I just took the leap.
The beauty of dynasty fantasy is that you get to play Bob Myers or Pat Riley. You get to make the decisions. You get to orchestrate trades. You get to parse the free agent market. You choose who starts, who sits, who stays, who goes. You get to build a team – one with the ultimate goal of eventually winning a championship. That’s what it’s all about.
The way I see it, there are three “types of teams” in the NBA: the contenders, the tankers, and everyone in between. The general consensus is that you want to occupy either of the first two categories, steering clear of the forlorn and destitute middle space. In an ideal world, your competing for a title, or your merely one or two breaks away from competing. You’re the Warriors, the Cavs, the Spurs, the Rockets, the Celtics etc.
If you’re not there, and you’re willing to face that fact, then it makes sense to be a tanker. To accumulate young talent and a plethora of picks. To let those players get real game experience. To allow them to fully develop. To gradually build your way up to contending status. You’re the Sixers, the Suns, the Lakers, the Celtics (somehow these guys fit both extremes…shout out to the Nets) etc.
It’s the same in dynasty fantasy. You can either embrace the process, or you can embrace the “win-now” mentality. Otherwise, you may never claim that highly coveted championship.
And I just took the leap.
The trade deadline for my 16-team dynasty league was last Wednesday, and it was an active one. Looking at my roster prior to that date, I knew I had to make some moves. I was an in-betweener, sitting in the center of the standings just outside the playoffs. I had young, promising players such as Devin Booker (20), Bradley Beal (23), and Marquese Chriss (19). And I had older, more experienced players such as Eric Bledsoe (27) and most importantly, LeBron James (32).
Here was my thought process, which I hope will be helpful to those struggling with the same situation: I could either trade LeBron, get my hands on a few more Bookers and Beals, and probably struggle the next few seasons before those guys (and the players I would draft) were the alphas. Or I could trade away Booker, Beal and Chriss, immediately transitioning into win-now mode and structuring my franchise strategy around one of the greatest players ever (and one of the best fantasy players every single season): LeBron.
I chose the latter, not merely because I’m impatient and greedy, but because LeBron has showed no signs of significantly slowing down (averaging 25.7 points, 8.9 assists, 7.9 rebounds, shooting 54% from the field and 39% from three). It seems to me that the King has enough left in the tank to lead a competitive team admirably for a solid amount of years; so I set out to construct that competitive team. A team with established players. A team with multiple superstars.
In the end, I turned Booker, Beal, Chriss, and Serge Ibaka into Isaiah Thomas, Hassan Whiteside, Steven Adams, Frank Kaminsky, Willy Hernangomez, and Ivica Zubac. Guys like Adams, Kaminsky, Hernangomez, and Zubac were bonuses, some of which have proven ready to contribute now (especially Adams). But it was really all about Thomas and Whiteside – two guys over the age of 26 who have been absolute monsters recently.
Going forward, I am excited about the core I have assembled (Isaiah, Bledsoe, LeBron and Whiteside), although I am not fully satisfied. My win-now mentality must stay strong. It must persevere. I must stay glued to the approach. Though I have put myself in a better position to contend, there are certainly still teams better than mine. The main positive is this: I’ve made moves towards escaping that lonely middle tier, towards making others conscious of my team. I’m chasing the top.
Of course, there is always the chance that this strategy does not work out. The remarkable production from Thomas and Whiteside could plummet in the ensuing seasons. Someone could get injured (knock on wood). Someone could get traded. Anything could happen, really.
That’s why holding onto at least some young guns – like Adams, Kaminsky, Hernangomez, Zubac, and I also have Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson – is always good. I can, if need be, transition into tank mode. But that certainly isn’t the game plan.
For now, I’m not Sam Hinkie. I’m not processing.