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DO THE RIGHT THING
Posted by By Jon Loomer on May 10, 2006 12:33 p.m. ET

STICK WITH THE CAVS

How about those Experts, eh? After a seemingly slow start, we are now in the 94th percentile. The pick of Larry Hughes and his 16 PRA yesterday don't help, but I can't argue with Brad Friedman's selection. I saw where he was going. In fact, he convinced me to pick Hughes in all of my leagues. I probably should have mixed it up a bit and taken a different Cav player in each league, but the strategy made sense to me.

If I learned anything from last round it's that you need to play it conservative early by picking players from the clear underdogs first until the other clear underdogs materialize. The Pistons should advance, but otherwise I can't say that there is one surefire favorite. The Mavericks have evened up their series with the Spurs, stealing away home court. The Nets took home court from the Heat, but the status of Richard Jefferson is also in doubt. The Clippers failed to beat the Suns at their own game and find themselves down 1-0 -- but having the Suns win an opener at home is hardly a shocker.

What you have left is the Cavs. It's easy to pull for LeBron and Cleveland, but it is obvious they are overmatched. Now down 2-0, they'll need to take four of the next five games to win the series. Don't expect that to happen. Until I feel more comfortable about the Mavs-Spurs series, I am taking Cavs each day that these four teams compete.

There's more to this than simply being concerned about knowing who is going to advance. There is also the simple fact that Detroit may sweep Cleveland while the Spurs and Mavericks may go the full seven. If that happens, we will have three days on which we will be forced to pick a player from the Spurs or Mavericks whether we like it or not since this will be the only game played. So trust me. Take your lumps with your Cavs now.

Let's think about the alternative. Maybe you took Dirk for Game 1 and LeBron for Game 2. You're planning on taking Josh Howard for Game 3, expecting the Spurs to bounce back and take the series. Detroit goes up 3-0. You take a Cav (insert name here) for Game 4. Sweep. You now have potentially three days of games to pick a player from the Mavericks and Spurs. You already picked two Mavericks. What if the Mavs win the series?

Next round, you have one game per day. If you picked two or three Mavs players through round two, you are going to have players like Stackhouse, Dampier, and Harris left to last you potentially two rounds -- if they make the Finals.

Anyway, that's why I'm playing it safe with that series as well as the Heat-Nets match-up. Until someone is up 2-0, I'm not even thinking about using a player from one of those teams. Even at 2-0, I may resist. What we have for the remainder of this week is three Clippers-Suns and one Cavs-Pistons match-ups (as well as one day without a game played). That puts us at a disadvantage. We are given three days in a short period of time that we are forced to pick a player from the Clippers-Suns or Heat-Nets. The closest thing we have to an underdog right now -- in my opinion -- is the Clippers. So as it stands, I am picking three Clippers players for those days. If the Nets win Game 2 in Miami and go up 2-0, however, I will be reconsidering that strategy and may make a run at Dwyane Wade.

How do your options look these days? I like what the Experts have left on the table. Currently, we have full roster availability for the Spurs, Pistons and Heat. We have used one player from the Mavericks and Nets, and two from the Cavs, Clippers and Suns. In a perfect Expert World, the Spurs, Suns, Pistons, and Heat will advance and we'll only have -- if all holds true -- two players who we're restricted from picking. The Lakers made our lives difficult, forcing us to pick Suns players early. However, given that Phoenix is so deep, I feel comfortable with the fact that we will still have Boris Diaw, Tim Thomas, Leandro Barbosa, and Raja Bell available. Not bad.

Of course, all of the underdogs may win the ensuing Wednesday and Friday games, and we're thrown upside down again. That's the beauty of this game -- both real and fantasy.