Game Changer: Daily Fantasy Leagues
Every so often, something comes along that changes everything. My first year of grad school, I was in the library waiting for a friend of mine when I decided to take a flyer and play this “fantasy basketball" that I'd been hearing about for awhile. I signed up for a general manager basketball league, and things were never the same.
About 10 years ago, I was getting ready for a fantasy football draft and listening to sports radio, and I happened to hear this guy named Jeff Erickson on there representing a fantasy sports site called RotoWire. When I signed up, I got an e-mail from someone that worked there named Mike, I told him I was really into fantasy sports, and he offered me the chance to do some writing for the site…and things were never the same.
Fast-forward to two weeks ago. I'd been hearing about daily fantasy leagues for awhile, and I knew it was pretty popular. But I would always be in a bunch of regular leagues, so I never really tried out this new thing. Then, two things happened the same day. I was again listening to sports radio, and a daily fantasy league was offering a free entry into one of their games with the entry of a radio code. Then, when I got home, I checked out RotoWire and saw this excellent article from Michael Rathburn about how to win on FanDuel…the very site I'd just heard the advertisement for. So, I took a minute, signed up for the free league, and started playing…and things will never be the same.
And the change was immediate. A couple of days after I started playing, I tweeted:
A day later:
And by the end of the week:
The thing that I love about daily fantasy hoops is that every time I play, every game is a huge deal. I'm a basketball guy, but I love fantasy football as well. And one of the best things about fantasy football is that all of the games are so concentrated that game-day is like a sports overload. Well, daily play fantasy basketball is just like that…there might be 10 or 12 games going on a given night, and now all of them could mean the difference between a win and a loss.
Plus, as I said in that second Tweet above, playing in daily fantasy leagues keeps you ultra plugged in as to who is hot, who is playing injured, who is replacing that injured player, and who is fading at any given instant. All of the things that I have to keep track of in order to write this article, I get in spades just to keep my daily fantasy teams competitive.
Then, there's the immediate gratification aspect of it. I've always loved the season-long leagues, building something over time and watching it develop. But there's also something to be said for building a team in the morning, being excited because you think you've built a contender, and then getting to watch it play out that night. If you're right and you win, trust me when I say it feels amazing. And if you're wrong and your team isn't as good as you thought, the disappointment is fleeting because you can always start it again the next day.
Anyway, daily leagues are a Game Changer for me. I'm already having to negotiate more with my wife so I can squeeze in even more game-watching time. It's easier than it's been in a long time to write this article, because everything is so fresh. And this is already one of the more fun basketball seasons I've had in recent years, because every night is another championship.
Around the League
Paul's shoulder: Chris Paul
is out for “at least 3–5 weeks" with a separated shoulder, and pending the results of further tests, it's possible that he could miss longer. The injury happened on an awkwardly set pick, and as Paul tried to get around it, his arm got caught and pulled out. Paul has arguably been the fantasy MVP through the first half of the season, so obviously, this is a major event. In the short term Darren Collison
's value goes way up (see New Additions).
Durant is going nuts:
Last week, we talked about Russell Westbrook
's injury and the effect it could have on the Thunder. In the intervening week, it's had the effect of sending Kevin Durant
into the stratosphere. Durant is averaging 35.5 points, 9.5 rebounds. 4.8 assists, 3.3 treys, 1.0 steal, and 1.0 block and shooting 53.4% from the field (on 22 FGA) and 89.7% from the line (on 9.8 attempts) over the last week. Durant owners should enjoy it for the next month, as that is essentially rotisserie perfection…you can't get better than that.
Irving's knee: Kyrie Irving
went down last week with a knee injury that he worried was more serious, saying that he felt a pop when it happened. The resulting MRI gave much better news, as he was diagnosed with only a bruised left knee. However, it has kept him out of the last three games, and his return date hasn't been set. Owners in weekly transaction leagues should be very cautious about starting him next week, as his return isn't assured to be timely.
Bledsoe's knee: Eric Bledsoe
sprained his knee last Monday and has sat out all week. He is expected to miss at least another week. In his absence, his co-lead guard Goran Dragic
has stepped up to average 24.0 points, 6.5 assists, and 2.5 steals. His absence also opens up time for Gerald Green
, who has stepped into the starting lineup and is hitting treys from every angle (see New Additions, below).
Gasol for Bynum?:
The NBA trade rumor mill has been heating up of late. One rumor involving marquis players would have had Carmelo Anthony
going to the Clippers in exchange for Blake Griffin
. But since Clippers coach Doc Rivers characterized that rumor as “stupid", which is stronger than usual denials, we'll leave that rumor alone. The other interesting one that has been getting more run would send Pau Gasol
from LA to Cleveland, in exchange for Andrew Bynum
. This would be interesting because Bynum isn't even playing at the moment, having been suspended by the Cavs for conduct detrimental to the team. But Bynum experienced his best results in LA, so a return there could potentially jump start him. Meanwhile, Gasol's value probably wouldn't change much in Cleveland. This is just a rumor, but if you think it has legs it might be worth taking a flyer on Bynum on the cheap.
Miles Plumlee (53% owned in Yahoo! leagues):
Plumlee has established himself as the man in the middle in Phoenix, averaging 11.8 points, 11.3 boards and 1.8 blocks in a bit over 26 minutes per game for the last two weeks. He is also dual center/power-forward eligible, giving him position flexibility in Yahoo leagues. His one downside is his free throw shooting, as he is only shooting 47% from the line over this stretch, but he only shoots three free throws per game so it isn't a big negative.
Terrence Jones (45% owned):
Chris Liss asked me about Jones on the RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today show a week ago, asking whether I thought he was a legitimate breakout candidate. Well, he's averaged 12.6 points, 8.6 boards and 1.9 blocks over the last two weeks to solidify the starting power forward role in Houston. Plus, he is still only 21 years old (his 22nd birthday is later this week) so his upside is legitimate.
Darren Collison (39% owned):
Collison is an obvious add with Paul on the shelf for the next month. He has starting experience and is now running the Clippers offense. Including the game that Paul got injured, Collison has averaged 17.0 points, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 2.5 treys over his two games as a starter.
Gerald Green (32% owned):
Green is a 3-point shooter with the full green light in Phoenix. He has made 30 3-pointers in his last eight games, and over that stretch, he has five games of at least 19 points scored (but unfortunately he was in single digits in the other three games). Green is streaky, so he won't blow up every game, but he is getting extra minutes in the short term while Eric Bledsoe
is nursing his knee injury.
Kendall Marshall (32% owned):
Marshall got the start at point guard on Friday with the entire Lakers' backcourt injured, and he took advantage of a great matchup against the porous Jazz defense to score 20 points with 15 assists, six boards and two treys while leading the team to victory. He is worth a short-term add for as long as Steve Blake
, Jordan Farmar
, and Steve Nash
are out. And those aren't exactly high-upside point guards that he's replacing, so if he plays well, he could conceivably play himself into a larger role even if/when the others return.
Iman Shumpert (23% owned):
Shumpert has been a favorite of mine on FanDuel because he's a budget-priced player that usually produces solid (if meager) point totals. He usually makes his points with solid rebounds and steals as a defensive swing role player. However, in his last two games, he has exploded for 53 points with 12 made treys. This isn't sustainable production, but the fact that he has this potential on top of his usual solid role player stats makes him worth consideration.
James Johnson (18% owned):
Johnson is another FanDuel favorite because he is a minimum-priced player that can put up starter production on any given day. Specifically, his defense (1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks, and 5.1 rebounds in only 22 mpg) from the swing position gives him value, and he also flirts with double-figure scoring.
Pero Antic (6% owned):
Last week when Al Horford
went down for the year, I suggested that Elton Brand
might see an increase in value…but he didn't. Instead, relative unknown Pero Antic
has moved into the starting lineup and is producing. Antic is a stretch big with seven made treys in his two starts. He also has averaged 12.5 points and seven boards in those two starts, making him worth keeping an eye on.
Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 87, Sirius 210.