It’s good to be back on the beat. I’d like to thank my good friend and colleague Mr. Andriesse for exposing us as frauds the other day. Yes, our NCAA Tournament brackets were an absolute embarrassment, yes we had Temple, UCLA, Washington, Utah St. and Pitt going way further than they did, and yes we didn’t write last week because we were rendered in the fetal position while watching our teams lose in the most disgusting fashion, but it was still a better showing than my 2010-11 fantasy basketball team. Funny thing is, we predicted the Big East would stink and that Jimmer Fredette would go on a Birdesque run through the tourney, yet i don’t think we have a team still alive.
On to more pressing matters, it looks as if the, uh, “Two Superstar” theory for the Knicks isn’t exactly going as planned. The New Yawkahs fell to 7-10 since Little Anthony the Imperialist joined the fray, including back-to-back home meltdowns against Boston and Orlando. From a fantasy perspective, Melo recorded probably his finest game as a Knick last night, totaling 24 points, five rebounds, nine assists and two steals, and sent legions of Knicks supporters into cardiac arrest by shooting 50 percent (6-12) from the field. From a fan’s perspective I think Melo jerseys are dangerously close to being burned in effigy at a more prolific rate than Muammar Gaddafi posters in Libya. This is not going to end well. They went from a team in salary cap Siberia, to miraculously one with a nice little future ahead of them in which to build, finally to one in which most of that cap is being spent on three guys who fit poorly together. Just wait until Amar’e Stoudemire disappears next season. But fear not Melo fans, Mike D’Antoni will be the fall guy next year if this isn’t turned around.
There are a little more than three weeks left in the regular season and I’ve got to say that when one has no shot at a fantasy championship, there is just an empty feeling when opening a box score. I do hope that Jeff, Tom and I can put together the same playoffs league we got going last April. That was a good time and that includes the draft in which I called my picks in to Jeff while driving in a monsoon on the New Jersey Turnpike. So, for all of you like me, who are completely out of your races, let’s take a sneak peek at a potential first-round of a 10-team, eight-category, non-percentage roto playoff draft in which the categories are as follows: Points (1 pt); FT Made (1 pt); Rebounds (2 pts); Assists (2 pts); 3-Pointer Made (3 pts); Steals (5 pts); Blocks (6 pts); Turnovers (-3 pts).
1. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI – Maximizing games is the key to winning playoff leagues, and with Rose, owners have a shot at 22-24 kid-in-a-candy-factory games. The Bulls are a full game ahead of the Celtics and three ahead of Miami for the all important home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference and are playing well enough that they might hang on. The odds-on favorite for league MVP, Rose is averaging 24.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks while converting on 1.6 threes per contest. Do that times 23 and you’ll be in the thick of things with Eric Fernsten as your starting power forward.
2. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL – While I think they could fall to Oklahoma City and we can’t count San Antonio and its home court advantage out, the Lakers are still the favorites to come out of the West. Kobe will continue to jack up shots as if his reputation depended on it and will continue to post scary all-around numbers as his 2010-11 attests (24.9 – 5.2 – 4.8). He also makes a ton of free throws and is not bashful when it comes to launching threes in big games.
3. Pau Gasol, C, LAL – The big Spaniard will man the middle alongside Andrew Bynum and provide terrific across-the-board totals. Gasol doesn’t need to take many shots to be effective, and when playing alongside Kobe Bryant, there aren’t too many looks to be had. If he reaches his season averages in the playoffs (18.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.6 bpg, 4,3 ftm) he could rival Rose and Kobe for top honors.
4. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC – I do believe that the Thunder have a legitimate shot at unseating the Lakers in the postseason. They just need to shore up their defense to do so. Durant, in my mind, has been a bit of a disappointment this season. But when it comes to fantasy, there may not be anyone better. He is averaging 27.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.9 blocks and 1.8 threes, and knocks down 7.7 from the line nightly… absolutely frightening.
5. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS – With free throw percentage being meaningless and a steal equaling five points, if the Cs reach the finals, Rondo could lead owners to titles. I’d feel a lot more secure if Boston could supplant Chicago for the top spot in the East as the two seed will first have to go through Miami. Not your prototypical big-time numbers guy, Rondo produced 10.2 points, 11.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals this season. The 3.6 turnovers hurt, but he’ll be among the elite.
6. LeBron James, SF, MIA – I’m a little skittish about taking James here as the Heat may have to line up against a very tough Sixer team in the opening round. Miami should figure out a way to get past them, and the good news is that it may take seven games. Same deal if it plays the Knicks. Anyone who reads Fox Unbalanced knows how flawed NY is, but the Heat are a good matchup for them and that series should go at least six games. Even if he’s done after two series, LeBron and his filthy 26.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1.2 threes and 6.3 free throws per game will have his owners giddy. If the Heat somehow reach the finals, look out!
7. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA – Everything I just said for LeBron obviously holds true for Wade. His numbers are dispersed a little differently (25.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 6.4 ft), but they will be just as effective in this format.
8. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC – I guess I’m putting a lot of faith in OK City knocking off a tough Denver team and then a very tough and seasoned San Antonio squad that will have home court advantage throughout. The Thunder’s talent and athleticism could win out. Westbrook is one of the NBA’s most dynamic players and should be in the discussion for league MVP, though he won’t be. His numbers are nearly as freakish as everyone else’s (22.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 8.3 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.4 bpg, 6.6 ftm) though his turnovers (3.9) are a mule kick to the gut in this format.
9. Serge Ibaka, C, OKC – I hate giving away trade secrets to Jeff and Tom, but I’m sure they would both strongly consider this monster in this spot. Ibaka is finally seeing the minutes he deserves and is putting up monumental big man totals for the Thunder. in the month of March, he has delivered 9.3 boards and has summoned the ghost of Marvin “Human Eraser” Webster to the tune of 3.8 rejects per game. He is also a terrific mid-range shooter who could up his scoring to the 12-13-point range.
10. Luol Deng, SF, CHI – By going with Deng over Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, I’m basically saying that the Bulls will topple the Celtics. I don’t know if I necessarily believe that. I’m not even sure I should be taking Deng over Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah or Bynum, but I have to go with someone in the 10 spot, so why not a guy who offers solid production across the board. Deng typically goes undervalued in fantasy leagues and this year is no different as the perennial seventh-round pick has averaged 17.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1.4 threes and 3.2 ftm.
Unless he is paralyzed by his NCAA bracket, Fox Unbalanced will appear in these pages every Thursday. If you or someone you know views a Grizzlies/Raptors game as a religious experience, this could be the perfect destination for you. Feel free to chime in with some feedback. This author also broke down recently and now has an active Twitter account. Anyone interested in fantasy basketball or the mating rituals of Magpie should intensely follow him at @gregfoxy5.