Fantasy Basketball: How to Draft
The Answerman has been in fantasy leagues since before Laker fans hated Karl Malone for being afraid to play with Magic. What a difference a decade makes. He's won some, lost some, and made some dramatic comebacks and he is here to answer all your fantasy questions.
How to Draft
When you are drafting your championship squad this year I want you to think of one man: Charles Oakley.
The Knicks of the 90's were a great defensive unit. They kept scores down in the 80's and low 90's when everybody else was in the 100's.
The reason for success was Riley/Van Gundy's defensive coaching and Charles Oakley. Oak was an animal inside. He was rock-solid. If a player made contact inside, they felt Oakley, and did not want to feel him again. He was there, inflicting pain, every day, every game, 4 quarters of punishment.
Despite Ewing's injuries in the late 90's and all the awful defenders that played for the Knicks - C.Smith, A.Houston, H.Davis, L.Johnson, C.Childs - the scores and fg% stayed low. It was Oak - rock solid Oak.
The Oak comparison is to illustrate that your main goal at the draft is to build a foundation of rock solid players - like Oak. Players that come every night, don't get hurt, produce consistent numbers. As a result whatever crap you surround them with will not hurt your team.
See, leagues aren't just won at the draft. They are also won through management throughout the season. At the draft, your job is to build a foundation so solid that no matter what moves you make or random injuries you suffer during the season, your team stays strong.
You can draft questionable players late in the draft (7th round and on) but early you want: 1)guys who play every day; 2) are either on an upswing or have acheived a level of play; and 3)whose situation has not changed dramatically since last season. Oak-like, non first-rounders to look at E.Brand, J.O'Neal, S.Marion, J.Terry, R.Jefferson, D.Christie, P.Stojakovic, P.Gasol, P.Pierce, E.Snow, J.Richardson.
Here's the problem you will run into, writers (like myself) have to stay interesting. You, being a prepared drafter, will read our lousy advise. We focus on players that have had dramatic changes and call them "sleepers." These players are deadly for your team. If you want to win your league, take no more than 2 sleepers - ONLY in the late rounds.
You also want to show off your skills at the draft. Don't. You are not there to entertain, you are there to win. If the crowd is bored by your choices then you are doing great. Leave the entertaining for monkeys.
Some things to avoid:
Rookies: We all want to draft LeBron. He is the second-coming, right? Rookies tend to play one good game a week and stink for the other two. They have a break-out month and then fall off after the all-star break. Generally, stay away.
Injured players: I know Carter is ready to come back. As is Marcus Camby, Antonio McDyss, Grant Hill, etc. No they're not. My magic number is 40. If they missed a total of 40 games over the last two years, stay very far away. This includes more players than you think - including the former Oak-like (in terms of durability) M.Finley.
New Teams: Sometimes a new team, new atmosphere works for new players. Someone will get lucky and pick the right guy. I do not play fantasy based on luck. I know that A.Miller, D.Miles, and D.Mutombo were awful busts last year. M.Harpring was the lone player on a new team who improved and he was available as free agent throughout the fantasy world when it happened.
If you want improving players, look for guys in existing systems who suddenly will have more minutes (M.Redd), shots (J.Richardson), or are in a contract year (K.Martin).
Bad teams: I love the perennial "good player on the bad team." However, bad teams produce peculiar outcomes. Guys get injured (E.Jones), benched (D.Fortson) and traded (2 years ago N.Van Exel) for no reason. If you are planning to select from a bad team, save it for the later rounds.
First-rounders I urge you to stay away from: Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. They are both first rounders and they can both sink your team.
Kobe showed up to camp lighter and a little out of shape. Very unusual for him. Very bad sign. That plus long line for shots and the legal troubles, I'd stay far away.
McGrady has back problems. Barkley once said "There are two types of people in the world...those with back problems and those without. Those without have no idea what we go through." I do not know when McGrady's problems will flair, if at all, but I will not risk a first-round pick on him.
In sum: Get rock-solid players. Get the foundation set and mess around as the draft and season wear on. Bore your friends to sleep and your draft will be a raging success and, of course, any questions, ask the Answerman@insidehoops.net