Fantasy Basketball Sparks Interest in NBA

Ed Boulat

“The NBA regular season is so long. It’s so boring. No one plays hard in the regular season.”

I don’t know about you, but every time I hear someone say anything along those lines I want Dwight Howard to magically appear on a basketball court with a ball and a hoop to repeat­edly dunk alley-oop passes from me … directly on that person’s face.

But seriously, I’ve never understood the whole hating of the NBA regular season thing. I’ve watched four or five games already this year that have been very competitive and highly en­tertaining. And don’t give me this “they play too many regular season games” crap because baseball has a 640-game regular season and I don’t hear anyone complaining about how long that is.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you a reason to care about the NBA regu­lar season. And it involves money. Now you’re interested. You’re going to get between six and 10 of your friends and start a fantasy basketball league. It’s free and on it takes about four minutes to make. Everyone is then going to throw $20 in a big pot (unless you’re a D-I ath­lete! Dave Roach will be very mad at you) and at the end of the season the winner takes the cash. And don’t worry about creating a league after the season has already started, because as your an­noying friend always says: “The regular season is too long.”

I’m even going to hook you up with my top six “sleeper” picks. And by sleeper picks I mean guys that are really good and put up better numbers than the Paul Pierces and Amare Stoudemires of the world but some­how still get overlooked. Keep in mind, the season is still young, but you can basically consider my opinion to be fact. Trust me.Kevin Martin – G – Houston

Okay, so Martin averaged 24.6 points per game in the 08-09 season with the Kings, but somehow he still gets overlooked when it comes to the league’s top scorers. So far in this young season he’s averaging 24.1 points per game while shooting 90 percent from the line and a solid 37 percent from three. Consider­ing it is now a fact of life that Yao Ming will never be completely healthy there is no rea­son to think Martin will be slowing down any time soon. If you need points, he’s your man.Monta Ellis – G – Golden State

Ellis is another guy who gets slightly over­looked when it comes to pure scorers. After a breakout year last season, Ellis is picking up right where he left off, averaging 26.5 points, 5.0 assists and 2.7 steals per game while shoot­ing 52 percent from the field. There is some injury concern that goes along with Ellis, as he missed considerable time over the last two sea­sons, but with a high-flying and explosive player like Monta, that comes with the territory. As a side note, because of the track-meet style of game Golden State plays, and the fact that they seem to score 140 points every other night, there are a bunch of other Warriors players that are a good bet in the fantasy game. Case in point: Stephen Curry who is averaging 19.3 points, 6.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game so far this season.Rudy Gay – SF – Memphis

Winning gold at this summer’s World Cham­pionships in Turkey seems to have done Rudy a lot of good, as he has been tearing it up this year. So far, he is averaging 25.2 points and 7.1 assists per game. The bottom line is that a guy as athleti­cally gifted as Gay is going to get his numbers. Mix in the fact that he’s shooting 42 percent from 3-point land, and that spells major trouble for whoever has to guard him this year. Plus, the Grizzlies are just not a good team, meaning Gay should get all the looks he wants.

Paul Millsap – PF – Utah

If basketball fans didn’t know the name Paul Millsap before this season, they definitely learned it after his 46-point performance in Miami last month against LeBrick & Co. With Carlos Boozer off to Chicago, Millsap is now the man down low for the Jazz, and the main beneficiary of those perfect Darren Williams passes. Millsap has thrived in his first starting role since enter­ing the league, positing a very solid 21.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He also shoots 61 percent from the field, which never hurts.Michael Beasley – SF – Minnesota

Looks like B-Easy is finding the grass a whole lot greener in Minnesota than in Miami. He fi­nally seems to have come into his own with the Wolves, averaging 20.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He’s also shooting 49 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point, which is a very good sign. His numbers might drop off a little as the season goes on and the T-Wolves start losing every game by 20 points. But then again, he’s clearly one of the best players on a very young and inexperienced roster, so he should get more than enough touches to be an elite-level fantasy player.Kevin Love – PF – Minnesota

Beasley’s teammate in Minnesota has also benefited in a big way from his time with Team USA in Turkey at the World Championships Love is averaging 18.4 points and a ridiculous 14.8 rebounds per game in this young season. Last week he absolutely manhandled my pathetic Knicks to the tune of 31 points and 31 rebounds, becoming the first player to grab 30 boards since Sir Charles did it back in 1996. A few days before that, Love went for 23 points and 24 rebounds against the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers. Enough said.