Locked Out League - WTF? Edition

Ok, so in the last update I bragged about the fact that the Skywalkers were finally more or less healthy and ready to compete with the top teams.


Last night the Basketball Gods decided to mock me.

First, Andrei Kirilenko is one of my all-time favourite players. He's a renowned stat-stuffer, having on many occasions posted 5 or more in five categories; pts, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks - AND his number is 47 (making him the ultra-cool 'AK47'), AND to top it off his wife publicly declared that it was OK for Andrei to have sex with other women while on the road. So yeah, all in all, everything you want to be in a basketball player. Well after picking up Kirilenko off the waiver wire and having him perform at an above average rate for my bye week, I was chuffed to get AK47 into my active lineup against Bob. Cue the mysterious 'back spasms' and a no-show for his Wednesday game. Arrgh.

Then when checking out the Raptors vs. Memphis tilt I discovered that Andrea Bargnani (the Anti-Kirilenko - the only thing Bargs can do well is shoot, and inefficiently at that - which for an athletic and quick 7footer is about as bizarre as it gets, but I digress) has a 'sore ankle' and wouldn't be playing. Negative Awesome.

But the real kicker?

Boston vs. Brooklyn erupted into a mini-brawl when Kris Humphries put a hard foul on Kevin Garnett. Which should be awesome for me, because I have neither Humphries nor Garnett! Except that the '3rd man in' was my franchise player and assist machine Rajon Rondo, and the one player tabbed by the refs for ejection in Brooklyn was not Humphries, but Skywalker SF Gerald Wallace.

To top it all off, JR Smith (another waiver wire pickup, and the worst player I dressed this week), fould himself out of his game in like 18 minutes, but not before posting a Corey Milne like -1 stat line for the evening. Thanks JR. We won't be renewing your contract.

To review, two undiscovered injuries, two players ejected for a brawl that neither were direct participants in, and 5th player posting a negative score. Ladies and gentleman, your Lethbridge Skywalkers!

Please. Kill. Me.


Locked Out League Update

Hello my fellow B-Ballers!

If you've read the recent e-mails I sent out you'll know I solved the problems with out league schedule. Please confirm that your team is scheduled for 5 bye weeks over the 19 week season.

As a side note, making 7 teams fit into a 19 week schedule was 72 flavours of hell. But it's done, and we're all good now.

The Goodfellas, 3-0

Currently leading the league with a pristine 3-0 record. The GF's are built around a devastating set of big men; Duncan, Horford, Gasol, Aldridge and Bosh, and complimented by the supreme offensive abilities of Kevin Durant (did Darrell just beat everybody at the draft in a basketball pool?). He's getting very solid production out of a pair of Indiana guards; Hill and George, and is deep enough throughout the roster that there doesn't appear to be a real weakness.

For the record, I hate you Darrell. Not just dislike, but that wake-up-in-a-cold-sweat-screaming-hatred. Just thought you should know.

ThunderBay Murderball, 2-0

LeBron, LeBron and more LeBron. Healthy doses of Carmelo Anthony (who for some reason hit the Murderball bench), Kobe Bryant (who has been nothing short of off-the-hook to start the year) and the mysteriously effective play of Anderson Vareajao (whose scoring averages are still coasting on his record huge first week game). The other unexpectedly strong contributor is Phoenix PG Goran Dragic. The team recently added one of the league's best rebounder/scorers in Zach Randolph to their bench, and outside a few weak spots (Matin Gortat I'm looking at you), have a very strong team.

Fun note about Zach 'Z-Bo' Randolph. He's a 6'9" PF in Memphis, and is widely regarded as one of the least athletic players in the NBA, and despite this he remains a very effective post player. The joke being that he can't jump over a piece of paper. Never has a player been so slow, and so rooted to the floor yet also been so effective as big Z-Bo. If you get a chance to watch a Memphis game, check out how Z-Bo handles himself without possessing a lick of jumping ability.

The Calgary Ball-Bearings, 2-0

The third undefeated team in the LOL, the BB's are built around a pair of PG's who have been very good so far. Deron Williams was picked ahead of LeBron in the draft, and so far, hasn't lived up to that lofty standard - but he has been very good and shows signs that he could be even better once the Brooklyn Nets get on a roll. The other PG who has been working hard is Jrue Holiday - and his stats at the moment are even better than Deron Williams. The BB's front court of bigs; Howard, Noah and Jefferson has been doing some heavy lifting as well (though Noah should really be moved off the bench to be more effective). Third strong PG Ray Felton has been good enough so far that he is proving more productive than some higher drafted players on the roster.

The Chumfeeders:, 1-1

Some strange coaching decisions from the Great White's subsidiary, namely that they haven't made any. The 'non displaced fracture of his tibia' Steve Nash continues to dress, as does the on-again-off-again injured Brazillian behemoth Nene (fun fact, his name is 'Nene Hilario', but he has dropped the 'Hilario' and goes with just 'Nene' - which means 'baby'. Which is IMO simply hilario!)

Having defeated the Skywalkers the Chumfeeders dropped their next game and went into a bye week,  but Week 4 has them getting pounded with the league's lowest total so far. A trade (they need one or more bigs for one or more their 7 point guards), and/or a waiver pick up (Brooks Lopez would be a nice fit), along with some actual coaching decisions will address the issues they face.

The Flatlanders, 1-2

Chris Paul has been good, but not yet transcendental for them, and while Paul Pierce has been above average, few others on the team have been. One of the big surprises has been the contributions of rookies Anthony Davis and Damian Lilliard. Davis has filled in admirably at centre, while Lilliard has been nothing short of lights out for the team at PG. The two of them should finish 1-2 in the rookie of the year race, and could form the foundation of the team in years to come. The biggest concern is that their dominant center Andrew Bynum has yet to play a game, and is already hurt badly enough that he may not return till some time in the new year. Finding a gem or two off the waiver wire, or making a big trade are probably key elements for the Flaties to survive until the playoffs.

The Crapshooters, 0-3

James Harden has been nothing short of a revelation for the team, and is currently their best player by miles. The bearded one has been a dominant force at shooting guard and should make his first team All-Star appearance this year. Dwayne Wade has also been good, but not as good as their offensively gifted power center Greg Monroe. Marc Gasol is also playing well at pivot (giving the team good flexibility to make a trade), and the teams biggest surprise (other than Harden blossoming into an offensive terror) is the play of Kemba Walker at shooting guard, and Grevis Vasquez at point guard. Both guys are playing way above expectations (in particular Vasquez has been nearly elite). The team has a number of average or below average producers (Aaron Alfalo I'm looking at you), that they have to figure out a way to bench or get rid of, but the upshot is that the team is much better than their record indicates. Look for an upswing, especially if Wade kicks his game into overdrive, and Harden stays at the same elite level he has started off at.

The SkyWalkers, 0-3

There is no mystery as to why this team has struggled so much out of the gate. Here is a list of the injured players the SkyWalkers have suffered with through the first three weeks;


Which, is to be blunt, too many injuries to field a healthy squad each week. Hence the relentless pounding that the SW's have suffered through. That said, Nowitzki is now gone and replaced by SW favourite Andrei Kirilenko, and Ginobli was waived to bring on Raptors back-up PG Jose Calderon, and Love, Rondo, Walker and Lowry are back healthy. The result? The team is scoring at a comparable rate to the league leaders - albeit during a bye week when it doesn't count. With a more or less healthy squad, the SkyWalkers hope to turn the season around.


LOL News and Notes

Here is my first update on what I intend to be an ongoing FUNHL style set of notes regarding the NBA pool;

Brian and Doug both expressed some desire to have a better sense of how everybody's roster 'really' looks for fantasy purposes. I put together the review (the post below), but there is (as expected) more detail that could be conveyed. While I may be our league's 'expert', I am not actually an expert - I just play one on Tv - so take any and all comments with a large grain of salt.

As of right now, I'd suggest the following players are the 'FP's for each team (and remember, we each get 3 keepers for next year), and I list them in order of strongest to weakest;

Calgary Chumfeeders: Westbrook-PG Okc, Irving-PG Clev, Curry-SG/PG GS

Edmonton Flatlanders: Paul-PG Lac, Bynum-C Pha, Davis-PF/C Nor

Calgary Crapshooters: Wade-SG Mia, Harden-SG Hou, Smith-PF Atl

Thunderbay Murderball: James-SF Mia, Anthony-SF NY, Ellis-PG/SG Mil

Calgary Goodfellas: Durant-SF Okc, Gasol-PF/C Lak, Ibaka-C/PF Okc

Calgary Ball-Bearings: Williams-PG Bkn, Howard-C Lak, Milsap-PF Uta

Lethbridge Skywalkers: Love-PF/C Min, Rondo-PG Bos, Rose-PG Chi

Remember too that the way franchise players work in the LOL is different than in the FUNHL. At the end of every year you simply get to pick three guys to keep for next season from your roster, so you aren't necessarily taking a guy you will 'build' your team around in the future, you can simply protect the three best guys you have. That said, some players (Durant, James, etc.), are simply so awesome you can be fairly certain they will never appear in the draft again unless badly hurt (ala Derrick Rose). Age and long term plannning therefore play less of a role than it would in the FUNHL.

Another question I recieved was about 'strategies' for setting up your roster.

Let's consider for a moment Dan's team which is constructed in an unusual way, in that he has 7 players who can play point guard (Westbrook, Curry, Irving, Nash, Jennings, Parker and Teague). Of those 7, only Stephen Curry has eligibility at another position (SG), so you'd think at first glance that Dan should be in some trouble fielding an active roster. However, because of how the league works, you MUST dress at least one player eligible at PG, but you also have three other slots (G, and 3 UTIL slots) where Dan can dress PGs - so at any given time he could be playing 5 players as PG, and Stephen Curry (who has dual status) at SG. Where Dan is going to run into problems (IMO) is that he only has 4 Big men (Garnett-PF/C, Ilyasova-SF/PF, Nene-C/PF, and Brand-PF) to cover the PF and C slots, and of those four guys, he is currently using Ilyasova at SF (though he could put Luol Deng-SF there instead of at 'F'). As I mentioned in the draft review, my gut instinct is that the lopsided nature of his roster will present problems for him - mostly because the big men he drafted are also high injury risk players, but also because as big men go none of them are really elite, and he MUST play at least one C and one PF at all times (he can play a SF at in his 'F' slot).

One other note on the Chumfeeders is that one key to fielding a competitive roster is that he has a couple of players that qualify at multiple positions; Ilyasova can be a SF or PF, and Curry gets duo status as PG and SG. This gives him enough flexibility to move guys around so he can consistently play his best guys. A player like Tyreke Evans (on Bob's team) who has status at PG/SG/SF creates even more flexibility.

Perhaps a better example of a team with roster strategy issues is my own Skywalker team. I noticed that a number of injured players were lower in the autodraft rankings than I would have had them because they were expected to miss time. Knowing I had three bench slots, I moved several of these players up in my rankings thinking I might land some value from them by simply waiting for them to get healthy while playing other players who would move to the bench once my injured guys got back. Unfortunately I ended up drafting ALL of these guys (Love, Nowitzki, Ginobli, Wall, Rubio) and as a result I had more injured guys than my bench could hold, and I was forced to dress two injured guys (Ginobli and Nowitzki), effectively giving Dan a two player advantage in week 1 vs my team. Since nobody is going to trade me a healthy productive player for a long term injury guy like Wall, or even a shorter term injured player like Nowitzki, and because I couldn't part with Love outside of a gun being put to my head, my only solution was to use the waiver wire to refill my roster. Despite the fact that Wall is likely going to be an average or well above average PG when he returns, and even though I have mad love for Ricky Rubio, I had to let both go. In their place I selected Toronto's back up PG Calderon, and the massively injured (6 months at least) Derrick Rose. Calderon will dress next week so at least I will get some points from him, and Rose will take a seat on the bench next to my other injured guys with the hope he heals faster than expected. I still have a massive problem with injuries, but Ginobli is only DTD, so I should be able to dress a full roster for week 2. My 'strategy' (such as it is) is to ride out the early part of the season praying to the NBA gods I don't lose anymore players, while simultaneously praying that my injured guys heal fast.

The fact is that there is no 'best' way to handle one's roster. Dan's team is stocked with PG's and that may or may not create issues for him. I'm gambling on the return of injured players giving me a boost as the season wears on, teams like the Ball-Bearings and Goodfellas are loaded with quality big men, and Bob's team is top heavy with elite talent (James, Anthony), but patchwork everywhere else.

Here are some ESPN features you should probably explore how to use;

- The waiver wire; all undrafted/waived players go onto the waiver wire. To make an adjustment to your roster, go to: 'My Team', and then 'Add Player'. You will be given the list of available players likely sorted by current fantasy stats (though not by our specific criteria). I believe injured players have an asterisk, so make sure you check their status before adding them to your team. Once you have selected a player to Add, you will be taken to your roster page where it will ask you which player you are going to drop to make room for the new player, and after selecting the player to be dropped you will be asked to confirm the exchange. However, this exchange is still not necessarily happening! The waiver wire does not run on 'first come first serve' but gives preference (I believe) to teams lower in the standings. So two or more teams may be making a claim for a particular player, and you should be aware that your bid for their services may not necessarily be accepted. Further, it makes you wait a few days before resolving the claim - I made my claim on Calderon prior to week one starting, but I didn't get confirmation he would be on my roster till after the week started.

- My favourite feature is the 'Scoreboard'. Just click the 'Scoreboard' tab and you will get a list of who is playing who in a given week (our 'Games' last a week just like in the FUNHL when calculating the Challenge Cup), if the NBA games have already started for the evening click on 'Full Box Score', you will get a roster list for both your team and the team you are playing against, as well as notations for which of your players are actively in games. The cool part is this; it updates your fantasy score LIVE. This is pure pool crack. The other night I watched the Raptors game on TV and after every bucket, steal, rebound, or score by Bargnani and Lowry I watched my fantasy score for them update only a second or two later.

Here are some of the top performers/stories of the week:

- James Harden was traded days before our autodraft from Oklahoma City (a powerhouse of a team) to the Houston Rockets (an average team). In OKC he was the 6th man, the first guy off the bench who got to play against the oppositions 2nd stringers, and presumably outscore them. At this job he was fantastic, and he was the league's 6th man of the year. The trade however makes him the Rockets undisputed best player - and in his first game as a Rocket he delivered for them in spades by putting up the following stat line: 37pts, 12 assists, 6 rebs, 4 steals and 1 blk, for a total of 66 fantasy points. Before we go handing Harden the MVP trophy we should keep in mind that it was against a relatively inferior team that he put up this monster stat line - but still. I'd say its safe to say Harden likes being the #1 option in Houston just fine thank you.

- Anderson Varejao. I had mentioned this briefly in the review post, but the big Brazillian had an absolutely monster evening against the Washington Wizards. His fantasy line; 9pts, 23 rebs, 9 assists (and some fouls) for a total of 47 points. This is not the kind of stat line one should expect him from every night (or ever again), and it shows how small sample sizes can skew league scoring.

- Steve Nash. The Lakers were supposed to be a finely tuned offensive machine under the direction of Nash, but it has been anything but the case. Nash has been frankly terrible so far. Why? The coach of the Lakers has instituted the 'Princeton Offense'. Which is mind blowing frankly. The Princeton offense was designed by a coach in....you guessed it, Princeton, to account for the fact that his Ivy League team had few big men, and wasn't able to recruit the best athletes. It relies heavily on perimeter ball movement and three point shots. I can't think of a worse offensive system for the talent laden Lakers to use. The Lakers have two AMAZING big men in Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, a great defensive forward in Meta World Peace and two Hall of Fame caliber guards (albeit aging) in Nash and Bryant. The very last thing they should be doing is the Princeton offense. Nash's strength is a fast paced, high octane offense that runs on a speedy transition game after turnovers, and in a half court offense (the offense you use when the defense is 'set') built around pick and rolls. In a pick and roll the big man, for the Lakers this would be either Gasol or Howard, sets a pick for Nash so Nash can get a lane into the paint. The big man then 'rolls' off the pick he just set towards the basket himself giving Nash the options of; taking it right to the rim himself for a layup, dishing off to the rolling big man on the way to the rim, stopping suddenly mid drive to rise up for a shot (making it a pick and 'pop'), or dishing to one of the other players on the floor who are now open because coverage has to collapse on Nash. Howard and Gasol are phenomenally skilled big men. Howard in particular is built like a tank and with his absurd leaping ability can bull his way to the rim for easy dunks, while Gasol has the length and skill to finish himself, or pass it out to make another play. The pick and roll should be the Laker's bread and butter play almost every time down the floor. However, the Princeton offense does not use the Pick and Roll or Pick and Pop. Hence, Nash's numbers are ridiculously low, and Laker fans everywhere are screaming for the coach to be fired immediately - which he should be.

- Pity the poor Ball-Bearings. Their team is currently the highest scoring in our league - but they have a 'bye' week this week and as such all that offense is being wasted.

My goal is to make this league as exciting as possible, and to turn everyone into Basketball junkies (a tall order, I know), so as always, feel free to send me your questions and comments.