I’ve been running an “experts” fantasy basketball league for five seasons now and it’s been fun, if only because I’ve done fairly well … for the most part. I was the inaugural champion, played in two finals and lost, and finished eighth (of 12 teams) and tenth (of 14 teams) the other seasons.
Writers from all over the internet — ESPN, SI, Yahoo!, SLAM, Dime, CBS Sports, Hoopsworld, Rotoworld, amongst others — have participated in the league and continue to do so. In fact, that inaugural season, The Basketball Jones (pre-theScore days) played (*cough*last place*cough*) as The Uwe Blab Confab. What they didn’t do in performance, they made up for in team name.
In any case, I asked several writers from this past season’s 12-team head-to-head league to answer four questions and they obliged.
1) Who was your best value pick in the draft?
Eno Sarris (2010-11 Winner; Roto Hardball, FanGraphs, Bloomberg Sports)
Probably Derrick Rose at 27th overall. I wasn’t sure he would add threes or steals this year, but I thought he would work well alongside my third overall pick, LeBron James. The one big that might have been my value pick was Serge Ibaka at No. 118 — his blocks were huge.
Charles Peach (AKA Mr. Fantasy, SLAM)
Manu Ginobili with 38th overall pick. He played a career-high 80 games this season. His stats were solid; 17.4 points, 4.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.9 threes, 1.5 steals, and 87.1 FT%. Turnovers (2.2) and FG% (43.3) weren’t great, but he didn’t crush you in any categories.
Erik Ong (Give Me The Rock, SI)
That would have to be LaMarcus Aldridge, whom I managed to snag as the 10th pick in the fifth round of the draft. Aside from his impressive individual statistical contributions to my fantasy team, his synergy with my first-round pick (Pau Gasol) solidified my teams strengths.
Matt Satten (Dime, SI)
I nailed my first eight picks, which carried me through the season, but if I had to pick one, it has to be Kevin Garnett at 71st overall. I got top 25 value all season long in a bounce-back year for him.
Brian Spencer (Empty The Bench)
Toss-up between Nicolas Batum (10th round, 117th overall) and Dorell Wright (11th round, 124th overall). Both players exceeded expectations, both from a real-life and fantasy production standpoint, but both also experienced their ups-and-downs throughout the season. Of the two, I’d target Batum over Wright in next year’s draft: this kid is going to blow up.
Patrick Madden (Give Me The Rock, SI)
In a thirteen round draft, I only see three picks that even qualify as “not bad.” That’s Zach Randolph in the 4th, Luol Deng in the 8th and Thaddeus Young in the 11th. In terms of value to draft position, I’d say Deng was probably my best pick who did what we expected him to be this season, averaging 17.4 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. I’d give the pick a solid B+.
Scott Sargent (Founding Member of Waiting For Next Year)
I can honestly say that this was the first draft in my history of playing fantasy sports where I had not one value selection. Unfortunately, I could not make the draft so I was left with whatever Yahoo!’s autopilot left me. Given that I won my two other leagues, I would like to think that things would have ended differently had I been able to make it, but that’s water under the bridge. The bridge of complete and utter failure.
Dennis Velasco (Nets Are Scorching, Here)
Overall, my draft stunk and I took a lot of chances on upside players, especially from the middle of draft onwards (Robin Lopez, Terrence Williams, Ramon Sessions and Reggie Williams, for example), but if I had to choose one, it’s Paul Pierce with the 36th overall pick.
Eno: Andris Biedrins at 94th overall. He really hurt all year and I held on to him for no good reason. I don’t know what happened to him — I figured with Don Nelson finally out of town, his successor would finally give Biedrins all the burn he needed.
Charles: Where to begin … well, I have to say Jason Kidd. I took him way too early at 14th overall. My reasoning for drafting him was, although he’s old, he was also old last season when he finished 9th in Basketball Monster’s rankings. Problem is, he declined much more than I anticipated.
Erik: This hands down had to be Gilbert Arenas, who I had the poor judgement to pick in the eighth round of our draft. I suppose it was good foresight (and a lot of luck) on my part that I was able to offload Arenas in a trade before that deal just murdered his fantasy viability.
Matt: Probably Vince Carter in the 9th round. He was having a passable year for getting picked so low, but the mid-season trade to the Phoenix Suns doomed him.
Brian: I’m one of the guilty thousands who bought into the hype and reached on Anthony Randolph. In my case, that meant the 6th round (69th overall), two picks before Kevin Garnett, four before DeMarcus Cousins, etc. This was a classic “upside reach pick,” and it just didn’t pan out.
Patrick: While there are plenty of nominees on this team, the answer is pretty clear: Brandon Roy in the 3rd round. It’s not only the worst pick on my team, it’s likely the worst pick of any team in the entire draft. Roy — who you may have heard has a little bit of a knee problem — was limited to 65 games last season. I’m not sure why I thought his degenerative knee injury would improve this year.
Scott: Oh boy, where do I start. Tyreke Evans in the third round seemed alright on draft night, but didn’t pan out so well. O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon and a pre-trade to the Sacramento Kings Marcus Thornton (my triumvirate of shooting guards) also didn’t provide what Yahoo! felt they would. Man, this is a depressing retrospective.
Dennis: T-Will for sure. He did nothing, but rest on his talent and entitlement. In this case, rooting for a player that played on your team didn’t work out. When the Nets traded him, I dropped him.
Eno: I made some great pickups — like Marcus Thornton, Marcin Gortat and Greg Monroe — but I also dropped all of those guys really quickly. I didn’t get the benefit of their best games. Instead, one guy I picked up was huge for me, providing the rebounds and hustle stats I needed to pair with LeBron. That guy was Nicolas Batum, and I got him for free in late December.
Charles: The waiver wire kept me afloat this year. On February 23rd, I picked up both Kris Humphries and Greg Monroe. Hump averaged 14.1 points, 14.1 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks after I snagged him. Monroe averaged 13.7 points, 10 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and shot 58 percent from the field after the All-Star break.
Erik: I would say Carlos Delfino was my best pick-up. I was able to utilize his insanely good games during the period when he caught fire. His contributions in PTS, 3PTM, and STLS were so valuable to my team, that Carlos probably helped me cruise to the top of our league’s fantasy regular season leader board.
Matt: I was stuck on only two moves for the whole season until the playoffs — I was cruising along in first or second all year thanks to my excellent draft — so I’m going to go with Darko Milicic, who I swapped for Josh McRoberts just after the draft ended. Believe it or not, Milicic stuck on my team all year. One could say, I personally freed Darko!
Brian: Thaddeus Young, who was really fantastic off the bench for the Philadelphia 76ers this year and probably deserves more Sixth Man of the Year kudos than he got.
Patrick: After combing through all 41 moves I made in the league, the best was a Channing Frye pick-up that came on November 7. Frye was coming off the bench behind Robin Lopez at the time and was dropped in the league after starting off the season in a horrible shooting slump. I grabbed him and Lopez flamed out shortly after, which pushed Frye into a starting role.
Scott: Landy Fields on November 1, hands down. The only negative to this was that I subsequently dropped him on November 5 for James Jones. If we were basing this question on roster longevity, I’ll say Jerryd Bayless who would have helped immensely had I actually, you know, made the playoffs.
Dennis: Nick Young on November 27, no question. Young went on to have a career season and when Gilbert Arenas was traded, it was almost guaranteed that Young would succeed given more burn on the deck.
Eno: Perhaps it’s all about having a healthy top three. I picked LeBron James, Al Jefferson and Derrick Rose as my foundation, and they were relatively good and healthy all year.
Charles: It’s OK to draft with your heart. I found myself over-analyzing and making safe choices rather than taking chances on guys who I thought might have breakout seasons. So, I was missing out on the best part about fantasy — drafting the players you like and rooting for them to succeed.
Erik: For most of the years that I’ve been drafting players in the head-to-head format, I’ve leaned towards premeditating towards specific themes for my team’s composition (small ball, big ball, countings, etc.) This year, however, I tried out the best player available (BPA) route which some of my colleagues go for. I learned that BPA can work and is in fact quite effective. The appreciation of BPA has allowed me to stay more fluid during the draft and end up with teams that are generally more injury-resilient and geared towards not punting turnovers as a default. This gave me much more flexibility during the season and in the fantasy playoffs.
Matt: I hate to say this because I’ve used their free service for years, but you really pay for what you get. Yahoo! has no clue about fantasy sports and catering to the user. I fell victim to their secret tie-breaker change, which they did a horrendous job of announcing in that no one knew about it until it was too late. There is no sport in the world that uses anything to do with the regular season to affect the outcome of a played playoff game. And yet, Yahoo! changed the playoff tie-breaker from most points in the head-to-head matchup (rebounds being the second tie-breaker) to head-to-head regular season record. I only lost two or three games all year and had a better record than my playoff semi-final round opponent by about 20 games, and most importantly, won the points and rebounds tie-breakers, but did not advance.
Brian: Pounce on guys who should not be dropping, but are for minor reasons (enters the season with an injury that’ll sideline him for a few weeks/month). Look at Carlos Boozer, Andrew Bynum, Joakim Noah, etc. Sometimes you have to wait, and may not have the luxury to wait, but do if you can. Also, don’t draft Anthony Randolph in the 6th round unless you know for certain he’s going to get consistent minutes.
Patrick: I am never going to draft Brandon Roy again for starters. But more importantly, this team of underachievers and waiver wire players finished a mere two games out of the last playoff spot in the league, which is a testament to never giving up on a league no matter how badly your draft goes. Yes, you are going to fail in the end, but at least have some pride while you’re going down in flames. I’m sure there is a motivational poster in there somewhere.
Scott: The draft remains an integral part of the game. I know a lot of people who feel they can wing it and then make moves through the year to compensate for lack of planning/execution. This may work in an office league or one of those nice “public” situations, but that’s certainly not the case when you’re playing with experts.
Dennis: Don’t wait too long on a player (such as T-Will) and never draft an injured player to start the season again (Boozer)! Thanks to my patience, which is now officially not a virtue in fantasy basketball, I started off the season in a huge hole and at the bottom of the standings. It’s hard to make up for unproductive time when you play with others that know what they’re doing and know it well.
Hopefully the imparted wisdom above will help you succeed in future fantasy hoops seasons! Speaking of which, how about next season we mix in some of the TBJ readers with the experts in a couple of leagues! Who’s down? Well, don’t worry folks, it’s only a year and a half away! Stupid impending lockout.
For more banal opinions and insight, follow Dennis on Twitter.