Compared to 20 years of Roto and a dozen or more Head-to-Head seasons, I’m a novice at this.
The FanDuel hoops game is beautifully simple: pick nine players — 2PG, 2 SG, 2 SF, 2 PF, 1 C — and whoever scores the most points wins.
The scoring system is also uncomplicated: 3-pt FG = 3pts; 2-pt FG = 2pts; FT = 1pt; Rebound = 1pt; Assist = 1pt; Block = 2pts; Steal = 2pts; Turnover = -1pt. In other words, it’s a brand new 8-category league every day, from “draft” to championship.
There’s one big twist: a $60,000 salary cap. Player salaries can change from day to day, according to their production on the court. You must fill those nine roster spots with a mixture of expensive stars, consistent producers and bargains.
That’s what makes it a game of skill, and that’s where we come in. Armed with a fair bit of NBA knowledge and usually on top of breaking fantasy news, I’m optimistic about trying the various FanDuel offerings. All season, I’ll share my (mis)adventures as I learn a new fantasy game and attempt to turn a profit on my modest investments.
It’s easy to get started; there’s no credit card or deposit required. FanDuel has free games where you can earn points to qualify for Freeroll tournaments, but if you prefer a cash game, entry fees begin as low as $1, with $2, $5, $10, $25, $50 and $109 levels, and for high rollers, leagues that cost $535 to enter.
At first glance, BLK and STL are “overvalued” — Josh Smith and Dwight Howard help in both and don’t even hurt you with missed free throws. While TO is a horrible category, it’s not nearly as bad in a Points format and a daily game. I’m already thinking of it as AST-TO.
I’ll be explaining more about FanDuel as I learn. There are weekly leagues, which some may prefer to daily, and three versions — Beginner, Standard and Expert — of the Salary Cap game. While we wait for basketball to begin, they offer great games in other sports.
Football & Hockey
I used to love the NFL. Living in the Pacific time zone was the best on Sundays; wake up, eat, bet and watch. Horses were my main addiction, but one morning at the Stardust race book, waiting for post time at Aqueduct, I handicapped a game between the world-champion Steelers and the expansion Buccaneers. Gave 33 points for $1,000 and it was never in doubt.
I loved Canadian football too, and knew every player on every NHL team. Used to babysit for a Toronto Maple Leafs forward and had a part-time job when I was 14, recording games on a giant, primitive VCR in the office of referee-in-chief Scotty Morrison.
Humans were idiots then. Parents used to smoke more in the car than anywhere, their oxygen-deprived offspring rattling around without seatbelts. No NHL player wore a helmet; Gump Worsley played goalie without a mask. Those were the days.
The older I get, the less I like violence, or athletes wearing armor. Under modern padding, helmets and face masks, it’s become harder to recognize the gladiators. Baseball and basketball allow us to read body language and facial expressions. Lip-reading becomes a hobby. Fans have a much better idea of the person inside the number.
There will be no hockey talk here; there’s currently no hockey and even when the NHL does return, I’m one of those rare Canadians who prefers the NBA. Our colleague Bruce Wrigley has won a few NFL fantasy leagues, so we’ll ask him for advice before tackling FanDuel football.
Basketball & Baseball
As I often remind my understanding, tolerant partner, sports is improvised theatre. On a good night, it’s like seeing a Shakespeare play with brilliant actors, except you don’t know how it will end. A few games are failed productions with listless casts, but that’s why we have channel changers.
Even a “bad” baseball game is entertaining for me because it’s baseball. I’ll watch high school, semi-pro, minor-league or MLB for the pitcher-catcher battle vs. the hitter. A “bad” NBA game — like some of those back-to-back-to-back debacles last year — still features amazing athleticism and some highlight-reel plays.
Except for the strike-shortened, late-finishing NBA season we just endured, there’s a nearly-perfect overlap between fantasy hoops and fantasy hardball. Many friends and rivals have been so busy with H2H baseball playoffs they haven’t begun to think about basketball.
It does get tougher to pay close attention to multiple hoops leagues the final two months, if you’re preparing baseball lists and drafting in March, then managing teams in April.
Not that I’m complaining about this gig, or making excuses, but writing about basketball seven mornings a week last winter was not the best thing for my fantasy baseball teams this year. That could be a coincidence, but it’s inspired me to try harder on the fantasy diamond in 2013. It may also be that I’m simply better on the fantasy hardwood.
I joined a free FanDuel baseball league today, just to get my feet wet. The league actually covers four MLB playoff games over two days, so on Sunday I’ll share my impressions. I couldn’t “afford” Justin Verlander without sacrificing hitting, so Matt Cain is crucial to my success. Starting pitching is far more significant (and priced accordingly) than any position in basketball.
What to Expect
Tomorrow, don’t miss Part 4 of our Strategy Primer by Jeff Nichols, about identifying sleepers.
Soon, the Spin will be in a daily routine. We look at what happened last night — who’s hot, who’s not, who’s hurt, who’s benched — then predict what will happen next. In previewing games, we’re not trying to pick winners against the spread or an over/under on points. Probable high-scoring games are great for traditional fantasy owners setting daily lineups but even more important in daily leagues. Finally, I’ll share my FanDuel play(s) of the day. Be sure to visit often and follow @SheridanFantasy on Twitter.
Today, there is one game to preview: The Celtics are in Istanbul, Turkey to play Fenerbache Ulker and this entire trip is more of a team bonding experience than a competition. The home team, taking it far more seriously, should perform very well. If there was a fantasy pool on this game, I’d be touting Bo McCalebb.
Finally, here’s the first “box score” of the preseason. Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News covered a Spurs scrimmage and filled in the numbers. Manu Ginobili led his team to victory with some impressive per-minute stats.