Monday, December 10, 2007

The Fantlantic

Or, A Fantasy Basketball League that Simulates the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference

One of the many (legitimate) knocks against Isiah Thomas and the current incarnation of the New York Knickerbockers is that they've been built like a fantasy team rather than like an actual team. The team starts five scorers and has no defensive-minded role players in that first unit. The team has no chemistry and is chock-full of me-first fellows. Every single player in the starting lineup could put up thirty points on any given night. And, they all want to every single night. Yep, that does sound like a fantasy team to me.

And, perhaps if the NBA somehow bent the rules and allowed the Knicks to start Balkman and Lee every night along with the other five guys in some sort of "Utility" positions then, just maybe, the team would be able to compete like they were truly intended.

Scouring the world for such illogical means for hope and burdened with an overabundance of free time when not at work I set about creating the Fantlantic. The Fantlantic is the Fantasy Atlantic Division and it includes all five teams from the Atlantic Division (Boston, NY, NJ, Philly and Toronto) of the NBA's Eastern Conference. Each team is composed of the players currently on their roster and all players are active nightly so that all stats count.

The Fantlantic lives on the Yahoo Fantasy Sports website and is a rotisserie league, meaning that rankings are tabulated by comparing the stats accumulated by each competing team in a variety of categories. The categories being scored in this league are field goals made, field goal percentage, free throws attempted, free throws made, free throw percentage, three-point shots made, three-point shooting percentage, points, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and turnovers. This is the maximum number of categories that Yahoo allows.

The Fantlantic has been accumulating and compiling stats since the season tipped off last month. I waited until now to share this with the home-viewer because the "conference season" for the Atlantic didn't really kick off until this past week. The Knicks played at NJ last Wednesday and then had the double-dip with Philly this weekend. Meanwhile Boston also played Toronto on Friday. We've now got enough of a sample-size to see what this all looks like.

1. Celtics (55.5 points): The C's lead the fantasy league in FG%, DReb and steals. They are second in FTM, FT%, 3PTM, 3PT%, points, and assists. They are not last in any category and are the most balanced and consistently dominant team.

2. Raptors (48 points): Toronto ranks first in more statistical categories than anyone else, leading the Fantlantic in FGM, FT%, 3PTM, 3PT%, points, assists and turnovers. However, they show weaknesses in the other stat categories with last place rankings for FTA, FTM, OReb, Reb and blocks. They actually have fewer blocked shots than the Knicks. Impressive.

3. Nets (45.5 points): Oh, mediocrity. Thy home is the Meadowlands. Thy smell is tire fires. The Nets hold, or share, 4 first place ranks (FTA, FT, DReb and Reb) while being last in four other categories (FGM, FG%, steals and turnovers). And, not surprisingly, they rank right in the middle (3rd) in every other category.

4. 76ers (39 points): They're bad at most everything. They have a safe lead in the blocked shot department and that's about it. They're also last in all the 3PT shooting categories showing that offensively and defensively their strength is closer to the rim.

5. Knicks (37 points): The Knicks aren't much worse off than the Sixers from a fantasy standpoint, no matter what happened this past weekend. However, they are currently at the bottom of the Fantlantic. Most embarrassingly they rank last in points scored. For a team that starts five score-first players with offensive (in both terms of the word) reputations this must be particularly galling. The only bright spot is their top ranking in offensive rebounding. However, the fact that they miss so many shots (2nd worst FG%) probably helps make this possible.

Thus far, everything has played to form. The Celtics are good. The Knicks are bad. No surprises yet.

Therefore, the most interesting aspect of the league has been the ability to see the rankings of the individual players and how they compare to one another from a fantasy perspective. The Celtics have three of the top four fantasy ballers in the Fantlantic and their entire starting lineup figures in the Top 25. Conversely, the Knicks don't have anyone ranked in the top ten. Jamal Crawford is the highest rated Knick at 13 and David Lee isn't too far behind him. Meanwhile the Nets have two players in the top five and they still are an awful underachieving team.

Top 15 Fantlantic Players (overall NBA rank according to Yahoo):
1. Kevin Garnett (3)
2. Richard Jefferson (21)
3. Paul Pierce (31)
4. Ray Allen (34)
5. Jason Kidd (41)
6. Andre Iguodola (44)
7. Jose Calderon (50)
8. Carlos Delfino (56)
9. Chris Bosh (57)
10. Anthony Parker (66)
11. Samuel Dalembert (69)
12. Vince Carter (71)
13. Jamal Crawford (93)
14. Jamario Moon (94)
15. David Lee (99)

..and other notable players include...
18. Louis Williams (118)
20. Andre Miller (126)
23. Stephon Marbury (146)
29. Quentin Richardson (186)
30. Eddy Curry (190)
33. Nate Robinson (213)
35. Zach Randolph
36. Fred Jones (220)
48. Jared Jeffries (318)
52. Mardy Collins (362)

The battle for the worst fantasy baller in the Fantlantic is currently being waged between two NJ Nets big men: Jason Collins and Jamal Magloire.

Each week I'll give an update on the latest standings in The Fantlantic to see how much of a correlation there is between fantasy sports and reality sports. We'll find out if Isiah Thomas is any better as a fantasy sports manager than he is a reality sports manager. So far, it doesn't look like it.

Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Mavs

That was quick.

We're about a month into the season and I'm already out of people to attend games with. I actually cannot give away a Knicks ticket to girlfriend, friend or family member.

But, I'm going. I think. Alone, most likely. I'll swing by on the way home from work, spend a few minutes in a ten dolllar seat and see what happens. Maybe the Knicks will show up and make me glad that I am pathologically interested in what they do. Maybe Dirk Nowitzki will perform some feat of agility and athleticism that will amaze me enough to soften my views on the Germanic peoples. Or maybe the Knicks will allow the Mavs to put up 37 or more (which has happened on at least two occassions) in the first quarer. allowing me to go home early.

In fact, if the Mavs put up 37 in the first then I will definitely be heading home after one. Well, unless the score is 37-37. Then I'll probably hang around for a bit longer. Like until halftime, when the score would likely be 43-74. At that point, I would depart to catch the Monday Night Football game upon which every fantasy league depends: Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints.

Other reasons why I will leave the game after one quarter:
1) The Knicks are down by a dozen.
2) Eddy Curry has zero rebounds.
3) Zach Randolph has zero rebounds.
4) Erick Dampier has ten or more points because neither Zach nor Eddy can stop him.
5) Fred Jones has more turnovers than assists.
6) Jamal Crawford has more turnovers than made field goals.

If any (or all) of these things happen I'd be out early enough that my whole night isn't shot and I can be home just in case the Knicks were to stage some sort of comeback.

And, the game:

The Mavs have won 10 of their last 11 against the Knicks. And it took overtime last year to scratch out that lone win. Still, the Mavs have struggled on the road so far this season (4-6), so there is some reason to think that our bizarro home-court advantage will throw them off. I don't think teams are prepared for the hostility in our building. Yes, most of that hostility is directed at Jimmy Dolan and Coach Thomas but I think it is unnerving for everyone down on the floor. In any case, it will take some extra-ordinary (in other words, not ordinary) play by some person or persons in this game for the Knicks to win. The Mavs have the reigning NBA MVP and Dirk might only be the second best player on this team right now. Josh Howard put up 47 over the weekend and that's not a fluke. The guy is very good. And so are his teammates. They have to play poorly (by their standards) and the Knicks have to play to their potential and not to their record for this to work out in our favor.

And, for your pre-game viewing pleasure:

Lupicas, Thomsens & Bermans. Oh My!

(What the Pros are writing about the Knicks today)

-Andrew Marchand reports on (and presumably on 1050 ESPN Radio in NYC) that Stephon is not going to play tonight. I was shocked that he played this weekend and totally endorse him sitting out as long as he needs to deal with the death of his father. The circumstances surround his death were awful. And, unlike most athletes who can use the court/field as a refuge, Marbury is constantly reminded of his father's death during home games because his father died at a home game. Work can't be an escape if every trip down the court brings you past the center-court seats that his parents were occupying last Sunday night. In a related note, I was happy to see that fans cheered Marbury when he was introduced on Saturday night. There was not even a trace of booing to be heard from my seat. There were no ovations or effusive chants but it seems like he at least got back to a baseline of acceptance. I hope so.

-Marc Berman at the Post is reporting that Malik Rose wants to be listed as inactive on gamedays if he doesn't figure into the rotation. This would allow him to engage in a full-on workout each and every day so that he can be in shape if is to be traded or to find himself thrust into duty because of injury. Rose is still due a fair amount of money so he would probably only be dealt in a deal with one of the younger and more desirable players on the roster. Hmm....

-Knicks are still 3rd from bottom on the ESPN and SI power rankings for this week. I'm actually pleasantly surprised that we're not last. Minnesota holds that distinction.

-Forbes Magazine ranks the Knicks as the most valuable NBA franchise. Let's give Jimmy Dolan another couple years and I bet he can drop us down a bit.

Around the Internets in Eight Minutes

-Say it aint so, Ed! I'd imagine that hell must have frozen over seveal hours before it got cold enough for the burliest official in the history of officiating and burliness was forced to don long sleaves.

-There are some who think that Tim Tebow draws power from Earth's yellow sun.

-David Eckstein is, apparently, pretty darn nervous about this Mitchell Report.

Monday's Starting Five

1) Tim Tebow. The sophomore sensation from Florida won the Heisman on Saturday night. He's responsible for over 50 touchdowns so far this season with 20+ each on the ground and through the air. He is 20 years old, a beast of football player, the son of a clergyman (just like the two other Florida QBs who have won the Heisman, Spurrier and Wuerffel) and very, very religious. If Jon Kitna was not above jealousy then he would be feeling it now since JC is clearly doing his rooting on Saturday rather than Sunday. Which, I guess, makes sense.

2) Pretty Boy Floyd/Boxing. Split decision. The Pretty One is 39-0. I was walking to the subway after a few post-Knicks game drinks on Saturday night (an absolute necessity) and there was a huge crowd gathered outside of the bar across the street. About two dozen folks were standing in the cold to watch the fight through the front window. It's been a while since that has probably happened in midtown and I think it is a good sign for boxing.

3) Randy Moss, Jabar Gaffney and anyone else who got matched up against Anthony Smith. Seemingly every big-play the Pats made came right over the outstretched arm of the mouthy second-year safety. Even if the "guarantee" was taken largely out of context he still got torched.

4) Armanti Edwards. The QB from Appalachian State rushed for 313 yards and four touchdowns AND tossed for three more touchdowns as he lead his squad to the finals of whatever we're calling Div. 1-AA these days.

5) Owners of the #1 draft pick in their fantasy football league (this includes me): Finally LT shows up with a huge game when you, hopefully, needed it most.

Benched: Mike Vick. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison. That's a long while.