Roto Arcade - Fantasy

Throughout the week, we'll be mock drafting the first five rounds of a fantasy hoops league. The format should be fairly familiar to regular Roto Arcade readers - one round per day, with six managers drafting two teams each, adding their analysis for each pick along the way. As always, we look forward to your thoughtful discussion of the picks and analysis in the comments section. Assumed settings are 9-cat h2h.

1.01 Kevin Durant(notes), SF, OKC - The 2010-11 season marks the beginning of the Kevin Durant era in earnest. Durant's FIBA World Championship experience as the alpha dog of Team USA's "B-Team" is indicative, with KD and the rest of the Americans leaving Turkey with both the gold hardware and an undefeated record. Durant led the league in scoring last season at the age of 21 and is the odds-on favorite to claim the title again this season. He's got room for improvement based upon his age, experience, skill level, work ethic and general baditude, and has no serious injury history (missed on average only four games per season). Durant is everything you would ever want out of the first pick in a fantasy draft, with his well-rounded contributions allowing for virtually any team strategy later in the draft. Select Durant first with confidence in any and all formats this season. (Phil Londen)

1.02 Chris Paul(notes), PG, NOR - Once Durant is off the board, there are only two players left that we can reasonably expect to finish in the top two based on past performance: Chris Paul and LeBron James(notes). Lebron's decision to head south likely means a reduced role and (more importantly for fantasy managers) reduced minutes. CP3 has multiple seasons in the books as the best player in fantasy basketball and has a stable role next season, making him the clear-cut second choice. As an elite point guard, Paul provides a solid basis in the traditional guard stats (assists, threes, steals, FT%) while also scoring over 20 points per game at a high clip. His only real weakness is blocks making that an ideal category to punt. Target any of the elite point guards that slip to the end of the second round (Billups, Nash, Kidd, Rondo) and forget about drafting another point until the last few rounds. (Londen)

1.03 LeBron James, SF, MIA - I'll take the league's most physically gifted player and gamble that he repurposes himself in a way to maximize his talents in a three-superstar setup. (Brandon Funston)

1.04 Dirk Nowitzki(notes), PF, DAL - You can write his numbers into your lineup in permanent ink. He has never missed more than five games in a season since his rookie campaign and I think I can safely say he's been a top 10 fantasy return each year of the past decade. (Funston)

1.05 Dwight Howard(notes), C, ORL - Picking Howard anywhere in the first round of a rotisserie league would be detrimental, but in head to head leagues he is an ideal centerpiece for a big-ball team. Since it's not necessary (or sometimes even possible) to be above average in all categories each week, it makes sense to ignore one or two of them during a draft. When eliminating D12's abysmal FT% from the equation, he suddenly becomes the second most valuable player on a per game basis based on the remaining 8 categories. Also, considering he has missed but three games in his first six professional seasons, he is likely the most dependable player you can draft as well. But he gives you nothing in three pointers or assists and is a liability in turnovers, so plan accordingly. (Oleh Kosel)

1.06 Stephen Curry(notes), PG, GSW - There are reasonable arguments for a number of players after the first five picks of this year's draft. Have no shame choosing Curry here, as he was the seventh-highest rated player last season. It's his final 41 games that really tantalize the taste buds - during that time, he averaged 21.8 points (46% FG, 91% FT), 2.6 threes, 5.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.9 steals. Some fear the impending Nellie departure may significantly cut into Steph's production but it is highly improbable the Warriors can completely change their offensive philosophy so close to the start of the season. Curry is one of the league's brightest young stars and the new owners will ensure he remains the face of the franchise for many years to come. (Kosel)

1.07 Kobe Bryant(notes), SG, LAL - Aside from maybe Dirk Nowitzki, no player has consistently dominated the fantasy game over the past half decade like the Black Mamba has. The Staple Gun has finished in the top-5 in per-game value in four of the past five seasons, with three appearances in the top-3 to boot. Any notions of him tending to coast after the All-Star Break are merely fictitious, as Kobe's second-half value has either exceeded or matched his first-half value in five of the past seven seasons. There will be no shortage of motivation for him heading into this season with the Miami Thrice dominating summer headlines and the thought of a sixth championship (which would tie him with MJ) not too far from his thoughts. His team situation remains largely the same, but there is one major question mark: health. Kobe finished outside the top-10 last season for the first time in five years because he was severely hampered by injuries to his knee and finger down the stretch. All reports have been sparkling with respect to his knee, but the finger/knuckle is concerning. The arthritis in his middle knuckle has gotten so bad that it is beyond repair, but (prospective) owners have to feel good that Kobe has taken all the necessary steps to ensure he is healthy this year. We’ll just have to see how long his brace and altered shooting stroke will hold up. One thing you can be sure of is that Kobe is not the type to sit out games (16 missed games in the past five seasons) and will play through injuries if he needs to. (Justin Phan)

1.08 Dwyane Wade(notes), G, MIA - We all know Wade has been a perennial lock to finish in the top-10 in the past when healthy, but the real question is can he do it again this year with LeBron James and Chris Bosh(notes) added to the mix? The answer is most likely, yes. It is tough to predict with much certainty how the arrangement will work itself out with three players who finished in the top-15 in usage rate last season (Wade and LeBron were 1-2). A solid base projection for Wade would be 24-4-5 (PTS-REB-AST), with potential for 26-5-6. The threes and defensive stats should remain stable at one three, two steals, and one block, and his field-goal percentage should hover around 50 percent with improved looks from his teammates. Health has always been a question mark with Wade, but the addition of LeBron James should significantly reduce the risk for wear and tear. Not only will LeBron alleviate the burden of Wade having to carry the team’s offense, but LeBron’s slashing style likely means that Wade will have to tone his aggressiveness down a bit. While I don’t believe Wade will miss a sizable chunk of games this year, I can’t say the same about Danny Granger(notes), which is why I passed on him here. (Phan)

1.09 Danny Granger, F, IND - Granger's per-game numbers are fantastic, but his penchant for missing games makes him one of the riskier early options. The ninth pick is a reasonable place to balance the risk and reward potential. I typically ignore turnovers for the most part in h2h leagues, since they are largely a function of the total games played in a given matchup, so Granger's most glaring weaknesses are FG% and assists, while he features four major positives (3PM, PTS, FT%, STL). Moving forward, I'll also likely look to play off of Granger's boom or bust potential. (Matt Buser)

1.10 Deron Williams(notes), PG, UTH - Williams' assists are a h2h bedrock, and the extent of his control of the Jazz offense is only going to increase with Carlos Boozer(notes) in another uniform. He seems destined to break the 20-point barrier for the first time in his career, and last season's post-break averages of 1.4 threes and 1.5 steals are exactly the kind of improvement that is needed to put him among the true fantasy elite across all formats. (Buser)

1.11 Pau Gasol(notes), FC, LAL - I'm just going straight down the cheat sheet here, no audibles. This is a boring pick. Are you sure you want to read about it? I'm only on my fourth sentence, and I'm already sick of Pau Gasol. Hopefully I'll get Marc in Round 4, so as to go to the two-Gasol formation. Pau is easy to defend with the 11th pick. He's coming off a career-high in rebounding, his shooting percentages are respectable, he gives you a fair number of blocks, and he'll probably average 18 PPG for the rest of his life. (Andy Behrens)

1.12 David Lee(notes), FC, GSW - In reality, a flawed player. In fantasy, a clear top-15 asset. Lee finds himself in another stat-friendly environment in Golden State, so the move isn't an issue. You're probably getting 19 and 12 with useful percentages. He injured a finger during Team USA training camp, but that issue isn't expected to impact him in the regular season. With this team's next pick, they'll address defense. (Behrens)


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