It’s been a while since I discussed the UBAS Basketball League – a historical basketball fantasy league that I’m in (and am the webmaster for). It’s a ridiculously fun league with 34 other hoop-crazed managers each having stables of players from 1900 to the present day.
I last checked in with the Season 2 draft – where I made some deft maneuvers to pick up 2 top-notch Australian basketball players from the NBL, Al Green and Scott Fisher. Both were fantastic ballers for the next 5 years which translated to excellent two-way assets in terms of immediate help to my team and superb trade assets. Well, they both produced well enough to propel my team, the New York Rens, into the 8th and final playoff spot in my conference. Where I was immediately swept out in 4 quick games.
I wasn’t thrilled with the players in the Season 3 draft available at my position so I decided to sit it out. Thus, at the beginning of the third UBAS season, here’s what my team looked like.
I was obviously very happy with my starting wings and point guard (Barkley, Drexler and Brown) and my wing depth was probably the best in the league with Harper, Green and Fisher. However, my center position wasn’t going to be strong, especially with my best big man, Leroy Edwards, only available to play about 59 games. I estimated I would once again squeak into the playoffs at the 7th or 8th spot and see the offseason quickly after that.
With that analysis, I started to look for someone to dump Ron Harper on. This was going to be his best season, but it would be followed by two injury-prone years (35 and 39 games). I prefered to get a decent center to bolster Edwards, but my priority was to get the absolute best player I could, position be damned. I lucked out by finding another manager who seemed poised to contend and needed a starting shooting guard. I cajoled out of him Peja Stojakovic.
Peja was a bit redundant with Scott Fisher already on my team, but I figured Fisher might eventually get traded so I didn’t mind too much. Plus, Peja’s phenomenal 2004 season was coming soon and that would be a greater season than any that Scott Fisher (or Ron Harper) had. It felt like a win to me.
A couple games into the season, I started to get a little anxious about my point guard position. Fred Brown was fantastic and Rod Strickland would be amazing in a few seasons, but he was just decent now and he was also a dice roll each game to get a long-term injury. I started to look around the league for a nice, back-up point guard – someone that I could realistically trade for without having to give up too much. I just couldn’t convince anyone to bite on my deals when I finally got notified by someone who was interested in Ron Artest.
Artest was seeing 0 playing time on my team, as he wasn’t awesome this year and I had a ton of talent at the wing. While he would be a formidable two-way player, he also was hampered by injury. As a result of both of these facts I jumped at the deal that was offered – even though it made very little sense, position-wise for me. In came Eddie Jones – a player I valued as better than Ron Artest – and one who could be moved easier, as well.
About a week later I found a taker for Jones. I originally honed in on a phenomenal point guard – one who would stay phenomenal for the rest of his lengthy career – and I was amazed when the other GM said he was interested in the deal. Then the GM went quiet – for weeks! It was really hard to reach him and I wondered if I had overplayed my hand or if he had gotten cold feet. Finally, he came back saying he was no longer interested in the deal but would give me Baron Davis. B-Diddy is notorious for his injury-riddled career, but he was perfect this season, and he would perform at an elite level for the next few. It felt like a good gamble as I felt he and Strickland could at least put together a full season between the two of them for the next couple of years and anything Davis gave me out of his better production would be gravy. Out went Jones and in came Davis.
So … to summarize so far. Out was one-year-rental Ron Harper and two-way but injury-prone Ron Artest. In was an elite but fragile Baron Davis and deadeye Peja Stojakovic. I felt I had addressed one of my big concerns in the back-up point guard position, but still worried about my center. I was primed to make a big run with my biggest assets in Scott Fisher and Al Green but wanted to get the right fish. The trade deadline was looming – in fact this deal wasn’t made until the final MINUTE of the deadline.
Alex Groza was on a team that was not going to make the playoffs. Groza had the 9th best PER of any player who could play the center position … but only had one more season after this current one (Groza famously was banned from the NBA for alleged ties to gamblers). So, he was essentially a Ron Harper on steroids – a rent-a-monster. Was I willing to trade some great players, and risk future contention, to try for a go at the championship now?
To make the matter more complicated, my conference was relatively easy. I figured with Groza I’d probably end up as the 1st or 2nd seed, and had a great chance to make it to the Finals. Unfortunately, there I’d meet a beast from the other, stronger conference. There were several teams that had vastly superior squads so my chances would not be great – even with Groza on my side. It was a tough decision, but one I ultimately … went for! My reasons were the following:
- The goal is to win championships – and I might as well go for it when an opportunity arises
- While my chances weren’t great in the Finals, my chances of REACHING the Finals WAS great and the only way to win championships is to be in the Finals
- I concocted a deal that not only got me Groza but one that I felt ALSO made my team better later
This was the meat of the deal. Al Green was, indeed, great now and would stay great for three more years. But he would never crack my starting lineup with Drexler and, now, Stojakovic. I loved his efficiency, but as a back-up player, he would never really get me over the top. Groza, on the other hand, would score even more efficiently than Green, would be an immediate starter, and could push Leroy Edwards into a more effecient position at the power forward. I loved it.
This was the interesting part of the deal. My trading partner wanted Vlade to fill in as his future starting center after Groza. I really liked Vlade for the same reason – eventually he’d be great. But that wouldn’t be the case for another three years. Plus, he was my worst player now and was probably hurting my team whenever he’d take the court. Good centers are hard to replace and I know I’d have to find one when Groza’s season was done next year – but I felt that, with time, I could find something at least decent and Leroy Edwards and Harry Gallating were just going to get better, too. Bob Davies, on the other hand, could barely stay on the court this season AND next season (14 games). However, when he would see the court he would be amazing. And, as soon as his two injury-devastated season would be complete, he’d basically become Al Green levels of efficiency – for longer than Green!
Anyway, I did the deal. The trade deadline is over and (as of presstime) I have claimed the 1st seed in my conference. Will the New York Rens go all the way this year? Probably not – but it will be a hell of a ride! I’ll update you guys at the end of the season.