While the basketball season won't tip off until Oct. 28th, the mock draft season is in full swing. I had the pleasure of taking part in an expert league draft on Wednesday night. A special thanks to Mock Draft Central for the invite and hosting the draft.
The draft consisted of fantasy pros from all four corners of the World Wide Web. I was the lone Rotowire representative, so I needed to put forth a strong effort.
The setting for the 12-team rotisserie league was your standard eight-categories (points, assists, three-pointers, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage and free throw percentage) with 15 roster spots (four guards, four forwards, two centers and five bench spots).
Here's a round-by-round rundown of all of my picks, followed by the best and worst picks made by other experts:
(Selection number in parenthesis)
Round 1My Pick: Dwayne Wade (7) -- This was the easiest pick I made in the draft. I have Wade ranked as the fifth-best player on the board, so I was ecstatic to see him available with the seventh pick. Wade is dropping in drafts for one reason -- his injury history. Wade's numerous injuries the past two seasons can be attributed to the fact that he never had adequate time to heal. Thankfully, the Heat were atrocious last season and Wade was able to shut it down. He proved in the Olympics that he is still an elite player. With his return to full health, Wade will make a return to fantasy royalty.
Best: Elton Brand (11) -- I've seen Brand go in the top five of drafts, so it was surprising to see him drop to the end of the first round. He's going to be a stud in Philly.
Worst: Shawn Marion (6) -- At the end of the season, his ranking will be near the top of fantasy, but it's never fun to draft a 15 ppg scorer with your first-round pick. Trade winds are also swirling around the Matrix, so who knows what kind of situation he lands in before the end of the season.
Round 2My Pick: Dwight Howard (18) -- Howard has the ability to kill a fantasy squad in free throw percentage and turnovers. This league doesn't count TOs, so I only had to worry about Howard's Shaq-like performance from the charity stripe. I tried to stockpile high FT percentage types for the remainder of the draft to offset Howard's deficiency.
Best: Carmelo Anthony (24) -- 9.7 rpg in the playoffs last season + no Marcus Camby = double-double campaign on the horizon.
Worst: Chauncey Billups (21) -- First-year head coach Michael Curry is looking to run the offense through Rasheed Wallace. With Sheed the focal point and Rodney Stuckey earning more minutes, Mr. Big Shot will see a dip in production. Billups will still be a nice fantasy player, but not second-round nice.
Round 3My Pick: Rashard Lewis (31) -- Lewis is a great source of three-pointers while providing solid percentages, but he offers little else. The third round is usually where I target Carmel Anthony, but he was long gone. With Lewis, I will get a steady contributor who doesn't make a lot of noise in the box score.
Best: Rudy Gay (28) -- 1+ 3pt/stl/blk = dreamy.
Worst: Antawn Jamison (26) -- Jamison was going to have trouble matching last year's career-best production before tweaking his knee this preseason.
Round 4My Pick: Brandon Roy (42) -- The Blazers All-Star has bulked up this summer and is fully healed from offseason knee surgery. I expect Roy to improve across the board.
Best: Kevin Durant (40) -- Look at the jumps Melo and Lebron made in their second seasons.
Worst: Devin Harris (41) -- Any NBA player who gets embarrassed by a dude off the streets will not be on my squad:
Round 5My Pick: Michael Beasley (55) -- Higher scoring and rebounding averages in college than Durant or Melo. He will be a double-double threat from day one.
Best: LaMarcus Aldridge (57) -- Greg Oden will draw attention away from the third-year big man, resulting in better numbers.
Round 6My Pick: Rasheed Wallace (66) -- 100+ 3pt/blks three seasons running. Coach Michael Curry's new offense should result in Wallace picking up more assists.
Best: Mike Miller (63) -- No respect for the Timberwolves' new swingman. Having Al Jefferson on the block will open up things for Miller behind the arc.
Worst: Zydrunas Ilgauskas (69) -- With Ben Wallace and Joe Smith around for a full season, Big Z will see a drop in playing time.
Round 7My Pick: Ray Allen (79) -- One of the bigger steal of the draft. It's hard to believe that Jesus Shuttlesworth has fallen this far out of fantasy favor. While the other numbers have dropped, Allen will still finish in the top ten in 3PTM.
Best: Lamar Odom (74) -- News that Odom will be coming off the bench has hurt his fantasy stock, but he will still see plenty of run and put up quality numbers across the board.
Worst: Gilbert Arenas (80) -- He might not even play this season.
Round 8My Pick: Jason Terry (90) -- This was an auto-pick selection because I couldn't decide between John Salmons and Richard Hamilton. Terry is coming off the bench in Dallas, but he should still put up decent numbers.
Best: Tracy McGrady: (88) --Everyone is well aware of TMac's struggles with staying healthy, but it is hard not to like him this late in the draft.
Worst: Marcus Williams (95) -- Plenty of upside, but C.J. Watson is the leading candidate to land the starting gig.
Round 9My Pick: Peja Stojakovic (103) -- The long range assassin finished second in the Association last season with 231 3-pointers.
Best: Mike Conley Jr. (100) -- Averaged 16.8 points and 5.4 assists during the final five games of the last season. Playing in an up-tempo scheme, Conley should thrive in his sophomore campaign.
Worst: Rodney Stuckey (97) -- I'm a Pistons fan and even I think this a stretch for Stuckey. He will be one of the more productive sixth-men in the league, but I like him a lot more as a late-round flier.
Round 10My Pick: Kevin Love (114) -- Big men were running thin at this point of the draft. Love will be a nightly double-double threat if he cracks the starting lineup.
Best: Beno Udrih (112) -- With Mike Bibby in Atlanta, Udrih will be the starting point guard from day one. He will be a steal if he matches last year's totals.
Worst: Marc Gasol (109) -- He was good in the Olympics, but I would rather have Darko Milicic this season.
Round 11My Pick: Luis Scola (127) -- Averaged 13 points and 7.7 rebounds as a starter last season. Health permitting, Scola will start all 82 games this year.
Best: Thaddeus Young (128) -- Locked in as the starting small forward and he added a three-point shot in the preseason.
Worst: Brook Lopez (129) -- The Nets are a mess. Coach Lawrence Frank is talking nonsense about a two-unit platoon. No thanks.
Round 12My Pick: Tayshaun Prince (138) -- Not too flashy, but consistent.
Best: Shaquille O'Neal (136) -- Averaged 12.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.21 blocks in 28 games with the Suns last season. Health and charity stripe concerns have always plagued the Diesel, but this late in the draft, he seems worth a flier.
Worst: Luke Ridnour (141) and Ramon Sessions (143) -- Position battle likely to bleed into the regular season. Whoever wins the job will hold nice value, but I expect the situation to remain fluid all year.
Round 13My Pick: Jerryd Bayless (151) -- His playing time will be sporadic, but there is little doubt in his ability to fill it up.
Best: Louis Williams (154) -- He will be one of the top sixth-men in the league.
Worst: Bobby Simmons (153) -- Is he still in the NBA?
Round 14My Pick: Tyrus Thomas (162) -- Hoping first-year coach Vinny Del Negro gives him some run.
Best: Trevor Ariza (163) -- With Odom headed to the bench, Ariza is slated to start at small forward for the Lakers.
Worst: Jamal Tinsley (157) -- The only way Tinsley will become fantasy relevant again is with a one-way ticket out of Indianapolis.
Round 15My Pick: Linas Kleiza (175) -- He will see plenty of action backing up a fragile front court.
Best: Udonis Haslem (172) -- A switch to center means more playing time and more fantasy value.
Worst: Joe Alexander (178) -- He's having an awful preseason and won't see significant playing time in his rookie campaign.
Check out this link if you want a full rundown of all the picks.
For anyone interested, I will be representing Rotowire in an experts draft tonight, 10/14, at 8:30 PM EST. The draft will be held on MockDraft Central, and anyone interested can follow along using this link.
Weíre at an exciting time in the NBA for many reasons, not the least of which is that we appear poised to usher in a crop of young centers with more collective potential than any group since Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson in the mid-to-late 80s. Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, and Greg Oden all have a chance to slide into those big shoes as the next Big thing. But which of them do you want on your fantasy team THIS year, and how much should you be willing to give up to get them?
Howard is most established of the trio, and the one most likely to put up huge numbers on any given night or for the season. Heís also the one most likely to put a cape on in public and call himself Superman, but that isnít a fantasy category. Howard used his unworldly athleticism to average an absurd 14.2 rebounds per game last season as a 22 year oldÖmore than Kevin Garnett, Shaquille OíNeal, or Tim Duncan have ever managed for a season. He also scored more than 20 points, blocked more than two shots, and shot 60% from the field. And Howard is also ridiculously durable, having never missed an NBA game in his career. Since he should still be getting better, he should be a top-5 pick in fantasy leagues, right? Not so fast, though. Howard also shot a paltry 59% from the line on a whopping 11 free throw attempts per game, which can absolutely kill your teamís free throw percentage in a Shaq-like way. Thus, while the upside is beautiful, Supermanís Kryptonite should be enough to give roto owners pause before calling his name in the first round. Iím not saying donít take him at the end of the first, Iím just saying to think long and hard before you do.
Bynum is arguably the most talked about young player in the NBA right now, because many see the 7-foot 20-year old as the missing piece to ushering in a new Lakers dynasty. While these Lakers obviously belong to Kobe Bryant and also sport talented players like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, Bynum tantalized the Lakersí faithful as well as fantasy owners with a strong first two months of the season before his year got cut short by a knee injury. Specifically, over his last 14 full games before the injury Bynum averaged about 17 points, 11 boards, almost 2.5 blocks, and shot a ridiculous 70% from the field. Also, Bynum is at least a non-toxic free throw shooter that hit almost 70% of his free throws last season. But Bynum is a bigger fantasy risk than Howard because of the uncertainty of his recovery from knee surgery, and also the uncertainty of his role now that Gasol has joined him and Odom in the frontcourt. Plus, Bynum has never shown that he can put up those big numbers over the long haul. So while Bynum has NBA elite potential, you should be able to get him in the early-middle rounds, after the less-risky elites have already come off the board.
And then, there is Oden. Oden has been generating mega NBA hype since he was in middle school, well before people were talking about Bynum or even Howard. He was the most sought after big man to enter the NBA draft since Tim Duncan more than a decade ago, and people expect him to quickly lead the Trailblazers into championship contention. But Oden has still never played a minute in the NBA, and his rookie season has been delayed by a year due to the dreaded microfracture knee surgery. Despite that, Oden has ridiculous upside. He has all of Bynumís height, most of Howardís explosive leaping ability, is bigger than either one of them, and has defensive instincts that just canít be taught. If he is healthy, it would not be at all surprising for Oden to average 15 and 10 with around three blocks per game as a rookie. And Oden looks healthy thus far in the preseason.
Overall, I expect Howard to put up the best numbers of the crew. But if I could get elite non-centers with my first two picks, I would be happy to get Bynum or Oden several rounds later who have similar upside at a higher risk, and at the least should give elite defensive big-man stats at the hard-to-fill center position. And setting fantasy aside, I can not WAIT to see how these three young giants make their mark on the league over the next several seasons.