On the final day of 2020, I found myself up a little earlier than usual. One of those mornings when you wake up before your alarm rings, but feel rested and ready to go, not ready to turn over for a bit more sleep.
Further back in the year, the spare minutes of time would have been the ideal slot to do what many of you reading this might expect: scroll through my fantasy football teams to check my current lineups, ponder waiver-wire adds or monitor which players may have been added or dropped by league mates and -- of course -- draw up trade proposals.
You see, while Sundays are the highlight of fantasy football, since we get to watch a dozen or more games and feel as though every result matters, it's the weekly management that makes it all worth it. It's a lot less enjoyable to watch the games on Sunday if your lineup has four players on a bye or a starting quarterback in your lineup who has been benched by his NFL team.
The best type of fantasy football Sunday is when you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor -- a gratuitous description of our efforts during the week, but you get the point.
I miss it already.
But the beauty of fantasy sports is that while fantasy football may be king, it has company to keep you busy throughout the year.
Fantasy hoops has some principle similarities to football in the sense that you're drafting a team, maneuvering your roster throughout the week with waiver adds and drops, proposing trades and all that jazz. (Check out the eight-team mock draft we did on Monday.)
But it's a different exercise in a few ways, and I'm here to tell you why this unique 2020-21 NBA season, which just started, is the perfect opportunity for fantasy football players to scratch that itch with fantasy hoops.
Community: This -- at least to me -- is the greatest part of fantasy sports. Your league could comprise your best friends from high school, your co-workers, your significant other's family, a group of 10 strangers -- you name it. Fantasy sports brings people together in a special and unique way that makes it all worth it (even when your team has a down season). From draft day to group threads full of spirited banter to offseason discussions and so much more, a fantasy league is a bond.
Vested interests: You don't have to be a huge Phoenix Suns fan to find yourself watching a Saturday evening Suns-Jazz game when playing fantasy hoops. All you need is to have, say, Mikal Bridges on your roster to make it worth it, as that's another tentpole factor that makes fantasy sports so great. Your vested interests grow from the team you root for to so many other teams around the league as you follow and track the players on your roster.
The action: Most sports fans I know have a shared dream of one day running a professional team. Count me among them. And while managing a fantasy roster is a far cry from managing an NFL or NBA roster, there are elements of it that we all love and make it so fun: imagining and executing trades, sifting through the waiver wire to find the hidden gems to boost your roster, and of course, the thrill of winning. It's our small chance to feel like a GM or a coach for a day.
It starts now: The 2020-21 fantasy basketball season tipped off just prior to Christmas, which means you can jump right in now without missing much action. In fact, ESPN now allows you to start your fantasy NBA season after your draft without using retroactive scoring. Draft this week, start scoring next week.
Set lineups once a week: If you want to have an immersive experience, you can have daily transactions, but you can also make it super easy by setting your lineups for the week on Mondays. 10 minutes of work for a week of fun.
Every Monday during the football season, the incomparable Matthew Berry Tweets out: "What do you need tonight to win your matchup? #MondayNightMiracle."
In fantasy football, you are able to track exactly what you need throughout the week. If you dig yourself into a hole early because your opponent starts Alvin Kamara in the fantasy final on Christmas Day, you know that even a solid effort from your squad isn't going to cut it.
And while those Monday Night miracles are a rush, the weeks when your fantasy football squad just doesn't have it against a superior opponent leave you feeling a little blue. Imagine opening the ESPN Fantasy app at 6:15 p.m. ET on a Sunday, seeing your opponent with a 40-point lead and a projected margin of victory of 53. Takes the wind out of your sails a bit.
Basketball is different, as while blowouts in head-to-head formats can occur (and are also not fun), the scoring is set up so your path to victory or defeat is a lot less clear during the course of the week, especially in head-to-head category scoring.
For example, you may trail 6-3 in categories entering Sunday's action, but your opponent's edge of just three in steals and their field goal percentage is just decimal points ahead of yours. Those two categories could be flipped -- and re-flipped and then flipped again -- by night's end, giving you a 5-4 edge. You could also squander a lead in two categories you were ahead in by the end of the night.
Fantasy basketball feels like a journey each week. Stay along for the ride.
It's not too late to sign up. Do yourself a favor, grab some friends, family, coworkers and give it a try.