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Why Was Davis Shut Down?

Earlier today, news broke that the Pelicans had shut down star big man Anthony Davis for the rest of the season.

The important question is: Why?

There are obvious reasons, ones that New Orleans will point to as explanations. Davis has been dealing with injuries all season; he’s currently fighting injuries to his shoulder and left knee. Furthermore, the Pelicans are all but eliminated from playoff contention. Why would they keep on playing a hobbled Davis in meaningless games?

However, there might be another, shadier reason that Anthony Davis has been shut down for the rest of the season.

The Brow signed a record-setting five year, $145 million extension last year to keep him in New Orleans through 2021. However, that mammoth amount of money is based off of the Derrick Rose Rule, that allows a fifth year player to earn up to 30% of the salary cap if he meets certain benchmarks: Being voted to start in two All-Star Games, being named to two All-NBA teams, or being named MVP.

The contract was announced as a $145 million deal because it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that, at the very least, Davis would be named to an All-NBA team, thereby meeting the criteria required to qualify under the Derrick Rose Rule. However, if Davis is unable to meet any of the criteria, rather than the extension being worth $145 million, it instead will be worth about $120 million.

Davis, despite all his troubles, still had a very good chance at being named to an All-NBA team. Over sixty-one games, Davis has averaged 24.3-10.3-1.9, along with 1.3 steals and a pair of blocks per game.

Thanks to this shutdown, Tom Benson, owner of the Pelicans, will save about $25 million in salary. Alternatively, the team could use the extra cash, along with the extra $5 million in cap space opened up, to improve the team around Davis.

Davis is said to be set to undergo surgery, but if he believes that he could have played through his injuries, he could potentially file a grievance. Even if the Pelicans win, this shadiness could wreak havoc on their relationship with their franchise player. If Davis is disgruntled, it could turn toxic in the Big Easy, making this a storyline to watch heading into next season.

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NBA Predictions

Here are my predictions for the upcoming NBA season. Let’s check back in six months to see how poorly I did.

I’m very high on Houston, as I think they’ll win the championship. A quick explanation of my reasoning: They’re the deepest team in the league, with quality players up and down the roster, they have two studs (Dwight Howard, Ty Lawson), and one superduperstar (James Harden). I wouldn’t pick them to win the championship if my life depended on it–if it did, I’d go with a safer pick in Golden State or Cleveland–but I think they’ve got as good a shot at it as any other team and besides, everyone else is picking the Warriors or Cavs so it’s a lot more fun to go out on a limb with the Rockets.

Without further ado, here are my predictions for the upcoming NBA season:

(Ranked in order of record, not seed)

Eastern Conference

  1. Washington
  2. Cleveland
  3. Chicago
  4. Boston
  5. Indiana
  6. Atlanta
  7. Miami
  8. Milwaukee
  9. Toronto
  10. New York
  11. Detroit
  12. Orlando
  13. Charlotte
  14. Brooklyn
  15. Philadelphia

Western Conference

  1. Golden State
  2. Houston
  3. LA Clippers
  4. San Antonio
  5. Oklahoma City
  6. New Orleans
  7. Utah
  8. Memphis
  9. Phoenix
  10. Minnesota
  11. LA Lakers
  12. Denver
  13. Portland
  14. Dallas
  15. Sacramento

Round 1

Golden State over Memphis (5 games)

Houston over Utah (6)

LA Clippers over New Orleans (6)

San Antonio over Oklahoma City (7)

Washington over Milwaukee (5)

Cleveland over Miami (5)

Chicago over Atlanta (5)

Boston over Indiana (7)

Round 2

GS over San Antonio (7)

Houston over LAC (7)

Washington over Boston (5)

Cleveland over Chicago (5)

Round 3

Houston over GS (6)

Cleveland over Washington (6)

NBA Finals

Houston over Cleveland (7)

Awards

MVP: Anthony Davis (Runners-up in some order: James Harden, Stephen Curry, John Wall)

DPOY: Rudy Gobert (Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis)

COY: Alvin Gentry (Billy Donovan, Randy Wittman, Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich, Frank Vogel)

EOY: Daryl Morey (Doc Rivers, RC Buford, Danny Ainge)

ROY: Karl-Anthony Towns (D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay)

MIP: Bradley Beal (Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk)

SMOY: Isaiah Thomas (Justise Winslow/Luol Deng)

CPOY: Kevin Durant (Paul George, Kobe Bryant)

Best Odds to Win Conferences and Championship

Washington +1800 to win EC

Houston +1000 to win WC

Washington +5000 to win NBA Finals

Houston +1600 to win NBA Finals

Over/Unders

Atlanta: 49.5: Under

Boston: 42.5: Over (Best Bet)

Brooklyn: 28.5: Under

Charlotte: 32.5: Under

Chicago: 49.5: Over

Cleveland: 56.5: Under

Dallas: 38.5: Under (Best Bet)

Denver: 26.5: Under

Detroit: 33.5: Over

Golden State: 60.5: Over

Houston: 54.5: Over (Best Bet)

Indiana: 42.5: Over

LAC: 56.5: Under

LAL: 29.5: Under

Memphis: 50.5: Under (Best Bet)

Miami: 45.5: Over

Milwaukee: 43.5: Over

Minnesota: 25.5: Over

New Orleans: 47.5: Over

New York: 31.5: Over

Oklahoma City: 57.5: Under

Orlando: 32.5: Over

Philadelphia: 21.5: Under

Phoenix: 36.5: Under

Portland: 26.5: Under

Sacramento: 30.5: Under

San Antonio: 58.5: Under (Best Bet)

Toronto: 45.5: Under

Utah: 40.5: Over

Washington: 45.5: Over (Best Bet)

The NBA All-Crazy Team

Throughout the NBA season, teams are constantly being made. All-Star teams, All-NBA teams, even All-Rookie teams. However, one team that no one’s ever made is the All-Crazy team, where the only qualifications for getting on the team are being an active player and an absolute head-case.

We can’t create a full five man lineup in the space available to us, but honestly, the three guys on this team can out-crazy any five man group in the entire NBA.

A vital building block for our team is Rajon Rondo. This guy single-handedly wrecked a Mavericks team that had been blitzing the league before his arrival. Rondo lazily took too long bringing up the ball on the court and got called for an 8-second violation. He was so awful that the Mavs benched him, their starting point guard…in the middle of the playoffs! He lost tens of millions of dollars for his craziness, and, even worse, now plays for Sacramento.

Matt Barnes is a cinch for the next spot. Did Barnes drive 95 miles to go fight Knicks coach Derek Fisher over Fisher’s romantic involvement with Barnes’ ex-wife? Yes. Did Barnes get fined $50,000 for insulting James Harden’s mom? Yes. Did Barnes start ISIS? Probably not. Barnes’ value fell so far that, over the summer, he was traded for Luke Ridnour. Does that even require a joke?

Last of all, let’s welcome Metta World Peace as the final member of our trio, although this is more of a career achievement award. All you need to know about his qualifications for being on this team is that he changed his name to Metta World Peace. Oh, and he was a main participant in the Malice at the Palace and received the longest suspension in the history of the NBA. That too.

I bet that, somewhere, Vivek Ranadive is sitting in his office reading this article, and is probably wondering why there’s no Crazy Executive of the Year Award. If there was, he’d have it in the bag. For the sake of Kings fans everywhere, let’s hope Ranadive doesn’t console himself by trading three first rounders to the Raptors for Patrick Patterson.

Closer Report: Keeping New Roles

For many leagues, saves are the single rarest category and closers the single rarest commodity. Because of this, closers are often drafted quite high in the draft and are tough to pry away in trades, meaning that if you don’t have saves, it’s challenging to make up your deficit.

There are two ways to get an extra closer without overpaying for one. One option is to pick up guys who seem to be next in line for save opportunities if the current closer falters. The problem with this approach is that it ties up roster spots with players who aren’t yet valuable, and might never become assets to your team. The second possibility is to wait for someone else to hold onto these lottery tickets and to swoop in once the player appears to be securing the ninth-inning role, getting a closer on the cheap.

With that in mind, let’s examine five of the most volatile closing situations in the league to see if we can glean any insight into how we can nab a valuable asset on the cheap.

Beginning in the Windy City, Hector Rondon has been spectacular as the closer and hasn’t allowed an earned run in over a month, but despite this, Joe Maddon has given multiple save opportunities to each Pedro Strop and Jason Motte. Complicating matters is that a couple of weeks ago the Cubs signed Rafael Soriano, presumably to compete for saves. He’s in the minors until after the All-Star Break to get back into game shape, but this really is a mess. I’d bet on Rondon to keep his job, but to continue to share some saves with his teammates. If your league allows you to keep him off an active roster spot while he’s in the minors, it’s wise to pick up Soriano, just in case.

In Toronto, Brett Cecil has been receiving save opportunities but has been horrible while doing so. Roberto Osuna picked up the last save, converting a two-inning save against the Rays. Cecil has been so bad that Osuna seems likely to keep getting saves, but before trading too much to acquire him, remember that the Blue Jays are among the most likely teams to acquire a closer, so Osuna may not have this job for long.

For the Rockies, John Axford has been very good since Adam Ottavino went down, but he’s a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. He’s likely to keep his job for a couple of reasons. One, there are no elite relievers on his team to compete with him and two, since the Rockies aren’t contenders, they aren’t going to trade for a better closer. That’s a double-edged sword, though, because while Axford won’t lose his job, there aren’t going to be many save opportunities on basement-dwelling Colorado.

Moving on, the Diamondbacks have had instability at closer for a long time. Last year Addison Reed was meh, but they stuck with him. Arizona opened up this season with Reed as its closer, but Brad Ziegler took over, after a few days with Enrique Burgos in the role, once Reed started to fall apart. Burgos only recently came off the DL, but Ziegler has been solid enough that he’s not in any immediate danger of losing his job. There are no speculative adds in this bullpen but if Ziegler starts to stumble, Burgos should be next in line, especially after Reed’s demotion to the minors.

Lastly, let’s take a look at Seattle. Fernando Rodney opened up the year at closer but was absolutely atrocious. When he finally lost his job, his bloated ERA was over 7. Over the past couple of weeks, Carson Smith has been getting all save opportunities and has pitched effectively, as he has all year. Lloyd McClendon, Seattle’s manager, seems to be warming up to the idea of Smith as his long-term closer, and Smith has yet to give him any reason to pause. Rodney has been subpar since his demotion from closing and doesn’t seem close at all to reclaiming the role. Buy Smith with confidence, but if you miss out on him, don’t worry, because the next big thing for saves is just around the corner.

Changing Teams, Changing Values

We’re meandering slowly through June right now and the All-Star break is still a few weeks away, but there are already multiple teams that are out of contention. There’s generally not much of use on those rosters, but there can be a few salvageable pieces that might make or break a contender’s season.

Two clubs, in particular, have the power to dramatically shift the baseball landscape, both of MLB and of fantasy, the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies. Each of those two teams has a star closer and an elite starter.

Trades will be good for these four players. Pitchers are extremely dependent on their surroundings for their fantasy value, especially closers; how can a starter win a game or a closer save it without their team winning the game? Let’s take a look at each of these four pitchers individually to see if we can ascertain whether or not their value will increase, and if so, by how much.

Starting off with Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies’ closer, a prime example of a fantasy player who just needs a change of scenery. The Phillies have only won 23 games this season, fewest in the majors, and accordingly, Papelbon has a mere twelve saves, tied for 20th in the league. The 34 year-old veteran has continued to dominate, with a 10.52 K/9, along with a 1.05 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP.

Similarly, Aroldis Chapman, closer for the Reds, has continued to be dominant with an insane K/9 of 15.73. Just like Papelbon, Chapman’s opportunities for saves have been painfully few, and he could benefit from a trade to a more competitive team.

One word of warning, though: these two pitchers may be traded to a team that employs them as elite relievers rather than as closers, which would hamper their value significantly. However, for the starting pitchers, that won’t be the case.

Cole Hamels, ace for Philadelphia, has been his customary brilliant self. He’s got his usual sub-3.00 ERA, with his usual low WHIP. He strikes out over a batter an inning, is 10-14 on quality starts, but only has five wins. With a change to a better team, the one weak spot in his fantasy profile will be solved, giving him a big increase in value.

Cincinnati’s ace, Johnny Cueto, faces the same problems as his counterpart on the Phillies, with impressive ratios without any wins. As with Hamels, if he’s traded to a better team, his worth will rise accordingly.

Before celebrating their impending trades, be aware that a trade isn’t without its drawbacks. As a reader astutely pointed out, if one of these pitchers switches to the American League, facing the designated hitter instead of a pitcher will worsen their ratios. Tread cautiously.

If you can convince someone that their value is inevitably headed upwards with no potential roadblocks, then sell. Otherwise, sit tight and enjoy.

Although Hamels has convinced reporters otherwise, these four players have yet to be traded, but for impatient owners, upset with their performance thus far, the day they’re dealt can’t come soon enough.

Running Diary: Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals

This Game 6 has the chance to be legendary. The self-proclaimed (albeit universally acknowledged) best player in the world, carrying his broken-down team on his back, against the whirring machine of basketball perfection that is the Golden State Warriors? That’s compelling enough, appointment viewing, but adding in the tortured histories of the two franchises and the amazing basketball that’s been played so far this series makes this game warrant an official running diary.

I’ve done this a couple of times before, so you know the drill: I write down my reactions live, along with when they happen, as a way of recording what people were seeing, thinking, and feeling, at any given moment.

For the record, I have no real rooting interest in this game. I’m in a pool that I can win if the Cavs win tonight and lose Game 7. To hedge my bet, though, I bet with a friend on the Warriors in this game, so I don’t have any monetary interest in this game, leaving me free to root for a night of amazing basketball.

Anyways, the game is about to start, so let’s get to it!

9:11: And we’re off!

9:12: Interestingly enough, David Blatt is starting off with his twin towers, Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, against Golden State’s small ball lineup. In it, Blatt is hoping that all the benefits of the super-size lineup, particularly the offensive rebounds, outweigh the huge negative of having Mozgov, a center, match up against Andre Iguodala, a wing player, on defense.

9:15: Well Thompson just got a lefty hook for two points by posting up the much smaller Harrison Barnes. Cleveland’s size advantage is paying off early.

9:19: And just now, a couple of possessions later, Iman Shumpert got an open corner three off a Mozgov post-up. He missed, but that’s the type of shot that the Cavs need to create from their physical advantage.

9:21: One of the best things about the NBA is the chess match that occurs when teams try to shift matchups in their favor. A couple of examples of this to watch out for are with LeBron and Steph Curry. Iguodala is the only Golden State player who can stick with LeBron, so the Cavs will likely run their star through a series of picks to force a smaller player to switch onto him for a LeBron post-up. Likewise, the Warriors will likely plan a bunch of Curry-Draymond Green and Curry-Iguodala pick-and-rolls to get a slow-footed big man, either Thompson or Mozgov, to switch onto Curry. Then, as he’s been doing all season, Curry can dazzle them with a bunch of awesome dribbles, then swish a step-back three.

9:24: Iguodala missed his first couple of shots and just played hot-potato with the ball, afraid to shoot an open three-pointer. Luckily Curry bailed him out by nailing a corner three, but if Iguodala can’t hit shots from outside, Mozgov, who’s ostensibly guarding him, can just stick around in the paint, mucking up the spacing integral to Golden State’s offense.

9:27: The Warriors just breathed a sigh of relief as Iggy just hit a couple of midrange jumpers.

9:28: Again, with the size advantage, Golden State doubled a Mozgov post-up, leading to a nifty pass in the post to Thompson for a dunk.

9:29: IGGY WITH THE HEAT CHECK!!! CORNER THREE!!!

9:37: End of first quarter check-in: Iggy has seven points and a drawn offensive foul against LeBron, the Cavs star has only four points on a mere six shots, and Golden State had a fifteen point lead at one point. Their record when they lead a game by fifteen points or more at any point? 57-0. Ethan Strauss astutely points out that, in addition to this impressive record in these games, even more impressively, the Warriors are undefeated, an astounding 82-0, when they score more points than their opponent.

9:41: We head into the second quarter with Golden State up 28-15.

9:42: James with a crazy fade-away three as the shot clock expires.

9:47: One thing to keep an eye out for: the Cavs have shot eleven free throws already, with about nine minutes left in the second quarter. Klay Thompson has three fouls as well, which could prove troublesome later on, and even now, as Steve Kerr sits him so he doesn’t pick up another foul.

9:52: Mozgov with the emphatic rejection of Iguodala.

9:53: The comparatively small Leandro Barbosa was just forced to switch onto LeBron, and James took it to the hole for two points. It’s this type of switch I was talking about earlier, with the Cavs attempting to get LeBron a physical advantage over his defender for easy points.

9:54: Shumpert slams his body into a Green screen, knocking him over, mirroring the same play with JR Smith from last game.

9:55: ABC just showed that play from Game Four. Wow, Green’s really been setting some great screens.

9:56: No flagrant for Shump, Golden State to inbound the ball.

9:59: Cleveland’s made a little bit of a run, coming back to within five points, 34-29, after a Shumpert jumper.

10:00: Some nifty passing from Golden State on a transition play, leading to an open three for Harrison Barnes. Golden State with the 37-29 advantage with 5:07 left in the first half.

10:07: The free throw disparity is impressive, 17-2 in favor of the Cavs, but they’re still down by eight points. Eight of those free throws are from Cleveland’s twin towers, including six from Mozgov. It’s clear that Golden State’s smaller players are struggling with the bigger Cavaliers, although they’re okay with it as they’re making up for those fouls on the offensive end.

10:08: Shumpert and Iguodala each just picked up their third fouls. This isn’t good for either team, straining Cleveland’s depth, and depriving the Warriors of the one player who can effectively defend LeBron one-on-one.

10:11: Speaking of James, compared to the lofty standards he’s set for himself, he’s been struggling so far this game, with only nine points and two assists.

10:13: LeBron with a beautiful drive past David Lee.

10:14: Curry with a nice left-handed finish in transition against JR Smith.

10:15: James nails a three. 43-38 in Golden State’s favor.

10:16: Curry makes a quick pass to escape a double team leading to a basket from Green.

10:17: With Iguodala on the bench, LeBron has been having his way with Shaun Livingston. After those last two shots and a couple of free throws, James just slipped a nifty low-post pass for a Thompson dunk.

10:19: With the last possession of the first half, James drives, throws up an off-balance shot and misses, but Tristan Thompson follows up with a thunderous slam with less than a second left. The half ends with Golden State clinging to a tenuous lead of two points over the resurgent Cavs, 45-43.

10:36: The game resumes, and Cleveland begins the second half with the ball.

10:37: Mozgov makes a layup to tie the game at 45, then Thompson hits a shot to take the lead for the Cavs. They’ve combined for 22 of Cleveland’s 47 points.

10:39: Barnes hits a three to put the Warriors back on top by one.

10:40: Barnes steals the ball from Shumpert. Iguodala gets the ball on the other end, fakes a pass, and slams it in for a dunk.

10:41: Green nails a three off of a pocket pass from Klay Thompson. Warriors by six. Blatt calls a timeout to regroup.

10:48: LeBron takes on Thompson for an easy basket, then heads back down the floor to grab his tenth rebound. He’s got a double-double with 6:41 left in the third quarter.

10:48: Thompson picks up his fourth foul and Kerr takes him out.

10:51: Curry gets a rebound, dribbles down the court, and throws a bounce pass to Iguodala for a dunk to make it 61-51. Blatt calls another timeout to try and stop the bleeding. The Warriors are on a 16-4 run right now.

10:59: A nice play from the Warriors. The Cavs double Curry off a pick-and-roll between him and Green, Curry slips a pass between them to Green, and Green lofts it up for an alley-oop to Festus Ezeli.

10:59: Curry misses a three but Ezeli crashes in for a booming dunk, even drawing an and-1 foul on Mozgov. Ezeli hits the free throw and the Warriors lead by fourteen, 69-55.

11:05: The game seems close to getting out of hand. Green just bullied James Jones in the post for a couple of points, and Golden State takes a fifteen point lead.

11:09: The third quarter ends, 73-61, Warriors.

11:10: LeBron looks exhausted. He’s still been great, but not his usual otherworldly self, with a couple of lackadaisical plays where he’s been caught just standing around.

11:12: The Cavs have a 43-27 edge in rebounding, a 29-13 edge in free throw attempts, and three of its players have double-doubles. Its main problem is that they’ve turned the ball over fourteen times, to Golden State’s six. When you factor in that Golden State thrives in the chaos in transition that ensues after turnovers, it’s no wonder that the Cavs are playing from behind.

11:15: Down thirteen, LeBron just says screw it, drives down the floor on Barnes, and hits a layup.

11:18: James steals a pass from Green, gallops down the floor, and rises up for the dunk! A 7-0 run from Cleveland brings them to within seven. 75-68, Warriors.

11:21: Curry swishes a three and the lead is back to double digits.

11:23: LeBron passes to Mozgov for a dunk, 78-70.

11:23: Livingston with a put-back dunk off an Iguodala miss, making it 80-70.

11:23: Smith with a three on one end but Iguodala comes back down the floor to nail a three to keep the lead at ten.

11:24: Mozgov physically overpowers Iguodala on his way to the rim for a basket, Warriors 83-75.

11:24: Curry with another three!!!

11:26: Klay Thompson finally hits a three off a nice feed from Curry and it’s 89-75.

11:28: The officials miss a backcourt violation on Curry and instead call a kick-ball on Shumpert, giving the Warriors the ball. Kerr calls a timeout with 6:09 remaining in the game. It’s 89-77 and the Cavaliers are running out of time.

11:32: Off the inbound, Draymond Green passes to Iguodala in the corner and Iggy hits the three. That’s Green’s tenth assist, giving him a triple-double.

11:35: Klay Thompson was just called for an offensive foul and fouls out. He’s got more fouls (6) than points (5). Assuming the Warriors don’t relinquish their thirteen point lead with 4:16 left in the game, Thompson’s performance will be forgotten by history. He’s lucky he’s not on the losing team.

11:43: A right hook for Tristan Thompson and the lead is down to eleven with 2:39 remaning.

11:44: Curry slips past Shumpert and drives to the hoop for an uncontested layup. It’s 98-85, and the Cavs call a timeout with 1:50 remaining.

11:49: JR Smith just nailed the second of two threes, bringing the Cavs to within eight. They’re down 100-92 with 55.2 seconds left.

11:54: LeBron drove for a layup, then the Cavs fouled Curry, but he only made one of his free throws. Then JR Smith came down the floor and hit another off-balance three. It’s 101-97!!!

11:56: Curry hits two free throws and Smith finally misses. Iggy is fouled, hits one of his free throws, and LeBron comes galloping down the floor, jukes his defender, and sets his feet for a wide-open three pointer which he then misses. After a couple of fouls and missed shots…

11:58: THE WARRIORS WIN 105-97

Three Important Notes:

  1. LeBron could not look more exhausted. He gave it his all and it just wasn’t enough. He could not have done anything more than he did.
  2. The Warriors just finished up one of the best seasons in the history of the NBA. They went 67-15 in the regular season, and 16-5 in the playoffs, for a combined record of 83-20, the third highest win total in NBA history, behind only Michael Jordan’s two best teams in Chicago.
  3. Steve Kerr deserves plaudits for his risky gamble in starting Iguodala over Andrew Bogut for the last three games of the series.. It worked out wonderfully, and with it, he dictated the pace of the game, the matchups therein, and won all three of those games, to win the series, and the championship.

The NBA never stops moving, though, and while the Warriors bask in the glow of their championship, the draft hype is about to go into overdrive. The draft is eight days from now, on June 25th, and we’ll be back in this format for the draft.

Until then, all we can do is applaud the Golden State Warriors and toast the marvelous 2014-2015 NBA season.

Onto the draft!

Why Avoiding Risk Won’t Win Your League

How do you create a juggernaut in fantasy baseball? By drafting or trading for players for whom your evaluations are different than everyone else’s. How do you create a team that’s eliminated by Memorial Day? The same exact way. The differences in opinion about different players are what give rise to either destroying or being destroyed by your opposition.

For instance, in my home league, I valued Josh Donaldson as a top-20 player, believing that the change in ballpark and lineup would make him an elite asset. On the other hand, conventional thinking ranked him in the mid-30s. I ended up taking Donaldson with my third round pick, 27th overall, and he’s been a top three asset for me to date.

Of course, not all departures from mainstream opinion work out well. I liked Christian Yelich a lot this year, gambled on him with my seventh rounder, and dropped him at the beginning of May. In this case, the majority was correct.

If I had been as wrong about Donaldson as I was about Yelich, I’d be at a massive disadvantage without a third rounder. Instead it worked out, and I ended up with a superstar pick in the third round, giving me a big edge over my opponents. This gap between best and worst case scenarios is pivotal– it can make or break your season.

Moving away from my team, the two most divisive players at the top of the draft were Troy Tulowitzki and Bryce Harper. Each went in the mid-to-high second round to those few willing to take a big risk for a shot at a superstar, when most rankings had them at least a round lower.

As we all know, Harper’s been the second best player in the league while Tulowitzki has merely been a good shortstop. If you used your second round pick on Harper, you’re ecstatic, and your risky pick has been vindicated. On the other hand, if you used that same second rounder on Tulowitzki, you’re mildly disappointed. Both players had the same wide range of possible outcomes, though, but only one was a huge success.

You might be thinking that this strategy of deviating from conventional rankings is too risky to attempt, that it’s more prudent to stick with guaranteed security, but if that’s the course you choose to take, what are you really getting? You’ll finish in the middle of your league, you won’t embarrass yourself, but you won’t win anything. If you go with that strategy, you’ll finish in front of the guy who drafted Tulowitzki, who’s likely in last place, or close to it, but you’ll be far behind the guy who drafted Harper, who’s likely in the midst of a battle for first.

Yes, it’s inherently to risky to go out on a limb to say that you’ve found something that everyone else has missed, that you’re right and everyone else is wrong. But if all you do is try not to lose, capping your upside by taking safe players, are you really trying to win your league?