With the NBA season upon us, the Yahoo! Sports Fantasy team recently convened for a fantasy draft that included the Yahoo! Sports Fantasy experts as well as some outside participation from our friends at companies such as RotoWire.com, TalentedMrRoto.com and 82games.com.
After the draft, we asked each participant two specific questions about his draft. Here's a look at what each league member had to say:
Q: (rd 7) Damon Stoudamire is now in Memphis, historically home to the most dreaded rotation for fantasy basketball production. Rafer Alston and Luke Ridnour were two point guards still on the board at the time of the pick. How do you feel Stoudamire will perform relative to last season.
A: At this point in the draft, I was a bit concerned about my team's three-point shooting prowess, and felt I could also use an additional shot in the arm in the assists department. I felt that Stoudamire fit that bill the best. He'll play the lead man in a platoon with Bobby Jackson, who is oft-injured and already has battled through hamstring problems this preseason. I'm guessing that Stoudamire plays 30-plus minutes a night and gets me something close to 2.0 treys and 6.0 assists, which is what I was looking for. Alston would have also been a viable choice considering what I was looking for. But the volatility factor is a little bit higher for Alston. Stoudamire's track record is a little more of a safer bet.
Q: (rd 8) You followed up the Damon Stoudamire pick with Jameer Nelson. The Magic's backcourt rotation seems to be still up for debate, with Keyon Dooling, DeShawn Stevenson, and Nelson vying to start opposite Steve Francis. Do you think the rotation will settle on Nelson pairing with Francis?
A: Considering that Nelson was the team's top draft choice last season, and averaged 15.7 points, 5.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and shot 48 percent in 21 starting opportunities, I would expect him to have a leg up on the competition. It's a calculated risk, I admit. But Orlando is already dealing with some injuries that will, directly or indirectly, help Nelson get on the court – Grant Hill has a hernia and Dooling is dealing with a bothersome heel. Having Nelson and Steve Francis running the floor together is an exciting pairing. And the Magic's most productive lineup last season was one that had those two on the court together.
Q: (rd 2) Shaq's minutes and numbers have been in decline for the past few seasons, including his already catastrophic free-throw percentage, and the Heat are deep enough to allow the trend to continue. Why use that high of a draft pick on him (No. 19), especially in a league with rotisserie scoring?
A: One certainly can't dispute the fact that O'Neal is in decline, and that his free throw shooting leaves much to be desired, both in form and function. However, when comparing his all-around productivity against that of other players at the all-important Center position, I pulled the trigger and drafted him. With two starting Centers required in this league, there is a premium for players who are not part of a multi-player system. Barring a catastrophic injury that further limits his playing time, O'Neal is still going to average over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game while blocking better than two shots per contest. Those numbers go virtually unmatched at the position, basically matching the production of two lower-tier players. I believe those areas will decidedly offset his atrocious FT percentage. Perhaps I overshot him by a round, but I'd rather run the risk of a player taking a slight step down than bank on two players to take a giant step forward.
Q: (rd 4) Zach Randolph is returning from injury, has already had issues with new coach Nate McMillan, and even in his career 2003 season his contributions were limited to a few categories (FG%, points, rebounds). What are you anticipating from Randolph this season with the Blazers?
A: Randolph's latest run-in with Nate McMillan has given me a slight case of "buyer's remorse," as one can only guess as to how these two will interact during the season. And, as for career seasons, I think it's a bit tough to place that tag on a player who just turned 24. In any event, Randolph's strong play before the injury, not horribly off his 03-04 marks, has me encouraged that he will get back on track. Though his attempts per game are limited, he hits nearly 80 percent of his free throws and chips in two assists per game. Again, though 24 may be considered relatively old in NBA terms, I believe Randolph's best days are ahead.
Q: (rd 2) Baron Davis will be leading a suddenly explosive offense in Golden State. You drafted Davis at No. 20 overall, despite the ever-present possibility of him missing significant time during the season. Was this a calculated risk, or do you feel that Golden State is the environment he needs to stay healthy and happy?
A: Davis has worn street clothes for roughly 35 percent of his team's games over the past three seasons. Even a crooked exec would have trouble massaging those numbers to downplay the risk. But yes, I think Golden State is the best place for him. As is typically the case in Oakland, the Warriors totally lack a low-post scoring threat. As a result, it's going to be Run TMC all over again – with Davis running the show. From what I've heard, he reported to camp 20 pounds lighter and in great shape. There's also word – and this is a scary thought – that he has his hops back. Anyone who remembers his early days in Charlotte or farther back to UCLA knows that few players attack the rim as aggressively. Last year, Davis arrived at training camp disgruntled and overweight. This year he has a full training camp to get ready to run, run, run with Jason Richardson and Mike Dunleavy. Also, I love that he hoists about eight three-point attempts per game – and it does seem to bother coach Mike Montgomery. He's worth the risk.
Q: (rd 7) Eddy Curry's health is still a relatively ambiguous matter, but you drafted him with center-eligible players like Joel Przybilla, Stromile Swift, Samuel Dalembert, Mehmet Okur, and Raef LaFrentz still on the board. The Knicks were willing to take a chance on him, but what are your expectations for Curry this season in New York?
A: I probably waited too long to draft a No. 1 center. By the time I decided enough is enough, I had already drafted Kurt Thomas (10.4 rebounds per game in 2004-05), Chris Bosh (8.9) and Paul Gasol (career 8.3 boards/game). So I felt OK drafting a soft big man who refuses to play defense or rebound (or block shots). Curry is a talent on the offensive end. He was the fourth-highest scoring center in 2004-05, averaging 16.1 points per game. As for his health, who knows? I'd like to think that New York wouldn't have traded for him if there were doubts, but when Isiah Thomas is calling shots, you never know. As insurance, I drafted Erik Dampier in the 12th round. I really think Avery Johnson is the type of coach who can motivate him, even in a non-contract year.
Q: (rd 1) Yao Ming is one of the top fantasy centers in basketball, but typically lasts longer than the 10th pick. Yao hasn't seen dramatic improvements in his game from a fantasy perspective thus far from season to season – are you anticipating this, his fourth year, to be his true breakout campaign?
A: I took Yao because, 1) Everyone was snapping up wings and guards and, 2) With Amare Stoudemire out, there aren't that many elite centers. We start two in our league, so with the way the draft was going, I had to grab one early. Plus, Yao's numbers should be better this year after getting fitter and stronger. In previous offseasons, he trained with Team China. This past offseason, he worked out with the Rockets' assistant head coach and strength coach.
Q: (rd 6) While Kobe and Phil's relationship will take center stage in Los Angeles, Lamar Odom's ability to be the point man in the triangle offense should end up having a bigger impact on how the team as a whole performs. How do you expect Odom to perform in his new role this season, and how will his own numbers be affected?
A: Odom has the potential to become a triple-double threat as the point forward in Phil Jackson's triangle. The ball will be in Odom's hands most of the time, at least initially in the Lakers' sets, so that'll keep him involved and confident – instead of the standstill and confused state he found himself in last season. He should make a big jump in assists.
Q: Gilbert Arenas is one of the most exciting players in the NBA. He is one of the league's top scorers, pick artists and three-point bombers. But he hasn't posted the type of assist numbers you like to see from a top fantasy PG, his TOs are always high and his shooting percentage can be a liability. That said, you took him in the first round, ninth overall. Is Arenas who you were targeting? What kind of year do you expect from him? And what kind of significance do you think the departure of Larry Hughes will have on his game?
I was hoping that Andrei Kirilenko would fall to me, but Arenas was ninth on my draft board, so I wasn't surprised to get him there. His assists aren't ideal, but that is why I had no problem using another early pick on Mike Bibby. That said, 25/5/5 is anything but a liability, and I don't expect much of a drop-off or change. Antonio Daniels and Caron Butler may not demand quite as much attention as Hughes did, but they are both solid players and should complement Arenas' strengths well. I'm anticipating a follow-up for Arenas this season that is right on par with last year.
Q: You took Stromile Swift in the 7th round, ahead of double-double machine Troy Murphy, Richard Hamilton and Philadelphia starting center, and blocks standout, Samuel Dalembert, among others. Any worries that Swift will cede too much time to Juwan Howard at the PF spot (Howard is playing more minutes than Swift in preseason)? Also, how do you see Swift carving out a worthy fantasy existence with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming dominating attention, and the ball?
I was hoping to grab Joel Przybilla with that pick, and when he went off the board, I felt i needed to take Swift – I was targeting a center with the pick. I do have a bit of concern that Jeff Van Gundy will simply play Howard over him because of familiarity. Swift has outscored Howard in the preseason and has 10 blocks to Howard's zero, so I think Swift has the ability to force Van Gundy's hand. McGrady was a vocal proponent of the Swift signing, and if given the minutes, I'm confident that he will make his mark. I'm not projecting him as a big scorer, but am counting on his true impact to be in his defensive totals – rebounds, steals, and blocks.
Q: (rd 3) You drafted Ron Artest with the 28th overall pick. He put up monster numbers in the seven games before the "incident" in Detroit last season. His talent is unquestioned, but his stability is not. Do you expect Artest to play the entire season (barring injury), and what type of numbers do you expect him to produce?
A: Absolutely. Artest has something to prove and I think, after the last year, has no interest in missing even one game. He produces across the board in all categories and I think he's a guy that will produce first round kind of production that you can get in the third or fourth round (as I did here).
Q: (rd 5) Donyell Marshall was underutilized in Toronto last season – especially in the eyes of the fantasy owners that drafted him with his 2003 numbers in mind. While it is little consolation to former owners, he is expected to play a vital role in Cleveland this season. Which version of Donyell are you expecting to see this season?
A: I've always had a soft spot for DM and I expect his 2003 numbers this year. It's a great situation for him in Cleveland, where he is surrounded by talent and will get a lot of open looks when defenses collapse on LeBron and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Any guy that can get a block and a half and two threes a game while pulling down 15 points and 8 boards has a place on my team. And that's what I think Donyell will do this year.
Q: (rd 5) The fiasco surrounding his departure from Phoenix for Atlanta cast a spotlight on Joe Johnson. Playing a new position – and point guard at that – on a new team with a roster of mostly first- and second-year players might not seem like a best-case scenario. How do you expect Johnson to perform relative to last season?
A: Johnson could struggle with turnovers and FG percentage, but he's a good athlete with excellent size (6-foot-7, 230) that can shoot from outside, especially from long range, create his own shot and hold up despite playing heavy minutes. Plus he's going to get more assists and probably more points this year – I have him at about 20/5/6 with plenty of threes. That's fine with me in the fifth round unless the turnovers and FG are horrendous – but that's worst-case scenario. Also, keep in mind that Johnson is just now coming into his own in the league and is only 24 – he should only get better for the next couple seasons.
Q: (rd 9) Sam Cassell has been lobbying for the starting point guard spot with the Clippers since his arrival, and Shaun Livingston's back injury has made it difficult for him to respond to the challenge. Despite a strong finish last season, Livingston could start the season on the bench – how do you expect the situation to pan out?
A: I'm out here in LA, and I watched a fair number of Clippers games on TV at the end of last year, and in my mind there is only one thing that could keep Livingston from seeing good minutes and emerging as a star this season – his health. Given his brittle frame, that's a big issue, but after seeing him take over games down the stretch last year, I have little doubt that he'll be better than Cassell if and when he's healthy. In the later rounds, it's all about upside, and I'll always draft the guy I saw glimpses of superstardom in over a safer pick with a lesser ceiling. Also, it's not as if Cassell is particularly durable at this stage of his career, either. Bottom line, I could see Livingston being a top-20 pick next year, not that he necessarily will, but I could see it. There aren't a lot of guys you can say that about in the ninth round.
RotoWire.com – Peter Schoenke
Q: (rd 1) Conventional wisdom would have Shawn Marion at No. 4 overall, but you drafted Kobe Bryant instead. Are you anticipating a return to glory for Kobe now that he and Phil Jackson have reunited in Los Angeles?
A: I think Kobe is just one of the few players in the NBA who has unlimited upside. Marion's a great player, but Jordan was averaging more than 30 points under Jackson when he was the focal point of the offense. No reason that can't be Kobe this season.
Q: (rd 6) Andrew Bogut had a fantastic college career and was the No. 1 pick in this year's draft. Expectations for his first pro season are fairly high but varied. What production are you anticipating from Bogut as your No. 1 center?
A: I'm hoping for 14 ppg and 8 rpg, but I think he'll get a plenty of playing time with the Bucks and at that point in the draft I needed a big man with upside. Fantasy basketball is the one sport where gambling on rookies with guaranteed playing time can really pay off.
82games.com – Kevin Pelton
Q: (rd 8) Amare Stoudemire naturally fell in this draft, and you were able to draft him with the 74th pick. Did you enter the draft targeting Stoudemire, or did he simply seem like the best choice with that pick? If you were indeed targeting him, was it roughly where you anticipated drafting him? If you were not targeting him, what are your anticipations for his recovery and return?
A: Well, I think my strategy was best summed up by a friend. I told him my roster, and he said, "So you're basically looking to be the first fantasy player to have every member of your team injured at the same time?"
I wouldn't say I was targeting Stoudemire. I thought going in that he was a total wild card, because I wasn't sure how everyone else would value him. What I did to value Stoudemire was create a fairly standard spreadsheet with standard deviations above or below league average in each category based on projected minutes and 2004-05 stats. Then I calculated how valuable X games of the given player – 25 in Stoudemire's case – would be added to 82-X games of a guy I could pick up off the waiver wire. That was fairly conservative, I think, and showed Stoudemire as a sixth- or seventh-round pick. So I think he was fairly good value where I got him.
That's a high-risk pick, naturally. If he comes back at the break and is his old self, that's a first-round pick added to my lineup right there. If he doesn't come back at all, that pick is wasted.
Q: (rd 9) Chris Webber's stock has fallen as far as anyone's in recent memory, now being drafted among the Nenad Krstic's and Jamaal Magloire's of the league. His late-season numbers in Philadelphia were the worst of his 12-year career. What are your expectations for Webber this season with the Sixers?
A: I'm certainly not a C-Webb fan, but I was pretty stunned he lasted as long as he did. I can't imagine he'll match his Sacramento performance, but I think he'll fit in better than he did last year after being dropped into the lineup mid-season. It also seemed like Jim O'Brien didn't particularly care for Webber, and I think Mo Cheeks will do a better job of using him.
Everybody talks about the shot attempts, and that's natural, but two high-possession guys can co-exist – witness Shaq and either Kobe or Wade – as long as you've got low-possession guys around them. Samuel Dalembert, Andre Iguodala and Kyle Korver are just that. So I'm optimistic Webber can post numbers similar to his overall performance last year – maybe around 18 points and nine boards per game. That's tough to beat in the ninth round.
82games.com – Roland Beech
Q: (rd 3) Dwight Howard exceeded any and all expectations last season, averaging a double-double while playing all 82 games as a 19-year-old. He seems to have nearly limitless upside, but what expectations do you have for Howard in his second season?
A: I think Howard will be huge. In terms of conventional fantasy stats I would project 18 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a great FG percentage would be in order. One thing we track at 82games.com is the location of a player's shots, and Howard was No. 13 in the league in "at the rim" attempts … which, given the top ten is full of guys like Shaq, Amare, Wade, LeBron, etc., puts him in good company.
Q: (rd 4) The Cavaliers are a much deeper team this season than last, bringing in Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Damon Jones. Do you anticipate the new-found depth and arsenal of outside shooters that the team now possesses to help Zydrunas Ilgauskas' numbers, or does the possibility exist that the new weapons will take shots and production away from him?
A: It's possible his total scoring could go down, but I think that overall his numbers should be solid and his FG percentage should go up a tad. Basically, as a now healthy center with some skills, he seemed a good pickup at this spot. The Cavs are building a very interesting roster and should be one of the more "statistically analytical" teams in the league this year.
- Damon Stoudamire