulk of the prize money. This is a pretty decent option, keeping as many teams as possible alive for a chance at some cash, while still giving the best teams a majority of the payout. Many of my leagues use this option, and there’s not much downside to it.
- Abandon head-to-head formats and go to rotisserie scoring. I’ll admit I usually get pretty bored playing roto hoops, although one thing that is usually a lock is that the best team wins. But playing against your buddies every week is fun, and roto loses a lot of us due to the elimination of the H2H factor.
- End your league after Week 21 or 22. The downside is you lose NBA games that count, and your season ends too early. But the shutdown factor isn’t as significant in those weeks, and you may not have to scour the wire for the latest flavor of the day to try to field a team with guys who will actually play that week. Mike Miller should not be winning championships for fantasy owners, but he is.
- Keep your head-to-head format, but eliminate the playoffs. Just keep playing H2H through the end of the season and the team with the best record in the end wins. This option is probably my favorite, but the problem is that the teams who would be seeded in the 4th through 8th spots no longer have a shot at getting hot in the playoffs and winning it all.
None of these options are perfect, but appear to be better options than just playing H2H playoffs until the end of the regular season and forcing guys to make a ton of random pickups in hopes that they’ll luck out and grab a player who will come out of nowhere and go off when a superstar or two are sitting out randomly. The problem is also compounded by trying to find a site that can accommodate the system you want to use.
I really wish fantasy hoops were more like the NFL, where you basically only have a couple different scoring options available. If we could all agree on one basic format for hoops, it would make covering those players, ranking them, and giving advice so much easier for all involved. But with each league manager service being slanted in one or two different directions, and no uniformity across the sport, this seems like an impossible pipe dream at this point. Maybe I can work with my new colleagues at Yahoo! to come up with a format option that would help bring consistency to the fantasy hoops world, and I look forward to exploring this going forward.
As for what you can look forward to this week, the league is back in full swing on Tuesday after going dark on Monday for the NCAA Championship.
Here are some of the things you should be thinking about when setting lineups.
Cleveland @ Indiana – Kyrie Irving is 12-of-51 shooting over his last three games, but should be in lineups tonight. Beware that his shoulder isn’t allowing him to play in back-to-back games (as of now), so he could sit out a couple games this week with the Cavs playing on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday and Monday. Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Wayne Ellington are all worth a look for the Cavs.
The Pacers have seen Paul George go 3-of-18 over his last two games, but he should be ready to bounce out of the funk. Roy Hibbert torched the Wizards for 25 & 10 on Sunday, and David West, Lance Stephenson and George Hill are all worth a look. Gerald Green should be recovered from an illness and could be a sneak play.
Milwaukee @ Miami – Brandon Jennings has played better over his past several games and still deserves to be in lineups, along with Monta Ellis and Larry Sanders. Ersan Ilyasova still looks like a must-play, while J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy are also options for some owners.
Chris Bosh is iffy for Miami with a hyperextended knee and I don’t think you can rely on him right now. Dwyane Wade and his balky knee are actually questionable to make another appearance in the regular season. My guess is he’ll play a warm-up game or two before the playoffs get here, but when that will happen is anyone’s guess. LeBron played on Saturday, got treatment on his hamstring Sunday and remains iffy tonight. The Heat go back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday, and it would be a little surprising to see Bron go in both of those. With these three hurting, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and Chris Andersen are all at least worth a close look in any fantasy leagues still cranking it out. Miller had 26 points and seven treys on Friday, while Andersen had 15 boards on Saturday. The fact these dudes are helping teams win fantasy championships is just wrong.
Washington @ New York – Emeka Okafor is expected to play tonight after suffering a shoulder injury on Sunday, but owners should check on his status before game time. Martell Webster continues to play (and struggle) through his abdominal injury, while Nene’s health remains a pretty big concern after he played just 14 minutes on Saturday, and scored seven points in each of his last two games. John Wall is in “Melo-mode” and should be in all lineups, obviously. Kevin Seraphin and A.J. Price are also worth a look in most leagues.
For the Knicks, Kenyon Martin’s knee may shut him down permanently, while Carmelo Anthony is now the league’s leading scorer after his insane run through the fantasy playoffs. The Knicks have also won 12 straight games and should make it 13 tonight. Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Chris Copeland are all getting enough run right now to be in starting lineups, while J.R. Smith is still a must-start player.
Philadelphia @ Brooklyn – Dorell Wright should continue to play through his elbow injury, making him a low-end option, while Evan Turner’s ankle injury doesn’t appear to be serious. Watch for updates on both players on Tuesday. Jrue Holiday, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young are nearly must-starts, while Damien Wilkins is also worth using in most leagues.
Joe Johnson should play on Tuesday, but is banged up, so be sure to watch Rotoworld for updates. Gerald Wallace has no confidence and is not worth using, while Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans have all been tearing it up lately. If Johnson misses any games going forward, look to MarShon Brooks to pick up his slack after going off for a career-high 27 points last Wednesday.
Toronto @ Chicago – The Raps were terrible on Saturday, when Alan Anderson led the team in scoring with just 14 points. But it sounds like they’re mostly healthy and I’d go ahead and plan on using guys like Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, and even inconsistent Kyle Lowry this week.
For the Bulls, Taj Gibson isn’t likely to play tonight, Luol Deng’s hip should keep him in street clothes, and Joakim Noah suffered a setback with his foot, which means he’s not playable right now, either. Derrick Rose is still teasing us with the thought that he might play before the end of the regular season, but he can’t be started, while Nate Robinson and Carlos Boozer look like your must-starts. Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler are also worth a look given how banged up the Bulls are.
Phoenix @ Houston – It sounds like Jermaine O’Neal will play Tuesday despite a shin injury, but he’s a shaky option, at best. Markieff Morris, Goran Dragic and Luis Scola are all worth starting, while Michael Beasley could be back in the doghouse after going 1-of-11 in his last game, and then telling the media that he’s stopped listening to his coaches. Brilliant.
Chandler Parsons (calf) and Carlos Delfino (flu) missed Monday’s practice and if either is out, Francisco Garcia is worth a spot start. Jeremy Lin and James Harden are must-starts, while Greg Smith is worth a look, especially if Parsons is out. The same goes for Terrence Jones, who had 13 points and a nice line on Saturday.
Charlotte @ Memphis – Ben Gordon exploded for 27 points on Saturday, making him worth a look right now, while Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson are must-starts. Byron Mullens is a serious shutdown candidate with ankle and elbow issues, meaning Josh McRoberts is still worth a look, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is heating up, despite being pretty unreliable all season. Bismack Biyombo is also worthy of a look if you need boards and blocks.
Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Tony Allen are all worth using right now, while Jerryd Bayless is dealing with a knee injury that will leave him iffy for tonight. Watch for updates on his status, and make sure Allen is in your lineup if Bayless is out. Quincy Pondexter had 17 points on Sunday, putting him on the radar.
Oklahoma City @ Utah – Kevin Durant’s going to (hopefully) be gunning for Carmelo Anthony’s lead in the scoring race, Russell Westbrook is hot, and Kevin Martin and Serge Ibaka are also worth starting right now. Derek Fisher had a big game on Thursday, but I just don’t trust him.
Alec Burks (ankle) and Marvin Williams (illness) missed Monday’s practice for the Jazz, while Mo Williams is coming off a 25-point performance against the Warriors on Sunday. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and maybe even Randy Foye should all be useful this week.
New Orleans @ Lakers – Eric Gordon was benched on Friday but had 17 points on Sunday, meaning he will likely continue to play on his bum knee. Ryan Anderson, Greivis Vasquez and Anthony Davis are all strong plays, while Al-Farouq Aminu and Robin Lopez will have some decent lines this week. They go on Tuesday and Wednesday, so don’t be surprised if Gordon sits again on Wednesday.
Steve Nash is doubtful for this one with a hamstring injury and Steve Blake would be a decent play if he’s out. Metta World Peace says he’ll play tonight after knee surgery, but I don’t think I’d be brave enough to use him. The Lakers will lean on Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard in an effort to make the playoffs, so play them with confidence, while Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison are also worth a look.
Minnesota @ Golden State – Kevin Love is done for the year and will have minor knee surgery, and I am not alone by saying “Thanks for nothing this season, Kevin.” Ricky Rubio is dealing with a shoulder injury and owners will want to watch Rotoworld to see if he’s in or out. Luke Ridnour had a dud on Saturday, while J.J. Barea is hot coming into this week. Andrei Kirilenko is showing signs of life and I’d play him, Nikola Pekovic is a must-start, and Barea and Derrick Williams are both worth a close look in all leagues. If Rubio is out, Ridnour probably becomes a must-start. Dante Cunningham had 19 points on Saturday off the bench, but is hit or miss, while the same rings true for Chase Budinger.
For the W's, Stephen Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson are must-starts, while Jarrett Jack, Andrew Bogut and a suddenly hot Carl Landry are worth a look at starting in all leagues.