Grand Theft Roto: Not all trades worked out
If you watch a lot of ESPN (as I know you do), you've probably seen those ads telling you that your life will get exponentially better if you could figure out a way to work out of your home.
What those ads don't mention is that when you get really, really sick, people won't leave you alone long enough for you to get better. Imagine getting strep throat, then being forced to convalesce in your office. You might get a couple hours of peace and quiet at first, but eventually, someone's going to ask you to take a call, go to a meeting or edit a documentary.
After four days of this, I was absolutely zero percent better. So I checked into a hotel. Now, from this undisclosed location, I am free to reflect on the GTR's gone bad. (I've also been free to watch ESPN Films' Black Magic. I'm not one to plug things, but if you missed it, find out when it will replay. Talk about a lot stuff I never knew about crammed into two evenings of television for instance, that George Steinbrenner can douse hopes and dreams in a multitude of different sports.)
No one bats one thousand, and when you write about fantasy sports, you have to accept that often your predictions are going to look rather foolhardy given the passage of time. It comes with the territory. To me, the key is having a willingness to own up to our mistakes, then try to move on in as classy a manner as possible. Kind of like Heather Mills.
Every now and then, you get stuck on acquiring a player to the point where it becomes slightly unseemly. That's where I was in regards to Kevin Garnett, circa Thanksgiving 2007. I didn't have him on a single one of my 11 squads and became borderline obsessed with acquiring him via trade. The fact that he was near untouchable made me obsess all the more.
Looking back, Garnett had one of the greatest Novembers in the history of fantasy basketball (20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and almost two blocks and two steals per game). Garnett's performance, coupled with the attendant Celtic hype (the reason I didn't draft him), pushed his trade value into the outer stratosphere. I just figured that for column-writing purposes, I had to have him on one of my teams.
So, at the absolute peak of his value (early December), I dealt Amare Stoudemire and David West to a center-hungry squad for KG. In retrospect, it's the worst deal I made all season. Garnett's been merely great ever since along with missing about 10 games due to injury, not to mention countless fourth quarters where he was rested during blowouts.
If you take a look at the Player Rater, the folly of the trade becomes all the more apparent. I essentially dealt a top-10 and a top-40 player for a top-25 player. I also gave up one of the most valuable bargaining chips you can have:; an elite center. All in all, I'd rather have dealt for Al Jefferson.
By any measure, Kirilenko has had a mild comeback season. The reason I'm listing here is because of a deal I didn't make. Like Garnett, Kirilenko absolutely stormed out of the gate. Through eight weeks, his numbers were more like that off a mildly ticked off point guard than a small forward (better than five assists, coupled with two blocks and two steals per game).
The problem is, I've always had one of those blinding roto-crushes on Kirilenko. Like someone stuck in a bad relationship, I would have done anything to make it seem like forever 2004 with me and my AK-47. I was too busy congratulating myself on my faith in Kirilenko (I was able to get him in a couple of sixth rounds), to lend an ear to trade offers. I was blind to the fact that at some point, Kirilenko had to -- was irrevocably fated to -- get injured. It was as if someone had shown me a flash-forward of Kirilenko around mid-February, and I changed the channel. Instead, I turned down a straight-up offer of Hedo Turkoglu for Kirilenko, and have regretted it ever since.
In reality, the days of wine and roses ended for Kirilenko the moment Carlos Boozer arrived in Utah. His struggles remind me a lot of the problems Antawn Jamison had earlier in his career, when he was trying to convert to small forward. Fantasy-wise, it'd have been really interesting to see what Kirilenko would have done at power forward for the Suns. Instead, we're getting to see how Shaq is doing there at center. Sigh.
I used to get teased about my propensity to draft Kirk Hinrich. It wouldn't matter if I already had three other point guards, I would take him in the fifth round without fail. It had to be done. Every year I would draft him, and then eventually appear mildly sage-like with Hinrich's solid across-the-board production. I've always liked Hinrich because he was safe, sensible a nice, solid, boring savings bond.
I was more than happy to take Hinrich off a couple of teams' hands in late December. I figured that after the yuletide coaching change, Hinrich and the Bulls would respond, and I would again look somewhat sage-like. Aside from one burst in January, Hinrich has been a bust.
It's probably just me, but I find it hard to blame Hinrich for his poor season. Or Luol Deng, for that matter. It seems like more of a managerial error than anything else. Like that team of mine that held on to Kirilenko, one wonders if these Bulls will end up being defined by the deals that never transpired (and by firing their coach on Christmas). Everything just seemed to be logically building towards something that just didn't happen. The Bulls still have a lot of tantalizing pieces, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they'll do this summer.
Anyone who combines blocks and 3-pointers while qualifying at center is going to earn my roto-devotion just ask Rasheed Wallace, whose honor I will defend at the drop of a technical.
I was extremely high on Bargnani coming out of this year's drafts. I had used three different mid-round picks on him. I spent a lot of pixels trumpeting his anticipated breakthrough season.
Then, when Bargnani was benched early on, I went for it and acquired him in two more leagues, giving me a total of five Bargnanis. As of this writing, I'm now down to two. His feast-or-famine nature just isn't good for my health. I've never seen a big man whose production was so chained to what does behind the arc. When his 3-pointers are falling, Bargnani's a beast. When they aren't, he hasn't figured out how be productive elsewhere.
I don't think the Darko Milicic comparisons are fair, but to this point he's been sort of an overgrown Kyle Korver. The potential is all there for Bargnani to eventually become an elite fantasy player. He just kind of needs to learn how to play center first.
Jefferson had been criminally underrated going into this season's drafts. Injuries or not, I was stunned to see him available in so many seventh and eighth rounds. He's normally the kind of I player I avoid, but I just couldn't resist. It was weird I had never experienced roto-pity before (OK, maybe one other time early on with Elden Campbell). It just didn't seem right, but since he slipped, I took him in.
My problem was, once I drafted him, I couldn't find a deal I thought worthy of his production. Why should so many who had scorned Jefferson early on suddenly get to reap the benefits?
In my world, Jefferson should be my ideal tradable player someone who scores a ton of points, is average to pretty good in most other areas and is injury prone. I was just so pleasantly shocked with his career year (and lack of injuries) that I rebuffed any trade requests that came my way.
Jefferson's had a career year, but I'm sitting here, looking back at old trade offers, and I'm kicking myself for doing some of these. The one in which I was offered Joe Johnson straight up hurts the most. Johnson's also had an aggravating year, but even at his worst, he'll give you across-the-board numbers that can hold together an entire fantasy lineup.
One thing you'll see with a lot of the players mentioned in this column is that their production suffered due to a poor team environment. In fantasy, we focus on individuals, but they're only as good (or bad) as their role on their respective teams. I could write seven columns on how Don Nelson has personally screwed up my free time since November. Other teams, like the Bulls, Knicks and Heat, can totally submarine a player's value.
With the historically high amount of in-season player movement this year, we've seen an all-time high in production fluctuation. The Devin Harrises and Drew Goodens prosper. The Dwayne Wades suddenly find themselves shelved. All of the trades made this year's fantasy trade market an entertaining challenge. I found a lot of owners were afraid to make deals because of trade rumors surrounding certain players.
For once, the reality put the fantasy to shame. Enjoy the playoffs, and look out for my Washington Wizards.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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