Hoops Lab: Risk assessment

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Andre Snellings
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They are who we THINK they are

I'm always late.

No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try … it doesn't matter. If I'm going somewhere, if I'm doing some work, if I'm turning something in … it's almost always going to be late. My editor is nodding his head as he reads this, because chances are that I sent this to him late.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of NBA.com]

I don't know what it is. Maybe it's that I try to squeeze too many things into too short a period of time. Maybe it's that I've never been able to completely eradicate the inherent procrastination gene inside of me. Maybe it's poor planning … maybe it's consistently bad luck … maybe it's … I don't know what it is, but it's a fact of my life.

And it can be creative, too. I almost always have a story. For example, my new job has a big meeting every other Monday morning at 8 a.m. I was … you guessed it … late to the first one, but it wasn't my fault. Really. My immediate supervisor and group all know that I drop my children off at school on my way to work, and they have to be at school at 8:30, which means that I don't get to work until 9:00 every morning. And one of my co-workers told me that it was no big deal if I was at this particular meeting, so I could just come in at normal time on meeting day. So I did … only to find that the meeting was much bigger than I'd been led to believe, that every other employee at my job was there, and that I had to walk through them to get to my new desk. As you might expect, my boss wasn't impressed.

Fast forward two weeks, and I was ready. My wife and I shifted things around so that she could take the kids to school on Monday. I got up early, made sure I was at work by 7:45. I strutted into the office feeling cocky … but at 8 a.m. there was no meeting. Turned out that the meeting had been moved without notice to Tuesday. So on Tuesday I tried to do it again … my wife was set to take the two older kids to school, I got up early, but … my two-month old baby girl had kept my wife up all night, she just wasn't up to taking the kids to school, so it fell to me. It still should have been fine, as the baby's nocturnal issues woke me up extra early, and I got the kids ready to go a full hour before they normally go to school with plenty of time for me to drop them off early and get to my meeting on time. So what happened? A traffic accident on the highway caused the 30-minute commute to my kids' school to take an hour and 15 minutes, I dropped them off at the time the meeting started, and 25 minutes later when I got to work I was once again sneaking in and hoping that the boss didn't notice my tardiness.

Late again.

The point of all this is, if someone were taking me in a fantasy draft of life, it wouldn't matter why I was always late. It wouldn't matter if all of my tardiness had reasonable explanations. All that would matter to my potential fantasy owner is that I am always late. They would have to factor that in when they were deciding in what round to draft me. It wouldn't make sense for them to plan for me to always be on time because, even though that should be reasonably possible, we have a lifetime of evidence to suggest that one way or another Andre' is going to end up being late.

[More Fantasy basketball: Top 100 draft picks]

The same holds true when drafting your fantasy teams. Some players, for whatever reason, are going to miss a significant number of games every season due to injury. It may be the same injury every year like Stephen Curry's ankle, or it may be a potpourri of ailments as in the case with Andrew Bogut. But we just know that, one way or the other, these players are unlikely to play more than 65 games in the year and have a decent probability of being out at the time of the year when you need them most.

This ends up being reflected in the projections I do each preseason that become the basis for the Rotowire Fantasy Basketball Cheat sheet. I estimate the number of games and minutes for each player, and there's a clear difference between how I project the iron men (like Wes Matthews, who still has yet to miss an NBA game in his career) and how I project the injury-prone. And you rarely see a player switch categories … I can almost always pencil in Andre Miller or Andre Iguodala for 80 games a season, and even if they get hurt in one season I'm still confident they'll play the next year. Meanwhile, even coming off back-to-back reasonably healthy seasons I still expect someone like Marcus Camby to miss 20 or more games this year.

There's also a difference between the probability of getting hurt and the actuality of being hurt. Dirk Nowtizki is projected for only 66 games this season because he is actually hurt now with an injury that could potentially keep him out until December. Meanwhile, Eric Gordon is expected to be ready to start the season, but I only projected him for 62 games. Despite the risk of Nowitzki's age and the fact that he's on the shelf, I would be much more confident drafting Nowitzki than I would drafting Gordon because for the most part Nowitzki tends to be healthy every year. Gordon, on the other hand, hasn't played more than 62 games since his rookie season and has missed a combined 103 games over the last three years. Dwight Howard is only projected for 68 games because he's coming off major offseason back surgery, but he's always been an iron man, so I still feel more confident that he'll be healthy and on the court during the fantasy playoffs than I do with Andrew Bynum being able to carry a superstar load with his sketchy injury history.

Some people are late. Some people get hurt. Just make sure you know who you're drafting, and if you do take a chance on one of the injured crew (like I did with Bogut in my draft Wednesday, see below), go into it with your eyes wide open.

Around the League: draft status vs projected value

Instead of my usual globe-spanning in this section, with this being prime drafting period it's time for my annual value predictions. Here, I'll look at several players who I project in the RotoWire Cheat Sheet (RCS) to be to be more valuable than their current average draft positions (ADP) in Yahoo! leagues. This isn't a cheat sheet per se … more like a crib notes version of a cheat sheet that highlights some of the key names to keep in mind as your draft progresses.

Greg Monroe: ADP 40.1, projected 8th
James Harden: ADP 20.4, projected 9th
Brandon Jennings: ADP 25.4, projected 12th
DeMarcus Cousins: ADP 28.2, projected 13th
Goran Dragic: ADP 32.8, projected 15th
Paul George: ADP 39.6, projected 17th
David Lee: ADP 44.7, projected 23rd
Marcin Gortat: ADP 44.2, projected 26th
Tyreke Evans: ADP 67.9, projected 27th
Kevin Garnett: ADP 44.4, projected 28th
Danilo Galinari: ADP 59.8, projected 39th
Jeremy Lin: ADP 67.5, projected 40th
Ersan Ilyasova: ADP 57.9, projected 42nd
Andrea Bargnani: ADP 76.3, projected 43rd
David West: ADP 81.2, projected 46th
Klay Thompson: ADP 75.0, projected 48th
Kenneth Faried: ADP 86.2, projected 51st
Wesley Matthews: ADP 69.1, projected 53rd
Mo Williams: ADP 83.8, projected 56
Gordon Hayward: ADP 123.4, projected 57th
Ricky Rubio: ADP 108.3, projected 58th
Rodney Stuckey: ADP 133.6, projected 67th
Tony Allen: ADP 134.7, projected 68th
J.R. Smith: ADP 93.6, projected 72nd
O.J. Mayo: ADP 98.5, projected 73rd
Mario Chalmers: ADP 130.9, projected 74th
Nikola Pekovic: ADP 119.3, projected 75nd
Greivis Vasquez: ADP 127.7, projected 78th
Kemba Walker: ADP 107.3, projected 80th
Samuel Dalembert: ADP 103.7, projected 83rd
Austin Rivers: ADP 130.4, projected 86th
Kawhi Leonard: ADP 133.7, projected 89th
Alonzo Gee: ADP 140.5, projected 92nd
Andrei Kirilenko: ADP 116.9, projected 93rd
Jarrett Jack: ADP 138.7, projected 97th

Draft thoughts from my Mock

Wednesday, I drafted for the SiriusXM Expert League, of which I have the honor of being the defending champion. And if you check out my team below, you'll see that I put my money where my mouth is as far as following the RotoWire Cheat Sheet projections. My team is chock full of the players mentioned above that I project above their ADP, so if I'm right then my team should contend again. And if not, my team will pay the price for my mistakes.

1. Chris Paul
2. Carmelo Anthony
3. Greg Monroe
4. Kevin Garnett
5. Tyreke Evans
6. Andrea Bargnani
7. Jeremy Lin
8. Andrew Bogut
9. Ray Allen
10. Samuel Dalembert
11. Derrick Williams
12. Austin Rivers
13. Ben Gordon

I had the third overall pick, which left me with a pretty easy choice for the best player remaining after LeBron James and Kevin Durant who isn't an injury risk. I think that Paul at his best, like the injured Kevin Love, could challenge King James and KD35 for top roto player overall this year.

My next six picks of Melo, Monroe, Garnett, Evans, Bargnani and Lin all came directly out of the undervalued list above. Bargnani and Lin were the two picks from this group that generated the most discussion in the draft (which aired on SiriusXM and is available now On Demand), as the moderator questioned Bargnani's weak rebounding and Lin's (in)ability to match the huge numbers that he put up when he first started playing for the Knicks. The thing is, though, their cheat sheet rankings come directly from the projections, and I don't think the projections for either are that ambitious. I projected Bargnani at roughly 23 points and six boards, and Lin at about 15 points and seven assists. The reason they rank so high isn't due to setting high expectations, but more that their contributions to categories like 3-pointers and shooting percentages, in conjunction with their primary stats, generally provide a more valuable roto package than we might intuitively think.

[More Fantasy basketball: Sleepers and busts for 2012-'13]

I took Bogut in the eighth, which is counter to my policy regarding taking injured players mentioned above. But sometimes, if the risk/reward level is right, it can be worth it. In this case, I was really looking for a rebounding/shot-blocking center and Bogut (if healthy) would be fourth-round value to me. In the eighth round, I deemed the risk worth the reward. But I also backed up my pick two rounds later by drafting Dalembert, another rebounder/shot-blocker that projects well this season.

Williams, Rivers and Gordon are essentially late-round lottery tickets. All have the upside to be roto starters this year, but on the flip side all have the potential to be roto irrelevant. In the last few rounds in leagues with shallow benches, it's worth swinging for the fences, and if the picks don't pan out they will be the first ones dropped for fast starters on the waiver wire.

All told, this has probably been the most well-rounded team that I've put in this space this season. I have both talent and depth at every position, and I have players who could contribute to all eight primary categories. I may be in trouble in turnovers on a squad with so many point guards, especially one featuring Lin, but other than that I think this squad is ready to contend.

Keeping up with the Professor

If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 87, Sirius 210.

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