Things are fairly set at the top of fantasy NBA drafts this season. Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Amare Stoudemire figure to be drafted with the first four picks in the vast majority of leagues in one order or another.
So what's a fantasy owner to do with that No.5 selection, assuming there are no surprises among the top four picks? Matt Buser and Justin Phan provide opposing viewpoints on the matter (in 250 words or less).
Buser says: These two players are back-to-back in my rankings at 5-6 – although they would take differing routes to get there, both players absolutely have the ability to deliver a top-5 fantasy impact.
Why I've got Elton Brand a spot ahead of Dirk in my rankings: he will be exceptionally successful taking his aggressions out on Eastern Conference teams and the Andre Miller-to-Brand connection will play out like a wildly-efficient Deron/Boozer East. His finest career season (season Rank of 2nd overall) to this point came in 2005-06, alongside a pair of 17-point scorers (Corey Maggette and Sam Cassell), a 15-point scorer (Cuttino Mobley), and a double-double (12/10) from Chris Kaman, so I have no reservations regarding Brand's ability to excel while surrounded by individual talents.
As I mentioned previously, I'm a Dirk fan, as well. Rick Carlisle will let Jason Kidd's reigns loose – something that Avery Johnson didn't do – and that will do nothing but help the Mavs on offense. But what I also prefer about Brand's game is that it isn't completely O-centric – while Dirk's boards, steals, and blocks have made steady incremental declines, Brand is a lock for 10 boards and roughly two blocks (yes, even alongside Dalembert).
Brand is healthy and hungry and ready to deliver on the grand expectations that have accompanied him to Philly. After the big four are off the board, he is the choice with the fifth pick.
Phan says: I can understand an off-season debate involving a guy like Marcus Camby retaining his value next season because of injury concerns and a new environment, but what exactly is the knock on Dirk Nowitzki?
Over the past five seasons, Dirk has not finished out of the top six in cumulative value once. He is the only player in the NBA over that five-year span who has accomplished that feat, and it speaks volumes about his remarkable consistency and durability. The scary thing is that Dirk actually managed to improve after the Mavericks added Jason Kidd back in February. With one of the best floor generals in the game at his side, Dirk became more efficient while increasing his scoring average and three-point volume.
The naysayers will argue that he is too roto-oriented but I disagree. With Dirk as your centerpiece, punting blocks is a very effective strategy. His board-to-block ratio is one of the best you'll find early on and there are plenty of high-rebound, low-block players you can pick up later on to fill your center slots such as Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, David Lee and Troy Murphy. Drafting point guards and swingmen will be the easy part.
I am well aware that Dirk is not the "sexy" pick or the most appealing first rounder of the bunch, but you don't get any style points for drafting the Tracy McGrady's or Jermaine O'Neal's. If all you care about is winning your league then you have to draft Dirk fifth overall.