Welcome to The Book of Basketball (Diaries), a shameless attempt to spotlight (or steal) from the best in the business. Today, I recap the chatter before and during the opening night of the NBA’s opening night for 2013, complete with a Heat/Bulls match that shouldn’t have surprised any, as well as a love letter to Fantasy Basketball.
Chapter 1: My Rock n’ Roll Fantasy
I know you play Fantasy Football. If you’re Canadian, chances are you play Fantasy Hockey. Or, it’s more like you have a Fantasy Hockey team and periodically check it now that you’ve been out of contention since Night One when you drafted Claude Giroux over Steven Stamkos. (Oh, I was the only one?) Besides, you have Fantasy Football… why do you need anything else?
Well, you need Fantasy Basketball. It’s the greatest. There’s a reason you already bracket your life away every year during March Madness, so why haven’t you transferred your love for skinny 19 year olds (who, for some reason wear white t-shirts beneath their jerseys) to the National Basketball Association?
Fantasy Basketball is the greatest couch activity in the sporting world, and there are several reasons why:
1) It’s the most forgiving. There are so many players who can at least perform around the league, you don’t have to worry about embarrassing yourself if you don’t know every player’s middle name or what their team’s depth chart is. There aren’t as many Centers as there are Guards, but it’s not like football where, if you don’t grab a running back right away, you’re basically going to be invading the waiver wire every week and trying to convince yourself that Chris Ogbonnaya or Rod Streater is a viable option at the WR/RB/TE flex position.
Because the NBA has so many categories – and because you’re most likely playing in a 1-on-1 league, where you’ll set your lineups on Sunday and then just sit back and watch the simulation take place – you don’t have to sweat every bad game or every half-night. You don’t have to worry about Steve Nash only averaging just over 10 points a game, because his assists will make up for it. You don’t have to build around positions, just categories (or CATS, as my new homeboys say).
2) Newbies can be king. But, unlike March Madness – where you can lose to anyone with a modem and an index finger – the NBA’s fantasy settings still reward expertise. Or, at the very least, strategy. Example? I was lucky enough to get the number one pick in this year’s draft. I took LeBron James over Kevin Durant, which has a higher chance of being a mistake than it does a bonus. (Durant, right now, is a better statistical option that James and he scores more, too.) But, because both players are so deserving of one of the top two spots, and because they both split several categories almost down the middle (in my league, LeBron won five of nine categories and Durant took four), that pick isn’t going to make or break my draft. Instead, I have to pick other players who can make up for the categories Durant is better at – three-point shooting being the main one. So, Damian Lillard, Brandon Knight, and Jamal Crawford… grab a PFD and hop on my boat!
3) Playing time doesn’t matter and subs can save your season. (Basically, everything I’m saying in this chapter bleeds back to “It’s the most forgiving”.) Jamal Crawford doesn’t start and neither does Isiah Thomas, but they can both put up 20 points in less than half a game’s action. Actually, I’m hoping both of them stay at low minutes, because they perform better coming off the bench.
You know how you’re always scratching your head and sweating five minutes before that first NFL game on Sunday, trying to decide which running back John Fox and Peyton Manning are going to base their offense around? You know how you suddenly have to choose between Tom Brady and Jake Locker or Andy Dalton, because the Patriots suddenly have better wideouts in the crowd than they do on the field? You know how Seattle uses a receiving committee of Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, and (now) Percy Harvin in seemingly random pecking order every week?
That doesn’t matter in basketball. If someone’s worthy and healthy, they’ll get the ball. Basketball’s also an individual sport – stat-wise – so if they’re on a poor team… hey, they might even perform better.
How’s does that sound, Maurice Jones-Drew?
Chapter 2: Hot Hot Heat
We know you’d like to be creative with your preseason predictions, and we know there are points to be made for Indiana, Chicago, Oklahoma City, and (in my book) Golden State.
But the Miami Heat are still the Miami Heat and, unlike the Lakers in 2011, they don’t have to worry about an aging core crumbling in crunch time.
Yeah, they were basically reduced to a one-man show against the San Antonio Spurs in last year’s Finals, but what’s changed? They still have LeBron James. They still have Dwayne Wade. Maybe Chris Bosh isn’t the strongest angle in the Bermuda Triangle, but he’s still a piece nonetheless. He’s not a negative, even if he’s a zero on occasion. Ray Allen can shoot the three and Michael Beasley will contribute.
And, again… they have LeBron James.
You can name your challengers and, sure, they could definitely beat Miami next spring. But, if you’re going to actually tag a team as THE FAVOURITE to win it all in 2014, how could you seriously nominate any other squad?
So, while I appreciate Grantland’s effort to label the Chicago Bulls as this year’s No. 1… I appreciate it as an effort and nothing more.
Chapter 3: The Golden State Bait
I’ll admit it. Like, I’m completely in love with the Golden State Warriors, and I have been for a few years now. I guess it’s fair to trace my evolving adoration for them back to that topple of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in 2007, even though State was still wearing maybe the ugliest jerseys in NBA history. When they returned to their classic ‘The City’ blue and yellows, I was searching for Starter hats online. When they drafted Steph Curry – a guy who handed me my March Madness pool pot in 2008 when he throttled No. 2 Georgetown with No. 10 Davidson – it was like the seas had parted.
So, I’m in, guys. In 2011, you were the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2009, and I couldn’t be happier to tell you I’ve been by your side since your (new) inception – your return to relevance. Who knew you had such a rich history? (Who the hell is Rick Barry?)
Of course, my bandwagon’d backing of you comes with caution and I’m unable to view the blind spot. Falling in love always causes you to over-compensate your predictions. You’re constantly telling your friends, “You don’t see what I see” and “We just have this connection“. She dodges your calls and you think she’s just busy. You’re so into what you’re into, you can’t pull yourself back to take a bird’s eye view of the real situation, and the situation is that an aged San Antonio quickly shut up Steph Curry and Harrison Barnes in last year’s semifinal once they learned how to play them. Kids are still kids, and the playground’s for teenagers. Or, in San Antonio’s case, the lunch monitor.
It happened with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks last year, too. It was all too easy to fall in love with the kid as soon as he proved his doubters wrong, but it didn’t mean he was there yet. Losses were blamed on travel and whatever other conspiracy theories the always-slighted but inferiority complex-riddled Pacific Northwest sports base could think of.
But the Seahawks weren’t ready last year. They’re probably not ready this year, either. Neither is Golden State.
(But if you want to prove me wrong, I’ve got my phone on my dresser and I’m waiting for your text.)