Week 21 Fantasy Basketball Preview: Building a Champion
I’ve played in the same keeper league for going on 18 years. In all that time, I’ve managed to win two titles and make it to the finals a third time (I lost that one on a boneheaded decision that I still regret to this day). One thing both of my winning teams had in common was that they lacked balance. I had one or two really good players and everybody else was mediocre. This may seem counterintuitive to real basketball, but I don’t really think it is. Consider some of the Bulls teams from the 1990’s, which included the single best team I’ve ever seen–the 96 Chicago Bulls. To my mind, that team, as well as all of those Bulls teams– had two great players, one good one, and a ton of role players. Despite the obvious allure of trying to fill out a balanced roster, fantasy champions are built in much the same way.
A quick check of the best team in my league this year (and unfortunately it’s not mine) reveals this trend continuing. The lineup consists of PG Stephen Curry, SG Khris Middleton, SF Kevin Durant, PF Pau Gasol, C Rudy Gobert. Obviously with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant on the team, you don’t need a whole lot more. It almost doesn’t matter who the three players are beyond Durant and Curry. As long as they’re serviceable, this team has a strong chance to win the title.
So how do you build a team like this? First, you’ve got to forget the idea that you must be strong at every position. It can be a difficult mindset to reverse. I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to achieve balance year after year. The bottom line, though, is that Fantasy Basketball is a numbers game. Two exceptional players and three serviceable ones will outperform five good ones every time.
Getting two elite players can be difficult. One is hard enough in a closed league, but two really takes some work and scouting. On my two winning teams, one of the elites was Tim Duncan. The other one was Kevin Garnett. I got Garnett through a savvy and well-timed trade. I drafted Duncan, taking on a chance on a rookie when most people in the league would have gone with a vet. To my mind, that’s the way to do it. Don’t play it safe in the draft. Take a risk, try to find the guy that could make or break your team. Then work the phones hard–attempting to find someone willing to give up an elite player for the illusion of team balance (believe me, those folks are out there).
Here’s wishing you good luck as we head toward the playoff push and the end of the year. Starts/ sits are below.
Week 21 Fantasy Basketball Preview
|Team||Number of Games||Schedule Favorability||Must Start||Consider Sitting|
|Favorable||Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Jeff Teague||Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore|
|Favorable||Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jared Sullinger||Evan Turner, Avery Bradley|
|Neutral||Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young||Jarrett Jack|
|Favorable||Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams||Al Jefferson|
|Favorable||Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler||Derrick Rose, Nikola Mirotic|
|Favorable||Lebron James, Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving||Mo Williams, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love|
|Neutral||Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki||Deron Williams|
|Favorable||Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay||Kenneth Faried, Will Barton|
|Favorable||Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris||Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson|
|Golden State||2 home|
|Highly Favorable||Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson||Andre Iguodala|
|Favorable||James Harden, Dwight Howard||Ty Lawson, Trevor Ariza|
|Favorable||Paul George||Monta Ellis, George Hill, Ian Mahinmi, Myles Turner|
|Los Angeles Clippers||0 home|
|Favorable||Deandre Jordan, Chris Paul||Blake Griffin|
|Los Angeles Lakers||2 home|
|Unfavorable||Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell||Roy Hibbert, Kobe Bryant|
|Favorable||Marc Gasol, Mike Conley||Zach Randolph|
|Neutral||Hassan Whitehead, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng||Goran Dragic, Chris Bosh|
|Neutral||Khris Middleton, Giannis Antekokounmpo, Jabari Parker||Michael Carter Williams, Greg Monroe|
|Poor||Karl-Anthony Towns||Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng|
|New Orleans||2 home|
|Favorable||Anthony Davis||Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson|
|New York||1 home|
|Neutral||Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis||Robin Lopez|
|Oklahoma City||1 home|
|Favorable||Russel Westbrook, Kevin Durant||Serge Ibaka|
|Favorable||Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic||Elfrid Payton|
|Neutral||Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel||Robert Covington|
|Unfavorable||Devin Booker, Alex Len||Tyson Chandler, TJ Warren, Brandon Knight|
|Neutral||Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum||Mason Plumlee|
|Favorable||Demarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay||Omri Casspi|
|San Antonio||3 home|
|Highly Favorable||Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge||Tony Parker, Tim Duncan|
|Highly Favorable||Kyle Lowery, DeMar DeRozan||Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo|
|Favorable||Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors||Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward|
|Favorable||John Wall, Otto Porter||Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris|
Gorgui Dieng, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Boy, I missed this one. Last week, I listed Dieng as a must sit. I saw his strong play in the weeks before as something that wouldn’t last, especially in the face of the Wolves tough schedule. A quick check of the boxscores show that I was wrong. Despite some lackluster scoring, Dieng has found other ways to make his presence known, mostly on the defensive end with blocks and steals. So, I’m going the other direction this week. Get him in. He’s earned it.
Luol Deng, SF, PF, Miami Heat
All of the Heat’s injury problems have allowed Deng to really step into the spotlight in Miami. Playing power forward seems to have helped too. Whatever the reason, Deng is performing at a high level, averaging 17 points and 9 boards over his last four.
Kevin Love, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers
— Kevin Love Top News (@KevinLoveTopNws) March 4, 2016
Love’s been fighting some injuries and it shows. Over the last five games, his numbers have been bad enough to rank him behind guys like Meyers Leonard, Cody Zeller, and JaMychal Green. He’s only scoring 13 points a game over that span, but perhaps more disturbing is that he’s only pulling down 7 rebounds a game, a far cry from the numbers he was putting up just a few years ago.
Greg Monroe, C, Milwaukee Bucks
Poor Greg Monroe. He’s got a lot of talent, but he’s been unable to find the right fit. First, Detroit sent him packing in favor of the more athletic Andre Drummond. And now he’s been relegated to a reserve role for the new and improved, uptempo Bucks. Until his situation changes again, I’d keep him on the bench.
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- Week 21 Fantasy Basketball Preview: Building a Champion - March 13, 2016