5 Fantasy Basketball Lessons From the 2011 NBA Finals

  1. Never let up: One of the running themes of the Dallas Mavericks’ storybook championship run was the team’s stubbornness. As they did throughout the playoffs, the Mavs were uncanny late in games against the Heat, no matter how much they were down. The most obvious example of the Mavs’ grit in the Finals was, of course, their comeback from a 15-point deficit with 7:14 to go in Game 2. They also showed their resiliency when they came back from nine down with 10:12 left in Game 4 and when they fended off the Heat down the stretch of Game 5. The boys from South Beach, on the other hand, appeared to have a knack for easing off the gas pedal a bit too early. The takeaway for fantasy basketball enthusiasts is clear: Never give up, no matter how far you’re up or how far you’re down. If you’re straggling behind the pack, know that fortuitous trades, injuries and matchups can sneak you into the championship bracket of your league’s playoffs, and from there it’s almost anyone’s game. On the flip side, if your squad is ripping through the regular season and building up a thick cushion, don’t get too comfortable. You’re just an unfavorable playoff schedule or injury away from a disgraceful early exit.
  2. Don’t wait too long to make a necessary switch: It took coach Rick Carlisle three games to see that starting J.J. Barea in the Finals might be a good idea. It took coach Erik Spoelstra five games to see that benching Mike Bibby in favor of Mario Chalmers in the Finals might be a good idea. The moral of the story: Don’t be too afraid of pulling the trigger to make a savvy switch in your lineup. While it might be tough to sit your third-round pick for the dude you just picked off the waiver wire, mute your heart and listen to reality. Obviously, there are cases when patience is a veritable virtue and riding out a rough patch is the right move, but don’t argue yourself out of making a smart move just because you’re afraid of upsetting the status quo or too proud to relegate an early pick to your bench. Assess the situation, look at the facts and make the right move.
  3. Don’t act like a douche bag: Here’s looking at you, Dwyane and LeBron (and, yes, DeShawn Stevenson). If you’re going to win or lose, don’t make an ass out of yourself in the process. Jovial banter is fine and dandy, but don’t push things into realms that make everyone else feel awkward by maliciously ridiculing what you deem a bad trade, gloating over a slim victory, or making bitter comments and accusations after a tough loss. It might be “fantasy” basketball, but real-life etiquette and manners should still rule. Lose, win and play with grace.
  4. Grow a pair: Don’t shrivel in the limelight — grow a spine and some cojones, and stand for something. More specifically, give your fantasy basketball team an identity and commit to it, especially in head-to-head formats. Don’t just stand on the perimeter and passively watch the team you drafted. Decide on which categories you’ll commit to winning and which ones you’ll leave by the wayside — have a strategy, be firm about it and show some resolve. The last thing you want to be remembered for is wilting away without a good plan, without putting up a damned fight.
  5. There are no shortcuts: This last lesson comes from none other than Dan Gilbert, whose congratulatory tweet after Game 6 reminded us that “There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE.” This is more than a profound life lesson — it’s a call to arms for fantasy basketball fans everywhere. If you’re getting ready to ignore the NBA this offseason, don’t expect to magically forge the perfect fantasy team and frolic your way to a championship. Except for those who find themselves in shallow or novice leagues, beating your competition will require preparation in the form of diligent news-watching, retrospection, introspection and educated forecasts, among other things. If you’re serious about winning your league and the admiration of your fallen foes, there are no shortcuts. I could try to convince you that reading this blog throughout the summer is a good application of this lesson, but I’ll refrain…sort of.

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