With all the commotion over this past offseason, the shaken-up NBA holds more surprises and disappointments for fantasy basketball owners than ever before. Countless stars on the move will give others a chance to make a splash among the fantasy greats. If you’re still convinced that LeBron James, who will be playing alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this season, is the undisputed No. 1, you aren’t taking Kevin Durant seriously enough. Changes throughout the fantasy basketball world, not just the top, will demand that managers be patient and at the same time, aggressive. In order to be successful, one has to go into draft day with a specific strategy ‘ and a backup plan for when that strategy fails.
The basics remain the same. Point guards and power forwards are the keys to victory. Stacking up on versatile players that contribute in multiple categories, guards who rack up steals and threes and forwards who accumulate blocks and rebounds can make or break a team in a head-to-head league. For example, if given the choice between Chris Bosh, who is ranked 22nd by Yahoo! Sports, and Andre Iguodala, ranked 23rd, I go with the latter every time. Iguodala is one of those all-around players who helps you in virtually every category each time he steps onto the court. Bosh, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired out of a big man. He’ll give you rebounds, points and pretty good shooting and free throw percentages for a power forward, but that’s about where his fantasy value stops. Drafting enough Iguodala-like players is crucial if you want your team to go far.
Any experienced fantasy manager will tell you that finding that one diamond in the rough can make all the difference in winning your league. By the same token, I can say from experience that all it takes is one fantasy bust to completely destroy a season.
Eric Gordon ‘ Gordon is one of the most underrated fantasy players in the game. Injuries last season infringed upon what could have been a breakout sophomore year for Gordon. But he’s got a chance to do that this year. He’ll average around 18 points, two 3-pointerss and a steal a game. Yahoo! ranks him at 85th overall. If he stays healthy, Gordon should have a great fantasy year.
Emeka Okafor ‘ Okafor, who is ranked 97th overall, will average a double-double, 1.5 blocks and around 0.7 steals a game. Joakim Noah, who is ranked 47th, puts up very similar numbers. Considering he hasn’t missed a game in three straight years, Okafor’s a steal in the ninth round.
Derrick Rose ‘ Rose is one of those players who you’d love to have on your actual basketball team, but not so much on your fantasy basketball team. At least not for the price he’s going for. Don’t let his 20 points and six assists a game fool you; Rose is a one-dimensional fantasy player. Having 0.7 steals and 0.2 threes a game aren’t going to cut it from a point guard going early in the third round. And with only average shooting and free throw percentages to boot, Rose is a very overrated fantasy player. Let someone else reach for him.
Chris Bosh ‘ Bosh goes from being the first option on his team to being the third option this season. His numbers are bound to take a hit. With LeBron and Wade starting alongside him, Bosh will be hard-pressed to get 20 points a game (he averaged 24 a game last season). Having said that, the issue with Bosh is the same as it always has been. A 6-10 power forward should average more than a block a game if he’s to be seriously considered as a second-round pick. In the past, that hadn’t been such a concern for managers because of his exceptional production in points and rebounds. This year, more people will take notice.
While it’s important to keep your eye on a few select players who you think you can steal away in the later rounds, it’s even more important to have a solid strategy for the start of your draft. For example, I am a strong advocate of the Howard-Rondo strategy. Say you get the 10th pick in your standard Yahoo! 12-team head-to-head league. You miss out on the behemoths of fantasy (Durant, Chris Paul, LeBron, Dirk Nowitzki, Wade, Kobe, Danny Granger and Deron Williams), but still have a chance to make a big splash. If you take Dwight Howard, who consistently leads the league in field goal percentage, blocks and rebounds, with the 10th pick and Rajon Rondo, who is an assists and steals dynamo, with the 15th overall as your second-round pick, you’ve set yourself up for a good draft. Both Howard and Rondo kill your free throw percentage, so by choosing this strategy, you are electing to punt that category right off the bat.
Most people go into their drafts with a very specific strategy in mind. In most cases, that strategy is thrown out the window almost immediately after the draft begins. The trick is to have a flexible strategy that doesn’t solely depend on any one player. Drafts never go the way we expect them to, but adapting to how things play out determines who comes out with the better team.