As I frantically tried to decide what the format of this weekly article would be, I ultimately decided that it should consist of the news you want to see, the opinions you want to read and the fantasy tips you can use. All of this is subject to change, but unless I get a significant response demanding a change of direction, I hope you find this entertaining and useful.
That said, without a doubt, one of the most discussed headlines this past week has been LeBron James' proclamation that the NBA is "watered down." And though he did not directly say the NBA should be cut down in size, he wasn't afraid to state: “You guys are not stupid, I’m not stupid, it would be great for the league."
Well geez, LeBron, while it's true that players as naturally gifted as yourself would be immediate starters on any given NBA team, not everyone is as fortunate. While most, if not all players these days were born with some God-given talent, most find themselves refining their skills in practice and coming off the bench. Others get their big breaks starting for some of the crummier teams in the league, just happy to get their opportunity for significant playing time.
To say that cutting down the size of the NBA would be "great for the league," is an ignorant oversight in the significant role these smaller teams have in developing talent throughout the league. The current size of the NBA allows for younger players to learn and hone their skills under the leadership of veteran players, while at the same time, giving them the opportunity to actually play. If the league were smaller, where would these opportunities be?
Also, how how would a coach realistically divvy up the minutes? A smaller league would mean more concentrated (talent-wise) rosters. More concentrated rosters means less playing time. What star player is willing to sit on the bench when key moments arise? A "watered down" league is what gives a player like LeBron James the ability to command the thirty-five or so minutes he likes to play.
Would contraction of the league be in the NBA's best interests?
Sure, perhaps more concentrated rosters would make for more interesting games for a while, but as the years go by and these athlete-divas get older, who will rise and take their place? At a certain point we would all be counting on more LeBron James' out there who could actually come fresh into the league and dominate. New players, as good as they might be, would probably never be given the opportunity to play in the deep rosters filled with superstars. As a result, as the old players retire, the quality of the league will take a dramatic hit.
Let's point out the real culprits here: Horrible team owners and the one-and-done kids coming out of their freshmen year in college, hoping to rely on their raw talent alone. Too many of these guys are coming out with little experience in higher-quality, meaningful games, and it shows when they step onto the court. Owners like Donald Sterling run their teams into the ground, refusing to pay what is necessary to bring veteran talent to their teams and without clear plans for the future.
Speaking of players that didn't spend much (or any) time in college, in other news, Kobe Bryant is finally taking on some of the blame for the Lakers' horrible three-game stretch in which they've only won one of their last twelve quarters. No, he isn't admitting he needs to be a better team player, or needs to take fewer shots; Kobe is simply disappointed the shots didn't go in.
Has Kobe forgotten who he's playing with? Pau Gasol thus far is having his best year as a Laker, and Lamar Odom hasn't played this beastly since 2007. And while Ron Artest is having career lows, much of this can be attributed to his reduced role (down six minutes form last year) as there has been a massive improvement on the bench.
I'm sure Kobe doesn't care about the stats, but the Lakers are still undefeated when he has scored twenty or fewer points. In fact, even when Kobe has "dominated" and score thirty or more, he has often found the most inefficient way to do it, at least percentage-wise. Having your leading scorer shooting 44 percent while taking twenty shots a game sure can hurt a team.
We hear all this talk from Kobe preaching the "team-aspect" of the game, but it's not a surprise that he hardly believes any of it. Sure, he'll recognize their effort on defense from time-to-time, or when someone hits a clutch shot, but when it comes down to a horrible loss rarely is he ever to blame. It's clear he believes that for the Lakers to be successful he has to dominate the game. Nevermind the fact that Kobe's presence is suffocating the rest of the team.
Looking at my fantasy team, I'm sitting comfortably in second place. Sure, it's not first place, but thirty-or-so games into the season you really need to be happy being anywhere in the top five. If you drafted well, you shouldn't be more than fifteen points away from the leader; if you are, you're either delusional about the quality of your team, had a series of unfortunate injuries, or the leader has a massive number of games played (GP) compared to the rest of the league.
If your situation is the latter, chances are the best thing you can do for your team is to sit back and let the leader run out. Too many rotisserie players have no clue what they are doing and sacrifice quality for quantity when it comes to games played. If you really are unsure where you sit in the league because of the GP discrepancy, make an Excel spreadsheet averaging out the stats of the teams in the league with their GP. That can easily give you an accurate picture of whether or not you'll see your name in the top three at the end of the season.
In terms of managing your own games played, you really have to consider players' matchups and health status. Don't be afraid to sit mid-round players if they set for a tough match-up, and don't be afraid to sit key guys if they have nagging injuries. One of the best moves I made this season was benching DWade for a few games after his injury in Charlotte and subsequent illness. Not only did it save my field-goal percentage, but it allowed me to shuffle my rotation and maintain a reasonable number of games played.
It's not horrible to be over in GP, however, as long as you have an idea of how you are going to cut games in the future. I know some owners who like to play as many games as they can, planning for injuries in the future. Personally, that's just not my strategy.
But quite possibly the worst thing you could do is to play as many guys as you can, hoping to hit on one of their fluky successful games. Not only will you waste a massive number of games in the process, but often the benefits will never live up to the cost. Mike Dunleavy's been sitting on my bench forever, and while he's put up some moderately successful games (and is averaging almost two treys a game), he isn't coming off of it until he does significantly more.
Lastly, if you find yourself in a tough spot where you need more of a single category but can't afford to waste the games, don't be afraid to trade. Think of trading as a way to upgrade existing positions, maintaining your pace of games played to become more successful in certain categories. Like mentioned in my previous article, earlier this season I traded Jason Kidd and Anderson Varejao for Zach Randolph, sacrificing the assists for more scoring and rebounding at the power forward position. Not only does this upgrade at power forward help me keep down my number of games played, but it also gives me flexibility with the extra roster spot available.
One of the guys I'm keeping my eye on lately has been JJ Redick. Over the past four games this guy's been averaging a little over three treys per game even in a limited role with Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas joining the team. While his role may continue to be sketchy in the weeks to come, the additional threats for the Orlando offense may clear up Redick to do what he does best.
And don't discount Marvin Williams, who as of late will also be coming off the bench. Here's a guy who can get you the occasional three, shoot 50 percent, and get you five or six rebounds a game. If you're looking to fill a starting spot or have a utility spot to play around with, make sure to check him out.
Finally, Jerryd Bayless is worth taking a look at, although an ankle injury may have once again relegated him to back to the waivers/free agency. In any case, Jose Calderon was the first to get injured, and with his history of injury problems, if Bayless can get back on the court he may once again be productive. However, if both miss time and you're lucky enough to be in the 58 percent of the leagues that still have Leandro Barbosa in their FA, he may be your man.
That wraps it up for now, if you guys have any questions, comments, or suggestions, leave them below or feel free to message me.
Until next week, I am Kevin, hear me roar.
For the previous week's article, please click here