Five Tips to NBA Fantasy Stardom

John TamelCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2008

When I joined the military, I heard a lot of different catch phrases. Most of them made sense but others just didn't add up. 

One phrase I have coined over the years was, "If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail." Being prepared in fantasy basketball is a year-long process. Even during the off-season, its important to keep tabs on player injuries, trades, development, and so-on.

Along with keeping up with the most current information on NBA teams and players, it is important to create your own draft strategy. Preparing your own draft strategy is essential if you want to take home the riches in NBA fantasy basketball.

Over the years, I have identified with this draft strategy that has brought me to the promise land of NBA fantasy stardom. Even when I didn't take home the fantasy crown in my league, I usually gave my opponent hell in the fantasy playoffs.

Here is what I've come up with over the years:


1. Draft Players entering or in the Prime of their NBA Careers (26-30 yrs old)

Of course, no one is going to deny a LeBron James or Chris Paul on their roster, which is an obvious choice. But, guys who are the first and second scoring options on their respective NBA teams are usually going to be in their prime, like Kevin Martin or Danny Granger for example.

From rounds one to five, do not draft players who are well over their prime, injury prone, and going to get limited minutes (25-30 a night), such as Jason Kidd, Shaquille O'Neal, and Ray Allen.

They are great role players, and did a lot during the prime of their careers, but being over 31-years-old in the NBA is like being a dinosaur. Do yourself a favor and pass.

Drafting players who are going to play 35-40 minutes per game is going to get you optimal production on your fantasy team, instead of drafting fantasy senior citizens like Kidd, Shaq, and Ray Allen. The time has passed on those players—let the history books do the rest for them.


2. Players on bad NBA teams are usually an excellent choice

Players like Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Martin are all on teams that suck big time. They may be on bad teams, but will often put up stats that will shock the hell out of your opponents.

I love drafting guys who have between two and four years of NBA experience—they are hungry, in or approaching the prime of their careers, and will steamroll anyone who gets in their way.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to get the first pick out of twelve owners, and I chose LeBron. But it really was the supporting cast that I drafted which brought it all together, such as Rudy Gay, Kevin Martin, and Andrew Bogut—most of them were fantasy unknowns at the time. My point - good players on bad teams usually have to do it all.

Jeff Green may be a great steal for fantasy owners this season—he is only in his second year but can only progress. Most likely, he will go unnoticed until about round ten, which is a steal considering he is the 2nd scoring option for the team. The only other player doing anything for the Oklahoma City Thunder right now is Kevin Durant. Green may be forced by his coaches to play long minutes and produce due to the team's lack of talent, other than Durant.


3. Stay away from injury-prone players in the early rounds

They will usually kill you at some point during the season. If they haven't played in at least 70 games in the past two seasons, don't bother.

Baron Davis is a great example. He gives you great stats when he's playing, but when he gets injured, its usually for several weeks or months.

Yao Ming is another example—he has a track record for going down with severe injuries at some point in the season and the risk just isn't worth it.

Do yourself a favor and don't draft franchise players like Gilbert Arenas, Yao, or Baron Davis unless you're past round two. Players like this usually won't be available because someone will usually pick them up due to draft inexperience. But, if they're unlikely to play anyway, who cares?

One benefit to owners who draft players that have a serious injury before the season starts is that few owners will draft them in early rounds. Last year, I was able to scoop up Elton Brand in round nine. No one wanted to touch this guy, but because he was normally a top fifteen pick and in the prime of his career, I took a chance. It really paid off—he played the last two weeks of the season and did extremely well. The stats that he put up gave me such an advantage, I stormed through the playoffs and beat everyone in my path.

My point - when you get between rounds nine and thirteen, take a chance on a player like that. The risk is minimal and the potential reward is off of the charts.


4. If you're going to draft rookies, try to get them later in the draft

Rookies in the NBA have a severe learning curve, especially point guards. The game is also much quicker than the college game, and it usually takes most rookies a year or so to adjust.

Sometimes, team owners will draft rookies early, between rounds two and four, and it pays off. For example, remember when Chris Paul was drafted? He was a relative unknown in the league. Chris was drafted in most leagues around rounds five or six, and produced at a very high level almost immediately. But, the chances of that happening are slim.

Round five is about the time when you should be looking at drafting a rookie if you want one. If you're drafting in this year's draft class, my picks are Greg Oden and O.J. Mayo. If anyone's going to tear it up this year, it will probably be them. Although the NBA preseason isn't a great indicator of regular season performance, it does provide some clues about the players and who the coaches intend to play.


5. Drafting in the later rounds is just as important as drafting in the early rounds

Often times, I see owners leave the draft after round nine or ten, and they go on auto-pilot and log off. That is a big mistake.

Most of the time, there are still good values to be picked up. This year, I picked up Spencer Hawes & Nick Collison in rounds twelve & thirteen. These are players who haven't busted out into fantasy stardom, but are great picks for the roster in terms of potential.

For the most part, picks at this level will usually ride your reserve roster, but there may just be some diamonds in there from time to time. This year, I am going with Spencer Hawes as my long shot. Spencer is in his second NBA season and has been dunking all over everyone in the preseason.

He's hungry and with the lack of talent on the Sacramento Kings roster, he will get plenty of touches when he eventually becomes a starter. It's just a matter of time before Brad Miller gets traded and Spencer is the big man in the middle. He's got the goods and may not show them to you this season, but at round twelve, you have almost nothing to lose.

Any questions, feel free to hit me up. Take care.

John Tamel can be reached at