Five Post-Lockout, Pre-Draft Things Fantasy Owners Should Consider

For the first time in a long time, my nieces, aged seven and five, will have competition for the most excited person in the house on Christmas Day.

That’s correct: Basketball is back. And not only that, but it is looking like Celtics-Knicks to kick off the season on Dec. 25. Just put a bow on the TV, and I’m good.

Everyone is so excited, and rightly so. We’re so sick of labor negotiations, lawyers and lies. We just want to watch Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph and Rajon Rondo and LaMarcus Aldridge – I could go on and on. We just want to watch them play ball, with all of their talent and flaws on display. We want to worry about little things again, about pick and roll defense, about whether the Spurs have one more run in them, about how stupid The Decision was and how much we can’t wait for The Decision Part II, Dwight Howard Edition, next summer.

And we will embrace all of those things in short time. But unfortunately, the details do matter. With under a month before the season starts, fantasy owners are going to be scrambling. I know I’ll be. So many drafts to mock, so many projections to make, and so little time. With all of that in mind, here are five little details fantasy owners need to consider prior to Christmas.

1. There will be a 66-game schedule.
Seems awesome, right? Considering the entire season was on the line just a few weeks ago? Not so fast. Cramming 66 games from Dec. 25 to some time in mid-to-late April means a ton of back-to-back games and, yes, a ton of bad basketball. Especially since the players are only going to have a few weeks of training camp to get in shape. For older players like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, this schedule alone drops their fantasy stock by several rounds. In fantasy drafts, aim for youth over age, as the younger stars will naturally be in better shape. There may even be some back-to-back-to-back situations this year, which is almost comical. Opening box scores will never be less fun for fantasy owners as it will be this year.

2. Free agency doesn’t start until Dec. 9.
There are a few problems here that are annoying to fantasy owners. First of all – we won’t know where most of the FA’s are going for another couple of weeks. Ugh. There’s also the amnesty clause that will see many of the players with bad contracts get jettisoned and join new teams. This leads to the next issue – a smaller window for drafts. A lot of people will be traveling before Christmas, so it might be tougher than usual to get your league together. If free agency starts on Dec. 9, you’ll want to wait a few days before drafting to see where everyone lands. Will there only really be a week – say, Dec. 14-21, where drafting is fair and feasible?

3. There may be issues with overseas players.
Several NBA players have been playing overseas during the lockout. This can be a good thing. Deron Williams, for instance, might be sharper out of the gate than similarly-ranked players who haven’t been playing serious competitive games. There are also players, such as Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith, who signed in China without out clauses. They could still negotiate a way out of their deals, perhaps, but this is something to keep an eye on before your drafts.

4. Injuries, injuries, injuries.
Gag me. Fantasy basketball’s biggest flaw is that injuries are so debilitating to your team. It is often impossible to replace a fallen star, especially if you play in a really good, competitive league. This 66-game schedule, which will feature numerous four- and five-game weeks and starting with so many players not close to being in great game shape, spells bad things for fantasy basketball. Get ready for a lot of nagging injuries, probably of the hamstring variety.

5. Will apathy be a problem?
There’s no doubt that this lockout has turned off some casual fans. And there’s no doubt that fantasy hoops is a distant third behind football and baseball in terms of popularity. In a regular year, I have to beg and plead the people in my leagues to play, and getting a draft together is a nightmare. Now, you are looking at a shortened window. As I said before, if you want to do it right you wait until after the top free agents have signed. But this puts us right in the heart of Holiday Party season, followed by Holiday Family Time. What a potential nightmare before Christmas!

Alas, I fear the game of fantasy basketball will take a hit this year because of many people won’t have the will or the time to cobble their regular leagues together. Here at Damn Lies, we love playing in as many leagues as possible and we might put together some interesting experts leagues and perhaps a league or two with some Twitter followers. What’s the sense out there among fantasy owners? Do you play with enough diehards that getting a league together no matter what is easy, or will you have to resort to joining some free leagues on Yahoo! and ESPN? Keep us posted and bookmarked for the next month as we prepare you for your drafts and the season. As recently as a week ago, I didn’t think I’d be saying that. Happy holidays indeed.

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