StrategyAugust 5, 2006

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Rounding ‘Em Up

By jphanned

It’s that time of the year again, fantasy basketball season is soon approaching! Drafts are beginning and the scramble is on. Trying to keep up with off-season acquisitions, finding out who the next sleepers are, keeping up with changes in starting lineups, and most importantly, figuring out who the heck to draft! It seems like an impossible task, but don’t panic. Once you’re all caught up, you’ll find yourself in the driver’s seat, cruising your way to victory.

Here’s this week’s version of Rounding ‘Em Up!
First round outlook:
Most of the dilemma in the first round comes from drafting in the 9-12 positions. Brand, Wade, and Arenas have been taken, so now who do you draft? The first names that usually come to mind are Amare Stoudemire and Andrei Kirilenko. But as a fellow Cafe member has said, “When everyone thinks alike, no one thinks at all”. I find this particularly true here, where hype and high expectations are placed ahead of careful, thought-out reasoning. Conceptually, I want my first round player to be my anchor. A player whom I can rely on to produce week after week on a consistent basis. You can think consistency means a player who doesn’t average 30 points and 15 rebounds per game during one week, then averages 10 points and 5 rebounds the following week. But another overlooked part of consistency requires that the player is healthy and able to contribute for nearly the whole season. When you are getting bench production from a starting position, while one of your starters sits on the IL (injured list), it is nearly the same as drafting that inconsistent player to start with. So why risk it? You have to weigh risk vs. reward, and think realistically if you want to gamble with your first round pick possibly flopping. Because generally, if your first round player flops and moves down in the rankings, your team goes down with him in the standings. I’d much rather wait on those risk/reward types like Amare Stoudemire, Andrei Kirilenko, Gerald Wallace, and Tracy McGrady until the second to third rounds.

Players dropping out of my top 10: Amare Stoudemire and Andrei Kirilenko.
• Both of these players have injury concerns, and it’s tough to gauge where each one is at health-wise. I’d have no problem taking these guys 13-18th overall with my second round draft pick. They have potential to vastly outperform the players being drafted around them.
• Amare Stoudemire had microfracture surgery performed on his left knee last October, a surgery which has had a mixed bag of results. Allan Houston, Jamal Mashburn, and Penny Hardaway all had their careers end after they underwent the surgery, while players like Jason Kidd, Chris Webber, and Zach Randolph have been able to return to the court. Recently, Amare decided that he would not be joining Team USA in Japan for the FIBA World Championship because he had to continue to rehabilitate his surgically repaired knee. This is both good and bad news. Good news being there is a lessened risk that his knee will be damaged any further, and bad news being his knee was not strong enough for him to compete at a level beyond summer league.
• Andrei Kirilenko has played a combined 110 games in the past two seasons, and retains much hype from his ability to deliver in categories such as blocks and steals, emphasized by the monstrous season he delivered back in ‘03-’04 where he finished ranked fifth overall. What most owners overlook is that based on cumulative value, Kirilenko has finished the past two seasons ranked 71st and 21st, respectively.
Players dropping into my top 10: Chris Paul, Ray Allen
• Hype is good in Chris Paul’s case, NBA’s 2006 Rookie of the Year award winner. Paul is more than deservant of being considered for a top 12 pick, as he delivered numbers in his first season that ranked him 13th amongst the NBA in cumulative value. He is a more balanced PG as well, not shooting a low FG% or committing a significant number of turnovers. Expect a natural increase in production from Paul as he enters his second NBA season.
• Ray Allen is one of only eight players to finish top 15 in cumulative ranking in each of the past three seasons. He is the definition of consistency, finishing seventh both last season, and in ‘03-’04, and 13th in ‘04-’05. You know what you’re getting with him: a guy who won’t hurt you a lot in any one category, and will do wonders for your PPG, 3PTM, SPG, and FT%. The team situation stays the same for the most part in Seattle, so there is no reason to expect him to finish anywhere out of the top 12.
From there on out: The best players available become Chris Bosh, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, Chauncey Billups, and Steve Nash, along with Kirilenko and Amare.
• I really like Bosh’s outlook for next season. The addition of Rasho Nesterovic is better for Bosh than last season’s tandem of Matt Bonner, Pape Sow, and Rafael Araujo because he will be getting more favorable defensive matchups. In addition, the Raptors swapped a 20 PPG point guard in Mike James and received a more pass-oriented PG in TJ Ford.
• You draft Allen Iverson knowing he will miss some games, but he is a great value pick nonetheless. The knock on AI is that he is definitely what you call a H2H player; he’s a stat-stuffer at PPG, APG, SPG, and FT% but will kill you in TO and will not contribute at all towards RPG, BPG, and FG%.
• Yao’s health with his broken foot has come into question, and I’m not 100% confident in drafting him yet. He was quoted saying “The problem is that my left foot was injured for a long period and the muscle group is not in good shape … this will have to wait until I start practice with the national team and the problem will gradually be resolved. I am 80% okay…” (SOURCE: The added fact that he is playing in the World Championships is something to worry about too, because it would have been great news to Yao owners if he would have just sat out and continued his normal rehabilitation.
• Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups are similar PG’s to me. Both are coming off great seasons where they were ranked 9th and 11th in cumulative value, respectively. I expect both to digress next season though, and to drop out of the top 12. The signing of Marcus Banks will spell a decrease in Nash’s play time to around 30 MPG, and the return of Amare should result in a drop in Nash’s PPG, 3PTM, and RPG. I’m expecting his averages next season to be around 15 points, 1.3 3PTM, ten assists, three rebounds, one steal, three turnovers, 52 FG%, and a 91 FT%. That statline should still keep Nash around the top 15. Billups is a top 20 player without a doubt, but I’m expecting a digression with the loss of Ben Wallace. This means less offensive rebounds and second chance points, while putting a damper on the Pistons’ fast break and transition offense as well.

I hope all goes well for you in the drafts you are participating in now, and any upcoming ones. Hopefully you’ll think twice about what direction to go with your first round pick. Next week I will be taking a look at specific players’ change in value, starting lineup situations, sleepers, and a mystery topic to be decided.

Justin can be found posting all over the Cafe forums under the screen name of Rounders Block.
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