Roto Arcade - Fantasy

Ludicrously early mock drafting has become a time-honored tradition here at Roto Arcade, and it continues today. (Other traditions: Flame wars with MDS, spam from dating Web sites, an inability to spell "Zimmermann.") Let's take a look at the early rounds of '09 fantasy drafts. Assume standard roto settings. Your drafters are Matt Romig, Matt Buser, Justin Phan, Brandon Funston, Dalton Del Don and Andy Behrens

http://a323.yahoofs.com/ymg/ept_sports_fantasy_experts__14/ept_sports_fantasy_experts-75857648-1246311009.jpg?ymhZsfBD3a24Nc2BChris Paul(notes), New Orleans Hornets PG - Round 1, Pick 1. OK, fine, so he only blocked 10 shots last year. Elsewhere, Paul was exceptional (except maybe in Game 4 vs. Denver). He comfortably led the NBA in assists (11.0) and steals (2.8) while finishing eighth in scoring (22.8). Paul was also among the NBA's top rebounding guards (5.5), and his shooting percentages were outstanding (50.3 FG, 86.8 FT). He's a cornerstone. (Behrens)

LeBron James(notes), Cleveland Cavaliers SF - Round 1, Pick 2. James doesn't thoroughly own any single fantasy category quite like Paul owns both assists and steals, but of course he's an across-the-board monster: 28.4 PPG, 7.6 REB, 7.3 AST, 1.7 STL, 1.2 BLK, 1.6 3PT. His improved free throw percentage (69.8 percent in '06-'07, 78.0 in '08-'09) is no small thing, considering how often he gets to the line. James seems capable of leading the league in anything he likes, and he's still just 24. (AB)

Dwyane Wade(notes), Miami Heat G - Round 1, Pick 3. An easy choice. With Wade finally developing a three-point shot, he could strongly be considered with the No. 1 pick. Durability remains a concern, as well as turnovers in leagues that use that category, but Wade led the league in scoring last year while shooting a remarkable 49.1 percent from the field and finishing second in the NBA with 2.2 steals per game. He’s a beast. (Del Don)

http://a323.yahoofs.com/ymg/ept_sports_fantasy_experts__14/ept_sports_fantasy_experts-970671681-1246312434.jpg?ymyvsfBDHbyvIvA0Kobe Bryant(notes), Los Angeles Lakers SG - Round 1, Pick 4. With better teammates surrounding him, Bryant’s numbers decreased across the board last season, as he saw his fewest minutes per game since his second year in the league. That trend should continue in 2009-10, especially considering the fact Bryant is approaching 1,000 games played in his career. Still, at age 31, any decline will hardly be precipitous. Bryant can still fill a stat sheet, and another run at a scoring title can’t be ruled out. (DDD)

Dirk Nowitzki(notes), Dallas Mavericks PF – Round 1, Pick 5. It’s all about consistency with Dirk. Even in a season when he had to deal with a "girlfriend" who was arrested for forgery and felony theft charges, and who was known by law enforcement to have at least 14 different aliases, Nowitzki still managed to log his usual top five season in the Yahoo! game. He’s now put together a string of nine consecutive seasons with at least 76 games played and averages of at least 21.8 points and 8.4 rebounds to go with excellent shooting ratios. And, it should also be noted that the power forward position is nearly as depth-thin as the center position. (Funston)

Danny Granger(notes), Indiana Pacers GF – Round 1, Pick 6. Granger, who finished fourth in the Y! game, led all players in combined threes/steals/blocks per game (5.1) and averaged at least one of each – one of four players to do so. He also finished tied for fourth in the league with a scoring average of 25.8. At 26, Granger is in his prime, he satisfies this fantasy squad’s good character mandate, and Pacers GM Larry Bird recently floated the idea that Granger could play some power forward this season, which may bolster his Yahoo! eligibility at some point during next season. But even if he remains entirely at small forward, Granger is a rock solid pick six. (BF)

Kevin Durant(notes), Oklahoma City Thunder SF - Round 1, Pick 7. Credit the Bennett City Hijackers for finally coming to their senses and seeing that the Durantula was much better suited at the 3 than at the 2. The move to small forward allowed Durant to open his game up considerably and utilize every weapon in his offensive arsenal. The improvement in his shooting proficiency was astounding as his eFG% on jumpers jumped from an anemic .397 in '07-'08 to a respectable .452 mark last season. He also showed marked improvement on the glass where he upped his defensive rebounding percentage from 9.9% to 15.1%. We are witnessing the makings of a superstar here, and there is little doubt in my mind that Durant will have solidified his spot in the top 5 come next summer. (Justin Phan)

Amar'e Stoudemire(notes), Phoenix Suns C - Round 1, Pick 8. As a top 4 pick in almost every fantasy draft last year, STAT had a near-disastrous season by his standards. Not only did his per-game averages drop him out of the top 20, but he also ended up missing 29 games due to a season-ending eye injury. With that said, there's a lot to be optimistic about heading into next season. Shaq's departure allows Amare to slide back to center where he is more comfortable playing and has a track record of putting up better numbers. The rumors of STAT being shipped to the Warriors appear to be dead. With a likely return to coach Alvin Gentry's run n' gun system, all signs point to a bounceback season. Keep in mind that Amare is just two season removed from putting up top 2 fantasy production. (Phan)

Pau Gasol(notes), Los Angeles Lakers PF - Round 1, Pick 9. Gasol was absolutely massive for the Lakers last season, finishing with a per-game rank of 12 – he also improved as the season went on, posting a per-game rank of 7th over the final two months. The beautiful thing about Gasol's game is that he's an enormous help in a number of areas and doesn't hurt you anywhere. In 2008-09, he supported 18.9 points on 57-percent shooting, 9.6 boards, 3.5 assists, and 1 block with just 1.9 turnovers, 78-percent shooting from the line, and 0.6 steals. I don't anticipate Gasol resting on his new-found laurels – I expect his upcoming age-29 season to be his finest – and I don't expect Andrew Bynum's(notes) "potential" development to work against him. (Matt Buser)

Al Jefferson(notes), Minnesota Timberwolves C - Round 1, Pick 10. Jefferson's ACL injury derailed what was a leap into fantasy superstardom. He finished the season with a per-game rank of 9th, and over his past 173 games, the 24-year-old has averaged 20.9 points on 50 percent shooting, 11.2 boards, 0.9 steals, and 1.6 blocks. To top that kind of production off, he was one of only four players that averaged over 20 points per game to also average less than 2.0 turnovers this past season. More things to consider: despite the Wolves' rotation being in constant flux and very inconsistent guard play since he joined the team, he's been consistent throughout. There's just no good reason to pass on Jefferson here. As for that injury, initial reports are that he's ahead of schedule – obviously, we'll get a bit more detail on that front over the next few months. (Buser)

Chris Bosh(notes), Toronto Raptors C, Round 1, Pick 11. You wanted Bosh on your side with league titles hanging in the balance – in nine April games he averaged 22.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.3 blocks on 50.3 percent shooting. He's also one of the better passing bigs for fantasy purposes, ranking fifth on the season in total assists among players who wear the "C" in their eligibility field. If you want to talk motivation, Bosh won't sign an extension this summer, so he's playing for his next contract along with everyone else in the 2010-11 mega-class. Oh, and he still wants your vote. (Matt Romig)

Brandon Roy(notes), Portland Trail Blazers PG, Round 1, Pick 12. Roy is a remarkably efficient player when you consider he's part of the backcourt duo for one of the least experienced teams in the NBA. In 2008-09 he was one of a small handful of players to average at least 5.0 assists per game and fewer than 2.0 turnovers per contest. He makes his shots (48.0-percent floor, 82.4-percent line) and has averaged slightly north of one steal and 3-pointer per game in his three-year NBA career. In short, he doesn't have a blind spot – we'll get our blocks on the cheap a bit later – which is all you can ask for at the tail end of the first round. (Mig)    

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