You can read our first-round mock drafts here (Jeff’s) and here (Tom’s). This post delves further into our thinking. We each have a few questions (five to be exact) about each other’s thought processes. It feels good to be digging our hands into fantasy basketball. The season must be right around the corner…
Five Questions For Jeff:
Tom: Does it bother you that with all the former All-Stars drafted in the 1996 NBA Draft (Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Marcus Camby, Antoine Walker, Jermaine O’Neal, Peja Stojakovic) who have fallen from grace, fellow classmates Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are being talked about as first and second round picks, respectively? Should owners take caution with Bryant and Nash and the 13 seasons or wear and tear on their legs?
Jeff: Not really. Kobe is Kobe, one of the league’s hardest workers and best athletes. Sure, I’m concerned about the miles he has logged, but that only knocks him down a peg or two in the first round. Owners should still expect first-round production from him. He may rest early in the year as the Lakers work in Ron Artest, but we’re talking about a player who doesn’t know how to do anything but put up numbers. He’s almost incapable of not being a fantasy stud. Nash could be in for a nice season as well. Shaq’s departure returns Phoenix to the fantasy-friendly up-tempo offense we have come to know and love. But you have to consider the possibility of his minutes continuing to dwindle. To conclude, these are two major stars who know how to take care of themselves to produce regardless of age.
Tom: I thought about taking Al Jefferson late in the first, but got scared off by his injury last season. Why should I not be worried that I’ll draft this year’s Elton Brand in Jefferson?
Jeff: You’re asking one of the nation’s premier worry-warts. Of course you should worry. But let’s think here. Jefferson might tiptoe around for a few weeks, but he should be back to full strength by the start of the season. That’s good enough for me, as this is one of the league’s best low-post players, not to mention one who is going to see even more shots with the T-Wolves’ roster turnover. No Ricky Rubio, but Jonny Flynn, and my grandmother for that matter, are upgrades at the point over Sebastian Telfair. I say grab Al in the late first, early second.
Tom: In ’08-09 only two players averaged 2+ steals per game, five averaged 2+ blocks, two averaged 10+ assists. Is there a stat that you’ll chase early thinking that it’s at a premium?
Jeff: Chase isn’t the word I’d use, but someone taking Dwight Howard eighth (us) or Deron Williams right after that (us again) is going hard after a category or two. Dwight is great in three, D-Will is only spectacular in one category, really. I think assists will go early this year, as the best point guards are fantasy anchors. I’d like to think I won’t “chase” anyone, that I can trust my preseason rankings and not reach or panic. We’ll see if my guts have turned to jello by the time the clock is ticking next to my name.
Tom: You have Devin Harris just missing the first-round cut. Are you worried about his fantasy stock now that he is no longer playing alongside a guy like Vince Carter and is now playing for a Nets team that should rival Sacramento Kings for the worst record in the league?
Jeff: Did you just insinuate that Vince Carter’s presence actually helps his teammates? I think you undersell the Nets. They won’t be that good, but with solid young players like Brook Lopez and Courtney Lee they will compete in games and not get blown out as much as you think. That’s the key. Harris could be one of the best fantasy guards this coming season because he can get his own shot, he is the clear No. 1 option, and he can work the inside-outside game with the up-and-coming Lopez.
Tom: I may sound a little paranoid here, but looking at the careers of Caron Butler and Josh Smith, I’m starting to see a little resemblance to Danny Granger and that scares me. Both Butler and Smith fell in their respective drafts, were touted as first-round fantasy locks in season number five, yet got injured in their fifth season and burned fantasy owners who drafted them late in first or early in the second. Granger fell to injury in season number four, and now we’re looking at him in the top half of the first round in upcoming fantasy drafts. Should I be worried that he is another Smith/Butler in the making?
Jeff: Just because you are paranoid, it doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you. I get where you are coming from, as I can barely watch any players I own walk around, never mind bang bodies with the best athletes on Earth in ways that would end with a trip to the emergency room if I were ever to try them. But I think we’ll be okay with Granger. He’s the clear go-to guy on Indiana and should relish the role, while Butler and Smith could kind of get lost when they had to on their respective teams. Granger’s calling is higher, and the season he was having before his injury was better than anything we’ve seen from Butler or Smith. There’s always the possibility that we’re dealing with an injury-prone player, but you can say that about a lot of guys. Granger should be motivated to be a perennial All-Star, and that means riches for anyone who drafts him in the first round.
Five Questions For Tom:
Jeff: We both took Dwight Howard eighth, and many folks who play in roto leagues swear him off until a round or two later. I ask: with his major deficiency at the line, can one win a fantasy championship with Howard as their first-round pick, and how?
Tom: I never got the whole “I won’t touch Dwight Howard until the third round” strategy. It’s like as if all his FT troubles go away once you take him in the third. Whichever round you decide to draft Howard in you’re still going to have to live with, at best, a 60 percent showing from the line. The key is to target guys who, obviously, shoot better than DH from the line, but who also get to the charity stripe nearly as much as he does. A perfect example would be a guy like Kevin Martin. In 2008-09 Kevin Martin and Dwight Howard were the only two players in the league to average more than 10 FTA per game. Martin shot 10.3 and made 9.0 of those attempts (86.7 FT%). Howard, on the other hand, shot 10.7 per game and making just 59.8 percent of his attempts. Chauncey Billups got to the line 5.1 times per game and made 91.2 percent, while a guy like Corey Maggette who you can get much later in the draft shot 8.1 FT making 82.4 percent. The point is, there are ways to make up for what Howard lacks. For what he does for your rebound totals, blocks, and FG%, if you can find a way to move to the middle of the pack in FT% you are set up pretty nicely for a championship run.
Jeff: Are both of us not excited enough about Amare Stoudemire playing with Nash and for Alvin Gentry on a Shaq-less Suns team, seeing how we have him 9th and 10th in our mocks? What’s up with that?
Tom: I think Amare will certainly see an up-tick in production without Shaq patrolling the middle in Phoenix anymore. The one thing that concerns me about Amare is that his injury seems so foreign to the world of fantasy basketball. There’s something about a guy who had to have surgery to repair a detached retina and now has to wear protective goggles for the remainder of his career. Maybe I don’t know what to make of that. If you said he had to have a microfracture surgery I’m fully aware of what the consequences are. A detached retina? You also have to wonder about the Suns in 2009-10. Nash is another year older. You aren’t going to get the same output from Grant Hill this season. I think Jason Richardson will demand the ball more. I also think that Amare has to prove that he can give me two blocks per game once again and shoot closer to 57-58.0 percent from the floor. Because without the blocks and the high-50’s FG% he’s his stat-line looks a little mediocre.
Jeff: I’m torn on whether Dirk Nowitzki is an underrated or overrated fantasy player. Where do you stand on that?
Tom: Nowitzki in my book is neither underrated nor overrated. I think he’s rated just fine where he is. You can’t convince me that he’s better than the Top 6 players in fantasy hoops, and you can’t convince me that the guys behind him in the first round are as consistent as he is. Dwight (FT%), Amare (coming off a poor 2008-09 season, plus eye injury), Deron Williams (poor defensive numbers for a PG), Al Jefferson (injuries), etc… all carry some baggage. Dirk may have taken a hit on his 3PT shooting (I think we’ll see him improve on that this season, though), but other than that it’s steady as she goes. You know exactly what you’re going to get from him each season, and those numbers happen to be worthy of a mid-first selection.
Jeff: Jason Kidd was a Top 10 player in most formats last year yet neither of us mention him. Where do you stand on Kidd? He was rather fantastic last year.
Tom: The problem with Jason Kidd is that for two seasons now we’ve all been predicting that “this is the year” he falls off the map. I also think that owners are scared off by two things: his FG% and his PTS. Kidd typically hovers around the 40 percent mark in FG%, many years dipping below and shooting 30-plus percent for the year. Psychologically, it’s tough for owners to make an early second-round selection on a guy who couldn’t even average 10 points last season. Any of the Top 15 guys in the draft can and probably will give you 20 points per game. It almost reminds me of the great Ben Wallace debacle several years back when guys were punting the points to get his rebounds, blocks, and FG%. Was it worth it? And if the other stats don’t come you’re left with a declining veteran who can’t even put the ball in the bucket five times per game. Yes, I’ll admit I’m one of those “experts” who has been swearing off Jason Kidd for the past few seasons. At best, I would take a shot on him in the late-third and hope that he continues to hit his threes, steal, rebound, dish, and shoot over 40 percent from the floor.
Jeff: We’ve made our picks. Now which spot do you think is the best one to pick from in a 12-team snake draft and why?
Tom: Great question. Of course I would prefer one of the top two spots because if you are able to get your hands on either LeBron James or Chris Paul than you are off to a great start. It’s also likely that in a snake draft you can probably pair James with a Tim Duncan and Billups/Harris combination to fill out your categories nicely in the first three rounds. I also wouldn’t mind some sort of Williams and Chris Bosh/Jefferson connection if I can make that work. But I’ll also take a Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Josh Smith combination in the first three rounds. I think each team needs a three player foundation, so picking at the top provides me with that solid foundation with an early third-round selection. As they say, however, fantasy championships are neither won nor lost in the draft. Yeah, tell that to the guy who drafted Brand in the first-round last season!
Tom and Jeff are itching to get the fantasy basketball talk flowing, obviously. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to let us know. And keep returning to Damn Lies & Statistics because we’ll be ramping up our preseason coverage from unique angles.