NBA Fantasy Draft: Sleepers, Keepers and Untouchables
Real Men of Genius. Today we salute you, Mr. Fantasy Basketball Manager Guy (Mr. Fantasy Basketball Manager Guy!). Every year, you assemble your closest friends to prepare for another season in the flop-down, box-out world of make believe b-ball (It's called a Crab-step!). You were born with the one skill every manager needs to play fantasy basketball... absolutely no skill playing REAL basketball (Not so good at dribbling!). Imaginary passes, imaginary rebounds. Next up, an imaginary score, with an imaginary woman (Good imagination!).
So crack open an ice cold Bud Light, oh Larry Bird of the bleachers. 'Cause you may always come in dead last, but you'll always be 'first' with us.
The start of the NBA season brings new beginnings for NBA Fantasy managers all over the world. For those of us in the Any1SeenMyDime? fantasy basketball league hosted by ESPN, we couldn't be more excited.
So to celebrate the start of the season, I've decided to do what they've done on ESPN: analyze my picks and my opponents' picks, and give insights to how the draft shook-out. In other words, I'm going to give you expert analysis by a non-expert: me.
To my opponents, I say: You may or may not agree with how I analyze you...I really don't care. Just know that you are going to lose, and at the end of this season, you will be a part of the mediocre rubble on which I will stand.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Chris Paul?
I should preface this with the explanation that this is the third year of our league. We all know each other pretty well. It's H2H; whoever wins the most of 10 categories during the week wins the matchup. It's also your standard eight-category league with two extra categories: free throws missed and turnovers.
I like to add these two categories because they effect a real game. If they're important in real basketball, they should be important in imaginary, make-believe basketball as well. My picks are in bold and followed by my incredibly creative team name: NowPlaying: Nash (Rated PG-13).
When I entered the draft room, I was already ticked. I wanted to be towards the top of the draft or the bottom of the draft, and I got stuck right in the middle. Arguably the worst draft position in ANY draft. I knew I was going to have to make something out of nothing, and I was not happy.
What I liked: Sexual Chocolate told me his dilemma with the first pick was whether to draft Kevin Durant or Chris Paul. I think he chose correctly with KD. The guy is ridiculous across the board, and you don't ever have to worry about him sitting. My advice to anyone in the first round of their draft: One through 10 will result in an incredible fantasy player. Take the one you like best.
What I didn't like: Derrick Rose over DWill. I know he's the reigning MVP, but I still don't have him in my top five for fantasy PGs. Also, LeBron James at 2. I would take CP3, Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams, and Kevin Love over LBJ.
What I was thinking: I was hoping D-Wade would fall to me at 5, and when that didn't happen, I had to make a choice: D-Will or K-Love? Love was the breakout player last year, contributing in all categories. I couldn't ignore the rebounding, three-point or free-throw percentage, so I grabbed me some Love. Having the eighth pick, Typical White Guys quickly retorted with an emphatic, You wang!
Round 2: Melo, Steph Curry, Dirk...
Round two is interesting because it gives some managers the chance to get players that could easily be first rounders (That's why I always want to be towards the end of the draft: 8,9,10.). Carmelo, Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol could easily be included in this category.
What I liked: Melo. Anywhere. The guy keeps getting better defensively and is one of the most clutch players in the NBA. He's the man in NY, no matter what Amar'e says.
What I didn't like: Steve Nash at 11. Not that he shouldn't go at 11, just that I didn't have the 11th pick (I have a slight man-crush on him, not that there's anything wrong with that.). But Wanna Be a Baller surprised everyone with this one. Nash is listed as 30th, and he jumped quite a few spots in our draft. Maybe he'll trade him to me...
What I was thinking: "Noooooooooo. Not Steve!" Remember, I passed on Dwill in the first round hoping Nash would be around in time for my 25th pick. Having to adjust, I decided to take Pau Gasol. He's a solid big man who can block shots, shoot from range (the Lakers say he's extended his range to the three-point line) and doesn't hurt my free-throw percentage.
Round 3: Former First Rounders... Like Kobe Bryant
The third round is still a great time to get great players. David Lee, Danny Granger and Kobe Bryant were all once first-round picks. If you can grab one of them here, you'll do well for yourself.
What I liked: The fact that Kobe Bryant dropped to 28th. This was amazing, as Sexual Chocolate and Team Holmes (both avid Lakers fans) passed on the Black Mamba. I would have liked to see him drop to the fourth round.
What I didn't like: The fact that Typical White Guys drafted Kobe. Like I said... too high for Kobe. Overrated in all leagues...and life. I hate him. Also, Rajon Rondo being drafted before any other PG in the league. He can't shoot...ever (Why does anyone ever guard him beyond the free-throw line?). And in a league where FTs are important, Rondo isn't.
What I was thinking: "Wow, Laker Nation has finally given up on their god." There was no way Kobe was EVER making my fantasy roster. So I took one of those former first rounders as mentioned above: Danny Granger. Nothing wrong with his game; just hoping he stays healthy like he did last year.
Round 4: Efficiency
At this point, a lot of the chatter about Kobe had died down (Thank goodness.).
What I liked: Joe Johnson at 37. He's like Kobe in fantasy, except better. He should bounce back from his terrible shooting percentage last year and anchor the Hawks offense. Especially since Jamal Crawford is gone.
What I didn't like: There are a lot of question marks in this round. Will Eric Gordon mesh with the guys in New Orleans? Will Dorell Wright back up his breakout performance of last year? Will Kyrie Irving be effective on a less-than-effective Cleveland Squad? I'm not convinced that the fourth round is when you should be drafting question marks.
What I was thinking: "Joakim is one ugly MoFo. I need a PG."
Jrue Holiday is one of the most efficient PGs in the game,and will post solid numbers in threes, steals, assists and percentages.
Round 5: More of the Same
This is the part of the draft when you start to notice groupings of similarly skilled players such as Brook Lopez, Andrew Bogut, Serge Ibaka. Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. My advice, as always, pick the players you like.
What I liked: Ty Lawson in the fifth round. Probably the fastest player in the NBA, Lawson will be extremely dangerous this year now that Felton is in Portland.
What I didn't like: Brook Lopez going off the board. He was in my player queue, and even though he's a mediocre rebounder, I wanted him to block some shots for me and not hurt my free-throw percentage. Team Holmes with a solid pick here (You can never like when other managers make solid picks, can you?).
What I was thinking: "Let Felton fall to me..."
Raymond Felton was averaging 18 points per game, eight assists and 1.8 steals before being traded to the Nuggets last season. I expect more of the same from him in Portland. Pairing him with Jrue Holiday makes me not as bitter about losing Nash (Notice I said "not as bitter.").
Round 6: Guys That Could Make or Break Your Fantasy Season
The middle rounds are full of guys that could change your fantasy season, for better or worse. Choose wisely.
What I liked: Gortat at 51. He's exactly what the Suns needed at center for years. He can run the floor, has good range, makes free-throws and blocks shots. He should have a great year in his first full season receiving passes from Steve Nash. Also, Luol Deng continues to be one of the more underrated players in fantasy. Consider yourself lucky to get him here.
What I didn't like: DeMarcus Cousins and JaVale McGee. I wouldn't touch either of these guys in a league that has TWO free-throw categories.
What I was thinking: Since I couldn't get Brook Lopez in Round 5, I was still in the market for a big man. I thought about pairing Bynum with Gasol, but that was only a split second. Bynum is hurt a lot, and I'm not sold on him.
Bargnani was my obvious choice, as he does exactly what Pau and K-Love do: spread the floor, shoot threes and make free throws. Plus, someone has to score the ball in Toronto, and Bargnani is their main offensive weapon.
Round 7: Three-Point Specialists
This is probably my favorite round in the draft. You can find a lot of great players in Round 7, but most intriguing is the amount of shooters clustered together. This is the round to look for three-point help.
What I liked: Three PFs in a row that should have a great year: Boozer, Monroe and Scola.
What I didn't like: Black and Silver stole Gallinari right in front of me. He's one of the best shooters in the league, a little streaky, but can also contribute in other categories, as he's 6'10". I also didn't like Tim Duncan being drafted here; once a sure-fire second rounder, Timmy just doesn't have what it takes anymore... and if he does, Popavich probably won't let him show it.
What I was thinking: "My plan is foiled once again! Curse you Black and Silver!"
I still hadn't drafted an SG, and thought about Wes Matthews. But Chauncey Billups was staring me in the face. And as Typical White Guys stated: "Chauncey looks delicious as a Clipper."
He should play alongside CP3, put up a ton of threes and earn SG eligibility after the first week of play.
Round 8: Value at Bargain Prices
Solid players at bargain prices. Some of the guys drafted in this round have solid upside and have a lot of promise.
What I liked: MIchael Beasley. I know Typical White Guys was miffed he had to take Beasley, but he was in my queue. He still hasn't developed into the star everyone thinks he will become. This could be his year.
What I didn't like: Andray Blatche. He should have some big games. And Team Little has had experience with Blatche before. But the Wizards are awful and won't be consistent enough for me to take a chance on Blatche.
What I was thinking: 'I guess I'll take Elton Brand. You better freaking show me something this year."
I'm not entirely pleased with this pick. But he's the worst free-throw shooter on my team, and he shot 80 percent from the line last year. He's solid in most categories... but he's never quite transformed into the No. 1 overall pick of the 1999 draft. Here's to hoping...
Round 9: Flashes of Potential
The potential is thick...but the flashes are few. Now is a good time to draft position-specific players to fill out your roster.
What I liked: Not much in this round, except for Jarrett Jack at 85. With CP3 gone, Jack is running the Hornets and has the tools to be a top fantasy PG this year. Plus, he has PG and SG eligibility (I like the idea of having PGs as my SGs. Ex: Chauncey Billups.).
What I didn't like: Team Holmes dropped about 30 spots to pick Tyrus Thomas. TT has been a defensive specialist on my teams the last three years. He has the potential, but can he put it all together this season?
Nick Young. Stay away. Streaky shooter on a terrible Wizards team (Even though Sexual Chocolate picked him and Team Little coveted him. That doesn't mean you should.).
What I was thinking: I was mad Holmes took TT. I wanted a shot at getting him late in the draft, maybe in the 11th or 12th round. And about my Jarrett Jack pick: "Another PG. Cool."
I still needed a starting SG, so I thought I'd go the unconventional route. Remember, dual position eligibility is always a good thing in fantasy.
So after nine rounds and finally filling my starting lineup, my roster looked like this with four rounds to go:
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Jarrett Jack
SF: Danny Granger
PF: Kevin Love
C: Pau Gasol
G: Raymond Felton
F: Andrea Bargnani
Util: Chauncey Billups
Util: Elton Brand
Round 10: The Steal of the Draft
Listen up. This year's steal of the draft comes in Round 10. And of course, it's my pick.
What I liked: Arron Afflalo. I totally forgot about him. But Wanna Be a Baller did not. Roy Hibbert kept falling and falling.
What I didn't like: Marcus Thornton. He's got competition with Jimmer in the Kings ranks. I expect Jimmer to be starting by season's end.
What I was thinking: Was I seeing this right? Corey Maggette is projected at almost 20 ppg? That means he's going to get plenty of run in Charlotte and that the offense is going to be run through him. We all already know he's an excellent FT shooter and gets to the line often. That bodes well with me (Most people will say don't draft a guy who only scores. But in Round 10, you can do a lot worse than 20 ppg. Plus, I say anyone who is on the court long enough to score 20 a game is bound to collect other stats as well. Thats a win-win.).
Round 11: Lots of Question Marks
I had four players in my queue at this point: Caron Butler, Kemba Walker, Ryan Anderson and Jimmer Fredette. I was hoping to get at least two of them.
What I liked: Team Holmes once again snags another player before I get a chance. Caron Butler is a great pick, especially this late in the draft. Watch out for the REAL team in LA this year.
What I didn't like: Kendrick Perkins still looks like he's going to murder his entire family. Lighten up, Bud.
What I was thinking: Anderson Varejao is one dirty, dirty Brazilian. And I need another SG. I wasn't pleased with my options at this point. I didn't want Rip, Meeks, Jordan Crawford or Ben Gordon. So I went pretty far down and grabbed one of my sleeper picks, the Jimmer.
This is where knowing your opponents pays off. Almost everyone in my league is a Jimmer fan, and most certainly would have considered drafting him in round 12 or 13. So I made it impossible to do so.
Jimmer, like most of my other guards, should have dual eligibility, be playing big minutes, making a ton of threes and shooting a high percentage from the free throw line. Plus, it doesn't matter in what order I get the guys in my queue, as long as I get them.
Round 12: Cool Names- Jimmer, Kemba, Bismack
This is the round I expect a lot of rookies to be taken off the board. Jimmer Kemba, Rubio... etc.
What I liked: The fact that DJ Augustin was taken by Typical White Guys. That would mean I would have a good chance at snagging Kemba Walker.
What I didn't like: Wilson Chandler. He more than likely won't be able to get out of his contract in China. Which means he won't even play for an NBA team this year. Other players are in the same situation: Kenyon Martin, JR Smith and Aaron Brooks.
What I was thinking: Dare I take a sixth PG? I dare. This is what happens when you don't let me draft Steve Nash. Kemba is a steal at this point in the draft. At a projected 15 ppg, he has huge upside and should get two steals per game.
Round 13: Your Guess Is as Good as Mine
At this point in the draft, a lot of guys are tired and get anxious to get the draft over with. Take your time. Find someone that fills a need or adds to your strengths. Round 13 is just as important as Round 1.
What I liked: Boom Dizzle at 124. I know he's out for a while. But he'll be effective as a Knick. I just want him to dunk on Kirlenko again...sigh. I also liked that no one drafted Allen Iverson, Gilbert Arenas, Vince Carter or Rashard Lewis. Remember when those guys were good?
What I didn't like: Brandon Roy retired. I would have picked him here.
What I was thinking: Ryan Anderson adds to everything I was doing in this draft: shoots a high percentage in free-throws, shoots a lot of threes, should see an increase in playing time, rebounds and can block shots. He fits in perfectly.
The Final Product: NowPlaying: Nash (Rated PG-13)
Here's a look at my team after the draft. This draft strategy allows me to expect to win six of 10 categories every week (free-throw percentage, free throws missed, three-pointers made, assists, steals and points), with a few that I will be competitive in (rebounds, turnovers, field-goal percentage).
Having multiple PGs allows me to entertain trade proposals and maybe make a few moves down the road.
Looking at it that way, I should be tough to beat. Here's the roster after draft night:
PG: Jrue Holiday, Phi, PG .820 FT%, 1.2 3PM, 7.2 AST, 1.6 STL, 15.6 PTS
SG: Jarrett Jack, Nor, PG, SG .850 FT%, 0.8 3PM, 4.8 AST, 1.0 STL, 13.5 PTS
SF: Danny Granger, Ind SF .854 FT%, 1.9 3PM, 5.2 REB, 1.2 STL, 20.8 PTS
PF: Kevin Love, Min PF .835 FT%, 1.2 3PM, 15.3 REB, 0.7 STL, 20.1 PTS
C: Pau Gasol, LAL PF, C .808 FT%, 10.3 REB, 3.3 AST, 1.5 BLK, 18.6 PTS
G: Raymond Felton, Por PG .796 FT%, 1.2 3PM, 7.4 AST, 1.6 STL, 14.5 PTS
F: Andrea Bargnani, Tor C, PF .825 FT%, 1.4 3PM, 5.6 REB, 0.8 BLK, 22.1 PTS
Util: Chauncey Billups, LAC PG .917 FT%, 1.9 3PM, 6.2 AST, 1.0 STL, 16.2 PTS
Util: Elton Brand, Phi PF .766 FT%, 8.0 REB, 1.1 STL, 1.2 BLK, 14.4 PTS
Util: Corey Maggette, Cha SF .833 FT%, 0.7 3PM, 5.4 REB, 0.6 STL, 19.1 PTS
Bench: Jimmer Fredette, Sac SG .885FT%, 1.5 3PM, 3.3 AST, 0.5 STL, 10.9 PTS
Bench: Kemba Walker, Cha PG .772 FT%, 1.3 3PM, 4.9 AST, 1.8 STL, 15.4 PTS
Bench: Ryan Anderson, Orl PF .825 FT%, 2.0 3PM, 6.3 REB, 0.6 STL, 11.3 PTS
What changes would you make? What do you think of this team (remembering the league format)?