Welcome to Reverse Fantasy BasketballRichard Rowe/NBAE via Getty Images
Humans have always sought to bring order to chaos. We have gazed through the fog of time and the haze of probability into the future, where the swirl of random events coalesces into patterns that we have used to seed and plow, divide the years into seasons, and select our fantasy teams. Ah, fantasy sports! Two words that, together, capture the vicarious nature of sports fandom, the human need to show mastery over one’s environment and the desire to show off.
Fantasy basketball has been done, though. So let’s look at it from a different angle. Let’s reverse it. Welcome to Reverse Fantasy.
The concept is simple. Of the more than 400 professionals making up the NBA workforce, who contributes the least? Who are the worst players in the NBA? It’s important to note that even the very, very worst NBA players would Wilt Chamberlain–dominate 99.999 percent of the non-NBA basketball runs on earth. The NBA is the very tippity-top of the world basketball pyramid. Sucking is relative. Being the worst NBA player still means being in the elite, cream-of-the-crop population of ball-bouncing humanoids walking the planet’s surface. Still, someone must be the worst, and Reverse Fantasy will allow us to use that relative badness for our personal amusement.
We all know how a fantasy league works. Reverse Fantasy will work just the same, only inverted. Scoring categories are:
• Lowest points
• Lowest rebounds
• Lowest assists
• Lowest FG%
• Lowest FT%
• Worst plus/minus
The format is head-to-head. Reverse Fantasy owners score points for each category they win during the month. If there’s a tie, the owner whose players accrued the most minutes wins. To be eligible for Reverse Fantasy, players must play at least 10 minutes per game in 50 or more games.
Let’s look at some notable Reverse Fantasy prospects for 2014-15.
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Phil Pressey, Boston Celtics
2013-14: 75 games (11 starts), 2.8 points, 1.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 turnovers, 1.3 fouls, 30 FG%, 64 FT%, minus-0.3 in 15 minutes per game
Boston recently guaranteed Pressey’s contract. With Rondo’s future being, at the very least, a point of discussion, Pressey looks to have a solid shot to get a lot of minutes. Last season, he was the absolute worst shooter in the NBA who played 10 or more minutes a game. He has a nice handle and an eye for the slippery pass, but he also had a turnover rate of 24 percent. Pressey is only 22, and while the learning curve for NBA point guards (especially sub-6-footers) is steep, he shot only 37 percent during his last year in college.
Pressey is young enough that there’s no reason to think he won’t improve. But he’ll likely never be anything but a Reverse Fantasy All-Star when it comes to shooting. Thirty percent from the floor is quite a crater to climb out from. Of guys shooting in the low 30s, the only cases of improving to 40 percent or more I managed to find were dudes who (for whatever reason) played just a handful of games in their slump seasons. I’m talking the brittle-boned Jon Bender, or Michael Redd in his rookie year. Pressey shot 30 percent over 75 damn games at 15 minutes per game. The last guy to shoot that badly over more regular-season games than Pressey? The immortal Nikoloz Tskitishvili, at 29 percent from the floor over 81 eye-blistering games in 2002-03.
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J.J. Barea, Minnesota Timberwolves (For Now)
2013-14: 79 games (1 start), 8.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 turnovers, 1.6 fouls, 38 FG%, 79 FT%, minus-1.2 in 18.6 minutes per game
The post-Love Timberwolves have 16 players on their roster and need to get down to 15 before the start of the regular season. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the listed-at-6-feet-but-that’s-totally-a-lie J.J. Barea actually counts as an entire player. Barea turned 30 this summer, is coming off the worst statistical year of his career, and is entering the final year of his contract, in which he is owed $4.5 million. The 6-foot or smaller guard is a particularly short-lived species of NBA player, and Barea certainly seems to be approaching his pro mortality. Minnesota signed Mo “Panthro” Williams over the summer, meaning Barea will either get traded — which, read the preceding sentences again about a (allegedy) sub-6-foot guard just off the worst year of his career — or, more likely, be bought out. So he’s a bit of a risk, reverse-fantasy-wise.
Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls
2013-14: 73 games (61 starts), 9.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.6 turnovers, 2.8 fouls, 39 FG%, 76 FT%, plus-2.0 in 29 minutes
Kirk logged PERs of 10.8 with 49 percent true shooting the last two seasons. His 2013-14 no-parachute free fall stabilized when Thibs did the unthinkable (for him) and reduced Kirk’s workload from just over 31 minutes a game to just under 28 starting in January. Kirk’s shooting percentage went from 27 percent in December to 39 percent in January. He ended the season shooting 45 percent in April. So will Thibs play against type again and keep Hinrich’s minutes down? A healthy Derrick Rose will make that easier, rendering Hinrich a somewhat risky pick.
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Alexey Shved, Philadelphia 76ers
2013-14: 63 games, 4.0 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.6 fouls, 32 FG%, 75 FT%, minus-0.6 in 10.5 minutes per game
I admit it, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Alexey Shved. He reminds me of the dude you met on the first day at the dorms who somehow already knew how to get good weed. Unfortunately, Shved is a not-good NBA player, and thus here we are. He will vie for shooting guard minutes in Tankadelphia with Casper Ware and Elliot Williams. This is a contract year for Shved, so he should be motivated — which is a plus for Reverse Fantasy owners, since all indications are that he is terrible.
John Salmons, New Orleans Pelicans
2013-14: 78 games (8 starts), 5.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.7 turnovers, 1.6 fouls, 36 FG%, 77 FT%, minus-0.1 in 22.1 minutes per game
The 34-year-old Salmons recently signed a one-year with New Orleans to provide veteran leadership and shooting. Great news for Reverse Fantasy owners, because Salmons is incontrovertibly in decline — the angle of which can be traced by his field goal percentage, which first pressed the down button in 2009-10. Since then the elevator cable has snapped.
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He has spent the last two seasons in the below-40-percent sub-basement. In the 2014 “Fuck Brooklyn” seven-game Raptors-Nets playoff series, Salmons let all of Drakeland down, shooting 29 percent (16 percent from 3), with averages of 2.2 points, 1.0 rebounds, and 0.8 assists.
Tayshaun Prince, Memphis Grizzlies
2013-14: 76 games (76 starts), 6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 turnovers, 0.8 fouls, 40 FG%, 56 FT%, plus-0.6 in 25.6 minutes per game
The addition of half-man, half-old-ass-man Vince Carter should spell the end of Prince’s days as a starter in Memphis. The question is just how far down the pecking order he will fall. The NBA life cycle is such that players are either underpaid or overpaid. It’s really a matter of degree. Tayshaun is 34 and in the final year of a four-year deal, in which he is slated to make almost $8 million. His .438 true shooting percentage last season was among the worst in the NBA. Still, his combination of size and length means we’ll probably see Prince ambling about in blue and yellow next season, albeit with a reduced role.
Gerald Wallace, Boston Celtics
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2013-14: 58 games (16 starts), 5.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 turnovers, 1.4 fouls, 50 FG%, 46 FT%, minus-2.9 in 24 minutes per game
In April 2013 — a month in which he was shooting just 33 percent — Wallace casually mentioned that his confidence was “totally gone.” (Should there be some sort of Reverse Fantasy scoring bonus for when a player just tosses out there that he has no self-confidence?) One year later he would have season-ending surgery — somehow, only his first — to repair a torn meniscus. He has two years and some $20 million left on his contract.
Quincy Acy, New York Knicks
2013-14: 63 games, 2.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.5 turnovers, 1.9 fouls, 47 FG%, 66 FT%, minus-2.2 in 13.4 minutes per game
At first glance, Acy’s field goal percentage might seem a little high, but he also shot 20 percent from 3 last season. He averaged 5.2 personal fouls per 36 minutes, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s familiar with his style of play, which essentially is to karate-chop dudes, then to respond to the ref’s whistle by clapping as if the foul were on the the guy he chopped, then to respond to the realization that the foul is in fact on him by being pretend amazed and appalled. He’ll get minutes in New York, where Derek Fisher has toyed with starting him during the preseason.
Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City Thunder
2013-14: 62 games (62 starts), 3.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 2.9 fouls, 45 FG%, 55 FT%, plus-0.7 in 19.5 minutes per game
The LeBron James of Reverse Fantasy centers. Kendrick Perkins’s 28.8 percent turnover rate is my favorite stat of the 2013-14 season. In fairness, he has value that escapes the tyranny of stats, like a sparrow flitting through prison bars. This was especially evident during the playoff series against the Grizzlies, when Perk wrassled Z-Bo into a six-game headlock. That series played to his strengths, though, which involve not moving around or touching the basketball. Perk has the mobility of a broken Transformer action figure, and his hands are actually a bunch of old phone books tied together with twine. To be fair, lineup stats show Perk as being part of some of the league’s best five-man groups, meaning that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are on some level-30 Mage shit.
Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn Nets
2013-14: 54 games (54 starts), 6.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 turnovers, 2.3 fouls, 44 FG%, 80 FT%, minus-0.6 in 20 minutes per game
Bear witness to the end of one of the greatest players the world has ever seen. Garnett is 38, and a host of lower leg injuries, combined with time’s inexorable ravages, has turned one of the most ferocious competitors in league history into a paper scowl, incapable of intimidating even Andrea Bargnani. The former 20-20 machine reached double figures in points and rebounds in the same game only three times last season. KG is in the last year of a contract that paid him eleventy-kajillion-million dollars, and this may be the very last season we get to watch him suck. Let’s enjoy it.
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets
2013-14: 82 games (3 starts), 6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 turnovers, 2.1 fouls, 42 FG%, 73 FT%, minus-1.1 in 17.3 minutes per game
Young Zeller ouchea putting up Kendrick Perkinsesque numbers! Zeller is only 22, so odds are he’ll get better. That’s the danger of picking youth in Reverse Fantasy. Zeller stabilized as the season wore on, managing to get over 50 percent shooting in March and April. Unfortunately, his rebounding rate plummeted to 14 percent in April, and he shot only 60 percent from the line that month. Also, he was abysmal in the playoffs — eight points and nine rebounds over four games, 33 percent from the floor. Reverse Fantasy owners will hope that kind of form carries over to this season.