You can do all the research you want, but knowing which players you want to select for your team is only half of the battle on draft day. You also should have an understanding of what kinds of numbers you want your team to put up in specific categories, and how each player on your roster will contribute or detract from reaching those goals.
During the 2006-07 season, the average standard roto Yahoo! Public League winner totaled 79.9 points. That's an average of 8.9 points per category, so there wasn't an exceptional amount of room for error in any stat. Even if you placed first in four categories (12 points each) – no easy task itself – you would still need to average 6.4 points in the other five statistical categories. The following is the average stat total of the individual category leaders in eight of the standard roto Yahoo! public leagues from the 2006-07 season:
Assuming your goal is to average 8.9 points per category, then you can set target numbers at 655 threes, 9,952 points, 3,834 rebounds, 2,243 assists, 646 steals, and 523 blocks (8.9 is 74 percent of 12, so we'll try for 74 percent of all of those numbers). Admittedly, it's a basic approach, but it's still light-years ahead of having no approach at all. In the case of the percentages, it's a good idea to shoot for those average winner numbers, even if it's not completely realistic to anticipate that you'll actually get there – they are just good numbers to keep in mind. In regards to turnovers, 1600 is a good number to shoot for, as that amounts to just under two per game played (10 active positions X 82 games allotted = 820 total games played) – again, it's not a number that you are likely to come in under unless you are sacrificing stats elsewhere, but it's good to have a general mark to keep yourself honest.
Now that we've established some general goals for team stats, it's time to draft a team. Let's go through a draft, round-by-round, using Yahoo! ADP to determine who is likely to be available in each round to help us construct what we feel will be the most competitive team possible. For drafting purposes, we will take the 7th pick in the first round, so that we essentially have the middle pick in each round. Keep in mind that in order to best try to reproduce a typical Yahoo! Public League draft, I'll be bound by O-Ranks and average draft positions – if a player's O-Rank is more than a few spots lower than my draft position, then he won't be eligible to be drafted for this team, and I won't be selecting anyone who has an ADP that varies widely (up or down) from my pick number. You may or may not believe this, but I went through this draft once from start to finish, and didn't re-do picks down the line if I noticed that I was getting off course. I tried to keep this as realistic of an example as possible. Off we go …
As of October 11, the first six picks in Yahoo! drafts typically work out to be Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and Steve Nash. That leaves one player out of everyone else to build this team around. You want a stud with as few question marks as possible with your first pick, a player that will set the tone for your entire draft. I'm taking Gilbert Arenas here. He finished fifth in season rank last season; he is one of the elite scorers in the league and should also be among the league leaders in threes; he averages nearly two steals per game, and is a very good free throw shooter. Dwyane Wade is too big of a gamble, considering that he's likely to miss most or all of November, and Amare Stoudemire, Jason Kidd, and Yao Ming don't figure to have the season that Arenas does.
Player projections: .425 FG% (1600 FGA), .840 FT% (740 FTA), 200 3PTM, 2200 PTS, 325 REB, 450 AST, 145 STL, 15 BLK, and 270 TO (78 games)
Team projections: We're off to a rough start in FG% and TO, but out of the gate we're very strong in FT%, 3PTM, PTS, and STL.
Stoudemire, Kidd, Yao, Tim Duncan, and Pau Gasol are all but guaranteed to be off the board when it comes back to us with pick 19. Players with a current ADP between 17 and 21 include Chris Bosh, Josh Smith, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Marcus Camby. Bosh's knee worries me enough and Allen's contributions are too much like Arenas' that we can eliminate those two. Nothing against Pierce, but this comes down to blocks from Smith or Camby to complement Arenas, and I'm going with Marcus Camby. He finished eighth overall in the Yahoo! game last season playing 70 games, and finished 22nd overall in season rank in 2005-06, despite missing 26 games. Smith certainly wouldn't be a bad pick, either.
Player projections: .470 FG% (625 FGA), .720 FT% (195 FTA), 0 3PTM, 650 PTS, 740 REB, 180 AST, 85 STL, 215 BLK, and 104 TO (65 games)
Team projections: Camby isn't a high-volume shooter, so he only bumped up Arenas' FG% slightly (to .438), but he also didn't bring down his FT% much (to .815). We need to keep that FG% in mind moving forward (just don't over-think it), but we're off to a solid start in pretty much about every other stat.
Names like Vince Carter, Andre Iguodala, Chauncey Billups, Allen Iverson, and Gerald Wallace have come off the board, and now we're up with pick 31. Players with a current ADP between 30 and 32 include Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Al Jefferson, Dwight Howard, and Michael Redd. Relatively speaking, I don't think Anthony or Redd have the overall stat-line that we're looking for at this point. If Howard is drafted here, it's almost a guaranteed of a low point total in FT% and TO, and I'm not about to do that at this point. So it comes down to Booz or Big Al, and I'm going with Carlos Boozer. I think Jefferson will have a very good season, but this season I have Boozer (who averaged 24/12 in the 2006-07 playoffs) one spot ahead of him on my draft sheet.
Player projections: .550 FG% (1160 FGA), .700 FT% (375 FTA), 0 3PTM, 1575 PTS, 860 REB, 215 AST, 75 STL, 25 BLK, 190 TO (75 games)
Team projections: Boozer's superb FG% gets our team percentage much closer to where we want it (to .476), although our FT% takes a hit (to .782). We're now doing very well in scoring and rebounding – while we don't want to get away from simply drafting the best available player just yet, we want to keep in mind where our strengths currently lie.
Players who would likely come off of the board before our next pick (43) include Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Durant, Joe Johnson, and Brandon Roy. Names with an ADP currently between 42 and 45 include Emeka Okafor, Ron Artest, and Kevin Martin. Right away, both Artest and Martin look like better picks than Okafor for this squad. The question is whether Martin's efficiency trumps Artest's overall contributions. Since Artest actually had a higher FG% after the All-Star break last season (.448) than Martin did (.438), I'm going with "no." So the pick here is Ron Artest and his across-the-board contributions – it's usually not a bad thing when you can draft a player headed into a contract year in a spot that almost doubles his previous season rank (22).
Player projections: .430 FG% (1125 FGA), .730 FT% (440 FTA), 100 3PTM, 1350 PTS, 490 REB, 265 AST, 165 STL, 45 BLK, 170 TO (75 games)
Team projections: While Artest helps in a number of areas, efficiency isn't among them – we're down to .465 FG% and .769 FT% with his contributions, and now we need to be wary of AST:TO ratio heading forward. We're now looking very solid in 3PTM, PTS, REB, and STL, with PG, SF, and both C spots filled on our roster.
While we're waiting on our pick 55, names like Antawn Jamison, Luol Deng, Jason Terry, Manu Ginobili, Mike Miller, and Rasheed Wallace have come off of the board. Players with an ADP between 53 and 57 include Tony Parker, Mike Bibby, Mehmet Okur, and Ben Gordon. Parker stands out among that group for this team, but his numbers aren't what I'm looking for from a PG here. I'm actually going to reach a bit further down the ADP list (59.1) and take Ricky Davis, who finished with a season rank of 36 last season, and should see an uptick in most areas this season for the Kevin Garnett-less Timberwolves. Much like Artest, he's not the most efficient player in the game, but his overall contributions can't be denied.
Player projections: .445 FG% (1200 FGA), .830 FT% (375 FTA), 145 3PTM, 1450 PTS, 360 REB, 400 AST, 95 STL, 18 BLK, 225 TO (80 games)
Team projections: I veered a bit off course to get a player that I simply wanted on the squad in that round, so now we're looking at a .461 FG% and a 2.57 TO average per game played – both are not where we want to be, and will need to be addressed moving forward. We're still very strong in 3PTM, PTS, REB, and STL, and we're doing just fine in FT%, AST (especially considering we've only taken one PG), and BLK (although it's somewhat distressing that they are all coming from Camby).
Before we get our turn with pick 67, players like Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tyson Chandler, Lamar Odom, and Andre Kirilenko have come off of the board. Samuel Dalembert, Zach Randolph, Andre Miller, and Shane Battier have a current ADP between 65 and 69. I'm staying away from both members of the Randolph/Eddy Curry tandem this season, and Battier isn't going to help this club as much as he might help others. That leaves Dalembert and Miller, both of which would be a good fit. I feel more comfortable waiting on a PG, so I'm leaning towards going with a C here, but it won't be Dalembert. I'm moving a few spots down the ADP board (72.0) and taking Andris Biedrins. I love the way he plays and, between the Warriors' system and Dalembert's foot injury, he's got more potential to out-produce this draft position. He'll pair with Camby at C, and we'll move Boozer to PF.
Player projections: .605 FG% (600 FGA), .565 FT% (215 FTA), 0 3PTM, 847 PTS, 765 REB, 105 AST, 80 STL, 150 BLK, 125 TO (80 games)
Team projections: Biedrins gives a nice boost in FG% (to .474) and solidifies REB and BLK, but we take a hit in FT% (down to .760). The best part of this pick is the fuzzy feeling we get by hedging our bet on the Camby pick in the second round, essentially drafting a poor man's Camby. Moving forward, some AST and 3PTM are definitely in order.
We passed on Andre Miller and Samuel Dalembert, and they, along with the likes of Josh Childress, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Raymond Felton, and Randy Foye, are now off of the board. With pick 79, players like T.J. Ford, Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, and David Lee are available. As much as I wish Lee were a fit for this team, I've got to take another PG, so we'll go with T.J. Ford. Not that I'm overly disappointed – Ford should be among the league-leaders in AST once again, so he certainly fills a need. The downside is that he doesn't shoot the three, but I'm not going to roll with a question mark like Stephon Marbury, Jameer Nelson, or Rajon Rondo as my PG2.
Player projections: .435 FG% (910 FGA), .825 FT% (300 FTA), 25 3PTM, 1064 PTS, 220 REB, 600 AST, 105 STL, 7 BLK, 225 TO (75 games)
Team projections: Ford negates a bit of what Biedrins did to help FG% (back down to .469), but he boosts FT% (up to .767), puts us well ahead of the curve in Assists, and helps pad our STL totals. With F and both UTIL spots still to go on our starting roster, we're looking strong in PTS, REB, AST, and STL, and we're right about where we want to be in 3PTM and BLK. We're averaging 2.48 TO per player game right now, something we definitely want to bring down with the next three picks, and we're going to want to work on those percentages.
After the selection of Ford, players like Richard Jefferson, Anthony Parker, and Stephon Marbury have come off the board. With pick 91, we can pick from a group that includes Rudy Gay, Chris Kaman, Jameer Nelson, Luke Walton, Brad Miller, Delonte West, and Walter Herrmann. I'm going a bit off of the beaten path here and selecting Brad Miller, with West and Herrmann getting serious looks. Miller entered the 2006-07 season as one of the best fantasy centers in the game, but he reported to camp out of shape and suffered a partially torn tendon in his left foot in the season's third game, an injury that led to a season-long battle with plantar fasciitis. He's over the foot injury and has vowed to come back strong this season, and I'm thinking that he and his cornrows get most of the way there. I know we're now overloaded at the C position, but Miller's potential is worth gambling on at this point, and when he's on he's a big help where we currently need it. There's also the fact that we've got two high-profile C who would likely be very attractive post-draft trading pieces if we wanted to go that route.
Player projections: .490 FG% (800 FGA), .815 (330 FTA), 10 3PTM, 1063 PTS, 575 REB, 295 AST, 60 STL, 55 BLK, 150 TO (75 games)
Team projections: Miller bumps up both percentages (to .471 and .772, respectively), drops the TO average down a bit (to 2.42), and actually puts our team totals over our target numbers in both PTS and REB. We're looking for 3PTM and BLK from our next two picks, with solid percentages.
Potential targets with pick 103 (with open F and UTIL positions) include Darko Milicic, Chucky Atkins, Troy Murphy, Cuttino Mobley, Nenad Krstic, Chris Wilcox, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, and Mike Dunleavy. Darko, Atkins, Mobley, Scola, Nocioni, and Dunleavy all are reasonable options here, but I'm going with Cuttino Mobley. He slides into the SG spot, with Ricky Davis filling in the F spot. Mobley's numbers have declined in the past two seasons, but he should see an up-tick in most of his numbers with Elton Brand's injury. He consistently puts together an underrated roto game and helps us get closer to our target 3PTM number.
Player projections: .435 FG% (1030 FGA), .835 FT% (255 FTA), 110 3PTM, 1219 PTS, 285 REB, 225 AST, 90 STL, 25 BLK, 145 TO (78 games)
Team projections: Mobley isn't doing thhe team FG% any favors (down to .467), but he bumps FT% up to .778, is a good source of 3PTM, and puts the team over the target number for Steals. Mobley's numbers also put us over our target number for TO, although we're down to 2.36 per player game at this point.
Pick 115 will fill out the starting roster, as we have just the final UTIL spot to fill. Ironically, the player who seems like a good fit to fill out this roster has an O-Rank of 115 – Antonio McDyess. As of this point, Boozer is the only PF on our roster and McDyess will be a decent source of defensive stats and score at a high percentage while keeping the TO to a minimum. He's due to start this season, and over the past three seasons he has posted per-25 minute averages of 9.7 points on 52 percent shooting, 6.7 boards, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.2 TO.
Player projections: .515 FG% (625 FGA), .650 FT% (175 FTA), 0 3PTM, 758 PTS, 550 REB, 80 AST, 60 STL, 65 BLK, 95 TO (78 games)
Now let's take a look at the starting roster from a per-category perspective and discuss who can be targeted late in drafts to help fill in any holes you may end up with in your own drafts.
FG%: We finish up our starting roster with a FG% of .470, 1.9 percentage points lower than we started with as a target (.489), but this team should still be very competitive in the category. Boozer is the perfect complement to Arenas, our highest-volume shooter, but it's the combination of Artest and Davis that help to keep the percentage from being any higher. Late-round picks (O-Rank of 126 or higher) to target for FG% help: Paul Millsap, Jason Maxiell, Ruben Patterson, Mark Blount, Mikki Moore, Brendan Haywood.
FT%: Our team FT% is projected to be .771, 3.7 percentage points lower than our target number (.808). Clearly this is an area where help is needed, with Boozer, Artest, Biedrins, and McDyess being the biggest detractors. A post-draft trade would be the best way to approach this problem, as it can be difficult to find bench players or late picks that are going to substantially impact your FT%.
3PTM: We came in under the team target of 655, or 0.8 per game, totaling 590 in the draft, or 0.78 per player game. Considering how close to the per-game target we are (our starters projected to 759 games played), it's not a huge concern. With that said, the fact that a full one-third of our team total is coming from one player (Arenas) is disconcerting, so it makes sense for at least one bench player on this team to be a solid source of threes, and getting some back in a trade wouldn't hurt, either. Late-round picks (O-Rank of 126 or higher) to target for 3PTM help: Derek Fisher, Earl Watson, James Posey, Mike James, Jason Williams, Wally Szczerbiak, Marco Belinelli, Devin Brown.
PTS: We set our target for points at 9,952, or 12.1 per player game, and we more than met it, coming in at 12,312, or 16.2 per player game. I'm pretty confident that this team would be among the highest scoring in many leagues, thanks to Arenas, Boozer, Davis, and Artest. You aren't going to make a major impact in the late rounds when it comes to scoring – it's your big guns that set the tone for this category.
REB: The target number for rebounds was 3,834, or 4.7 per player game, and we came in at 5,170 projected boards, or 6.8 per player game. Ironically, it was the exact average for category winners last season. With a stable of starters that includes the fourth (Boozer) and fifth (Camby) leading rebounders from last season, there is a surplus of boards and it's something to consider dealing away in a trade to help other areas. Late-round players (O-rank of 126 or higher) to target for REB help: Udonis Haslem, Jason Maxiell, Al Horford, Robert Swift, Brendan Haywood, Jamaal Magloire, Reggie Evans.
AST: We set out for 3,024 assists, or 3.7 per game; while we came in under the total, at 2,815, we actually came in exactly at the per-game average. As is, the team will compete in assists. We've only drafted two PG for our starting lineup, however, so a third is definitely in order for a bench spot. Late-round players (O-rank of 126 or higher) to target for AST help: Earl Watson, Mike Conley Jr., Jamaal Tinsley, Jason Williams, Brevin Knight
STL: Our steals target was 871, or 1.06 per player game, and we came in at 960, or 1.26 per player game. Even better, steals were spread out pretty well throughout the entire roster, despite a few standouts (Artest and Arenas). This team would do very well in this category. Late-round players (O-rank of 126 or higher) to target for STL help: Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley, Smush Parker, Ruben Patterson, Travis Outlaw, Brevin Knight, Kyle Lowry, Dorell Wright, Ronnie Brewer, Speedy Claxton.
BLK: We set a target at 705 blocks, or 0.86 per player game; once again, we're under the total (620) but match up pretty well with the per-game target (0.82). Camby and Biedrins clearly will set the tone for this team, but a bench pick with the potential to block shots is in order. Late-round players (O-rank of 126 or higher) to target for BLK help: Jason Maxiell, Robert Swift, Travis Outlaw, Brandan Haywood, Tyrus Thomas, Adonal Foyle, Joel Przybilla.
TO: We set an aggressive target, albeit a rough estimate, at 1.95 per player game (1,600 total), and with our ten starters we came in at 2.24 per player game (1,699 total). Having five players projected to have at least 170 TO isn't great, but sometimes it's how it plays out. If we were to pursue a trade, we'd certainly try for a net loss in TO in the deal.
All things considered, this would be a pretty successful team. There are some strong categories and some that need some help, but issues like that can and should be addressed as the season (and preseason) moves along. Hopefully you can use the run-through and commentary to help you better construct your own draft-day plan – I figured that building a team realistically, even if it turned out to be imperfect, would be a better idea than fudging the numbers to build an unrealistically flawless team.
It's no cake-walk on draft day … even when it's simulated. But you need to go into your draft with a pretty good understanding of what you want to draft, not just who. Go in with that idea and find some way to track the numbers as you go, even in the most rudimentary sense, and you'll be a step ahead of most of the other managers in your league. The saying is true – you can't win a league on draft day, but you can lose it. Once you are done drafting, take stock of what your strengths and weakness are and be proactive in addressing the weaknesses. Position battles and injuries between now and the start of the season will raise and lower a number of players' stocks, so your draft-day roster probably won't stay completely assembled for too long, anyway.