Roto Arcade - Fantasy

The overwhelming success of our fantasy football mock left us little choice but to follow suit for fantasy hoops now that the NBA Draft has come and gone. And let's face it - it's never too early to mock draft. The plan is to have four rounds done by Thursday, and then we'll pick things up again after the July 4 weekend. The participants: Jonathan Tom, esteemed Fantasy Basketball Cafe contributor and winner of the 2007-08 Y! Friends and Family League; a Yahoo! Sports triumvirate of Brandon Funston, Matt Buser, and Matt Romig; Justin Phan, an FBC and contributor; and David Klyce of (and 2006-07 F&F league champ).

For settings, assume the standard nine categories (FG%, FT%, 3PTM, PTS, REB, AST, STL, BLK, TO) and roto scoring format. Individual draft rounds can be found at the following links: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Chris Paul, New Orleans PG - Round 1, Pick 1. Sure his name isn't as sexy as Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, but sexy names don't always win fantasy championships. Paul's ascension to the top of the fantasy ranks did not take long. In just his 3rd professional season, Paul fell just short of becoming the first player in NBA history to average 20+ points, 10+ assists and 3+ steals. His 2007-08 post-break averages of 21.9 points, 12.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 2.3 turnovers were simply prodigious. He is a ROTO juggernaut and a H2H assassin with only one major weakness (blocks). Draft Paul this fall and rest assured that you are on a one way track to your leagues championship. (Tom)

Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers SG - Round 1, Pick 2. Hate him or love him, Kobe' Jelly Bean' Bryant is undeniably an elite fantasy force. The 2007-08 MVP will be back with a vengeance after losing in the finals to the mighty Boston Celtics. Numbers-wise, you should expect more of the same from Bryant in 2008-09 - although it's certainly possible to see moderate improvements in both FG% and TO's with the permanent additions of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to the Lakers' lineup. It is also worth noting that Kobe will have surgery on a torn ligament in his right pinky finger after the 2008 Beijing Olympics conclude. Be sure to check the status of his recovery before you draft him next fall. (Tom)

Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix FC - Round 1, Pick 3. Stoudemire's coach may have changed, but he still has the same point guard - and that's really more important. As long as table-setter extraordinaire Steve Nash is distributing the rock, Stoudemire is going to continue to get great looks at the basket. Those looks helped Stoudemire shoot a lofty 59 percent (on 15-plus attempts) from the floor last season, which made him easily the most impactful fantasy force in the FG% category. He also shot over 80 percent from the line, a luxury not often afforded from the Center position. By taking Stoudemire here, I've laid a solid bedrock foundation in PTS (25.2), REB (9.1), BLK (2.1), FG% (.590), and FT% (.805) from a premium position. (Funston)

LeBron James, Cleveland SF - Round 1, Pick 4. It's still amazing to think that LBJ is only 23 years old. Theoretically, he still hasn't reached the ceiling of his potential. But, after finishing No. 6, No. 13 and No. 6 in the Y! game the past three seasons, it really all comes down to Free Throws and Turnovers. James shot 10-plus free throws per game last season at a sub-par rate of 71.2 percent, making him the sixth biggest FT% category drag in fantasy. He also had the fourth-worst TO mark (3.4). Despite these two major shortcomings, his positive contributions in the other seven default categories allowed him to finish among the Y! top six. So drafting him fourth involves taking only a minor leap of faith that he can make some progress in his problem areas. If he simply returns to the 75 percent FT% plateau he hit in each of his first two seasons, it makes this pick a slam dunk. (Funston)

Kevin Garnett, Boston PF - Round 1, Pick 5. This is a very interesting spot to make a pick, at least at this point of the offseason. The trio that warrants consideration here is KG, Dirk, and Marion. I'm going with KG at No.5 for two reasons: (1) I expect zero let-down here despite the first championship of his career; that's just not how KG goes about his business (2) the reason he finished "only" seventh in per-game rank and ninth in cumulative rank last season was because of his mid-season abdominal injury; he averaged just under 33 minutes per game for the season, including just under 30 after the All-Star break. Back to full health and ready to defend his title, 2008-09 will be another monster season for Garnett. (Buser)

Shawn Marion, Miami F - Round 1, Pick 6. So it comes down to Marion or Dirk with this pick (at least for me). The reasons I'm going with Marion - whose end-of-season rank (14th) was lower than first for the first time in four seasons - are a much improved team situation and surplus defensive stats. A healthy Dwyane Wade, the addition of Michael Beasley, and the addition of a free agent or two will have the Heat in a much better position to produce fantasy-friendly numbers, and Marion will benefit greatly. Even if his scoring average doesn't approach 20 points, his efficiency should once again be in familiar territory and the ever-present defensive stats will buoy his overall impact. Dirk's pairing with Jason Kidd for a full season also makes him an enticing choice, but Marion's significant edge in the defensive categories serves as something of a coin-flip for me here. (Buser)

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas PF - Round 1, Pick 7. Dirk and Jason Kidd didn't exactly click in the 30 or so games they played together, but incoming coach Rick Carlisle has a full offseason to build a system around his future Hall of Famers (hint: pick-and-roll). As a fantasy draft pick, Nowitzki is as low-risk as they come. For eight straight seasons he's been a lock for 20-plus points, nine rebounds, a three and a block per game. He doesn't miss free throws and is an above-average passer. Hopefully he'll play with a chip on his shoulder this year after watching KG finally get over the hump in the postseason. (Romig)

Elton Brand, LA Clippers FC - Round 1, Pick 8. I'm sure a few eyes will roll here, but Brand was the second-rated player in the fantasy pool (Y! default settings) in 2005-06 and finished sixth in the rankings in 2006-07. In both seasons he ranked ahead of more popular selections LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire. Last year was a bit of a loss, yes, but in limited action after his rehab he returned to his standard 20-10 form and blocked 15 shots in eight games. This was probably going to be an injury-rebound pick one way or another as I considered Dwayne Wade and Gilbert Arenas, but in the end I always feel more comfortable getting one of my two C positions filled with a top 10 guy. (Romig)

Caron Butler, Washington SF - Round 1, Pick 9. This is where things start to get dicey. You either take a leap of faith and gamble on the health of Dwyane Wade and Gilbert Arenas or you play it safe and opt for a player with less downside. I addressed the dilemma of drafting in the late first round a few seasons ago in this article, emphasizing the need to weigh risk vs. reward in order to determine whether or not the gamble will be worth taking. I advise you to think carefully before you build the foundation of your team on a player who could potentially flop. You probably won't see me using a first round draft pick on Wade or Arenas this season. Caron Butler has increased his production across the board slowly yet steadily over the past four seasons. He finished an impressive 6th in per-game value last season, ahead of LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and Dirk Nowitzki. He is absolutely money in roto-scoring formats (Marion-esque) and should be a fixture in the top 10 for years to come with Jamison already re-signed and Arenas on the verge of re-signing as well (6-year, $127 million offer on the table). The injuries and missed games are certainly a concern, but the good news is that he will not have to have surgery on his left hip or left wrist. He should get plenty of rest this offseason and come into next season fully healthy. (Phan)

Marcus Camby, Denver C - Round 1, Pick 10. The knocks on him are the same year after year -- he's old, injury-prone, and due for a decrease in production. I expect to hear much of the same this year from the doubters, even though he has proven them wrong time and time again. Camby has finished top 8 in per-game value the past three seasons while only missing 15 games over the past two seasons. He has proven to be a very valuable commodity as he is a mere lock to average 12 rebounds and 3+ blocks per game. His eFG% on shots from close took an abnormal dip from 57.1% in 2006-2007 to 48.1% last season, and as it normalizes you should expect him to return to averaging 10+ PPG. I'll let the skeptics continue to leave him out of their top 10, because nothing has led me to believe he will slow down at all next season. (Phan)

Deron Williams, Utah PG - Round 1, Pick 11. I have a history of not selecting point guards in the first half of drafts not because I do not want to, but because other managers usually covet the assist category more than I do. In other words, they draft to satisfy the category whereas I am looking at overall value. As a result I do not recall ever having Steve Nash or Jason Kidd on my team - they are always gone before they surface on my depth chart. Quite frankly this has caused me some anguish trying to scrap for assists in the second half of the draft. So I am happy to select Williams since not only will he be a staple for my assists (having averaged nearly 10 for the past two seasons) but also as a player whose overall value warrants a selection as the 11th overall. While he is not great in steals, his scoring is strong and he shoots great percentages across the board. Also, in three seasons he has missed only 4 games. (Klyce)

Allen Iverson, Denver G - Round 1, Pick 12. He has played 132 games with the Nuggets and has shot over 45% from the field which is 3 percentage points above his career average. Taking Iverson this high is somewhat of a gamble that his shooting for Denver is not a fluke. While the days of him averaging 41+ minutes must be coming to an end, it is also somewhat of a calculated risk that this work-out avoiding freak of nature will continue to incessantly run up and down the court, stealing the ball (2.3 career average) and passing to teammates for assists (7.2 per game last season) when not just taking it to the hole himself. (Klyce)

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