Jon Loomer, Senior Manager of Fantasy Games for the NBA, dropped by on Tuesday for a chat. Prior to taking questions, he provided the following talking points for potential discussion:

The Wild, Wild West
It's been covered before, but the West is as tough to judge as any conference in the history of the league. That's not a reach when you consider that the one and eight seeds are separated by 8.5 games. Everyone wants to know: Who will survive from the West? And who will win the NBA Finals?

This is not a simple discussion. As you go down the Western seeds, every team has a weakness or some reason for concern. New Orleans is young and inexperienced. How will they react to the Playoffs? The Spurs are historically underestimated heading into the Playoffs. Tony Parker has had a down year and overall the Spurs just don't strike me as a team primed for a Championship. Of course, I said that last year. The Lakers got Pau Gasol back, but he continues to be an injury risk, and he may never get the time necessary to gel with Andrew Bynum.

Utah? They surprised many a year ago, and seem to have the pieces in place. The problem is that outside of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, does this team have the depth of talent to make it through the West? Maybe. Houston is an afterthought, despite the impressive run. Out East, they may have a shot to make some noise. You just don't see this team making it through three rounds in the West.

Phoenix is intriguing. We were all ready to write them off after the Shaq experiment appeared to go awry. However, things have changed, and the Suns are playing good ball. Considering they have playoff experience and their year ended so brutally for them last seaosn, I expect this team to be hungry and dangerous.

Had Dirk Nowitzki been 100% healthy, I'd look at them much more closely. He is back and productive, but will he be at full strength for the Playoffs? Any weakness in the West is a problem. I honestly believe that the eight seed, whether the Nuggets or Warriors, will have a significant chance of upsetting the top seed and playing at least two rounds. Don't forget, there won't be any shocking upsets this season in the Western Conference. The talent is just too evenly matched.

That said, I believe Phoenix will survive to face Boston in the NBA Finals. After all of this discussion about the Western Conference, I think the brutal schedule that the Western Conference representative will be forced to face will penalize them in the Finals. Celtics in seven.

Playoff Fantasy Games
If you haven't already joined, we have two games launched and ready for you to play. Drive to the Finals Presented by AutoTrader.com is a daily strategy game that lasts the length of the Playoffs. Think NBA Pick One Challenge, but for the postseason. If you know your stuff, you could win $25,000 towards the purchase of a brand new car on AutoTrader.com. Oh yeah, it's free to play.

Pick 'n Roll Presented by AutoZone is your typical playoff bracket game. Start an office pool or join a league of strangers. Get the competition started!

Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner, Pick One Challenge and NBA Stock Exchange
The season isn't over! Drop me some last minute strategy questions. Or we can just talk about how your season went. We can debate what's better, H2H or Roto. Personally? I hate H2H. And if you are in an H2H playoffs right now (or were recently eliminated), you probably know why. Or, if you lucked into the Finals based on match-ups and injuries to the opposition, you probably love it. We all hate you.

Let's talk some hoops!



Jon Loomer: Yeeeeeoooo! Alright, I'm here. Let's chat. What's going on with you? Wife ok? Kids? Good, good. How's your fantasy team doing?


Let's do it...


Al (Rio): Is Ramon Sessions for real?

Jon Loomer: Is Ramon Sessions for real... Haha. Well, to be honest, it just doesn't matter. This time of the year, it has little to do with talent or ability (I guess those are the same thing), and everything to do with playing time. Ramon Sessions is a prime example. Is he on the verge of stardom? Of course not. But the Bucks are playing just to play it out at this point, and Mo Williams is dealing with an injury. In three games, Sessions is averaging close to 10 points and nine assists with at least a steal per game. There is every reason to believe that will continue, given the current state of the Bucks franchise.


Devobrain ( Sound Beach, NY): In a championship week, is Brad Miller worth holding onto? Or should I look elsewhere for Center position?

Jon Loomer: Always depends on options and the circumstances, Devobrain. He is questionable for tonight's game against Golden State, but you've gotta think the likelihood of him playing is slim. Why play him? The Kings don't need a win. They are toast. If you're in a daily lineup league, you hold onto him. If you are in a weekly league and don't have better options to dump -- and a nice alternative is there for the taking, do it. Although you need to do so with the understanding that the move can backfire. If Miller does come back this week and plays out the last game or two (assuming you count the partial week next week and you have one more waiver period), it could come back to haunt you.


Royce (NYC): What do you expect Toronto to do with the Calderon/Ford issue next year?

Jon Loomer: Good question, Royce. From a fantasy perspective, it's a major pain. Neither player will every play to their full potential with the other there. That said, it's a luxury for the Raptors to have two excellent point guards so that each player can remain fresh.

However... I've got to think that something will need to give over the offseason. Neither player wants to be a back-up (as they shouldn't), and I can't imagine they prefer the time share (although it is probably good for the health of TJ Ford). My guess -- pure speculation -- is that the Raptors commit to one player heading into next season. At least, it seems like the logical thing to do.


rodriquez: i was unlucky enough to draft Dwade and gilbert this year in the first 2 rounds.. do they still hold the same value next year?

Jon Loomer: Ouch. I was about to rip you for drafting DWade, but I guess we did consider him a second round pick. When you say "same value", what does that mean? They won't go into next year's draft with the same value because they are damaged goods. They may both be taken in the late first round, but my guess is that those who take the chance didn't own either player this season. The kicker for Wade is that he plays for the Heat. If he deals with nagging injuries again next season and the Heat haven't made significant improvements, what's preventing Heat brass from shutting him down again?


I'll give you the same advice for next season that you probably should have considered this year: Your first pick should be pristine. No risks. That player goes down, and your season is over. And if you're going to take two risks back-to-back to start your draft, forget about it.


brandon (seattle): wat do u c greg oden doing next year, and wat possible round in the draft.

Jon Loomer: We'll have to follow his rehab closely, but 10 and 10 seems logical. Two factors to consider. First, he has baggage, so there is no reason to take unnecessary risks on him. On the flip side, there will be curiosity about Oden, and some may be tempted to take him too soon. I see him as an eighth round pick at this point. Early enough that he should be considered a starter for your team, but late enough so that you understand you could lose him. And if you lose him, it's not the end of the world.


jgizzle (home of reggie bush): do you think arenas will be shut down until the playoffs?

Jon Loomer: I don't think so, Gizzle. His minutes will be limited, but 1) he needs to sharpen up after a long stretch on the shelf, and 2) the Wizards are still battling for playoff positioning. They are currently the fifth seed, but are two games from the four, one game from the six and two games from the seven.


Inder(Toronto): Also for Pick N' Roll..If you're in a public league..And you win out of your league..You automatically recieve the prize? Or do you go into some kinda draw and if your name's drawn out..Then you win?

Jon Loomer: Yo, Inder. Thanks for playing. No, you don't win a prize for winning your league. Wow, that would be easy, especially if you're the only one in your league. No, the prizes are for the global leaderboard.


Alex (New York): Do you think Felton has hit his ceiling in fantasy value? Who do you like better for next year Felton or Mo Williams?

Jon Loomer: Probably, Alex. After three seasons, you typically know what kind of player a guy is gonna be. That said, he's not even 24 yet, so anything can happen. If I had to guess, I'd say he isn't going to become the star I had expected a year or so ago. He and Mo are very similar players in terms of value. You know Mo isn't getting any better, so I think you still roll the dice on Felton.


Steve (NYC): What do you think of Aldridge's potential/upside in Portland? Do you think Oden will help or hurt his fantasy value?

Jon Loomer: I actually said heading into the season that people were overrating Aldridge due to the Oden injury, and that the void created would actually be a bad thing for him. I still believe that. Having Oden to create some space down low will take the burden off of Aldridge, and should improve his scoring or at least FG% in particular. I also think it will help keep him sharp all season having another big body down low. Takes some pressure off the young guy.


T-Dog (Yorktown): Who do you see as the most improved player this year?

Jon Loomer: There are a few candidates, T-Dog. Although Chris Paul was a great player last year, he has clearly established himself as one of the best (or the best, according to FSPI) fantasy player on the planet. Deron Williams, Manu Ginobili and Jason Richardson all became top 10-15 players. Hedo Turkoglu shocked me by maintaining a high level of play all season and becoming a legit second tier fantasy force. When talking "most improved" what you really want is a young guy who was a fringe player in the past who emerged as a top 20-30 player. I give that nod to Rudy Gay, although Danny Granger isn't far behind. Neither was a surprise to me, but they improved significantly. Honestly, there are so many other candidates, and you could go down to guys who rarely played in the past and became fantasy options this year.


E-Dog (Vegas): Whatup Loomer! You the man, thank you in advance ... Do you think Granger has fantasy superstar potential? He is obv having a breakout season and is a 7/8 category guy (gotta love the 1+ in steals, 3s and bks), but does he improve substantial from here to a 20+ pts and a 10+ combined rb/asst. totals?

Jon Loomer: Another Dog! I know I'm not the first to say this, but Granger reminds me a lot of a young Shawn Marion, minus the big rebounding numbers. He doesn't wow you in any category, so he goes largely under appreciated. In the end, he helps you just about everywhere. If he gets his FG% up to 47%, scores 20+, and can grab 6.5 boards per game, we're talking about a first round pick.


gerald wallace: should owners dump me? i am done for the year right? my coach can't risk me getting another concussion - why risk that?

Jon Loomer: Always depends on what you're being dumped for, Gerald. In most leagues, whether you come back or not really won't matter if your owner has already decided not to start you. In most H2H leagues, you're either in the lineup or done. In H2H, one or two games usually won't make a difference. Your owner should know the risk and reward involved, but I'm not expecting you to play another minute this season.


Kris(Brussels): Hey Jon, it is championship week for me! I started anthony parker over Mo Williams this week becuae of his injury. Good move?

Jon Loomer: Congrats, Kris. It's one of the many crazy and seemingly irrational moves you have to make this time of the year. The Bucks have an extra game, and Larry K is fighting for his job. Parker, though, is the safe bet and Toronto is fighting for playoff positioning. It really comes down to this: If you look at your match-up and you can ultimately live without Mo's numbers if it came down to it, start him. Otherwise, take the conservative route with Parker.


E DA DREAM(NWK): What's happen JLoom? Do u think T-Mac,3 Rooks & that stifling defense will make any noise in the first round atleast.Yao is a big presence in the middle, he's definitly being missed.

Jon Loomer: Yo, E. I just don't think so. Houston has done an amazing job since Yao went down, but it's a new season. If the Rockets were in the East, they'd have a good shot at moving forward. It's just way too tough in the West. Every team is scary. Every team, really, except for Houston. I know, they earned better treatment than that, but on paper I just don't see them matching up.


I will say this... Although I like Utah, I think that would be Houston's best match-up. As it stands, those two would face off in the first round.


eric (ny via la): powe or powell for this upcoming week?

Jon Loomer: I've gotta go with Powe, Eric. He'll get plenty of time -- more as we approach the end of the regular season -- and has an extra game over Powell.


T-Dog (Yorktown, IN): A lot of discussion about Oden and next year's potential. I see him similar to M. Camby (in future) in terms of his defense with a higher upside on offense. Am I way off here?

Jon Loomer: I don't think we can make any assumptions until we see Oden on the court again. He could be a completely different player this time around, and he's never played a minute on a pro court.


I don't see him as being a Camby guy. Especially post-injury, I see Camby as more athletic and a better court-runner. I do agree Oden has a much higher offensive upside, but the blocks and boards will be difficult to duplicate.


conyers (denver): noah or powe? i like noah for steals and blocks - but powe is tempting as well

Jon Loomer: Hey, Conyers. I guess it depends on what you need most.... Wait, no... no, it doesn't. Go with Powe.

Jon Loomer: Ok, my time is up. Thank you everyone as always for stopping by. Good luck to you in the final stretch. Bring home the gold!