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BREAK OUT THE ABACUS
Posted by By Jon Loomer on April 24, 2006 9:03 a.m. ET

A PLAN IS IN ORDER

Wow, my first two picks in Drive to the Finals were rough. Bibby finished below his season average and Redd struggled considerably. Maybe the people who are taking the best player available every night know something I don't. Nah...

Before we break out the calendars and addition machines, make sure you check out Matthew Berry's pick for Day Three. He's taking Ben Gordon, which is hard to argue with. I am taking my first calculated risk with Carmelo Anthony. If Denver advances this round, I could regret it.

Game one is in the books across the board so it's time to take a look back at predictions and expectations. As a stat hungry fantasy guy, I've never been one to make moves on a whim or based entirely on a hunch. I evaluate: Break down the schedules, the numbers, the plan. You see, you and I are at an advantage with this game. The general public is picking the best player day after day -- this is reflected by the majority picks of LeBron and Kobe over days one and two. You and I know that this game is a marathon, and a solid, mapped out plan is in order.

I was sitting here, watching my typical dose of playoff hoops, thinking about how to attack this thing. I am taking it round by round because with each new round come new match-ups and expectations. The first round is scheduled to go up until May 7 -- maybe it will, maybe it won't. That is sixteen days. As of this minute, following are the underdogs based on game one results:

Chicago Bulls
Washington Wizards
New Jersey Nets
Milwaukee Bucks
Denver Nuggets
Sacramento Kings
Los Angeles Lakers
Memphis Grizzlies

I like the Nets in their series with Indiana, but I have to put them as at least the temporary underdog at this point. If they bounce back, I can adjust. But as things stand, I want to pick players in the first round from this group of teams.

So, next I wrote down the top 16 players from these eight underdog teams. I need to use them now or it's quite possible I will never be able to use them again in future rounds. This is important because if I don't use the players whose teams win in round one, I will have full reign to use all of these players in round two.

The 16 players who I am targeting are:

Carmelo Anthony
Andre Miller
Kirk Hinrich
Ben Gordon
Mike Bibby
Brad Miller
Ron Artest
Gilbert Arenas
Antawn Jamison
Vince Carter
Jason Kidd
Richard Jefferson
Pau Gasol
Michael Redd
Kobe Bryant
Lamar Odom

Next, I kept track of when these players are playing. I wanted to get Bibby and Redd out of the way quickly because Milwaukee and Sacramento are significant underdogs. After that, I'm targeting Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol and Gilbert Arenas since they are the best of the players on teams I feel are at a minimum moderate underdogs.

Next, I start taking the best players of those remaining. I put off players like Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter because I am not yet ready to put a fork in their respective teams. The nice thing is that it is easy to adjust if you plan accordingly. If the Lakers bounce back, I can take Shawn Marion and Steve Nash in the places I was planning on taking Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom. Likewise, I can take Jermaine O'Neal in place of Vince Carter.

So, without further adu, following is the resultant chart that I have developed. If all series resulted in sweeps, I will accumulate points for all players with a red 1, 2, 3 or 4 corresponding to their name. Anything higher than a "4" is a gamble, but I made an effort to get the biggest stars out of the way by game four when possible.

Players I plan to pick, the date of each game, and the game number for that series.
Numbers in red indicate specified player chosen on that day.

Players to use Team 4/22/2006 4/23/2006 4/24/2006 4/25/2006
Carmelo Anthony DEN 1 - 2 -
Andre Miller DEN 1 - 2 -
Kirk Hinrich CHI 1 - 2 -
Ben Gordon CHI 1 - 2 -
Mike Bibby SAC 1 - - 2
Brad Miller SAC 1 - - 2
Ron Artest SAC 1 - - 2
Gilbert Arenas WAS 1 - - 2
Antawn Jamison WAS 1 - - 2
Vince Carter NJ - 1 - 2
Jason Kidd NJ - 1 - 2
Richard Jefferson NJ - 1 - 2
Pau Gasol MEM - 1 - -
Michael Redd MIL - 1 - -
Kobe Bryant LAL - 1 - -
Lamar Odom LAL - 1 - -

Players to use Team 4/26/2006 4/27/2006 4/28/2006 4/29/2006
Carmelo Anthony DEN - 3 - 4
Andre Miller DEN - 3 - 4
Kirk Hinrich CHI - 3 - -
Ben Gordon CHI - 3 - -
Mike Bibby SAC - - 3 -
Brad Miller SAC - - 3 -
Ron Artest SAC - - 3 -
Gilbert Arenas WAS - - 3 -
Antawn Jamison WAS - - 3 -
Vince Carter NJ - 3 - 4
Jason Kidd NJ - 3 - 4
Richard Jefferson NJ - 3 - 4
Pau Gasol MEM 2 - - 3
Michael Redd MIL 2 - - 3
Kobe Bryant LAL 2 - 3 -
Lamar Odom LAL 2 - 3 -

Players to use Team 4/30/2006 5/1/2006 5/2/2006 5/3/2006
Carmelo Anthony DEN - 5 - -
Andre Miller DEN - 5 - -
Kirk Hinrich CHI 4 - 5 -
Ben Gordon CHI 4 - 5 -
Mike Bibby SAC 4 - 5 -
Brad Miller SAC 4 - 5 -
Ron Artest SAC 4 - 5 -
Gilbert Arenas WAS 4 - - 5
Antawn Jamison WAS 4 - - 5
Vince Carter NJ - - 5 -
Jason Kidd NJ - - 5 -
Richard Jefferson NJ - - 5 -
Pau Gasol MEM - 4 - 5
Michael Redd MIL - 4 - 5
Kobe Bryant LAL 4 - 5 -
Lamar Odom LAL 4 - 5 -

Players to use Team 5/4/2006 5/5/2006 5/6/2006 5/7/2006
Carmelo Anthony DEN 6 - 7 -
Andre Miller DEN 6 - 7 -
Kirk Hinrich CHI 6 - 7 -
Ben Gordon CHI 6 - 7 -
Mike Bibby SAC - 6 - 7
Brad Miller SAC - 6 - 7
Ron Artest SAC - 6 - 7
Gilbert Arenas WAS - 6 - 7
Antawn Jamison WAS - 6 - 7
Vince Carter NJ 6 - 7 -
Jason Kidd NJ 6 - 7 -
Richard Jefferson NJ 6 - 7 -
Pau Gasol MEM - 6 - 7
Michael Redd MIL - 6 - 7
Kobe Bryant LAL 6 - 7 -
Lamar Odom LAL 6 - 7 -