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Category Strategy: Under the Radar

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne

Kevin has worked for Rotowire just under a decade and has covered basketball, baseball and football. A glutton for punishment, he roots for his hometown Bills, Sabres and the New York Yankees. He hosts the RotoWire SiriusXM show every Wednesday and Friday and you can follow him on Twitter @KCPayne26.

This week I'm going to scrap my typical format since the end of the season is upon us. Instead, I'll talk about some of the trends I've notice this season, some random observations and finally, look to next year.

I participated in eight fantasy basketball leagues (yes, I need some more hobbies), and Dwight Howard was on zero of the teams that will win first place. In any fantasy league I participate in, in any sport, I'm dead set against punting a category and never head into a draft with that philosophy. So realize that Howard's going to land you at the bottom of free-throw shooting despite the gaudy numbers in the other categories. I'm also beginning to think Rajon Rondo will be overrated next year due to similar reason -- he doesn't shoot well from the charity stripe (62 percent) and the three-pointers are non-existent (15 made this year), not worthy of a top-25 pick next year, which is where I expect he'll go.

Back to the teams that won the leagues I was in. LeBron James was on three of my teams that won it all, which didn't surprise me in the least. Speaking of LBJ, I'd be shocked if both Dwyane Wade and King James switched zip codes this offseason. While their respective cities aren't as big and mighty as New York, they own their towns, and I think the organizations realize that and will figure out a way to keep them home. On the flip side, look for Chris Bosh to make his way back to the American side and Amare Stoudemire to leave the fantasy-friendly confines of Phoenix.

Probably the most significant strategy you should take into next season's drafts is to draft rookies. This season's class didn't look too spectacular outside of Blake Griffin, and we all know how he turned out. (Side note: if Griffin's healthy next season, draft him in the same place you would have taken him this year as the upside is immense.) Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton were all drafted extremely late or were available on the waiver wire. Everyone is going to know about Evan Turner and John Wall; take the time to look past those two and find rookies to gamble on late (like Jan Vesely) rather than a player whose upside has already been realized (the Brad Miller, Udonis Haslem-types).

If I were drafting today for next year, there would be some players I'd avoid, either early or altogether. Here's my list:

Gilbert Arenas, G, WAS - Arenas didn't last past the third round and in most drafts went in the first two. Besides the injury-prone label, he's now added the "I should be playing for the Cincinnati Bengals" tag to his list. I get that players with money make for obvious theft targets, but find a retired cop or bodyguard to watch you rather than stockpile hundreds of firearms. I'm not sure the thinking there; it just doesn't demonstrate Mensa material to me. I wouldn't be surprised at a repeat offense at some point, possibly banning him from the NBA for life.

Chris Kaman, C, LAC - Obvious statement of this column -- the Clippers are a woeful team. I'm not sure what happened to Kaman after Marcus Camby left town, but he wasn't the same player. Camby was sent to Portland in mid-February at which time Kaman was averaging more than 20 points a game. He finished March averaging 14.6, a steep drop in production. The center position has gotten pretty deep with the solid seasons posted by Stoudemire, Andrew Bogut, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol and Andrea Bargnani, so I'll pass on Kaman during fall drafts.

Trevor Ariza, F, HOU; Brandon Jennings, G, MIL - I grouped these two together since I'm avoiding each for the same reason: shooting. Ariza is shooting only 38.6 percent from the floor and 65.9 from the free-throw line. Jennings is solid from the charity stripe, shooting 81.1 percent but his 37.1 percent from the field coupled with taking more than 1,100 attempts can kill your team in that category. I expect both players to go in the middle rounds, and I'll kindly pass on them.

Tracy McGrady, G, NY - This much I know, T-Mac won't be on the Knicks next year but I fully expect he'll be on a roster somewhere. He's shown me nothing during his tenure in New York, playing on a team where he should be racking up the fantasy stats. Let someone else take him, even late in drafts as I just think there's not much gas left in the tank.

Here are players I'd target if a draft were held today. Other than Stephen Curry, I expect these players to be available mid-to-late rounds in drafts next season and thus have the "under-the-radar" label.

Stephen Curry, G, GS - I have made no attempt to hide my love for Curry in this column the last couple of weeks. He's averaged more than 20 points in each of the last two months and finished March shooting 51.3 percent (on 74 attempts) from beyond the arc and more than 95 percent from the free-throw line. I could see myself using a second-round pick, maybe even a late first-round pick (if Monta Ellis leaves town) on Curry next year, and I'd take him over the aforementioned (gasp!) Rajon Rondo.

Jrue Holiday, G, PHI - I don't see an Allen Iverson comeback, Part 3, taking place in Philadelphia, which should leave 35 minutes a night open for Holiday. He's steadily improved his numbers throughout the season and finished March averaging 13.2 points, 5.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals while shooting more than 49 percent from the floor. The kid's only going to be 20 this summer so there's room to improve on these numbers, and I'd gamble on him over someone like Jameer Nelson.

Taj Gibson, F, CHI - I'd be lying if I said I haven't been linked to the Tyrus Thomas hype of the past. So why not target the guy who made Thomas expendable to the Bulls? Gibson is another player who has steadily improved as the season's progressed, putting up monthly-best numbers of 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in March. He's shot more than 51 percent from the floor the last two months, and if he improves his free-throw shooting (66 percent on the year) he'll make for a great late pick in what's probably the deepest position in fantasy basketball (power forward).

Rodrigue Beaubois, G, DAL - I talked about Rodrigue a few weeks ago when he was getting some consistent playing time. The guy can score, just look at his 40-point game on March 27 when he hit 9-of-11 three-pointers with eight rebounds and three blocks. A member of the French National team, Beaubois can only grow learning under the tutelage of Jason Kidd.

Roy Hibbert, C, IND - Hibbert has continued to develop nicely in his second NBA season. He's improved stat line from his rookie year across the board-points from 7.1 to 11.3, rebounds from 3.5 to 5.7 and blocks from 1.09 to 1.66. This has come with more playing time, but why shouldn't we think that next season he'll get more than the 25 minutes a game he averaged this year? If he puts in work this summer and stays out of foul trouble, he'll make for an excellent No. 2 center.

That's going do it for me this year. Give me the Cavaliers over the Lakers in the NBA Finals, my beloved Celtics don't make it out of the first round and the Atlanta Hawks to be the surprise team of the playoffs.