(Almost) Just in time

April 1, 2008

I’ve chronicled my fantasy basketball failings on this blog in the past, but with a couple news items this week I believe it is worth revisiting. First, Jermaine O’Neal returned to the Pacers’ lineup on Monday after missing 33 games thanks to his chronically injured knees. He came off the bench to add nine points, two rebounds, two assists and a block to Indy’s bottom line. Now the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Elton Brand will return to the Clippers lineup this week.


Too little, too late.


When Brand injured his Achilles tendon back in August, he would reportedly be out until at least the All-Star break. As fantasy draft season drew nigh, Brand was early in his rehab, but indications were he was on pace to have no setbacks. That left this 20-point, 10-rebound per night fantasy stud with an upside of a February return. I took the bait in a pair of leagues and paid for it dearly.


In the meantime, with Brand out, Ron Artest hurt and Gerald Wallace at the top of his game in January, I took the drastic move of trading Artest, Wallace and Al Harrington for Paul Pierce and Jermaine O’Neal in order to stay afloat in the playoff race while waiting on Brand. But Artest came back a week early, O’Neal went down for the count a week later, and my season was flushed down the toilet a week or two after that. Selling high on Wallace turned out to be fortuitous, but not enough to make much of a difference.


I give myself somewhat of a pass on the O’Neal thing simply because I was making a desperation move to stay competitive – its not a significant keeper league, so it’s not like I’m stuck with him next year. But I should be scolded about Brand for not considering all the elements prior to drafting him.


If the Clippers were in the Eastern Conference it might have been a different story. But as it turns out, they are on the West Coast and in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. Although it was tough to predict things being this crazy, it doesn’t take a Hubie Brown hoops IQ to figure out that L.A.’s red-headed stepchild of an NBA franchise would not be in the hunt for a playoff position. And with the current setup of the NBA draft lottery, the Clippers would likely be a month away from employing the “tank” strategy even if Brand returned by the All-Star break. Then you must take into account that if Brand is rushed back, he won’t be playing full minutes right off the bat as he reacquaints himself with teammates and gets his legs back. So in all likelihood, a best-case scenario for Brand coming into this season was maybe 2-3 weeks of prime, Brand-like production – and this would not have come during the fantasy playoffs, which is what I was hoping for in order to make a championship run.


There are exceptions to the rule, as Pau Gasol showed last year by returning for Memphis and having a great season. But he was back before the calendar turned – a big difference from waiting until at least the All-Star break.


When it comes to drafting injured players as value picks, as I had hoped to do with Brand in the middle to late rounds of my drafts, looking at the whole picture is crucial. If we’re talking about a top player on a contending team, the risk may be worth the reward. But in an instance like Brand’s this season, I should have been smart enough to realize the cons far outweighed the pros in this instance.


I paid for my mistake, as I was forced to jettison both injured players as the fantasy playoffs began – or in my case, the consolation bracket with a chance at earning the first overall pick next season. I was blown out in the first round, and now get to watch the final week and a half as playoff teams grabbed both O’Neal and Brand off the waiver wire in hopes of using them to get over the hump. Not a bad move for them – at my expense.


One Response to “(Almost) Just in time”

  1. Michael said

    I drafted Yao. ‘Nuff said. Well…I also drafted Randy Foye, who was supposed to be back on the court in November.

    (I still somehow managed to make the playoffs and it looks like I’ll finish 5th out of 20 freakin’ teams.)

    The guy who drafted Brand in our league? He’s done for the season, sitting at 17th. Hopefully you did better than him.

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