More than any other fantasy sport, it is especially difficult to rebound from having a terrible fantasy basketball draft. In baseball, there are always a number of guys who come out of nowhere to pitch well or hit 30 homers. In football, there will always be a number of players who were not drafted in fantasy that wind up as starting running backs and quarterbacks (mainly due to injuries).
But if you look at the list of last season’s NBA leaders, it’s pretty much the usual suspects. You may be able to grab a “surprise” off the waiver wire that ends up averaging 16 points, or 8 rebounds, or 6 assists. But Chris Paul Jr. is not going to emerge from obscurity.
So you have to be smart, decisive and thorough. You never want to find yourself scrambling and shuffling through papers as the clock ticks away, even in the later rounds.
As the time nears to pick your squad, you need the appropriate tools for the job. How many you have in front of you and which ones are a personal choice. But I have found too many times that the more crap I have in front of me, the worse I draft.
I always have a few essentials in front of me during a draft:
1.An overall list of players ranked from best-to-worst, regardless of position. I don’t normally make this list myself, I’ll just print one out, because I’ll create a more detailed list a create myself later (see Step 2).
These lists can get a little tricky because at any part of the draft, there could be a run of six or seven guys that basically equal. At that point, it’s time to decide which players give you categories that are more valuable based on the players you have already picked, or the positions you have already filled.
However, this list can just be used a general reference to see which crop of players will be available in the next round, etc. Most of these lists, regardless of what website/magazine you get it, look similar so it also helps you get an idea of when which players will be picked by less knowledgeable (and hence predictable) owners.
2. A list of players broken into tiers per position.
This is the dominant list. A list composed, on your own, based on the various input you’ve sought out, that sorts each player by position. Furthermore, you break each position down into tiers, denoting where the separation comes in terms of talent.
For example, my top tier of points guards is Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Jose Calderon and Chauncey Billups. (Arenas, Iverson and Joe Johnson can also be included here, depending on the league’s position eligibility settings).
After that group, I see a drop-off to the next batch of point guards: Mo Williams, Baron Davis, etc.
This list is super important because, generally speaking, you want a player at each position from one of the top tiers at that position. If you’re rankings are even remotely sensible, this will help build a strong overall team.
Future posts will contain my own rankings/tiers and the reasoning behind them.
3. A roster sheet.
No matter what fantasy site you use to draft, it probably keeps track of what players you pick as you go along. It’s a nice feature but hardly ever tells me what I need to know in terms of a fantasy basketball draft.
Keep a sheet is front of you denoting the positions in your league. For example:
As you pick players, insert there names next to the position they will play (or are most likely to play if they are multi-eligible). Also keep track of the categories in which each player helps you to recognize what attributes are needed as the draft moves along.
The best overall strategy is to draft balance. Relying on any one category too heavily can result in disaster if injury strikes. With a balanced team, injuries that hamper you in one category can be offset by gains in another off the waiver wire.
Once your list is broken into tiers, it’s time to figure out which players you want on your team and why. These are considered, appropriately, your targets and they don’t always have to be the best players on the board.
For instance, I’ll be targeting John Salmons in leagues this year, although clearly there are plenty of players I would choose ahead of him. It’s a matter of choosing which names will jump out at you when the draft has been whittled down to that particular tier.
The reason you consider players targets and sleepers (players who others may overlook) varies. It could be a team change, added responsibility with their team, gradual improvement, etc.
In Salmons case it is due to the new makeup of the Kings. Mike Bibby was traded last summer and Ron Artest was shipped out last month. As a result, Salmons is the second scoring option in that offense behind Kevin Martin and he performed admirably in the same situation when Sacramento we beset by injuries last season.
More of my own targets and sleepers will be highlighted as the season goes along.
While drafting balance is key as previously noted, you can never have too much surplus is points and assists. As I mentioned in previous posts, these are the most desirable statistics and, as a result, the most valuable.
If you could somehow manage to land Chris Paul, Jose Calderon and Jason Kidd, not only could you potentially dominate assists, but you have an abundance of one of the league’s most valuable stats. As a result, making trades for players who excel at categories you need would be a breeze.
It is often hard to get other owners to see the value in players who have good percentages or get a lot of steals or make a lot of 3-pointers. But point and assist totals ALWAYS get noticed and you probably have a lot of trade options open.
In the section post, we’ll discuss how to handle the draft once it actually starts.