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Drive to the Finals
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April 29 -- Vince Carter
April 28 -- Bonzi Wells
April 27 -- Jermaine O'Neal
April 26 -- Pau Gasol
April 25 -- Antawn Jamison
April 24 -- Ben Gordon
April 23 -- Michael Redd
April 20 -- Mike Bibby
April 29 -- Adjusting On the Fly
April 25 -- No Doubt
April 24 -- Break Out the Abacus
April 23 -- Let's Roll
April 22 -- The Clock Ticks

Posted by By Jon Loomer on April 29, 2006 9:03 a.m. ET


I didn't realize what a corner I put myself into when I started calling this the Daily Playoff Fantasy Blog. Daily? Does that mean every single day? Alright, let's rename that. It's the Semi-Daily.

First off, I need to pass out some props to the Experts for living up to the label over the last few days. None of the last four picks have scored less than 28 PRA, and the Experts are averaging 36 over that span. You can call it a comeback. The strategy is clear and uniform: Pick the best players from the underdog teams. Outside of the selection of Jermaine O'Neal, each player chosen comes from a team that is down in the series. Given O'Neal's 54 PRA, no one is complaining about that selection.

So much happening right now that affects the Drive to the Finals playoff fantasy game. Some of my biggest fears in terms of fantasy strategy have come to fruition: The Lakers and the Pacers upset the Suns and Nets again and each go up 2-1. I have nothing against either the Lakers or Pacers, but it causes some major strategical problems. The Nets and Suns are both fantasy gold mines, having two top-20 players and a handful of others whom you would not mind picking down the road. If both of these teams get knocked out in the first round -- and quickly -- it is highly unlikely that we'll be able to pick at least the top two players from each of these teams, let alone the others who have some fantasy value.

So, the worst thing that can happen here is a quick series in which the underdog is the victor. At minimum, I'm pulling for seven games. Otherwise, I'm scrambling.

Luckily, LeBron James stepped up and saved me from another potential disaster. I have refrained from using LeBron because I was expecting the Cavs to advance into the next round. Had the Cavs lost again, I would have been forced -- with Cleveland down 2-1 -- to pick LeBron over any of the Suns players. It would have just gotten uglier.

As I continue to tell you, this game is all about adjustments. Although you can make your picks in advance, I wouldn't advocate doing it without coming back every day. An upset and/or a short series can change everything.

Let's take a look at the options over the next several days as we continue to tweak our strategy.

Today we have Clippers-Nuggets (Clippers up 2-1), Nets-Pacers (Pacers up 2-1), Pistons-Bucks (Pistons up 2-0), and Mavericks-Grizzlies (Mavericks up 2-0). Here is a good example of why you use players from the clear underdogs early. In my mind, you don't still want Michael Redd and Pau Gasol available. If they are, you really should be picking them as it is entirely possible that they will be swept in their teams' series. If you do, however, and you haven't yet picked players from the more evenly-fought match-ups, you may lose out on players like Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Steve Nash.

Luckily for me, I've already used Redd and Gasol. Considering those are the only two players I view as pick-worthy this early, I can completely ignore those two match-ups. The reason? I fully expect to have Dirk Nowitzki and the caste from Detroit available next round -- and potentially future rounds.

That means that I can concentrate on the players from the Nuggets and Nets. I recently used Carmelo Anthony, so that leaves me with Andre Miller from Denver and the duo of Vince Carter and Jason Kidd from the Nets. I see Miller as a potential late first round pick if that series goes deep. I don't want to lose out on Vince Carter, so he is my choice for today.

Sunday brings us Cavs-Wizards (Cavs up 2-1), Spurs-Kings (Spurs up 2-1), Heat-Bulls (Heat up 2-1), and Lakers-Suns (Lakers up 2-1). We love to see closely contested match-ups in this game. The deeper the series, the more days you have to pick players. Later in this game when there is only one game per day, it's not such a good thing. Early, it's beneficial.

I've already used LeBron James, Gilbert Arenas, Kirk Hinrich, and Kobe Bryant. Kobe is the only player of this group whose team is up in the series. Wasn't expecting that. My options remain Antawn Jamison from the Wizards, Bonzi Wells from the Kings, Ben Gordon from the Bulls, and either Steve Nash or Shawn Marion from the Suns. Not a tough choice for me. I am nervous about the direction that the Suns-Lakers series is going, and I know that I need to pick Marion or Nash soon. The nice thing about the Suns is that even if the Suns bounce back and win this series and I am one Suns player lighter in my selection pool, I still have Nash, Boris Diaw and Raja Bell to choose from. It's a risk worth taking.