- John Cregan, Fantasy Basketball
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If you're on Facebook, chances are you've been tagged in this massive chain letter in which you're pressured to divulge 25 random things about yourself to 25 people. I've been tagged seven times as of this writing, and now offer 25 random things about my fantasy team nearing the trade deadline.
1. I have only one team
I'm not writing Grand Theft Roto, which caused me to join more than 10 leagues a year for several years. This year, I decided to do the opposite and obsess about only one team; my team in the ESPN Writers' League.
2. I would need to get lucky to win it all
If the season ended today, I'd be the third seed, but I doubt I'd have enough firepower to unseat the No. 1 seed. This is mainly due to the fact
3. I whiffed on defense
This year, I just haven't done a good enough job putting together good numbers in blocks and steals. My main issue is I have only one front-line center -- Al Jefferson -- and placed too much faith in Al Horford making a jump in his second season. My lack of quality play at center is doubly damning since
4. Our cup runneth over with centers
This year, there are 25 to 30 decent players who qualify at center, from Yao Ming down to the new-and-improved Greg Oden. As a result, there just hasn't been the usual panic to deal out of positional need.
5. I should take a hard look at Ronny Turiaf
Turiaf is averaging 2.4 blocks per game in his past five contests, the NBA equivalent of almost 30 points per game. A player averaging 30 points per game in his past five contests would be scooped up regardless of how he was doing in other categories. This is statistical discrimination, pure and simple. Why do I shy away from Turiaf? Because he plays for Don Nelson.
6. Don Nelson is the closest thing I have in my life to Stockholm Syndrome
My ambition is to question Nelson in the "Frost/Nixon" style: eight on his playing days, eight on his being a coach, eight on being a general manager and eight on how he has crushed the hopes and dreams of so many fantasy teams. The man needs to apologize.
7. Instead, look to play Golden State
When making your lineup decisions, lean toward going up against the Warriors, Kings, Pacers, Wizards, Knicks and Thunder. You'll be amazed at the difference a game makes.
8. Pay more attention to turnovers by team
Since my team struggled in steals so early, I began to take a look at which teams forced and gave up the most turnovers. There's a big relationship between up-tempo, fantasy-friendly teams and high turnover numbers. The benchmark hovers around 30 combined giveaways per game. Teams that slow it down (Cleveland, Detroit, San Antonio) have little to offer us beyond the obvious stars.
9. Bad Wizards team = Good fantasy team
One of the great things about fantasy basketball is it allows you to stay interested, even when your own team's games become a Sisyphean exercise. This season, I've watched a lot more non-Wizards basketball simply by virtue of the Wizards being so unwatchable. (I miss Gilbert. I miss "Dagger!" Heck, I miss Brendan Haywood.)
10. If you drafted Tracy McGrady, zip it.
My No. 1 pet peeve in fantasy is owners who blame their team's performance on injury woes. More often than not, the impact players lost to injury have a long and rich history of being lost to injury.
11. My reliance on trusty vets has paid off
A look at players' average draft positions (ADP) shows there was something of a sea change in most drafts. Once-premium names have grayed a bit and started slipping a round or two.
They're not as much fun to draft as younger players with upside, but you know what you're getting. Think of all the great rock supergroups -- Blind Faith, Asia, Damn Yankees, JJamz -- you just know you're going to get bang for your concert dollar, because they've all been there and done that.
12. When you have an infant, you need to set your lineups for the entire week
Walking around in a state of constant exhaustion leads to slip-ups. I've lost six to eight points this year due to my forgetting to hit "Submit" after making a roster move. But I'm not complaining since
13. On the whole, having an infant makes you a better fantasy player
Why? Because you don't sleep, that's why. It ups one's use of NBA League Pass by about 25 percent. In fantasy hoops, there is simply no substitute for watching as much NBA as one's schedule can manage. You also find yourself perpetually confined to activities that allow the use of only one arm. That means NHL09 is out, and surfing the web is in.
14. I need to manipulate my team's schedule
What's the one thing the top two teams in my league have in common? They are the top two in games played by a country mile. The first-place team (550 games played) has made only six moves to date, able to coast on having drafted incredibly well and careful roster management. The second-place team has made as many moves -- 84 -- as the rest of the league combined. This has led to said team residing in the top two of the five non-percentage categories.
15. This should offer hope
If you're looking for a solid strategy to claw into contention, take a long look at if you're maximizing your games played each week. It may seem a bit like homework, but if you don't pay attention to games played, the person who beats you out for a playoff spot will.
16. Abandoning field goal percentage isn't so scary
In the past, I've been slavish in making sure all my draftees were strong from the field and from the line. This year, being in a head-to-head situation, I decided to throw out my usual benchmarks and go for the best player available. I've been able to tread water (7-7) from the field, all while leading the league in 3-pointers; a correlation I never would have counted on.
17. Ditto for free throw percentage
By simply avoiding poison pills such as Shaq and Dwight Howard, I've gone 7-7 from the line.
18. I'm glad I waited on point guards
Looking at this year's draft, there was a lack of surefire elite producers at point guard. I decided I would wait until the fifth round before going for a second point guard (I usually draft 3-4 point guards). I took Billups in the third, and then waited until the eighth for Bibby, and the ninth for Jameer Nelson. That still leaves me with three of the top nine point guards in fantasy at rock-bottom prices.
19. The waiver wire was deep
It just seems as if this season has produced a bumper crop of first- or second-year players with upside. And lots of these players' values have been boosted prematurely because
20. Interim coach = Fantasy-friendly
The win-loss column bears that firing a coach midseason has done little to improve a team's prospects, but it does wonders for fixing rotation problems. All these coaching changes have meant big improvements for Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, Randy Foye, Kevin Love, Mike Conley and a host of young fantasy talent. This is doubly beneficial since
21. Bad teams are below the radar
Looking at my current team, five players are off the wire, and they haven't just been fringe contributors. Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, Boris Diaw and Eric Gordon are all players who would easily be drafted relatively high if the draft were held today. They were more available because they all toil for sub-.500 teams. If Jeff Green were a Celtic, would it have taken this long for him to be owned in a majority of leagues?
22. Now, the cupboard is bare
Lurking around the wire and seeing if these guys are still available is no way to run a fantasy team. Use your time trying to acquire players that provide immediate aid.
24. Time to make a trade
There aren't any more magic bullets to be found. It's time to roll up my sleeves and do some hard-core dealing. And I need to do it soon, since
25. The trade deadline is nigh
For most of us, our Februarys have two key dates: the 14th and the 20th. One of them is Valentine's Day, and the other is the ESPN trade deadline. If I have to tell you which is which, you probably have other issues you need to address in your life that go way beyond your fantasy teams.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.