How to Attack Your Draft
By Jon Loomer, NBA.com/Fantasy
In broad terms, I have some standard rules that I try to follow for every draft that Iím in.
1. Know your competition. Itís always helpful to understand the habits and loyalties of others in your league when predicting when players will go in what rounds. First, are they experienced or newbies? If theyíre newbies, this is good and bad. Itís good because you can expect the sleepers to slip. Itís bad because they can be incredibly unpredictable. The most predictable draft participant is an experienced one because they are so calculated. It also helps to follow exactly which positions each team is filling throughout the draft. For example, letís say itís the third round and you have yet to draft a center. You pick ninth in a ten-team league. There are two players you want: Dwight Howard (who is center eligible) and Baron Davis. Considering you pick ninth, you will pick again after two more selections. Do you pick Howard or Davis first? You shouldnít always pick the best player, particularly if thereís a drop in talent at one position. Letís say that the team picking 10th in the third and then first in the fourth round already has a center, but no point guard. Guess what? That means you should take Davis first. In all likelihood, heíll leave Howard on the table, whereas Davis is probably at the top of his target list.
2. Minimize risk. Itís impossible to eliminate risk altogether, but the sooner Iím picking a player, the more confident I want to be of that playerís production. Itís not all that complicated, but I see people every year who are all too willing to take a big name who also happens to be an injury risk. Does that mean you donít draft Dwyane Wade at all this season? Of course not. But Iíd have a hard time relying on him as my number one option. The way I see it, you are showing desperation by taking a risk. As mentioned earlier, you donít win in the first few rounds. However, you sure can lose. As you move further in the draft, youíre more able to take on risk. If you draft Marcus Camby in the fourth round and he plays 40 games, you can absorb the loss. Youíll need some skills, but you can do it. The later and later you go, the more and more attractive players with question marks become. Itís all about maximizing on your draft position. You pick early, you want a guaranteed stud. Late in the draft, you gain very little by picking a player you know will provide bench-worthy numbers. You need to roll the dice on a player who might emerge at that point.
3. Donít ignore percentages. The most underrated categories are FG% and FT%. You donít get highlights on TNT for making your free throws, unless itís at a crucial situation. A playerís team could be down by 20, but if he throws down a thunderous dunk or scores 40 in that loss, youíll hear about it. Because of this occurrence, too many people neglect these categories. What is important to remember is that percentages need to be treated much differently than the other stats, which are cumulative. You need healthy players to fill up Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks and Three-Pointers. Health is irrelevant for the percentages. In fact, percentages are a nice safety net if you have an important player go down with an injury. If your team is solid in FG% and FT%, you wonít suffer by losing games in those categories. I realize it isnít always possible to stress high percentages in your draft if someone like Gilbert Arenas, Allen Iverson or Baron Davis is available at an insane draft position. Just donít forget about them.
4. Shooting guards are for three-pointers. I am going to go into more detail regarding this one shortly, but shooting guard is the deepest of all positions, and it isnít even close. Because of this, if you are going to draft a shooting guard, heíd better get the most commonly found statistic for that position: the three ball. Otherwise, I see it as a wasted pick. You will occasionally find three-pointers from other positions, but if you donít get it from your SG, youíll be scrambling. For this very reason, I have a hard time drafting Kobe Bryant if other equally valued non-shooting guards are available.
5. Love your point guards. If youíll look at my Expert Draft selections in this guide, youíll notice that I drafted three rather highly regarded point guards, one of which (Raymond Felton) is also eligible at SG and plays that position for me. Draft three point guards, and you shouldnít have anything to worry about regarding assists, steals and three-pointers. Considering one of those point guards is Jason Kidd, I also have a leg up on the rebounds category since Kidd is by far the best at the position in pulling down boards. I donít have any hard proof that you need three solid point guards to win, but you donít mess with success. I do very well with this strategy.
6. Draft quality over need. Also known as ďbest player available.Ē Thereís a limit to this point, but if you are left picking between Andrew Bogut because you need a center or Josh Howard even though you already have a small forward, you still pick Howard every single time. You try to fill need all draft, and youíll be left chasing your own tail. The limit here is you canít go the full draft without selecting a quality point guard. You do that, and youíll have very little luck trying to acquire one via trade. The only way youíre getting one is by waiver wire pick-up or from a team with significant excess. Typically, teams will want another point guard in return when giving up their Jason Kidd. If all you have to give up is Rafer Alston, youíll be out of luck. Still, the best player available in the middle and late rounds is the best philosophy. You arenít stuck with this roster for life. You will make pick-ups. You can still make trades. Donít panic. Just draft quality.
7. Have a list of target draftees handy, including sleepers. Nothing more annoying than the guy who repeatedly takes up the full time allotted for each selection. It shows a lack of preparation, and it often times leads to failure. Yes, a full list of 200 players can be overwhelming. In addition to that list, you should chart the players you want to target in each round to make things easier. If you were to compare my drafts, youíll find common players. We all have our preferred guys, and thereís nothing wrong with taking the players youíre most comfortable with.
8. Have a recently updated depth chart. Especially helpful late in the draft when youíre considering emerging players. For a standard 10-team league, this might not be so necessary. But if youíre in a single-universe (only Eastern or Western Conference) or excessively deep league, depth charts are your friends.
These are general guidelines that I typically follow. There are always exceptions since you need to adjust for league type, competition, as well as flow of a draft. But I strongly recommend that you adopt some version of these rules.