Living the Fantasy: Playoff Advice

By NBA TV's Rick Kamla

If JO feels he’s right to play, then he’s right to make plays on the court, and with the Pacers needing every game, the motivation is there.
(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)
If you’re still alive and kicking in the realm of fantasy buckets…congratulations.

Assuming your league is worth a darn, you are The Man/Woman for making it this far. Now it’s time to pound the wooden stake into the beast’s heart, and I’m here to be your hammer. (Sorry…just watched “300” the other night. Definitely wanna keep that one away from the kids.)

Here are several gentle reminders for every fantasy owner to keep in mind during the home stretch…

1. Always be on the lookout for shutdowns so you can pounce on the up-n-comers.

Take Miami for instance (you can have this Heat). Jason Williams is out with a cast on his wrist, ya think he’s coming back? Shawn Marion has missed six of the past seven with a bad BACK, ya think he’s coming back?

Chris Quinn is now the 1 with J-Will out, and he’s averaging 15-3-4-0-1.2 with sparkling percentages (53-41-93) over the past five games. Yes, those parentheses revealed the magical combination of 50-40-90, a gold standard for sharp-shooting recently achieved by dudes named Nash and Nowitzki. Are Quinn’s numbers puffed up…or over-inflated? No. When you consider he’s shooting 46-41-89 for the season, this dude appears to be legit, and he projects as Miami’s backup 1 next season.

As for Marion’s fantasy beneficiary, it’ll be split between Earl Barron, Joel Anthony, Mark Blount (a real Riley fave), and D-League sleeper Stephane Lasme. I just picked up Lasme in my lone remaining league because he’s a defensive freak, averaging 2.7 blocks and 1.3 steals to go along with five points and four boards in just 19 minutes. Given Lasme’s size (6-8, 220) and electric body, I highly doubt he’ll have to go back to the D-League. In fact, I’ll go on record predicting that Lasme will be a rotation fixture by the end of the year, and part of Miami’s future going forward.

Another potential shutdown to keep an eye on is Ron Artest. Many of us got juked by the Sacramento Bee report on Monday afternoon that Artest was OUT for the game that night. I started Hakim Warrick instead, so I was ticked off when I tuned into Kings-at-Rockets and saw Artest’s smiling face on the starting lineup graphic. Alas, I was temporarily appeased when I saw Hakim Supreme go for a season-high 29 points with seven boards and three steals. Alas (part two), if Ron goes four strong this week, I will hold a grudge with the Bee.

If Artest is, in fact, closed down due to lingering elbow, calf, and shoulder ailments, then Super-Sub John Salmons gets the starting job at the 3. As many of you already know, in 35 starts this season, Salmons has averaged 17.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals, with 50-41-83 on the percentages. Tasty.

2. Run the numbers for your opponents’ team. Figure out the number of games for each opposing player for that week and multiply it by his season averages to get an idea of your opponents’ weekly totals in every category.

You should be doing this every week, but life gets busy…blah, blah, blah..

For a playoff game, get a sitter for an hour if you have to, because you gotta break down your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses so you can decide where to attack. This is especially critical in five-cat leagues, where a junky lineup can steal a win in the odd-ball cats of boards, blocks, and steals. If you determine from analyzing the other team’s roster that there are two cats you just can’t win, then you dump those cats and sell-out for the other three.

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Last year, I won the championship game of my brother’s five-cat, head-to-head league with a lineup featuring odd-ballers Kendrick Perkins, Antonio McDyess, and Rajon Rondo. Do you believe in miracles?

3. Keep your head. Don’t get all bent outta shape when you get a DNP during a playoff week.

Yeah, it completely (bleep), but you have to remember that this is the land-mine portion of the NBA calendar. In other words, it’s DNP season, so have faith that the other team is going to deal with some adversity as well. (But that isn’t to say you should tempt the Karma Gods by wishing injury on the other team.)

On Monday I lost LaMarcus Aldridge to an ankle injury on the first day of the first round of my title defense. This development was particularly frustrating based on the fact I had already lost Dwyane Wade, Yao Ming, and Jermaine O’Neal, and still made the playoffs. I dealt with the buzzkill for 5-10 seconds and moved on with my life. You should too.

4. Continuing the injury vibe, I find it very difficult to start an injured player in the fantasy playoffs.

I don’t know about you guys, but when you combine his injuries, the emotional roller coaster that is his life, and the Kings’ spoiler status, I just didn’t have the fortitude it took to start Artest. It killed me to bench Ron-Ron, but I had to play it safe with Warrick, who’s been good for 15 and 7 over the past couple months. This decision may ultimately be the fantasy death of me, but Warrick has me resting well after one game.

5. Pick up Jermaine O’Neal.

Due to his lengthy stint on the inactive list due to after-effects from knee surgery, JO may have been scrap-heaped in your league. He’s practicing with the Pacers and needs a few more practices before returning, which could happen next week. Theoretically speaking, JO would be a nice shot in the arm for a short-handed playoff team. Would he be rusty? Heck yeah. But if JO feels he’s right to play, then he’s right to make plays on the court, and with the Pacers needing every game, the motivation is there.

6. Pick up Elton Brand.

You can ditto the whole JO paragraph with regards to the Clippers’ workhorse. Oops, I forgot…you cannot ditto the part about being in playoff contention. I sincerely apologize for such an unprovoked shot at the Clipper Nation.

7. And speaking of workhorses, this is the time of year when you have to rely on them. Various flavors of the week emerge this time of year, and I caution you from giving into to the puppy love.

For example, if one of your constants has only three games for the week and an up-n-comer has four, I recommend sticking with the dude who helped you get to the playoffs. Shooting for the moon is a good way to get burned.

In a scenario where your constant has only two games for the week, then run the numbers. If the projected numbers—based on recent productivity and chance for continued success—are heavily in favor of the flavor, then make the switch. However, if the projected numbers are close, stick with the stud.

8. Finally, have fun with it.

Target games that feature your players against the other team’s players, and DVR all the pivotal matchups so you can have a front row seat for your fantasy fate. Heck, even invite your combatant over for a refreshing beverage or two—that is, if you’re still on speaking terms.

Bottom line: you’re privileged to be where you are in the fantasy world, so take a moment to enjoy the ride.