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The Give and Go: The Give and Go-Week 16

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Charlie Zegers

Charlie has covered the NBA, NFL and MLB for RotoWire for the better part of 15 years. His work has also appeared on,, the New York Times, ESPN, Fox Sports and Yahoo. He embraces his East Coast bias and is Smush Parker's last remaining fan.

The Give and Go
By Charlie Zegers and Chris Liss
RotoWire Staff Writers

Subject: Give and Go
Date: February 7, 2009 7:43 PM PDT

Seems like about half the basketball columns I'm reading these days contain the phrase, "since these guys aren't contending for a title this year..."

A few examples of this sort of thinking:

- The Wizards aren't contending for a title; they should shut Gilbert Arenas down for the year and get him completely healthy for 2009-10.
- The Bucks aren't contending for a title; they should give Andrew Bogut all the time he needs to get completely healthy.
- The Sixers aren't contending for a title; they should trade Andre Miller.
- The Magic aren't contending for a title; they should trade Hedo Turkoglu.

It makes sense that this would be "decision time" for teams like Orlando. They've played like a championship contender all year... but Jameer Nelson's injury complicates matters. Do they go forward with their current roster and hope Nelson is back and healthy for the playoffs? Or do they try to make a move at the deadline, knowing that Turkoglu is due for a big raise after the season? (Personally, as I wrote on the RotoSynthesis blog this week, I think the Magic could go with Turkoglu as their "point" and a shooter like J.J. Redick in Nelson's spot and still be a very dangerous team down the stretch, whether or not Nelson returns.)

Philly clearly thought they'd be better than they've been - but even before Elton Brand got hurt it was pretty clear that they weren't an elite team.

For a lot of the other teams we're talking about, though, non-contender status shouldn't be coming as a surprise. Most of those teams are in transition, building towards contention a year or two down the road.

My question is, what about teams that have no "next year?"

By that, I mean fantasy teams in non-keeper leagues.

Fantasy basketball teams, in general, seem far more vulnerable to the season-killing injury than, say, fantasy baseball or football teams. Maybe it's the smaller roster size. Or maybe NBA subs tend not to pick up as much of the slack for an injured star as, say, a second-string running back might. Whatever the reason, I'm guessing there are a fair number of fantasy basketball players looking at rosters built around guys like Brand, Nelson, Michael Redd, Andrew Bynum, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Steve Nash and thinking, what now?

(In the interest of full disclosure... I made Nash a second-round pick in my home league. But I took LeBron in the first and Ray Allen a little later, which has balanced out Nash's drop-off in production to some degree. I'm fairly solidly in contention for second in that league.)

Do you think fantasy basketball teams are generally more vulnerable to the catastrophic injury/top pick that doesn't meet expectations? At what point is it fair to say "this team is toast?" And what do you do at that point? Play out the string? Or abandon ship? (For competitive balance purposes, I suppose "playing out the string" is the "right" thing to do. But it's sort of hard to expect a guy destined for last place to keep his roster in order, isn't it?)

Of course, this all assumes that the great Chris Liss has ever found himself as the owner of a truly lousy team...

Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: February 9, 2009 12:44 AM PDT

I've actually got two lousy teams this year, but I blame that on football season. I'm just incapable of managing my all my football and basketball teams simultaneously during busy periods, and my hoops squads suffer in November and December as a result. Luckily I co-own a third team with Dre', and we're in second place and gaining ground after two big trades.

I'm still keeping an eye on my bad teams and setting lineups each week, but I'm definitely not doing as much as I would were I in contention. I think you need to put in a minimal effort for competitive balance and the integrity of the league, but you can't realistically be expected to fight tooth and nail in multiple leagues that you have no stake in when you're busy. (And the two teams I'm talking about are definitely toast. Actually, their current rosters aren't that bad, but it's too late for them to make up the huge amount of ground).

I think football and basketball are close in terms of injury impact, but it's hard to compare head to head points leagues to eight-category roto ones. In football, you can mix and match - patch it together for a couple weeks until your stars come back. In basketball, at least the roto variety, the stats you miss are permanent, and it's harder to get lucky for whole weeks of games. I do think there's a better chance of a true star to emerge off the waiver wire in the NFL, particularly at running back (Ryan Grant in 2007 is a good example), but you almost never see NBA players undrafted in your fantasy league put up top-three round numbers. Paul Millsap, Boris Diaw, Andrea Bargnani, Chris Duhon and Russell Westbrook are about as good as it gets this year.

As for the Wizards and Bucks, I agree with those statements, but not necessary for the Sixers and certainly not for the Magic. If the Sixers got a good package for Miller, they'd probably have to do it, but they're playing decent ball, and there's value in putting out a good product and getting your team into the playoffs. As for the Magic, whoever said that is nuts. They're 38-12, have the best center in the game and some quality supporting players. Nelson was having a great year, but it's not as if Dwight Howard went down. That team has to adapt, either trying what you suggested, rolling with Anthony Johnson or dealing for an upgrade at the point. (Andre Miller might help).

What do you think Charlie? Should the Sixers take the season seriously for anything other than entertainment purposes? What are the odds that a seven seed in the East gets out of the first round? (Actually, the Sixers could get as high as a four seed, in which case they'd have a decent chance, but even so, they'd probably run into the Cavs or Celtics next). What are the chances of a shocking first-round upset in which either the Lakers, Cavs or Celtics go down in Round 1? It happened a couple years ago when Golden State took down Dallas. Not only was Dallas the No. 1 seed that year, but they were within a game of the title the year before.

Subject: Give and Go
Date: February 9, 2009 6:24 AM PDT

That Golden State/Dallas series was unique, though, because it was the Mavs' ex-coach, Don Nelson, leading the opposing team. If anyone knew how to beat the Mavs, it was Nellie. (Of course, that's the series that led to Mark Cuban accusing Nelson of using "confidential information" against the Mavs... a charge that seems awfully ironic in retrospect.

The only other eight-over-one series wins I can remember are the Knicks over Miami in '99 and the Nuggets over the Sonics in '94. The former was during the strike year - that Knick team probably would have been seeded much higher than eighth if they'd played a full season. They did, after all, advance to the Finals.

The 1994 Nuggets were the first eight seed in NBA history to advance, back when the opening round was five games. As we've discussed in this space before, the five-game series does give the lower seed more of a chance than the current format... but even in five, that was a huge upset.

Either of the top two seeds in the East - Boston and Cleveland - going down in the first round this year might be an even bigger upset than that '94 series. I can't see it happening to the Celtics or Cavs. The East is a lot better than it has been, but the six-seven-eight teams - as I write - that's Miami, Philly and Jersey - won't be good enough to knock off the big boys in a seven-game series.

The Heat actually might be a much-improved team by the time the playoffs roll around - but if they make a big trade at the deadline and bring in a guy like Brad Miller, I think they'll move into the fourth or fifth seed and avoid Boston/Cleveland/Orlando in the first round.

The Lakers, I think, are a little more vulnerable than the Celtics or Cavs, only because the eight seed in the West is likely to be a much better team than the eight seed in the East. Right now the fourth through ninth-best teams in the West - New Orleans, Portland, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and Utah - are separated by three games in the standings. Theoretically, any one of those teams could be the Lakers' first-round opponent. Who knows what the Suns will look like by then - personally, I can't believe they'd trade Amare Stoudemire and continue to build around greybeards like Nash, Hill and O'Neal, but that seems to be the latest word - but any one of the others could cause some serious problems for the top seed.

I think the Utah Jazz at full strength are the team I'd least like to see in the first round if I'm the Lakers. I'm ruling out the Hornets, because I don't think they'll drop that far.

As for Philly, with or without Miller I think they're good enough to make a run at the five or six seed. I think that's about the best they can do, unless they make a really remarkable deadline deal.

I don't think they're re-signing Miller after the season either way. So why not make a deal now and try to put the team in better position to contend next year?

Of course, if they think they can re-sign him - and maybe, given the economy - even get him at a discount... it probably makes sense to hang on to him and hope that a core of Miller/Brand/Iguodala and whichever of the young guys steps up is good enough to compete in the East.

Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: Febuary 9, 2009 4:17 PM PDT

Of course you can't see the Celts or Cavs losing, but that doesn't mean there isn't a chance. Is it 10 to 1, 20 to 1, 50 to 1 or 500 to 1? Because the Celts, who won the title last year by destroying the Lakers, went to seven games with the eight-seeded Hawks last year. I'd put $10 down on the eight seed to win $1000 - that's for sure. And if there's a 1 in 100 chance or a 1 in 50 chance, then I think there's value to playing it out and keeping your players, right? I mean if you were on an airplane, and there was a 1 in 50 chance of it going down, you probably wouldn't feel too great about that.

Of course, getting out of Round 1 and winning a title are two different things, but there was value to what Golden State did that year even though they lost to Utah in the next round. It was one of the most thrilling series I've ever watched, and I'm not even a Warriors' fan. So if I'm Philly, and the team's playing well over the last two months, I'd see what happens unless someone made us a really solid offer.

I think it would be cool if the Suns dealt Stoudemire for some solid aging half-court players. I mean Terry Porter played against Shaq, Grant Hill and Nash in their prime, so he probably thinks he's coaching a dream team. All they need is Antonio McDyess and Rip Hamilton, and Porter will be overjoyed.

Article first appeared on 2/9/09