Live Blog: Final Preseason Thoughts

The 2010-11 season just about here, which means the 2010 Offseason, a season unto itself, is about to come to a close. After the Celtics inexplicably blew Game 7 to the Lakers in a game I’ll never get over, July brought us a free agency period unlike anything the league has ever seen. LeBron James “decided” to screw over Cleveland and join a Super Team in Miami, sparking anger across the country, mostly directed at ESPN. Players like Carmelo Anthony, terrified of a potential lockout, followed LeBron’s lead and tried to force a trade and start their own posses. David Stern has ended the summer threatening contraction and a 1/3 salary cut across the board, just months after boobs like David Kahn signed the likes of Darko Milicic to multi-year deals at 478% of their value. The fantasy hoops world, i.e. Jeff and Tom, has been losing sleep following of all the changes, drafting too many teams to keep track of and actually predicting things like “Josh McRoberts is a sleeper” with a straight face. What does it all mean? Is it too late to take stuff back? Jeff and Tom will be discussing all of this and more throughout the day Monday, offering up last-minute ruminations and advice to anyone still drafting, or anyone just ready to get the damn season started already.

We also welcome everyone’s thoughts in the Comments section. How have your drafts gone? What trends are you seeing out there? Feel free to join the fray…

Jeff: Good morning, sir. Don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some real basketball. Yet I have two drafts tonight, both with you, and you have another one during the day today. I think that brings our combined leagues to 126 if my math is right. Since we started drafting in August, what players have you seen climb the most on your draft board?

Tom: Jeff, good morning to you. I have three drafts today (yikes) after doing two yesterday. I can’t believe how many leagues we’re in. I think we’re rooting for every player this season. Since we’ve started drafting for this season 6 years ago, I’ve seen guys like Nicolas Batum, Roy Hibbert, and Luke Ridnour climb draft boards. And they are all certainly deserving. Another guy who is sneaking into the Top 100 is Jose Calderon. I like him more and more as we get closer to tip-off. He’s great value in the 10th or 11th round. I still think he can give you good percentages and about 5 or 6 assists, some threes, some steals and decent points. Not bad that late. On the other side of the coin, Jeff, who were you high on in August who you may not be so high on as we head into the season?

Jeff: Two easy ones off the top of my head: Anthony Randolph and Marcus Thornton. We were right to be excited about Randolph playing in Mike D’Antoni’s free-flowing system, as well as Thornton running shotgun with a healthy Chris Paul. But now it appears Randolph has no set role with the Knicks and Marco Belinelli is the starting shooting guard in New Orleans. Right now I wouldn’t start either of them in my regular lineup if I can help it, and anyone drafting tonight should plan accordingly. Another player who is falling for me is Antawn Jamison. Once LeBron bolted it appeared Jamison could get back to his 20 PPG ways without much of a problem, but now that he might be coming off the bench, I’m thinking 15-17 points is more like it, and his peripherals just aren’t good enough for me to want him any higher than the 7th round in drafts. What statistical category do you find is the most important to secure early on based on the drafts you’ve had so far?

Tom: Sorry for the delay, Jeff. I just completed my first draft of the day. Only two more to go! And I have to tell you that it was a points league and I am proud to say that I successfully drafted in a 15-team league without picking a “true” center. My only center-eligible player is Zach Randolph. But, to be fair it’s a “points” league so you take the best player available and don’t draft for categories. Speaking of which… I think assists are an important category to grab early on. I’ve been getting good value in steals, threes, and blocks later in drafts. I’ve gone with a guy like Trevor Ariza in almost all of my leagues because he can give me two steals and two 3-pointers per game (well, almost). Once you get toward the end of the draft you start justifying Jose Calderon (see above!) and Luke Ridnour to grab assists. You can get blocks with Serge Ibaka or Tyrus Thomas and even rebounds later on with guys like Josh McRoberts or DeJuan Blair. I try to get some assists early on which is why I find myself taking Jason Kidd in more leagues than is legally allowed by the state of New York. My question to you, Jeff, is in regards to scheduling. Do you take into account the “playoff” schedule in head-to-head leagues when drafting or do you simply not pay attention to who plays the most games in the final four weeks of the season?

Jeff: I don’t pay attention to it. Maybe I should? Nah. My team won’t look anything like the one I trot out there tomorrow by the end of the year, so I have all season to build and prepare for the final weeks. I like to look at the schedule when offering up trades in December and January, trying to get guys who will help out in games played should I be confident that I can make a run. Head-to-head formats bring more of an “anything could happen” vibe to them, and I’d hate to over-think things like the schedule this early. You know, like I do for football every week. Gah. Next question(s): Are you doing any extreme category punting in any head-to-head leagues? What about roto leagues? What are your thoughts on that strategy?

Tom: Well, seeing as I’m in 78 leagues, I am definitely punting some categories. I am in a 30-team league which you HAVE to punt categories. It’s impossible to focus on 8 categories. In that league I took Calderon, J-Rich, Gallo, Dirk, Oden, and Morrow as my starters (we only start 6). I obviously won’t win blocks and probably not points or maybe not assists, but I am definitely tough to beat in 3’s, FT%, TOs, and tough in FG% and steals. In other H2H leagues I have a Howard/Rondo/Smith team which is built around defense, rebounds, and FG%. In roto leagues I don’t really sweat FT% or TOs, if I can get Dwight in in the second round. I draft best players available and deal with the cats later via trade or waiver adds. It’s how i roll. Jeff, here is a tough one since you have 20 teams to look at, but, of all the teams you drafted which one are you most proud of?

Jeff: Tough question, like choosing between which of my kids I love the best. Okay, just kidding. But to be honest, the very first team I drafted, via email in a head-to-head format, I’m most proud of because I was able to get two players who are going much higher than where I grabbed them way back then (late August): Blake Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins. I added them to a lineup that includes Pau Gasol, Rajon Rondo, Tyreke Evans, Aaron Brooks, Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo. Considering I even took Anthony Randolph in the sixth in that one, I have a pretty darn good team. I should be strong in assists, boards, field goal percentage, steals and decent in threes. If Ant-Rand can ever get it together, my blocks should be pretty good too. Look out! So, give me a couple of players who you think could be hot waiver wire pickups this time next week.

Tom: I expect Marco Belinelli to be one of the top waiver adds. Anytime you start at shooting guard alongside Chris Paul, you’re going to get some nice looks. I also think we might be talking about Hasheem Thabeet. Memphis center Marc Gasol is dealing with a high ankle sprain which might keep him out for a bit. Thabeet, if he gets playing time, can be a bulk rebounder and shot blocker. I’m also interested in seeing what Derrick Favors will do while filling in for Troy Murphy. Finally, I think those who are sleeping on Taj Gibson as he fills in for Carlos Boozer are going to get an early wak-up call. He’s a guy who adds value in 12-team leagues. Of course, I forgot to mention The Player That No One Is Talking About Who Will Come Out of Nowhere and Cause Yahoo! to Crash. He’s going to be a popular add as well. Jeff, let’s get personal here for a minute. What is your trade strategy like? Are you the kind of guy who makes moves early and often, or do you wait out hot/slow starts and make moves after you’ve got a good sense of what a player’s true value is?

Jeff: I tend to make moves early and often. Patience is not one of my virtues. Last year I learned some tough lessons because I dropped guys like Carl Landry and Andray Blatche early on. But you know what? I prefer aggressive to sitting back. I probably need to believe a little more in the players I like, even if they get off to a slow start, but at the same time you never want to miss out on the hot pickup of the moment if you can help it. That said, I’m always ready to move guys whose value might be high early in the year. Gibson is an obvious one, and looking at Milwaukee, I think Drew Gooden is another until Andrew Bogut gets right. I actually think trading in fantasy basketball is harder, because player values don’t fluctuate too much as a rule of thumb. If someone is healthy, you know essentially what you are going to get out of them. Health is a bigger problem, or better yet the ability to pick up replacements for injured stars. I don’t think it matters how many moves you make or when you make them, as long as you stay on your toes and have some sort of plan throughout the year. I’m sure you have some players who you think will make the proverbial leap this year. What middle-round players could end up returning Top 50 or better value this year?

Tom: I’m not one to preach patience either. Funny thing about last season was that I picked up Darren Collison after the first Paul injury early on in the season and then dropped him about a week or so later. Then I ended up picking him up two more times throughout the season before I decided to just hold onto him. Sometimes I just need to relax a little…. Some mid-round players I like to make a jump this season are Trevor Ariza, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, and further down in the draft J.J. Hickson. I’ve talked about Ariza about as much this offseason as I did Gallo last season, but I think he’s going to take a big leap in New Orleans. His scoring should increase and so too should his FG%, getting great looks from CP3. Holiday could take that Russell Westbrook step forward this season. Gordon looked great this summer and if healthy can be a great 3-point provider and bulk steals guy. Thomas I pick every year, so why change now. And Hickson is going to get a ton of opportunities in Cleveland to take his game to the next level. Jeff, this leads us to later in the draft. I know there are a few last-round players who you are high on, so why don’t you tell us which guys in the last few rounds you think will take a Channing Frye-type of leap from waiver wire mainstays to weekly starters?

Jeff: It might take half a season or so, but Jeff Teague should upend Mike Bibby as the starting point guard in Atlanta, or at least carve out 30+ minutes a game. JaVale McGee has the kind of shot-blocking upside that should earn him a spot in fantasy lineups should he do the most with his playing time opportunity. I think the injury to Mike Miller in Miami opens up playing time for Mario Chalmers, because that team needs a spot-up 3-point shooter. If Chalmers wants to take that next step, now’s the time. I’m trying to grab Pacers Mike Dunleavy and McRoberts at the end of most drafts, as both should open the season as starters. Supposedly Dunleavy is healthy, which hasn’t been the case in a long time, so I’m taking a flier. McRoberts has a chance to be Troy Murphy-lite for the Pacers as the team’s No. 1 rebounder. I’m typing that with a straight face. I’m feeling the Linas Kleiza love as a late-round scorer/three-point security blanket (free DL&S paperweight to whoever gets that joke). Austin Daye has a real chance to be this year’s Nicolas Batum. Okay, final question of the day, Tom: Your internet went down and autopick gave you Dwight Howard in the first round of a 9-cat roto league. Walk me through your path to a championship.

Tom: Jeff, that’s easier said than done. My first goal is to look for point guards who are efficient, bulk free-throw shooters. Think about guys like Chauncey Billups early and Devin Harris a few rounds later. Both get to the line often, and convert at a high rate. You need to start bringing up that FT%. As for the turnovers, there really isn’t much of a strategry. With talent usually comes high turnovers. If I can get a few low-turnover bigs later in the draft to help ease the pain I will. I just can’t derail my draft because I am afraid that the “best available” player turns the ball over too often. I will stay clear of high turnover guys who I don’t like in the first place, but I’m not going to stay away from players I do like simply because of turnovers. And with that, I’ve won the championship. Jeff, this has been a pleasure. I’m sure we’ll do this in the near future.

Enjoy the games on Tuesday night, everyone!

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