NBA Fantasy Filler No. 3: Cleveland's Crisis, Clippers' Curse, and Trends

Kevin LeongContributor IIJanuary 5, 2011

Dan Gilbert's more guilty for the Cavs failures than he lets on
Dan Gilbert's more guilty for the Cavs failures than he lets onGregory Shamus/Getty Images

LeBron James was the scapegoat.

His departure was made out to be the reason the Cavaliers would be a mediocre team this year, the reason their playoff hopes would be dashed, the reason there would be no championship brought to Cleveland in the near future.

And then things turned out to be even worse than even I imagined.

Sitting at 8-26 and having lost seven straight games, the Cavs this year aren't just bad, they're one of the worst teams in the league. Only the Sacramento Kings has won fewer games, and even then, Cleveland has more games lost. They look lost on offense, lacking a leader to pick up LeBron's mantle. Antawn Jamison, an NBA veteran, just recently showed up in the box scores, retaking his starting position from JJ Hickson.

Ultimately, Cleveland's simply awful season begs the question, "Why are they so bad this year?"

Dan Gilbert would have us to believe that this is simply the consequence of LeBron's treachery, that this is further evidence of his betrayal of Cleveland. Sure they lost they're best player, one of the best players in the league. But one would imagine if they truly were a championship team with LeBron James, even after his departure they would be at least watchable; unfortunately, they are not.

I guess for me, the biggest surprise from the Cavs' horrible season has been the fact that this is the team surrounded LeBron James. When you think about it, maybe LeBron really did have a legitimate complaint, wanting to leave Cleveland. This team has proven to be much more horrible than we thought; believe it or not, he actually made them look better than they are.

Maybe LeBron James really knew what the rest of us didn't, what was hidden when the arena doors were closed to the public eye. Maybe he was right to call out his teammates: maybe his complaints were the frustrations of a trapped superstar, and not simply the whining of a spoiled prima donna.

In the end, what LeBron James' departure truly showed us is just how poor the ownership and management of the Cleveland Cavaliers really is. Sure, they traded for Mo Williams, but he has been wildly inconsistent and injury prone since his first year on the team. They traded for an aging Shaquille O'Neal who was unable to fulfill his promises to deliver. You can't really blame him, he did what his old body could do. And they made a move for Antawn Jamison, who, until recently, was keeping the bench warm for when JJ Hickson came off the court.

Unable to surround his star player with substantial talent, Dan Gilbert trashed him when he decided to leave. Angered, frustrated, disappointed that his star couldn't compensate for his complete lack of managerial IQ, Gilbert stomped his feet and pouted in his corner. And in typical Dan Gilbert fashion, he fired Mike Brown and passed the mess onto Byron Scott, inevitably to take the the blame for this season's failures.

The Clippers, as well, knows this feeling, cursed by a witch doctor named Don Sterling, who holds the needle and pulls all the strings. Consistently sitting in last place, the Clippers have been miserable no matter how many opportunities have been thrown their way. From their first round pick of Michael Olowokandi, to their signing of an often injured Baron Davis, little has gone right for Clippers fans.

And while they managed not to screw up their first overall pick by taking Blake Griffin, the remnants of their previous mistakes linger throughout the season. Baron Davis continues to find it difficult to stay on the court, and difficult to be consistent when he does. They lack a strong veteran presence due to the constant turnover of players in the past. And just like the Cavs, they turn to a new head coach to pick up the pieces.

Of course, unforeseen injuries hinder a teams' progress, and the Clippers are no strangers to this misfortune. Blake Griffin's freak injury last year delayed his Clippers debut a whole year, and Chris Kaman, like Baron Davis, can't manage to play a full season. But this is true of any team; no team is immune from the threat of the injury bug.

However, what successful teams manage to do is invest in quality players who can fill those temporary holes and keep the team afloat in these difficult times. Don Sterling's inability to fill these gaping holes in times of need, and his total lack of preparation as a whole (no pun intended), has left the organization sinking.

Dan Gilbert and Don Sterling need to do their teams a favor: sell them. Organizations as poorly run as these are sinkholes, no matter how much potential there is in the market. Fans don't want to see their teams lose, and fans are what make these teams money. Selling the team would revitalize the organizations as a whole, bringing in new blood, and with new blood, new ideas. It would be better for the players, the coaches, the fans, and the league as a whole.


In today's fantasy segment, I wanted to focus on "Analyzing the Trends;" in other words, how to more accurately identify, and even predict, players' success based on their recent performances.

In the past, I too often found myself picking up the "hot" player over other possible guys, only to find myself with yet another dud, while the guy I passed on was a total stud. I would ask myself: "Why am I always too late to catch the hot streaks?" and then reach for the next potential sleeper.

However, the more I played fantasy sports in general, the more I was able to develop a stronger sense of the game. Eventually, I was able to make better decisions, picking up players that were able to positively impact my team, rather than waste away games.

I think there's several important questions you need to ask yourself when you're looking up players stats. The first question to ask is, "Why is Player X doing abnormally well?" Rather than assume it is because Player X has suddenly drank from the fountain of youth, it is more constructive to actually analyze the circumstances behind his success.

Maybe it's because he's coming off injury. Maybe he wasn't the one that was injured, and he's finally gotten the opportunity to show what he can do when he plays a substantial number of minutes. And if you're lucky, maybe he's finally gotten out of that slump he's been in since the beginning of his career. All right, scratch that last one.

Whatever the case may be, it is important to think about what is making him so successful, and to ask yourself, "How long can this success really last?" It is far too easy to pick up a streaking player at the end of his run because we do not understand the reasons behind his play. While guys that fill in for an injured player may be good when they get a full game to get hot, most cannot perform when their chances are limited. Fluky players are just that: they're fluky. They're players that suddenly find themselves hitting shots they normally cannot make it to the point where they feel like they are in fact better than they are. And they're players that we Roto owners must avoid.

Another question you should ask yourself is, "Why do I want this guy? Is it simply because this guy is getting a lot of points/rebounds/assists/etc.?" Single category guys are so appealing because they deceptively look so dominating. And while this may spell success in head-to-head leagues, in rotisserie leagues, in which "Games Played" is such a significant factor, these kinds of players often do more harm than good.

Single category players almost always come with some sort of downside. Non-role players that score are often inconsistent in their shooting. Guys that get you rebounds often don't do anything else. Guys that dish out assists often fork over turnovers.

While these consequences may not seem too bad, the real travesty is in the games they eat up for how little you get in return. As stated in last week's article, often trading for more quality players by sacrificing one of your better guys would be more worth your while.

Or maybe you want Player X because you know other people will want him, and that's not a bad thing! In fact, it's a very good thing if you have the bench space available. Very few things make me more happy than knowing I denied a valuable mid-season sleeper for another team. Denying other teams significant pick-ups is one of the many, positive outcomes of asking yourself: "Why do I want this guy?"

The last question you need to ask yourself is, "What is next?" Even before you pick a player up, "What is next?" is a question that helps set up your future successes. In chess, it isn't the player that makes the "best" decision here and now that wins the match, but the player that is able to think ten moves ahead.

Similarly, understanding the "What is next?" of your potentially short-term decisions allow you to plan ahead for when players die out, or when other needs become apparent. Establishing long-term goals like "After this guy comes back down to earth, I'm gonna grab Player Y" or "Next I need to focus on finding guys that fill categories A and B," help you make moves flawlessly as you progress throughout the season. Ultimately, the manager who is prepared and quick on his feet is the one who nabs the top spot on the leaderboards.

Once again, that wraps it up for this week's NBA Fantasy Filler. For those of you who have read either of my first two Fillers, you will noticed I removed the "The" from the title. Hopefully this gets me more hits/reads. Regardless, I'm not simply writing this to gain notoriety for myself by making fancy or controversial titles, but by offering thought provoking opinion pieces and (hopefully) helpful fantasy advice.

Until next week, I am Kevin, catch ya on the flipside.


For the previous week's article, please click here