OpinionNovember 24, 2011

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Pick ‘n’ Roll – Draft Trends and Strategy, Part One

By Adam Laforet

Alright, everyone after me – all I want for Christmas is my first two games. All the muckity-mucks are back at the bargaining table trying to save a Christmas start for the NBA, and I wish them well. I’m currently hard at work on some actual fantasy rankings, but I thought I’d dip in early and give you the general flavor of what I’m cooking up. There are a handful of tidbits about this year’s draft that are worthy of some consideration. First, we’re going to see some real upheaval in the draft ranks, so be prepared. Second, there are some ranking trends that bear consideration when you’re prepping for draft day. Third, we have the general primer on what a lock-out shortened season means for certain sorts of players and their value. Let’s start with the rankings flux and let the crizzap roll downhill from there.

I think this is a year where name-brand fantasy guys are going to go too high in a lot of drafts. I have a short list of guys I want a discount on before I draft them this year. The highlights of that list include: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Nene Hilario, Joe Johnson, Jason Richardson, and Carlos Boozer. Not that those guys are bad, just that I think they’ll end up getting drafted a half-round or round higher than I’d really like given my expectations about their production. Those vets are getting shifted by young talent like Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Serge Ibaka, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake Griffin, who should all see a lot of love come draft day. Neither list is exhaustive by any means, and I’m really just trying to highlight the role that name value is going to have this year. Avoid drafting brand name players simply based on brand names and you can consider your caveat emptored.

The name brand issue feeds into my third point (that I’ll address second because I’m contrary like that), which is that you need account for effect a lockout shortened season will have on certain sorts of players. I’ve seen a lot of articles touting the conventional wisdom that a lockout is good for veteran players because they get all kinds of extra R&R. While that’s certainly true, I don’t think it means as much as the realization that the dominating feature of a shortened season is that players get a lot less rest between games due to the compact nature of the schedule. The players who benefit most from that compact schedule, fantasy-wise, are likely to be the younger and fitter players who can still produce at the highest levels even if they miss a little beauty sleep. This doesn’t impact the rankings in a massive way, but I do think it’s worth shading the values within draft tiers to favor younger legs.

One other trend that I think should have a big impact for the prepared drafter is the identification of certain strata in the draft that are thick with talent at one position or another. The layer that I think bears the most scrutiny is the massive glut of quality PF/C talent in the 5th and 6th round range. Roughly half the players in those rounds are PF/Cs, and there’s another 6 PF/Cs spread over the half round above and below these two. That’s a lot of quality bigs and I think it should naturally lead to a small bump for good players at short positions available in the 3rd and 4th rounds. There’s a dearth of high-end wing players this year, and a real cluster of PGs that rank quite high, and the result is that I think it wise to favor harder to find positional talent in rounds 3 and 4, safe in the knowledge that a bevvy of great bigs will still be there afterward.

I’ll be posting my rankings starting sometime soon, and when I do we can take a closer look at exactly where I think some of the players above rank out. Until then, let’s just keep our fingers crossed for a Christmas start for the NBA.

Adam Laforet is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Adam in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Fenris-77.
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Related Cafe Articles

• Other articles by Adam Laforet
Pick ‘n’ Roll Episode One – Birds on the Wire by Adam Laforet (posted on 12/28/2011 in Articles)
Pick n’ Roll – Preseason Redux by Adam Laforet (posted on 10/23/2009 in Articles)
Pick n’ Roll – A Little Necromancy by Adam Laforet (posted on 11/22/2009 in Articles)

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