Finding Value Late
Welcome back to the Hoops Lab for the new season. I can't wait for things to get going. Baseball season is looooong, and even though I love the NFL there's nothing like the NBA to get the blood pumping. After a crazy offseason in which the championship contenders all powered up like it was the 1980s again while the Knicks refused to sign anyone beyond next year on the chance that LeBron or D-Wade will come calling, I'm ready to get my fantasy drafts going!
I've been asked in the past what my draft strategy is. The quick answer is that I draft the first few rounds based purely on quality, then in the middle rounds I try to fill positional and category needs with an eye on upside, then the late rounds are all about sleepers and value. While the personality of each team is determined by the first few rounds of the draft, the quality of the team is determined by the ability to find less expensive producers later on. Positional scarcity plays a large factor here, but my experience is there are certain times in every draft where value can be found for pretty much any position, even after the initial big dogs are taken. I'm not necessarily speaking of sleepers, more of players that will likely end up in your regular rotation that simply are going later in drafts. So in this space, I'll share some of those players that should help you sculpt your team around whatever foundation you draft in the first few rounds.
Tony Parker (average Y! draft slot 56.8) - Parker is always a good source of points, field goal percentage and assists, and last year he showed flashes of "it" as if he were ready to become one of the elite players in the league.
Russell Westbrook (72.2) - Westbrook was compared favorably to Rajon Rondo when he was drafted, and his rookie numbers were a lot better than Rondo's Year 2 numbers. It's possible that this year Westbrook could surpass Rondo, who is being drafted about two rounds earlier.
Jonny Flynn (125.4) - The Timberwolves desperately need production from the backcourt and another face of the franchise, and they have tapped Flynn to fill both holes. With Kevin Love out for two months, and Al Jefferson still struggling to stay healthy, Flynn will have to shoulder the load from day one.
Combo guards are often PG/SG eligible, and they tend to be strong combinations of scoring and assists. A startable combo guard also should bring at least one more skill to the table, with treys and/or steals as the most common contribution. If you miss out on Dwyane Wade early these are some guys to consider later on.
Eric Gordon (78.1) - Gordon is expected to have more distribution duties this season in addition to his role as a primary scorer, and thus far this preseason he already has multiple five-assist games.
Allen Iverson (106.1) - Iverson is an enigma, but outside of his ill-fated stint with the Pistons he has always been a huge points/assists/steals contributor. On a Memphis team that's almost all offense, he has a chance to put up throw-back numbers if he can stay healthy.
Nate Robinson (110.5) - Robinson caught fire during the second half of last season, and whether or not he starts, he is still a key cog in a Mike D'Antoni-led offense.
Tyreke Evans (137) - Evans has been solid in the preseason, and he should get big minutes from day one as the point guard for the Kings. He is a big guard that could contribute to several categories.
Swingmen are generally SG/SF eligible, and they tend to have more generalized skill sets than their combo brethren. Scoring, rebounding, treys, steals, shooting percentages and in some cases assists are all categories that swingmen can help fortify on your team. LeBron James is of course the premier one you could get early, but failing that you should look for guys like this later on.
John Salmons (73.7) - Salmons was a regular big producer last season when given the opportunity. With Ben Gordon gone and Derrick Rose still limping, Salmons should get off to a good start this season.
Trevor Ariza (98.5) - Ariza is a popular sleeper this year, as the lane is wide open for him to produce in Houston.
Corey Maggette (126) - Stephen Jackson is openly feuding with the Warriors' management, and if he flames out or is traded, Maggette could return to the form that used to get him drafted five rounds before his current ADP.
Richard Pryor once had a joke about a boxer named Leon Spinks, that the only thing in life that Spinks knew how to do was knock people out. Well, for our gunners, the only thing that they have to be able to do is knock down the trey. Anything else is bonus. Of course, if a gunner is hitting 2-3 threes per night, he's almost guaranteed to be scoring in double-digits as well, so points often come along with the treys. So if you don't get Ray Allen or Rashard Lewis, look these guys up several rounds later.
J.R. Smith (84.4) - Smith burst onto the scene as a big scorer/3-point threat off the bench for the Nuggets. He may get the starting nod this year, and even if he doesn't, he's in line to play starter's minutes and continue to produce this year. Plus, at least one advanced stat likes him as an underrated player.
Jamal Crawford (107.9) - Even though he comes off the bench now for the Hawks, Crawford should still play big minutes and knock down a lot of treys in Atlanta.
Mike Miller (119.9) - Miller is angling for the starting wing slot in Washington, and he should be perfect as the spot-up shooter for a Flip Saunders led offense next to creators like Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler.
Daequan Cook - Last year's 3-point contest champ has diversified his offensive game and should be a better overall scorer as a 22-year old than he was at 21.
These are larger versions of the swingmen above, jacks-of-all-trades that can contribute to any category. Often eligible to play both forward slots, these are the guys that are becoming the new vogue in the NBA: tall, multi-talented athletes that can guard any position on the floor and make the highlight reel play while also being glue guys for the team. Danny Granger, Josh Smith, and Gerald Wallace headline this group.
Blake Griffin (69.2) - Griffin was a college monster like recent prized rookies Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley, but he appears to be more physically ready than Durant was and more mentally ready than Beasley was. Could post big numbers out of the gate.
Anthony Randolph (75.8) - Randolph personally saved some of my fantasy teams last season with his late surge, and this summer I watched him dominate in Vegas. He plays like a combination of Lamar Odom and Andrei Kirilenko.
Boris Diaw (93) - Diaw was great once he got to Charlotte last year, and he should be healthy in time for the season to begin. The only question is whether he can get into shape after the injury, as fitness has been a problem for him in the past.
Marvin Williams (100.5) - Williams was drafted No. 2 overall in 2005 based on potential, and though he has been solid he has not lived up to those expectations. But going into last year he had been steadily improving before injuries derailed him. Some advanced stats indicate he may be ready to contribute on a larger level this year now that he's healthy.
Jason Thompson (106.5) - Thompson had a strong rookie season, plays for a Sacramento team with a thin frontcourt and dropped a 20/20 game on Saturday in the preseason. He looks like a good breakout candidate.
Michael Beasley (106.7) - Beasley's per-36 numbers as a rookie were better than Durant's rookie numbers, but Beasley didn't have as large of a role, nor was he capable of playing as many minutes. This year Beasley is expected to start from day one, and his coach has already commended him on being able to handle 36 minutes per night.
To get one of the elite centers like Amar'e Stoudemire or Pau Gasol would likely require your first-round pick. If you go elsewhere in the first round, here are other centers you could get later to keep you honest in the big man categories (blocks/boards/field goal percentage).
Andrew Bynum (64) - Bynum has started out strong in each of the last two seasons before injuring a knee against Memphis and essentially missing the rest of the year. He has been beasting thus far in the preseason, and if he can avoid the Grizzlies jinx this year he could put up big numbers.
Andrew Bogut (97.3) - Bogut was showing real signs of dominance last year before an injury ended his season, but if his back is healthy now he is still young enough to have upside.
Greg Oden (111.5) - Just call it a hunch on Oden, who I think finally starts to show the talent this year that made him the number one overall pick two years ago.
Tyson Chandler (113.9) - Chandler continues to have injury issues and no longer will be spoon-fed buckets by Chris Paul, but if he can get healthy he still has 11-rebound, two-block potential at a hard to fill position.
Marc Gasol (123.6) - Gasol is outshined by his brother and by all of the big names and draft picks in Memphis, but he was very productive as a rookie, and if he can hold off raw lottery pick Hasheem Thabeet for minutes, Gasol should be even better as a sophomore.
Article first appeared 10/20/09