By Matthew Berry,

Okay, it's game day, baby. Time for the big show. Don't bother cramming on the way in or anything stupid like that – it’s like a test. You know it or you don't. And if you don't, the next ten minutes ain't gonna change that.

You want to project – even if you don't feel it – an air of confidence. Make others sweat. That's my first draft day hint.

Never show fear. Just be confident. You don't have to be cocky or a jerk. But occasionally letting a breath of relief when the guy before you picks – as if to say "Thank God you didn't grab the correct guy" – will do wonders to rattle most of your league mates.

Assuming a standard nine-man starting roster, here’s what I want your starting lineup to look like: two centers, three power forwards, one small forward who gets a lot of threes and four point guards (ideally who get a lot of threes). Get this line-up, stay healthy, read the TMR – and win, baby.

You must understand. Fantasy Basketball is about categories. And there are a lot fewer players in basketball than in baseball. So you need to maximize every category. So my theory – it has proven very reliable in hoops – is to build on strength.

Here’s what I mean. Say you get Ben Wallace. Rebound machine, block machine, many steals for a big man.

Okay, by getting a guy like him, you automatically have a chance to compete in those three areas. But what a lot of people do is say, "Well, I have Wallace, I have rebounds sewn up" and draft a bunch of small forwards. Three months later, they’re middle of the pack in everything and screwed.

By surrounding Wallace with rebounders, you guarantee winning that category. You can always trade surplus. So we’re gonna build on strength. Okay, this gets a little hairy but stay with me. It’s gonna be worth it.

Hoops plays mainly in eight categories, right? Points, Rebounds, Steals, Blocks, Three-Pointers, Assists, Field Goal Percentage and Free Throw Percentage. Turnovers are the ninth category – we’ll deal with that in a bit.

So… First thing we want to target on draft day is the rare categories. The categories that less players get than any other. Most players score, most rebound – we can worry about that later. Every player has a field goal percentage and free throw percentage. We’ll get to that in a moment as well.

But who gets assists and blocks? Steals and threes? Who gets them in enough numbers to make a difference? Not that many. You could take my word for it, but let me prove it to you, just like the Lakers had to do in the playoffs against the Suns last year (#6).

Build around the strengths of a solid point guard in Kirk Hinrich.
(Jesse Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Thirty teams in the NBA. Two starting guards for each. Know how many players averaged seven assists a game or more last year?

Nine. That’s right. Just nine.

Steve Nash, Baron Davis, Brevin Knight, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, Andre Miller, Chris Paul, Allen Iverson and Luke Ridnour. That’s it.

Rafer Alston and Dwyane Wade had 6.7, and LeBron James and T.J. Ford averaged 6.6. James and Wade are a level of status that half your league won’t even get a shot at them and Brevin Knight, bless his expansion soul, is really only good for assists and steals. But let’s round up, be generous and call it 13, okay? Thirteen players get average or above average assists.

Okay, compare that with points. You know how many players averaged 15 points or more last season?

Sixty-three. I won’t list them, but #64, Hedo Turkoglu, averaged 14.9.

You see where I’m going, right? More than four times as many players get above average points as compared with above average assists. I’m sure you’re willing to trust me, but doing this for every category will help.

Okay, back to the rare categories.

Blocks: Only 23 players averaged 1.5 blocks a game or more. Twelve averaged two or more a game. Included in the “1.5 list” are guys like Desagana Diop, Kendrick Perkins and Adonal Foyle.

Steals: Only 23 guys averaged 1.5 steals per game last year.

Threes: By far the most available of the "rare" categories, only 24 players had at least 130 threes.

Compare that with the 45 players that got at least seven boards a game or more last year. The 69 qualified players who shot over .450 from the floor last year. The 52 qualified players who shot over .800 from the line last year.

So, we’ll all agree that there are four categories that have a lot less "producers" than others. Kind of like saves in baseball. Most players get more wins than saves, making closers more valuable.

Well, some fantasy logic applies to all sports, and the biggest one is that you need guys who touch the ball. Just like you want a running back and quarterback in football, so too do you want the guys who touch the ball in hoops. The most. The point guard.

Point guard is the only position to get assists. Yes, there are few small forwards that get a nice number of assists – LeBron James, Boris Diaw and Lamar Odom, for example. Brad Miller from the center position. Kevin Garnett defies description.

But assists in any kind of numbers are, for all intents and purposes, going to come from your point guards. But, if you get one point guard or even two, what good does that do you? You probably won’t have enough to do anything but finish middle of the pack and that doesn’t help us.


We play to win – we play to BUILD ON STRENGTH. And if we can build our strength in categories that few players get, all the better. Easier categories to dominate and other teams will be scrambling. So – and I promise you this – if you have four point guards, you will win assists or come damn close. Think of having three closers in baseball.

NOW. If we have four point guards you say, okay, we win assists. But what about everything else? Well, that’s why we have to be careful in who we draft. We need point guards who get threes. We have to be selective. We have to be smart. Because we are doing a very specific strategy.

Okay, let’s look at the list of top point guards:

(In no particular order): Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson, Andre Miller, Chris Paul, Baron Davis, Mike Bibby, Kirk Hinrich, Chauncey Billups, Gilbert Arenas, Luke Ridnour, Tony Parker, Brevin Knight, Jason Williams, Mike James, T.J. Ford and Rafer Alston.

All are point guards and all averaged at least 5.5 a game last year (except Bibby, who was 5.0, but he should have a much better year under Musselman this season).

Now, I’m going to lose everyone from this list who didn’t get at least 100 threes last year.

This list is now: Steve Nash (150), Jason Kidd (139), Mike Bibby (192), Chauncey Billups (184), Gilbert Arenas (199), Mike James (169). Rafer Alston (102), Baron Davis (102), Jason Williams (107).

Nine guys. That’s it. You need at least two and preferably three guys from this list. The other two or three should also be point guards.

We get two or three on this list, and we are well on our way to wrapping up threes and assists. So we move to steals. The only downside of Steve Nash (he soooo dreamy!) is that he gets no steals. But most of these point guards also get steals.

Here’s a list of players who show up on the assist and threes list and also averaged at least one steal per game:

LeBron James (1.56), Jason Kidd (1.88), Mike Bibby (1.01), Gilbert Arenas (2.01), Rafer Alston (1.6), Baron Davis (1.65) and we’ll throw Jason Williams (0.9) and Chauncey Billups (0.88) in there as well.

Eight. That is it, kids. Eight guys.

Two or three of these guys for your team would be VERY Sweet. By the way, Lamar Odom of the best team in the universe (#7) comes close to all three lists with 5.5 assists, .94 steals and 80 total three’s.

(FYI, Brevin Knight and Chris Paul make the assists and steals list but not the threes. Which means you need a small forward who guns threes – Peja anyone? – if you get “stuck” with one of these.)

The point is, point guards get a lot more steals than, say, forwards. But we’ll come back to steals in a second.

This is a generality, but point guards usually have a good free throw percentage. Guys like Steve Nash (92%), Chauncey Billups (89%), Luke Ridnour (88%), Jason Williams (87%), Sam Cassell (86%), Mike Bibby (85%), Chris Paul (85%), Mike James (84%), Gilbert Arenas (82%), Kirk Hinrich (81%), Allen Iverson (.81%), Brevin Knight (80%) and Jason Terry (80%) all shoot better than .800 from the line.

Joe Johnson, Jason Kidd, Jameer Nelson, Speedy Claxton and T.J. Ford all shoot over .740%.

Jason Kidd ranks among the top point guards in the league.
(Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images)

SO, in conclusion, if you get four point guards and make sure at least two of them show up on the upper part of the threes and steals list, you should be set to compete in steals and threes and win assists, while helping your free throw percentage quite a bit.

If you play in a league that requires you to start a shooting guard in the SG slot, that is fine, you just have to divide the list up a bit more and do a little more research.

In other words, you want to make sure your shooting guard gets a ton of threes and steals (Paul Pierce is the expensive version; Playground legend and amazing story Smush Parker(#8) the late round version) while making sure your point guard(s) is (are) a huge assist guy(s) like Kidd or Nash. But the principles are the same. With our guard slots, we must win assists and look to be upper tier in threes and steals while shooting well from the line.

So, you say, what about the other cats? That’s where my power forwards come in. We’re gonna have a total of four power forward types – three power forwards and one center. I like to think of centers in terms of power forwards for fantasy purposes and, specifically, this system.

Rebounds are the easiest category to get – everyone gets a rebound. So to compete in this category, we need a lot of big men. Any five decent double-digit points and at least seven boards guys will do, just so long as they are big power forward types. No Antoine Walker or Carmelo Anthony types who don’t get rebounds.

Obviously, if you get a shot at Dirk, you take it. Other than him, unless he is a true power forward, I don’t want him. Caron Butler or Tayshaun Prince are very good players, but you’ll never see them on a team of mine. They don’t rebound enough.

We want five big guys who all average seven boards a game or so. You won’t win rebounds like this (unless you get a KG and Dwight Howard type combo thing going) but you will finish middle of the pack and that’s all we need.

The nice thing is that the big guys almost always have a high field goal percentage – close to the rim and all that – so four power forwards with a good field goal percentage (this is a must!) will go a long way to balancing out the damage your shot gunning point guards will do.

You must, must, must pay attention to field goal percentage! This is key. Do NOT draft any power forward with a field goal percentage under, say, 47%. Trust me here. By getting all those point guards who get threes does not come without a price. That price is field goal percentage. You can mitigate the damage, however, if you have four “big men” (one center, three power forwards) who are all shooting .470 or above.

So with our four PF/C combo, we should now be middle of the pack in boards and at least middle of the pack in field goal percentage. Which brings us to blocks.

Of course, only PF/C types get blocks anyways, so if we have four guys there that get some, we should be fine in that category. Especially since so few guys get them. Since centers are so rare and they’ll go early while you are trying to lock up your elite point guards, center is a great position to get a monster shot blocker that can single handily help you compete in that category.

One other thing, specific to centers: If you have a liberal league policy – like Dirk, Duncan and Rasheed Wallace are centers – then never mind. You’ll be fine getting a quality center. And center is fairly deep this year. But if you have a fairly strict policy and/or a league filled with guys who go nuts grabbing centers, then a late round one category guy is the way to go.

Look, instead of getting a "hole" – a guy who will just sit in your line-up and not do a lot – I would rather get a guy like DeSagana Diop who will get me five points, five boards and five blocks per game.

Getting a pure shot blocker like Diop – a guy who won’t hurt you in any one category but will help a huge deal in one category that very few people get – is a nice way around the “there are no centers” thing in leagues with strict position eligibility.

So we up to date so far? Four point guards who get threes and steals – that takes care of those three categories. Four PF/C will get us boards, blocks and field goal percentage. We’re looking good.

BUT, since point guards are more rare, it’s nice to back-up a few of the things we need them to do. That’s why you leave one – and only one – slot for a small forward. Specifically, a small forward who gets threes and steals. In an ideal world, you have Peja or Rashard Lewis here. They are the high-end version of what we are looking for. Eddie Jones is the low end.

Just one small forward here and make sure they get threes and steals in as significant a way as they can with a good percentage. If you can’t find one, don’t force it. Go with another power forward. You can always find threes on the waiver wire…

You won’t be able to get all point guards who get threes and/or steals. You’ll have to grab a Brevin Knight type to get assists, so – because we are BUILDING ON STRENGTH – we will need to fortify our threes and steals. AGAIN – we are making sure we corner the market on all of the “scarce” categories, especially the ones from the guard spot.

The last category I will talk about is points. Everyone gets points. It’s a very hard category to target – especially in this system – because so many of the guys that get a lot of points (T-Mac, Ray Allen, ‘Melo) are great players but are not good fits for this strategy. So I don’t worry about points at the draft and I’ll tell you why.

You’re not gonna win points in this system. Not even close. Don’t bother trying.

But, you get the four point guards as we talked about, a small forward who gets threes and four PF/C types? You’ll finish middle of the pack in points and boards. Points are the glamour category – it’s what you see at half-time on TNT or ESPN or it‘s what scrolls across the ticker on NBA TV or SportsCenter – but in fantasy basketball, it counts the same as boring ol’ blocks or free throw percentage.

Worry about drafting the line-up I’ve talked about, and you’ll get enough points that it will take care of itself for you to compete.

NOW: A few quick things before we finally move on.

Use your head! Don’t just go down your list and grab four point guards, four power forwards and a small forward. Know who is who. Read all of the player prep we’ve drafted. Make sure – I’ll say this again, MAKE SURE – before you draft a guy that he is solid in the percentages and that he gets threes and/or steals and assists.

That he gets boards.

If he isn’t solid in, say, field goal percentage, remember that you need to go higher up in that category on the next people you draft to compensate. It is all about getting the most production out of each player – and, more importantly, taking advantage of the strengths you have.

Okay, just like in real life basketball, there is one player that changes the rules.


Here’s a clear example of what I am talking about. It is very hard to win a roto league that counts free throw percentage with Shaq because he will single handedly kill that one category for you.

SO. You need to bail on that category. Let it go. You will finish last – you need to win or be in the top three of the remaining cats to win.

Luckily, Shaq helps you a great deal in every other cat. So you get him and another big shot blocker and boom, you’re already in the hunt for first place there. Same for rebound guys. Another three power forwards? You should win boards going away. And, unless you get a gunner like Baron Davis, you will win field goal percentage. Shaq gives you a nice amount of assists for a big man, too.

That is what I mean by building on strength. Too many times I have seen guys draft Shaq and then try to get a bunch of good free throw shooters to help balance out that category. It doesn’t work and it only dilutes all the great stuff Shaq does do.

Get guys who compliment what Shaq does, not the opposite. Boards, blocks, assists. You can go nuts getting three-point shooters because Shaq’s field goal percentage is so high you withstand some 6-for-23 type nights.

You must be extremely careful when drafting if you get Shaq. It’s harder to win with him than without him if you are not that experienced. BUT, if you pay attention and do it right -- exactly right – you can blow everyone away.

Move on to the Manifesto's conclusion: Part III

The views expressed by represent only the views of the writers; they do not represent the views of the NBA or any NBA team.