BY TRAVIS MORAN
Desperation invites dilemma.
Over the past few weeks, my fantasy team, East Harlem Hustle, has hit the skids. Riding a historic Dončić scorcher, Luscious Luka Triangle—my brother’s team—torched the Hustle over the holidays, winning our whatever-straight head-to-head. He then used our new “bye week” as a trampoline to pass me in the standings. Ever been hit right on the button? I have. It’s painless, but when you get up, you’re super pissed you let it happen. I’m clawing for a chance to return the favor.
And that leads us Big Man Mafia, the team run by my brother’s son. (There’s some real Skywalker shit developing in our league this year as Triangle ascends in the standings.) Haunted by injuries and a cringeworthy lack of 3-point shooting, Big Man even lost his recent bye-week matchup, precipitating this exchange:
HUSTLE: I am confused about [Big Man Mafia].
HUSTLE: Losing [his bye week] for one …
TRIANGLE: Yeah, I said the same thing to him. He has no shooting.
HUSTLE: Problem with the first pick is you end up with a weak bottom half. His top seven are super-strong. I was there last year, but there aren’t any [Desmond] Banes or [Evan] Mobleys on the wire this year to shore that up.
TRIANGLE: Glad you’re concerned for him. Not my problem. He’ll learn. That’s a pretty deep dive on another team. I don’t think I’ve looked that hard at my own team this year. [Posts screenshot of Big Man Mafia’s 8-3 victory over East Harlem Hustle.] He says, based on evidence to the court, you have no frame of reference.
His crucial rematch with Luscious Luka Triangle looming, Big Man Mafia must have been a little desperate himself. To solve his swelling dilemma, he traded Jaren Jackson Jr. to (team) Triple Double for Buddy Hield. Now, one would think a young big man who blocks shots as often and as comically as Jackson Jr. might keep him around. After all, “Trip” produces at least one face-puckering defensive play per game.
Instead, Big Man pulled off a dispassionate, kill-your-darlings deal that left me very impressed, if not a little suspicious. I immediately contacted his father:
HUSTLE: Co-op move?
TRIANGLE: He did that shit on his own. I had a chance at Trip first but turned down a couple offers.
HUSTLE: Hield is solid. No point in winning blocks every week by 10. He dropped 680 points on me without Trip.
TRIANGLE: Got his 3-point specialist.
After drafting JJJ in the final round—and then having him block an important IR spot for months—it’s understandable Big Man never formed a “fan” attachment. Still, that shit was calculating, and it put the league on notice … just for all the wrong reasons.
Now, in addition to my brother, I’ll have to contend with a bulked-up Triple Double. With two months remaining and a final regular-season matchup slated with Triangle, the Hustle needs some help to stay in the race. The right seed will mean everything.
But what if … what if I needed only to give my nephew a tool—something to beat my brother and help weaken other contenders?
To try to answer that question, I ventured down a rabbit hole with no real clue where it would take me.
The tunnel narrows
I got a little obsessive here …
I’m not a mathematician or a statistician. I just had nagging questions and what felt like too little time to answer them. But then, hours became days; days became a week. My wife started to mistake the back of my head for my face.
“How are your numbers?” she would ask, eating another dinner alone.
“Not great,” I’d say, my bloodshot eyes pried with caffeine.
It was hard to explain—or at least, explain and not sound like a raving lunatic. But if I could just find a way to help Big Man defeat his father, I might also land an arrow in my brother’s ankle.
Fantasy basketball shouldn’t be rocket surgery. There’s math, and there’s luck. Ultimately, though, how you adjust to deficiencies and weekly setbacks will decide whether you reach your league’s playoffs. If I could just peek under the hood and find the nuances in fantasy production value (FPV), I’d be able to make better roster decisions—and offer Big Man a chance to do the same.
To be honest, this formula felt almost too intuitive, like I was using someone else’s Lego set, just without instructions. So, I consider this equation more “cobbled together” than “devised.” (If I’ve somehow duplicated anyone’s official/existing method, it was unintentional!)
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