Draft Day Manifesto - Part I
By Matthew Berry, TalentedMrRoto.com
I wish it had a cool name. Like my friend Ron Shandler, who invented the now famous “LIMA” plan for fantasy baseball. Proven winner, cool nickname, anyone who’s played fantasy knows it.
I, too, have one of those theories. The premier fantasy basketball draft strategy. It’s been proven many times over, I’m the guy who invented it, and you know what? I don’t have a cool nickname for it. Without the nickname, there’s no worldwide fame, there’s no t-shirt sales, there’s no big movie where Russell Crowe plays me, writing all sorts of nutty formulas on a window showing how brilliant I am at fantasy hoops.
So I will have to settle for just telling you what it is and then read your grateful e-mails after the season. The theory boils down to four words:
Point guards. Power forwards.
It’s all you need. Oh sure, the NBA.com Draft Center has tons of player profiles, rankings, sleepers, stats and the occasional random homerism about my beloved Lakers. We have projections, a rookie impact report, off season moves and coaching changes, an expert mock draft with analysis and of course, free online updates over at the massive NBA.com fantasy section.
But it’s all fluff. Don’t need it.
You’re gonna win your league – with my help – and you’re gonna do it with point guards. And power forwards. Period.
It gets a little more specific – not just any point guard or power forward will do – but if you draft right you should be able to win your league going away. So, like Kobe Bryant driving to the rack, let’s get to it (shot #1).
BEFORE THE DRAFT:
I’m assuming a few things here. First, that you are in a league. If not, you can find one over at NBA.com, he said pimpingly. Even if you have no friends. You can make new friends over the Internet. And then beat them into submission. Second, I assume that you know, at the very least, the basics of fantasy basketball. If you do not know how to play, please read “Introduction to Fantasy Basketball” before you read this.
It will make both of our lives easier. Admittedly, yours more than mine, since by the time you read this I will be on a beach sucking down margaritas with ten Laker Girls. He said. Hopefully. Okay, before the draft – if it’s a start from scratch or auction league – we’ll get to you in a second. But let’s talk about those of you in…
Generally, keeper leagues have some sort of penalty and/or cap on players you can keep. Either a limit or a hit against a salary cap.
My general rule for whom to keep is simple: players who are so amazing that you could not get them back (your Garnett’s and LeBron’s) or players who are very undervalued. Say you had a $10 Drew Gooden. Gooden is a solid power forward, but he’s not a guy you would keep unless you had him below market value. Because otherwise he’s just a middle of the pack forward, and if you don’t get him back in the draft you can get someone just like him.
The thinking is this: Drafting a team – any team – in fantasy sports is all about getting the most value out of your team. You win leagues not by getting Shawn Marion in the first round but by getting David West in the last round last year. So…
If you have a stud who you can’t get back – say The Matrix in a straight draft league – you keep him. You will not be able to replace that value at the draft. But if you have Marion at $50 and West at $1 in an auction league, I keep West at $1.
Because I will get a shot at Kobe in the auction and $50 is about what he’s worth in a $140 league. And if someone outbids me, I can spend $50 to get a similar stud. But there is no way I get David West’s production back for a buck. It’s all about maximizing value.
The only other thing I ever consider is position scarcity. There are two positions that are fairly rare in fantasy hoops. Center is the obvious one. A point guard who get threes is not. You will need both before we are done.
So if you have a Shaq, Duncan, Dirk, Yao (assuming they qualify at center in your league), keep them if you can. Do NOT overspend to keep one of them – you can win without a good center.
But, if you have a good center (or a point guard who gets threes – Steve Nash, for example), and you have them for market value, you can keep them.
Why keep them if they are not a bargain? Because you will probably have to OVERSPEND to get them back in the draft (because of their rarity), so having them at market value is actually value.
If you have to give up a draft pick to keep a guy, it’s all value comparison. Say you have to give up a #1 to keep Dwyane Wade. Well, you know your league, where you pick, your rules, etc. Is Wade better or worse than who you would get if you threw him back? Again, it’s all about value. You want the most for each pick.
You won your league last year? Well, getting Wade for your #1 draft pick is pretty good since you probably wouldn’t get him at the #12 draft slot if you threw him back. So you keep Wade. But if you finished last a year ago, you throw him back.
You might be able to get an even better player with your #1 overall pick. KG, LeBron, etc. And if those guys are protected, you’ll still be able to grab Wade back with your #1. So unlike being a guard trying to defend Lamar Odom on the perimeter, there’s no risk (homer #2). Got it? Good. I got Laker girls to get to. Moving on…
Okay, we have who we are keeping. Or it is a start the year from scratch league and other than enjoying the Lakers sucking up, that last section wasn’t really relevant.
Either way, before we draft we’re gonna need to do some draft prep. A lot of it. So let’s get going.
First thing we need to do is learn our league's rules. I know, sounds stupid. But you'd be amazed at how many people make this mistake. More than Phil Jackson has rings, I'll tell you that (#3).
You need to know how you keep score – do turnovers count, for example? Can you play any kind of guard you want or is there a PG/SG requirement?
Every rule – even the minute ones like the ability to place an injured guy in an "IR" slot and replace him without cutting him – will play a part in how you draft.
Because if, in the example above, you get an IR slot, you can be more liberal with your injury risk type picks like Marcus Camby or Baron Davis than you can with a more stringent policy of "No Bench – everyone on your roster plays."
So get the rules, study them, learn them, devour them. And always keep them in mind when you are preparing for your draft.
A HUGE one for fantasy basketball, by the way, is position eligibility. If your league has not set up a way to determine this, you need to do so ASAP. Positions get weird in the NBA. Is Dirk a center? He plays on the perimeter but occasionally lines up at center. What is Grant Hill? Besides dreamy looking, Talented Mrs. Roto.
Is he a guard? A forward? A G/F? Your league needs to decide, needs to have a definitive no ifs, ands or buts list and stick to it. Personally, I would use the one we have for you over at NBA.com, he said pimpingly.
Whatever list and eligibility rules you choose you need to know what it is. This will make a huge determination. How many players are eligible at center? A lot or a little? Knowing what positions are scarce and what are in abundance will determine when you draft those positions and how early you need to be concerned with filling those slots with production as opposed to just some guy who sucks.
Okay. Let's prepare for the draft. Obviously, you should be reading as much as possible. I would be checking NBA.com at least once a day. But that’s me. I like to win. Web sites for the local sports pages of NBA teams is another good source.
Don't just read fantasy sites. Read the basketball sections in and on ESPN, Yahoo!, etc. Read the daily updates in USA Today. Watch SportsCenter and NBA TV Fantasy Hoops every night with my main man, Rick Kamla.
And once the season starts, watch games. Not just highlights. Games. Like on NBA League Pass, he said sucking-upily. See how a guy gets his 20 and 10. Was he grinding it out, play after play with Elton Brand draped all over him? Or was it just garbage time?
When you watch a game, watch it from a fantasy standpoint. Who touches the ball the most on offense? Where do players stand when they have the ball? When they don't have the ball? Yes, Ben Wallace is a center, but in the Pistons offensive system last year, he set picks at the top. There’s a reason he doesn’t score. Having a defensive stopper like Kwame Brown all over him doesn’t help either (#4).
The reason Jason Terry doesn't get as many assists as other upper tier point guards isn't because he isn't any good – he’s actually a terrific player. It's because of the way the Mavericks run their offense. Specifically, through Dirk Nowitzki starting with his back to the glass or on the perimeter. Dirk likes to put the ball on the floor before doing anything and then, just like The Raptors D when Kobe lit them up for 81 (#5), your assist disappears into thin air.
I'll let you check out other places and explore. There are millions of sites devoted to fantasy basketball – see who you like, which you trust, who you agree with, who are morons. It's all speculation – some more informed than others – but at the end of the day, we're all just making educated guesses.
But either way, knowledge is power. The more you know about players, lineups, injuries, sleepers, coaching changes and schedules the better shape you are in. So prepare as if you are testing to get into Harvard Med School – because the only thing worse than screwing up on draft day and listening to your buddies tell you you're an ass for the next six months is having to sit in front of a TV at night and say "Come on, Jake Tsakalidis!"
So with draft day quickly approaching, you're going to need to do some paperwork prior to the draft to make it easier and more efficient for yourself.
First, get yourself an up-to-the-minute depth chart for every team in the NBA. You can get them pretty much anywhere. NBA.com has pretty good ones, he said blatantly. But when the draft is toward the end and you need another point guard or a starting small forward, the depth charts will come in very handy. Trust me.
Whatever list/magazine/book you choose to go with, just bring one. Too much info can clutter things up. Read the ones you have, decide who is closest with what you think and go with that. The truth is, most of them are generally the same. If one has Wade ahead of Kobe and the other one has them reversed….well, so what? They both rock.
Personally, I like to make my own list. But whatever list you have, you need to prepare it. By that, I mean I like to group players. As an easy example, you'll group your point guards.
Nash, Kidd, Iverson, Arenas and Paul are the elite. The next tier has about eight guys. So you may say to yourself – I don't want a #1 point guard lower than, say, Tony Parker.
So the entire list goes, plus Baron Davis. But you don't freak out because you look at your list and see Mike Bibby and Jason Terry are still left and you’re up two picks from now. You are guaranteed to get one of those guys.
During the draft, it's especially important not to get hung up on one particular player. By dividing your list like this, you'll be more able to see where there is scarcity in the draft and where there is surplus. Just because you don't get Chauncey Billups or Stephon Marbury, you're not screwed. Andre Miller will be just fine.
Doing all this work now insures you keep your cool during the draft, especially as it goes on. Any idiot can take LeBron first. It's the guy who grabs Mehmet Okur late, as I was able to do late in one league last year, that generally wins the league.
Another thing you want to do before the draft is prepare a "draft sheet" for every team in the league. I cannot stress how important this is. As the draft progresses, you are going to want to be able to know who everyone has – what positions they have filled and what they still need. If it's a keeper league, fill in who has been kept. This is a sheet that has every team in your league and every position they need to fill.
For example: Team One takes Ray Allen. You write down "Allen" in Team One's guard slot. This way you can see at a glance what you need in comparison to every other team. Say it's round eight and you need a fourth power forward. But there's a sleeper point guard you want to grab as well.
You look at your sheet, see most everyone has three forwards and that according to your sheet, Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, Chris Wilcox and Danny Granger are still out there. So you should be OK when it comes around to you next – you don't need to burn the pick here.
Conversely, the three teams picking after you all need a point guard, so you’d better grab the guy now or never get him. You grab the point guard and then get a decent fourth power forward next time around.
This sheet will save your butt more than once towards the end of the draft, and THAT's where leagues are won and lost – not in the first few rounds.
Anyways, I always like to have a list of sleepers I want to target – late round guys who, when you're in hour four and can't think anymore, you can glance at the sheet and go, “Oh yeah, I wanted to take a gamble on Kwame Brown. Or Shaun Livingston. Or Darko Milicic.” And then you grab them instead of saying, “Oh, man, I can't think of anybody…. I'll just take Jeff Foster.”
The views expressed by TalentedMrRoto.com represent only the views of the writers; they do not represent the views of the NBA or any NBA team.