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Fantasy Basketball Offseason Extra: League tweaks worth considering

Fantasy Writer
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Getting through a basketball season can be a long, arduous process. You've probably run into the same problem I have -- your league is relatively active for a while, but slowly, owners start to lose interest as the months drag on and their team's playoff hopes grow dim.

While football is over in a relatively breezy 15 or 16 weeks (if you're smart), the NBA season is a marathon that drags out for nearly seven full months. The monotony of the season certainly doesn't help keep interest up for a dozen owners at a time.

So I'm here to offer some suggestions that might help you keep your leaguemates involved for the long haul, even if their first-round pick blows out a knee in November and torpodoes their season. At the very least, these should provide you with a new perspective and some possible ideas to tweak your existing league.

(Note: Not all Fantasy providers offer the same options, so make sure your league is customizable enough to allow for the fun that follows.)

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short, Stupid)

The easiest solution is to mimic the football schedule, and limit the length of your league. While the actual league goes on until Week 25, you can do whatever you want with your league's schedule. Sure, you might miss out on Tobias Harris carrying you to a championship as his team tanked late last season, but you also won't have to deal with veterans being rested in April -- deep into your playoffs.

You also carry the added incentive of making sure each week matters just a bit more, a key to increasing competitiveness and interest in general. If your buddies have short attention spans, start your playoffs in March. Who knows, you may even be able to watch your real team's stretch run without having to secretly root for their opponent's point guard to drop 30.

Dynasty league w/ rookie drafts

This one is going to require a higher level of dedication from everyone involved, but it has the added upside of weeding out the disinterested at the start and making sure nobody wants to abandon their team in January. If you're already out of it, you still have the chance to pick up young players and build for the future. If you're one piece away from a championship, you can risk your future by trading for a stud now.

If you're worried about tanking, you can even put together a variation of Bill Simmons' "Entertaining As Hell" tournament, wherein the non-playoff teams take part in a tournament at the end of the year to determine seeding for next year's draft. This can run concurrent with the actual postseason, thus keeping teams interested, while giving an incentive not to let your team fall to disarray, lest you lose out in the tournament.

The downside to this is most people aren't willing to put the time or effort into making a long-term league work. If you've got a good group of knowledgeable players who are willing to put in some research year-round, a Dynasty league really is the only way to go.

Salary Cap League

The first two suggestions are a bit vanilla, I'll admit. But it gets better from here, I think. A salary cap league is essentially a dynasty league on steroids, requiring even more from the owners, but with a potentially bigger reward in terms of owner interest.

Here, you'll base your team on players' actual salaries, while making sure you don't go over the NBA's actual salary cap limit for the year. The fun of this league is you're going to go deeper than ever before to look for value, even at the top of the draft. While LeBron James and Kevin Durant are still first-round values, their nearly $20 million salaries make them look a lot less enticing when you see Stephen Curry available for 60 percent of the cost.

You'll probably have to do your draft via email to make sure everyone's pick falls in line with the cap, and a diligent commissioner who will stay on top of transactions is a must. But there's something undeniably attractive about the prospect of further blurring the line between reality and Fantasy, especially for those nerds among us who have Larry Coon's CBAF FAQ bookmarked and check ShamSports.com daily.

"Fantasy Fallacy" or "Wack Fantasy"

When I took to Twitter to ask for suggestions for this column, two different people immediately replied with two different names for the same concept. Here, you're eschewing traditional norms of good play and competitiveness, and instead rewarding those NBA players who screw up the most.

Instead of two points for an assist and one point for a blocked shot, say, you're rewarding points for all of the bad things a player might do on the court. If you get creative and offer 10 points for ejections, you might as well put DeMarcus Cousins at the top of your draft board.

The fun in this league comes from more than just reminding yourself how hapless Sasha Pavlovic can be -- there's also real strategy involved. You have to strike a delicate balance between a player who is so lost he can't even stay on the floor (think Larry Sanders' first two seasons) as opposed to one who is just intriguing enough to his coaches to remain a rotation fixture despite being useless on a box score (think, the last six or so vintages of Derek Fisher).

Another variant of this I have tried in the past is to turn it into a bench-only league. Award Fantasy points as you normally would in a Head-to-Head league, but create a penalty for games started that is so severe, even LeBron James ends up in the negative. This league obviously ends up putting more value on a player like Jamal Crawford, who ends up playing starter's minutes or something close, despite being a reserve.

One player, one team

This was one of my favorite ideas brought about via Twitter. I love it because of its elegance, as it is exceedingly simple -- no new scoring formats or in-depth roster research is involved. And it doesn't ask much from owners at all.

Each team must come away from the draft with 30 players, one each from each NBA franchise. Sure, you'll prioritize, focusing on the Miamis and Brooklyns of the NBA world in the early goings. But, at some point, you're going to have to scrape the bottom of the barrel. That means, if you're playing in a 10-team league, you very well may end up with the Bobcats' 10th man (And that would be ... Ben Gordon? Uh ... Maybe you will have to do some research).

From that point on, you don't touch the league. Just set the stakes at the beginning of the season and let it go. This takes care of the problem of uninvolved owners, by taking the power out of their hands as the season goes on. This format requires little more than a monthly reminder to check out your progress, almost like a survivor pool in football.

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Player News
Report: Ray Allen still up in air over immediate future
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:40 pm ET) Veteran sharpshooting guard Ray Allen remains undecided about whether he will retire or return for another season in the NBA, but added that he will only require a week of practice time to get ready to play, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Allen has been rumored as a possibility to join Cleveland for their run at a first NBA title.


Popovich: Spurs SF Kawhi Leonard set to play Friday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:36 pm ET) Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has gone from likely to certain to play Friday night against Phoenix despite an eye issue.

"He's in for Friday," Gregg Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News.

Leonard missed the season opener Tuesday against Dallas.


Hornets confirm extension for PG Kemba Walker
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:29 pm ET) The Hornets have confirmed they have signed point guard Kemba Walker to an extension reportedly running four years.

"Today is a great day for the Charlotte Hornets," said general manager Rich Cho. "To be able to retain such an importance piece of the core we are building here in Charlotte is exciting. Kemba is an integral part of the culture we're trying to create within our organization."

The ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft averaged 17.7 points and a career-high 6.1 assists per game last season.


Knicks PG Jose Calderdon out 2-3 weeks with strained calf
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:21 pm ET) The Knicks have confirmed that an MRI on point guard Jose Calderon has revealed a strained right calf and that he will be out for 2-3 weeks.

The offseason trade acquisition had been penciled in to start the season opener Wednesday night against Chicago before the injury flared up and he was forced to be scratched.


Magic C Channing Frye: Knee feels good after practice
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:18 am ET) Magic center Channing Frye said he participated in practice Wednesday and that his knee responded well, per the Orlando Sentinel.

Frye missed the game Tuesday against the Pelicans, but could play in the Thursday night home opener with Washington in town.


Report: No extension likely for Thunder PG Reggie Jackson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:02 am ET) The Thunder are unlikely to sign point guard Reggie Jackson to a contract extension before the Friday deadline, according to The Oklahoman.

Jackson averaged 13.1 points and 4.1 assists in 28 minutes per game last season, but is destined for restricted free agency after this year if he goes unsigned. General manager Sam Presti has stated repeatedly his intention to keep Jackson in Oklahoma City. He could match any offer sheet presented to Jackson in 2015.


Brother believes Grizzles C Marc Gasol could play for Knicks
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:56 am ET) Nobody knows Grizzlies center Marc Gasol better than Bulls forward and brother Pau Gasol - and the latter believes the former could be playing in the Big Apple by next season.

Marc is a free agent after this year. The Knicks, playing with more than $20 million in cap space, are expected to make a strong push to sign him. The older Gasol, who turned down an offer to play for the Knicks before helping bury them in a rout Wednesday night, feels it could definitely happen because his brother is intrigued by the possibility of playing for a team run by president Phil Jackson.

"We'll see what happens next year, what he decides," Pau told the New York Post. "Hopefully he'll have a strong year and all the options in the world because he's one of the tiop centers, interior players in the league, so any team would be fortunate to have him. It's a personal decision. I talked to my brother enough about Phil that he knows what he brings to the table."

Marc began the year with a bang, racking up 32 points and nine rebounds in a defeat of Minnesota.


Report: Cavaliers PF Thompson signing could be in works
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:45 am ET) Optimism has replaced pessimism for the Cavaliers in regard to signing power forward/center Tristan Thompson to a contract extension, multiple sources have told the Akron Beacon Journal.

Thompson will become a restricted free agent if an agreement isn't reached prior to the Friday deadline. The team would be allowed to match any offer, but it might not reach that point.

"We'd like to sign Tristant long-term to the Cavaliers; I don't think that's any secret," owner Dan Gilbert said Wednesday. "I believe they'd like to do that as well. So we'll hopefully see what happens this week."

Complicating matters is the possible extension of teammate and fellow center Anderson Varejao, whose presence played a role in the return of buddy LeBron James to Cleveland. Varejao is making $9.7 million this year and the team wants him back. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2015.

Thompson averaged 11.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game as a full-time starter last year, but will be coming off the bench to start this season.


Blazers PG Damian Lillard still struggling defensively
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Concerns about the defense of standout Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard returned quickly in 2014 after explosive Thunder counterpart Russell Westbrook torched him (and others guarding him) for 38 points Wednesday night.

Westbrook posted up Lillard, duped him on a backdoor for a layup and shot over him, according to The Oregonian. Lillard seemed affected offensively as he went scoreless in the first half. And though his teammates also had little success slowing down Westbrook, his problems defensively remain.

Blazers center LaMarcus Aldridge, however, believes it has nothing to do with a lack of effort or willingness to improve on that end of the court.

"He's worked on it all preseason," Aldridge said. "He has showed people that he is definitely trying to be better defensively, and he's given better effort. I think everybody is seeing that the effort is there. It's just different when you go from being a scorer to learning how to do both. It just gakes time. ... He wants to do well on both ends."


Knicks SG J.R. Smith: 'We stopped competing' Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:21 am ET) The NBA season opener is certainly a bit early to lose that competitive edge, but Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith claimed that's exactly what happened to his team Wednesday night against Chicago. The result was a 104-80 trouncing.

"When we stopped competing at the end of the third, fourth quarter, we could all tell," he told the New York Post. "[The Bulls] felt as though they smelled blood in the water. We just couldn't do anything about it. ... We put our heads down and tucked our tails, and we can't do that at home."

The Knicks trailed by 10 at halftime, but their deficit swelled to 35 in the fourth quarter as the fans booed. Smith, who scored just six points on 2-of-8 shooting in 22 minutes, added that the team is struggling to grasp the new triangle offense.

"I don't think we can be just thinking, thinking, thinking," he said. "Right now it's time to react. If somebody just kicks your mom's door and takes what they want, I think you have to react, you can't sit there thinking what should I do next."

Things don't get any easier for the Knicks, who travel to Cleveland for a Thursday night game in which LeBron James makes his regular season return to the Cavaliers.


 
 
 
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