- John Cregan, Fantasy Basketball
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It's 2009, and many of you are crawling out from the tattered remnants of your fantasy football seasons. It was a long season, one that I hope featured an enlivening playoff run, and maybe even the ultimate victory for a select few of you.
As someone who writes only about fantasy basketball, all I can say is this: It's over. You need to move into the acceptance stage and regain control of your lives.
And when I say "your lives," I mean your fantasy basketball teams.
New Year's Day tends to be the beginning of the second peak of the fantasy basketball season. It's the glorious time of the year when fantasy hoops has to compete with only fantasy hockey and "wildly popular" fantasy D-League. And since I believe that I am one of maybe six people currently playing fantasy D-League, fantasy basketball is pretty safe right now.
To help kick off this glorious time, I offer you a series of fantasy resolutions, which probably differ greatly from my next-door neighbor's set of "fantasy resolutions." (We are currently considering something in the form of a restraining order). Anyway, bring on 2009:
• I will pay more attention to the percentage categories.
If you're playing in a traditional rotisserie league, in which stats accrue over the course of a season, the time to be paying more attention to percentages is soon about to end. You're supposed to be building up a lead in those categories, then dealing high-percentage players for categories of need, like blocks and steals, so you can make up lots of ground in a short time.
However, many of us use the weekly matchup format, which means your percentages reset every seven days. The percentages categories are to fantasy basketball what the letter "y" is to vowels -- often neglected, but very important. People tend to pay attention to points scored, but remember that there's a marked difference between a player who simply likes to shoot and one who's actually able to shoot.
• I will pay more attention to defensive matchups.
This is easy to accomplish. All you must do is read ESPN Fantasy's Daily Notes -- it takes only a few minutes per day -- and focus on teams that give up Washington Generals-esque point totals. Basically, look for whatever team is going against the Golden State Warriors. It's more nuanced than that, but you get the point.
• I will make at least one trade offer over a two-week span.
I tend to spend the first month or two of each season on the waiver wire while trying to resist my basic instincts to jettison a player just because he hasn't lived up to my draft expectations. But as rotations solidify and your fellow owners make their moves, there are fewer and fewer game-changing options available for pickup.
Thus, now is the time to step up your trade efforts. If an owner makes you a bad offer, don't just reject it and go back to playing "NHL '09." Take the opportunity to open a dialogue with this owner. Even if it doesn't lead to a trade today, it could down the road. Remember, an inactive owner is a bad owner.
Okay, this is obviously more of a personal resolution, but if you own Marvin Williams and are having problems with your backup center, consider it. Every week I spend about 10 minutes pondering whether or not to cut Williams, who has done just enough to still have fantasy relevance this season. But times are tough and I need help at center, darnit.
Bargnani and Thomas are two of the most frustrating players in the fantasy firmament. You pick them up, and they let you down. But we must all remember that they are relatively young men and still possess tremendous statistical upside. If you need any evidence, just take a look at the past week's box scores.
Dunleavy, meanwhile, is an easier buy. His value is down because of injury, not inconsistency. He's supposed to return during the Pacers' current road trip. Marquis Daniels will put a dent in Dunleavy's value, but Dunleavy was borderline elite at times last season. Go get him.
This obviously doesn't mean much if your league features an injury (IR) slot, and it's also why I don't play in leagues that have one. If it were up to me, I'd abolish them. They allow for facile fantasy decision-making, and greatly decrease the difficulty of our fair game.
Barring that, Boozer and Arenas are both looking at lost seasons. Their respective teams are rapidly losing the incentive to rush back their stars; Utah has the serviceable Paul Millsap, and the Wizards are 7-25 and should be spending their nights logging Blake Griffin highlights and having their marketing team figure out what rhymes with "Thabeet."
Instead of carrying that dead weight on your roster, you should be turning your attention to healthier players on the waiver wire who could break out in the second half. Which brings me to
• I will pay attention to the teams which are falling out of playoff contention.
That stuff I wrote earlier about the pickings getting slim on the waiver wire wasn't completely true, just temporarily true.
As the season goes on, teams that could find themselves lottery-bound will start to juggle their rotations. This means new fantasy opportunities for players who would normally be marginal at best (think Chris Wilcox, or Jannero Pargo a couple of seasons back).
It also means bad teams that tend to have high draft choices will start to give starter's minutes to young players with high upside. That already has happened in Oklahoma City (Russell Westbrook) and Memphis (O.J. Mayo) and seems to be happening in Minnesota (Kevin Love). Other players to watch: Marreese Speights, Eric Gordon and D.J. Augustin.
• I will become a better husband and father by devoting less time to fantasy basketball.
No worries, I'm only writing this because "The Current Mrs. Cregan" just walked by. (Wow, so that's what a Diaper Genie looks like.)
• I will play in a keeper league next season.
With the immolation of my L.A.-based keeper league, this season marks the first time in forever I haven't been in a keeper league. I miss those times. It's probably impolitic to write this, but for my money the best game in fantasy is auction-based keeper basketball. But even in our ESPN-based world, there are keeper-league opportunities. If you've gotten to this point in this column, consider it for next season. They are far more rewarding, and tend to feature more serious players and better competition.
• I will never, ever use the term "burn" in a column.
This, again, is more of a personal note, but there seems to be something inherently off about someone writing about something akin to "Dungeons & Dragons" on the coolness scale using terms such as "burn" and "run" to discuss playing time. But maybe that's just me.
• I will not write an "All-Star" column.
Hey, we all enjoy a mental health day (especially given my family history), but I'm going to fight through the lackadaisical attitude that usually comes with All-Star Weekend. I mean, do you really need me to tell you Danny Granger is having a nice season? Of course you don't. I much prefer this "New Year's" gig.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
John Cregan passes along his fantasy hoops New Year's resolutions, which include both general and specific tips to learn from.