The much-debated fantasy hoops mock is in the rear-view mirror, and it's time to put that hindsight to some more use. This will be a two-part series – in this first post we'll touch on a few of general draft scenarios that came up along the way, discuss the relative merits of each of the 12 drafted teams, and run through some lists of the notable undrafted players. In the second piece, I'll pull from the litany of comments that were offered during the eight rounds of drafting (as well as any that accompany this post in the interim) and offer my own commentary on some of the takes that were presented.
Once again, a qualifier for everyone who kept up with the mock and/or is taking a look at the following commentary: For settings, assume the standard nine categories (FG%, FT%, 3PTM, PTS, REB, AST, STL, BLK, TO) and roto scoring format.
Paul went first in this early mock, and I agree with it at this point in nine-category roto. There's no strong argument against opting for Kobe, but Paul was the top player last season by a fairly comfortable margin. LeBron and Amare are in the discussion, as well, particularly when the settings change. The knock on LeBron is his FT%, of course, and Amare's fantasy impact (most directly, his FG%) is so dependant on the health of Steve Nash that it makes him an iffy choice with the first pick.
This is an early issue because some big-time fantasy performers are coming off of major injury. Prior to last season, Elton Brand finished sixth and second in season rank in the Yahoo! game, while Gilbert Arenas' two-year ranks were fifth and seventh. On a per-game basis prior to last season, Dwayne Wade (fifth and 10th), Yao Ming (12th and 14th), and Caron Butler (14th and 40th) were all elite fantasy performers. We're still a long way from knowing at what degree of health these stars will be on opening night, but here are some early thoughts:
Brand's injury was a fluke and he's had plenty of time to rest and rehab, so I have almost full confidence in his health and his team situation has improved in Philly. There's a good chance Brand looks like a mid-first rounder to you by the time you are involved in drafts that count. There are still health questions with Arenas, but strong performances early in camp will move him up closer to the start of the second round on my draft list. Obviously the Olympics will shed some light on how physically fit Wade and Yao are at this point - ideally, they'd both be resting, but what can you do. My thoughts on Yao haven't changed since I took him in round 3 of the mock. As for Wade, I can't disagree with where Phan took him (pick 15) or his reasoning.
Where should Dwight Howard be drafted?
With apologies to Klyce, he shouldn't be drafted 13th overall in a league with these settings. In nine-category roto, Howard has consistently delivered a sixth-round impact (ranks of 73, 69, and 74 over the past three seasons) - regardless of whether or not you believe it, Yahoo! rank doesn't lie when it comes to default leagues. If you've got differing settings, a site like basketball monster can be your guide. We all know Howard is as athletic as any big in history, throws down massive dunks, rebounds a ton, and blocks lots of shots. That's not the point. His free throws (59% on 897 FTA) were a category killer - easily the single-largest negative contribution in the game - and he had the fourth-most TO in the league (264) in 2007-08. Taking TO out of the equation helps some, but you are still tanking FT%, and that brings us to his h2h impact. As with a number of other players, his ranking is substantially different in h2h leagues - take out his negatives in FT% and TO, and you are basically looking at a top five pick. I'll discuss it in more detail somewhere down the line, but in h2h leagues you do take Howard early, and build your entire draft strategy around punting FT%.
I won't list the full rosters here - each roster is included after the team's Round 8 selection. I'll just post a comment or three about each of the rosters, using the Round 8 order (Team 1 = Pick 1). Last time I'll mention it... this analysis is based on nine scoring categories and a roto format.
Team 1 - Looks like a reasonable base for a h2h team, but would likely struggle in roto. Tons of scorers, will do well in AST, and a solid foundation in defensive stats, but poor percentages, not many 3PT or REB, and massive amounts of turnovers even things out. The 2002-03 version of T-Mac would change the outlook somewhat, as would a quantum leap by Devin Harris.
Team 2 - Klyce's second team is more balanced, but two areas of weakness stand out - FT% and AST. Howard pretty much guarantees you'll struggle for anything more than a point in the FT% category, so there's not a lot to be done there. There are still AST to be had via some late-round PG, but that will probably also drag this team down towards the bottom of the pack in TO (thanks to Howard, AI, and Kaman).
Team 3 - This team will compete, especially with a healthy D-Wade. It's a pretty balanced squad that excels in boards (Camby, Biedrins, Lee) and blocks (Camby) and isn't terrible anywhere. Don't sleep on Battier as a 'glue guy' in a roto league - over the past two seasons, he's totaled 296 threes, 156 steals, 150 blocks, and just 150 turnovers in 162 games.
Team 4 - If Caron stays healthy this is a fantastic roto squad, filled with multi-category contributors and boasting sparkling percentages. Late draft targets will need to include 3PT and BLK specialists, but there aren't exactly gaping holes to be filled.
Team 5 - There's not much bad to say about the makeup of this squad, particularly with a healthy Brand, and it certainly will not be lacking in any of the counting stats. The team could be up there with the best of them, depending on the fate of two Bulls - a possible return to form for Deng and Rose's rookie campaign are wild cards.
Team 6 - One thing is for sure, this team is not lacking for 3PT. It is hurting, however, on the boards and with defensive numbers - that's what happens when you run with Sheed and Harrington at your C spots and Rondo and Sheed are your only plus-sources of STL or BLK. A post-draft trade from strength would likely be in order.
Team 7 - It's another team that has most of the counting stats more than accounted for, but TO are a problem and the percentages leave something to be desired. Having two TO-prone bigs (Yao and Bogut combined for 5.5 per game last season) set the cause back, the combination of Kidd and Hinrich aren't helping FG%, and Bogut and Artest are drags on FT%.
Team 8 - Perhaps I'm a bit biased, but I like this team's chances. You know what you are getting from KG, Shard, and Jamison, you've got the potential for huge numbers from Gasol and G-Wall, Mike Bibby and T.J. Ford figure to be better than they were last season, and Greg Oden has to be a lock to contribute heavily in boards, blocks, and FG%. The dark cloud: the specter of injury hangs over this team.
Team 9 - A solid team from top to bottom, which tends to happen when you lead off with LBJ - it also means that TO and FT% have to be accounted for, and Funston did that for the most part. This team may live and die by Ellis' breakout potential (and potential for a hit in efficiency) with Davis in LA and Dunleavy's continued (?) success in Indy's offense. Late-round selections will need to include some 3PT and BLK specialists.
Team 10 - Amare, Calderon, and J-Rich cover every category as a trio and make a rock-solid foundation for a team. Add in Durant, likely fantasy ROY Beasley, and one of my favorite breakout candidates in Foye, and you are looking at a good squad. Where have you gone, Andrei Kirilenko?
Team 11 - This team's success overall will depend on how well Arenas and O'Neal rebound from injury. More specifically, it will be near the bottom in TO and needs to add 3PT and AST with later picks. Perhaps a trade from strength (REB and BLK, assuming O'Neal is of reasonable health) would be a course of action to eventually pursue.
Team 12 - A very strong team in a number of areas (PTS, AST, REB, STL, FG%) that also has a few notable deficiencies (FT%, TO). Not unlike a few other teams, 3PT and BLK specialists will be later targets. Overall a solid team that is likely to be right in the mix with a few more solid pieces to round out the roster.
Best of the Rest - notable undrafted players, in order of 2007-08 end-of-season rank
•Anthony Parker, Tor (53) - roto 'glue guy' should be looking at even more open threes (133 last season)
•Grant Hill (59) - managed 70 games last season, but looking at fewer minutes in 2008-09
•Ronnie Brewer (60) - best later-round source of STL (129 last season) out there, just lacking consistency
•Josh Childress (64) - would love to see him as a starter, but solid across the board as a reserve
•Francisco Garcia (76) - will once again be one of the Kings' most important reserves
•Raja Bell (82) - default late-round choice for 3PT (176 last season) but does little else
•Derek Fisher (84) - solid in return to the Lakers, but Farmar likely ready to step up
•John Salmons (89) - move him up on your draft sheet in the event of an Artest trade (that doesn't net SF)
•Rafer Alston (99) - helps in a few areas (3PT, AST, STL) if you can deal with the FG% hit
•James Posey (102) - seems like a perfect fit in NO, but game doesn't always translate to the statsheet
•Jameer Nelson (104) - regressed for second consecutive season, but some talent is there (isn't it?)
•Earl Watson (108) - excelled in second half of 2007-08, but Westbrook will push for minutes
•Beno Udrih (137) - unquestioned starter, but lacking diverse contributions and upside
•Mickael Pietrus (157) - change of scenery is perhaps what was needed; worth the late speculative pick
•Delonte West (200) - flashed some good game with the Cavs, but extent of role TBD
•Mike Conley (235) - rookie season was a wash-out; the Grizz will run, so he's in a good situation
•Ramon Sessions (298) - huge numbers for sinking ship late last season; only a Mo Williams trade or injury opens the door
•Ryan Gomes (88) - solid, unheralded numbers as a regular starter; specific role in 2008-09 TBD
•Kenyon Martin (90) - Camby trade means he's the man at PF (surprising 71 G, 30 MPG last season)
•Tayshaun Prince (96) - middling fantasy impact doesn't reflect real-life value, but you can't fight it
•Zach Randolph (105) - fantasy contributions exclusive to PTS, REB; can he hang in D'Antoni's offense?
•Linas Kleiza (111) - could figure largely in team's plans now that they've (apparently) turned a page
•Andres Nocioni (122) - perpetual spot-starter has regressed to two-category contributor (PTS, 3PT)
•Travis Outlaw (123) - if this is (finally) 'his year', you'll want to have him on your roster(s)
•Boris Diaw (128) - as usual, specifics of role TBD; return to 2005-06 form would be massive
•Thaddeous Young (135) - move to natural SF position should be nothing but positive; very solid sleeper
•Luis Scola (139) - should get the nod at PF after late-season surge (13.6 points, 8.4 boards post-break)
•Drew Gooden (141) - makes some sense as Bulls' starting PF; expiring contract means likely trade bait
•Charlie Villanueva (160) - Yi trade puts him back on the radar as expected starting PF
•Chris Wilcox (176) - decent when he plays, but hard to count on for that and crowded depth chart
•Tyrus Thomas (178) - devoid of consistency or polish to this point, but remains poster-boy for upside
•Al Thornton (180) - good breakout candidate after solid rookie season; 0.6 3PT, 0.7 STL/BLK as starter
•Hakim Warrick (182) - likely starter at PF very specific contributor (PTS, FG%, REB)
•Yi Jianlian (192) - roller-coaster rookie season; lots of bigs in NJ, so role TBD
•Zydrunas Ilgauskas (68) - Cavs denied Olympic bid due to injury risk; downside-only nature caps his fantasy stock
•Brendan Haywood (85) - solid fantasy big last season but Etan Thomas' return potentially a damper
•Nick Collison (92) - perpetual double-double threat with minutes, perpetual stockpile of bigs for team
•Jeff Foster (106) - rebounds like Dwight Howard on a per-48 basis; trade creates questions of role
•Erick Dampier (126) - ever-disappointing and back to a platoon with Diop's return
•Kendrick Perkins (133) - slow but sure maturation could come to a head in 2008-09; solid sleeper
•Ben Wallace (140) - hard to argue that he's worth a draft pick; bad close to outweighing the good
•Joakim Noah (153) - solid numbers as second-half starter; should be among the best of the late C picks
•Rasho Nesterovic (155) - Rasho/Foster merge would create very good player, but likely real-life platoon
•Andrea Bargnani (185) - should be more comfortable as FC backup, spot starter; count on a rebound
•Darko Milicic (204) - still just 23; career numbers as starter (83 G) include 8.2 pts, 6.4 reb, 1.8 blk
•Anderson Varejao (232) - main backup to two injury risks means he'll approach 30 minutes
•Nenad Krstic (299) - crowed depth chart, but offensive game is a plus; potential trade bait
•Nene Hilario (377) - Camby trade has paved his way; 14.2 pts, 8.2 reb, 1.1 stl, 1.1 blk as starter in 2006-07
- Dwight Howard
- Dwayne Wade