• I can’t fathom the amount of chaos we endure and are exposed to on a regular basis.

    I’m not trying to create a panic. This isn’t pontificating so much about mass hysteria inducing chaos, though you never know when that may hit, but more just a whole lot of Vince Lomardi screaming “What The Hell Is Going On Out Here?” type of oddities that are rampant in our lives.

    The level of media we are exposed to is both unhealthy and unprecedented and with that we experiencing what feels like non-stop chaos in real-time. Being online constantly with phones in hands and a connection no matter the time and place, we experience firsthand the chaos in our institutions, our physical environment, our popular culture, and often times within our own family and friends.

    This isn’t a screed about the dangers of our time on social media and unplugging from the world. There’s a time and a place for that. Instead, this is about finding a semblance of control in an otherwise chaotic world and our innate and insatiable need to control what is ultimately uncontrollable.

    Because you’re in the midst of all the chaos you’re surrounded by and so many stimuli vying for attention all at once, you may have missed a recent headline that the Houston Astros were accused of and being investigated for stealing signs through use of a center field camera. You may have missed it because you feel that baseball can be tedious and stupid and for that I don’t blame you. Putting that aside, this is still a fairly newsworthy item for a sport that just completed its season.

    Like our thoughts on social media on greater society, morality isn’t the issue here and not our focus. You can quibble all you want about the use of a camera to gain a tactical advantage. Most normal people will believe that’s probably a bit of an excessive practice a la Spygate and the New England Patriots.

    But in the sport of baseball, stealing signs to gain an advantage has been an art form since the days of Babe Ruth enjoying a scotch and a smoke between innings. It’s not the actual theft that’s the underlying theme of this otherwise mundane sports story. It’s that the Houston Astros felt that they needed to go to that degree of extreme in order to try and control the chaos around them because they felt that it would give them an advantage on the rest of the field. They won the World Series in 2017 with a very talented roster and still felt the need to provide themselves with this additional edge.

    The morality play that segues into a fantasy basketball writeup seems egregious and quite banal, but guess what, that’s what we do. We look for advantages. We try to control chaos. We can compare stories endlessly and try to make these leaps in any walk of life. For us, it just so happens that fantasy basketball is our little hectic corner of the world. This is simultaneously our escape and our chaos and we all do an admirable but often futile job of trying to control it in the spirit of competition.

    Within our cozy fantasy sport bubbles, we pay for access to the people who study this game to the nth degree. We pay for organized statistics so that we’re not left to decipher a ton of box scores on our own. We have direct feeds into teams, beat writers, and news sources out the wazoo. We have historical trends and future projections. And guess what…

    None of that accounts for Deandre Ayton and John Collins getting popped for PEDs. None of that accounts for Aron Baynes falling on Steph Curry’s hand. None of that accounts for daily aches and pains that go unreported. None of that accounts for human beings who are learning to adapt to new cities, or new teammates, or new languages, or with newly diagnosed illnesses for their loved ones.

    We play and we compete in fantasy basketball because we believe that we can see through the madness better than our peers and rival owners. But we are not basketball savants or statistical soothsayers. We know what our feeds say and the tape reveals. We can know subjectively that Russell Westbrook is a better basketball player than Malcolm Brogdon. But for fantasy, we can’t know that definitively until the last games are played in April. We are control freaks of a game that we simply can not control. And still, we keep trying.

    As part of our staff roundtable during our draft season, we were asked on a scale of 1 to 10 how much load management bothered us. The answers were very split. Those who were on the low end of the scale had already embraced the chaos. I was still a 9. Load management was and remains a loosely interpreted concept that manifests differently for each player and team. Load management was a piece of chaos that I had yet to accept a lack of control over.

    This isn’t to say that those who felt that load management didn’t bother them were better at this then I was. It was more that they felt there were other areas of fantasy hoops that they were better off trying to control than the load management aspect of it. And really, it took the first four weeks of the season to get me to that point as well.

    Because even with load management, it won’t stop freak accidents. It won’t stop the odds of Kawhi Leonard breaking his arm on the court rather than aggravating his quad. It won’t stop Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns from trying to beat the dogsnot out of each other. It also won’t stop Dion Waiters from being a disruptive menace while he remains in the Miami locker room. It won’t stop a rash of injuries from breaking out among human beings who are not literally playing the sport competitively for a 365-day cycle whether it’s in gym pickup games or NBA arenas.

    Among all that, the real lesson here is that being better at fantasy sports is not about trying to be better at controlling the chaos that surrounds us. It’s about maintaining a sense of calm when it hits. It’s understanding what to do when the chaos takes over like it has during the first four weeks of this season. That’s how we’ll get better as fantasy basketball players. That’s how we’ll feel like we have control in our own speck of the universe.

    THE KAWHI LEONARD MEMORIAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK WHO HAS A PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST ME

    We’re in the middle of a fantasy warzone. There are bodies piling up and severed limbs flying across the screen like this league is playing host to a Tarantino film. Just about everyone you can think of is steps away from being wheeled into an ambulance or just plain load managed so trying to find someone who is healthy and just plain stinks is a bit of a rarity these days. But fear not because this particular woodland creature isn’t a myth and he really does exist. Because this guy found his way onto my teams.

    For all intents and purposes, this player is perfectly healthy. Not a peep about an injury or something that’s lying under the surface. His team is playing quite well no less. He’s got no competition to his position or is in jeopardy of losing his job anytime soon. With an injury you can at least chalk things up to circumstance and the breaks, but this guy just makes you question just what the hell is happening to him along with your drafting capabilities and that is enough to make you want to headbutt an oncoming locomotive.

    SO DAMN YOU RUDY GOBERT! Where is the shot blocking defensive machine we’ve been promised all these years? Where are all the goddamn easy looks from Conley and Mitchell? Don’t give me this crap about international play either. Your boy Rubio parlayed his incredible play at the Worlds this summer into breathing new life into Phoenix. The goddamn Suns! Do you know how hard that is? Ricky Rubio is making people actually give a crap about the Suns again! That’s like grabbing a shovel giving CPR to Galileo himself. So Rudy, stop giving Bruski more ammo and quit being a Giant Stiff and start Stifle Towering again.

    YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT YOU’RE GOING TO LIKE THIS GUY. HE’S ALRIGHT. HE’S A GOOD FELLA. HE’S ONE OF US IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS.

    Round 1 – Damian Lillard

    Round 2 – Andre Drummond

    Round 3 – Luka Doncic

    Round 4 – Pascal Siakam

    Round 5 – Jayson Tatum

    Round 6 – Kevin Love

    Round 7 – Malcolm Brogdon

    Round 8 – Jonathan Issac

    Round 9 – Domantas Sabonis

    Round 10 – Bojan Bogdanovic

    Round 11 – Fred VanVleet

    Round 12 – Andrew Wiggins

    Round 13 –  Tristan Thompson

    I wrote about Fantasy Wildcards on Twitter during the preseason. The concept being that there are players out there that were being drafted with a crazy range of outcomes from being All-Star caliber, all the way to being waiver fodder. Kevin Love and Jonathan Isaac were two of my Wildcards and their torrid start to the season is exactly why.

    I have my doubts that Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis remain here when Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner are fully healthy, but for now we’ll applaud their efforts for your teams and their own despite plenty who were ready to leave the Pacers for dead.

    YOU’RE PROBABLY THINKING THAT YOU’RE AN AVERAGE NOBODY AND YOU GET TO LIVE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE LIKE A SCHNOOK IF YOUR DRAFT LOOKED LIKE THIS

    Round 1 – Steph Curry

    Round 2 – Deandre Ayton

    Round 3 – John Collins

    Round 4 – De’Aaron Fox

    Round 5 – Otto Porter Jr.

    Round 6 – Julius Randle

    Round 7 – Derrick Favors

    Round 8 – Caris LeVert

    Round 9 – Marc Gasol

    Round 10 – Joe Ingles

    Round 11 – Mikal Bridges

    Round 12 – J.J. Redick

    Round 13 – JaVale McGee

    So, perhaps I told you about this thing I wrote on Twitter called Fantasy Wildcards. Pretty sure I told you about it. Maybe, could have been in passing, I don’t remember. Anyway, it was about NBA players who could wind up having a crazy range of outcomes based on their draft position. Derrick Favors was one of them and sure enough, he’s been hurt, ineffective and with the Pelicans ultimately playing for the lottery, we’ll likely only see his minutes and usage climb in spurts.

    I don’t know why a 21 or 22-year old would feel the need to take PEDs knowing there are bound to be bathroom related tests administered by their bosses to dole out punishment to offenders. But then again, I’m almost 40 and still feel the need to eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting even though I know the resulting gastrointestinal distress will certainly get me suspended by my boss from our bedroom for an indefinite period of time. I guess the brain just wants what the brain wants.

    ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS

    I’ll be looking at some mid to late-tier players who I’ll be keeping an eye on throughout the season on a week to week basis. Based on how their past few and upcoming few games go, I’ll decide whether or not I will be confidently holding and feeling strongly about (rock) or feeling a little bit flimsy or unsure of (paper) or will just be cutting altogether (scissors, obviously). These are the players we either drafted or picked up who can make or break our seasons and will be dissected most when we try to make moves to the top of the standings. Here are some more players in my thought process.

    ROCKS

    Andrew Wiggins/Jaylen Brown – I will simply leave you with my thoughts from my Bold Predictions article for this year’s Draft Guide:

    “..he’s once been a 45% shooter from the field and 76% from the stripe and perhaps there could be a new lease on life with no Thibs, no Butler, and an offseason with Ryan Saunders and a staff focused on better analytics. At only 24, it’s too early to give up on a potential 20-point scorer who might just need some better coaching and non-psychotic teammates.”

    My only point in believing in Wiggins and to a lesser extent Brown was simple. Don’t give up on talent and opportunity. Not every player blossoms right away.

    As for what to do with Wiggins? Just hold him. It’s unlikely he finishes the season as a top-15 player, but are you really going to get a Jimmy Butler or Bradley Beal for him in a trade? I’m sure anyone in most leagues are going to remain skeptical. But as of right now, he was a late pick for most and you might as well ride this out as long as you can. You’re playing with house money if he’s on your teams so you might as well keep pushing the bet until the point when he’s back to his old tricks.

    Devonte Graham – I like that the Hornets came out and said early that the kids were going to get all the run they could handle and after we wondered how that would look, their rotation has been largely consistent with Graham playing the spark off the bench like the Clippers do with Lou Williams. I’m mildly concerned out what happens when Nic Batum returns, but he is old and Graham is young. And while he’s young the Hornets will want to have some fun and run down. (Shoodilley-waddliley-diddley-diddley woh-oh-oh).

    Danuel House – The Rockets are another team that plays their starters heavy minutes and the last time I checked, Danuel House is a starter for the Rockets. They’re also playing far faster than last year and boast a top-5 offensive rating. House has been a positive gain for the Rockets on both ends of the court and with Eric Gordon out for a long stretch, there’s almost no threat to his status. Continue to start him confidently.

    PAPER

    Aaron Gordon – He’s had some better games recently after a wretched start. He’s still a hold because of his name and potential. But there are trade rumors around the Magic after the team has found itself losing a bunch despite Jonathan Isaac becoming a merchant of basketball death for his opponents. Gordon’s per-36 numbers remain terrible so if his volume slips, so will the need to keep him on your rosters.

    Daniel Theis – Boston keep winning despite the world seemingly falling apart around them. Shedding a number of the bodies from last season has helped to make roles more secure. Still Enes Kanter isn’t going to suddenly play 35 minutes a night, neither is Time Lord Robert Williams, and Gordon Hayward won’t be returning anytime soon. Theis has just enough chops from deep and on defense to carve out a 20-something minute role even when the Celtics are at full health.

     

    Maxi Kleber – You could apply the same logic from Theis to Kleber. Kleber can stroke and swat a shot here and there. Kristaps has been a bit up and down and will be load managed throughout the season. Dwight Powell still has yet to find a groove. Despite coming off the bench, Maxi’s role is secure and his stats as safe as they come. Not all top-100 to top-150 players need to be exciting, they just need to be effective.

    SCISSORS

    Steven Adams – I’m sorry but what are we even doing with Adams anymore? It’s not like he can generate his own offense without Russell Westbrook. The attempts have declined because he’s not there for Adams to clean up around him. His shooting percentage has also taken a hit because of it. He was never that big of a shot blocker to begin with and his steal rate has plummeted.

    I don’t know how it’s humanly possible to shoot 26% at the line. You could pick a random person out of the stands in Oklahoma City and I’d be willing to put money that they could make more than 26 out of 100 free throw attempts. Are you really going to hold Adams because of his rebounding despite paying a mid-round pick for him?

    Collin Sexton – I the Cavs locker room looks like this when Sexton and Jordan Clarkson enter at the same time:

    Kent Bazemore – We typically like guys with clear roles, but the problem here is that there’s a clear role with almost no upside. Bazemore isn’t going to clear minutes beyond the mid-20s and no matter how effective he may be in that time, there isn’t going to be much opportunity to get beyond his standard top-150 range. The Portland wings remain crowded with Rodney Hood and the emergence of Anfernee Simons. It’s a situation where if you wanted to pick up a possible upside play because of injury, Bazemore is the kind of player to send packing. Chances are he’ll still be there if you need him back again.

    ADVENTURES IN DFS

    The first big action of the season was during Coach’s Challenge on FantasyDraft and all the excitement about the start of the season had me going. I was so freaking amped up. I put my lineup in and placed 3rd in that first tournament and was just licking my chops for every opportunity to put money down on games. I was high on my own supply.

    I’ve lost every red cent since that 3rd place finish. I hit a miserable stretch the couple weeks after that and haven’t sniffed the money in Coach’s Challenge since. And I owe Apotria Frank Pepe’s pizza on top of that. The injuries are making it harder to deviate from the chalky value guys and it comes down to nailing the right studs and for one reason or another, I’ve been lousy at identifying them early on. Always a matter of picking LeBron vs. Davis or Harden vs. Westbrook and coming out on the wrong end of those coin flips. This Big 2 league trend is already having a negative impact on my wallet.

    BLOODY SUNDAY

    I never like being too greedy since it’s a long season and the breaks can always change, but my 10-team dynasty league is already screwing with my patience in that arena. After a week’s worth of games I finished with a 5-3-1 win, but had a massive Sunday advantage in games and was projected for more. Instead Otto Porter went and had himself a major clunker and De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield could only do so much to pick up the slack.

    The result was a 128-128 tie in assists and a 620-619 loss in points. Again, it’s early but would hate if the difference between a bye and an extra playoff week ends up being one category.

    Anytime you’ve got a good Bloody Sunday story. Reach out to me on Twitter @JoshMillman and I’ll happily, and not so happily, commiserate with you.

    Keep trying to stay above it all Hoop-Ballers. Still lots of time in the season left to get it right!

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