Ever play Final Fantasy? The once wildly-popular turn-based RPG games? I haven't, for years... because I no longer have the kind of life that would allow for the inevitable, "oh, crap... the sun is coming up" gaming sessions.
I had one major complaint about the series. Each title would start you out with a group of characters. And you'd have to grind your way through a series of adventures, building up that core group, finding equipment, adding skills, so you'd be ready to take on anything. And then you'd reach a certain point in the game, and some new character with a unique ability would appear... an ability uniquely suited to defeating that upcoming boss. It seemed a bit like betrayal... replacing one of those core characters with some guy you just happen to find on the way to the battle. Of course, I may have had an unhealthy sense of loyalty to a series of 1s and 0s.
On some levels, I feel the same way about the fantasy playoffs. You go through an entire season with a core group... either players you drafted, acquired in a trade, or picked up as free agents. You've got an excellent seed in the playoffs. But due to injuries, changes in roles, extra rest for veterans and, on occasion, out-and-out tanking, fantasy values in April bear very little resemblance to January and February's cheat sheets.
This is no time for loyalty. This is the playoffs. And at this time of year there's very little difference between "day to day" and "out for the season." Use the wire aggressively and make sure your lineups are packed with players who are healthy and productive. Like, say, this week's picks...
Picks for the Week:
The first set of picks is for players in standard leagues - guys who may be available in your average 10 team/15 player roster league. The second group is for owners in very deep leagues, and will be based more on speculation than actual numbers.
I'll give percent owned stats for both Yahoo! and ESPN/NBA.com leagues with each pick - first number is Yahoo, ESPN/NBA is second. If you play some other league/format, let me know in the comments and I'll do what I can to accommodate.
Iman Shumpert (48%/55.6%): With Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin out of the mix, Shumpert is taking on a larger role in the Knick offense. The rookie has posted back-to-back 25-point games going into tonight.
Nate Robinson (26%/30.1%): Seems to be over the hamstring problem, and with Charles Jenkins battling a knee injury, Robinson could return to the Warriors' starting lineup.
Richard Hamilton (17%/15.3%): Finally returned to the Bulls' lineup last night. Should become a more important contributor as he gets healthy.
Kevin Seraphin (14%/20.1%): Putting up good numbers in place of Nene (plantar fasciitis). As most fantasy players know, plantar fasciitis isn't something that goes away quickly - Seraphin should be a good play for the rest of this season.
Byron Mullens (19%/9.3%): Moved into the starting lineup in place of Tyrus Thomas. Mullens can shoot a little, and could give you points and threes if he hangs on to the job.
Terrence Williams (7%/1.2%): Getting extended run with the first team while both John Salmons and Marcus Thornton deal with nagging injuries.
Delonte West (7%/2.8%): Got the start in place of Jason Kidd last night. That could happen more often, as Rick Carlisle rests his key guys to get ready for the playoffs.
Jan Vesely (2%/0.3%): Has scored in double figures in his last two games - both starts. He'll have value as long as Trevor Booker is out... and possibly beyond, as the Wizards give the sixth overall pick in last spring's draft an extended look.
Brad Miller (1%/0%): Should have a bigger role down the stretch as Nikola Pekovic deals with bone spurs in his ankle.
Shaun Livingston (1%/0.1%): Beno Udrih (hand) is hurting, which moves Livingston up the Bucks' depth chart a bit.
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