- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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I wish it had a cool name. Like the now-famous "LIMA" plan for fantasy baseball that was invented by my friend Ron Shandler. Proven winner, cool nickname, anyone who has played fantasy knows it.
I, too, have one of those theories. I've written about it many times before. It's the premier fantasy basketball draft strategy. It's been proven many times over, I'm the guy who invented it, and you know what? I don't have a cool nickname for it. Without the nickname, there's no worldwide fame, there's no T-shirt sales, there's no big movie with Russell Crowe playing me, writing all sorts of nutty formulas on a window, showing how brilliant I am at fantasy hoops.
So I will have to settle for just telling you what it is and then reading your grateful e-mails after the season. The theory boils down to four words:
Point guards. Power forwards.
Oh, sure, this draft kit has tons of player profiles, rankings, sleepers, stats and the occasional pathetic attempt by me to impress Ivanka Trump, whom I love. We have projections, a rookie impact report, offseason moves, coaching changes and an expert mock draft with analysis, and we'll be looking at all the burning questions, team by team, leading up to the season.
But it's all fluff. You don't need it.
Because you're gonna win your league -- with my help -- and you're gonna do it with point guards and power forwards. Period.
Much of this article has been written and published before. It's updated for 2007, but until the theory doesn't work, I'm gonna keep on using it. And you should, too.
Now, it gets a little more specific. Not just any point guard or power forward will do, but if you draft right, you should be able to win your league going away. So, just like a graceful Ivanka strolling down the red carpet (pathetic attempt No. 1), let's wander in.
Before the Draft
I'm assuming a few things here. First, that you are in a league. And that you know -- at the very least -- the basics of fantasy basketball. If you do not know how to play, please read John Cregan's "Intro to Fantasy Basketball."
It will make both of our lives easier. Admittedly, yours more than mine, since by the time you read this, I will be knee-deep in building my Internet shrine to Miss Trump and trying to avoid a restraining order.
OK, before the draft -- if it's a start-from-scratch or auction league, we'll get to you in a second -- let's talk about those of you in
Generally, keeper leagues have some sort of penalty and/or cap on players you can keep -- either a limit or a hit against a salary cap.
My general rule for whom to keep is to hold onto players who are so amazing you could not get them back -- your Garnetts and LeBrons -- or players who are very undervalued. Say you had a $10 Drew Gooden. Gooden is a solid power forward, but he's not a guy you would keep unless you had him below market value, because he's just a middle-of-the-pack forward, and if you don't get him back in the draft, you can find someone just like him.
The thinking is this: Drafting a team -- any team -- in fantasy sports is all about getting the most value out of your team. You win leagues not by getting Shawn Marion in the first round, but rather by picking up a guy like Zach Randolph toward the end of your draft last season, so
If you have a stud you could not get back -- say Dirk Nowitzki in a straight draft league -- you keep him. You will not be able to replace that value at the draft. But if you have Nowitzki at $50 and Randolph at $5 in an auction league, I would keep Randolph at $5, because I would get a shot at Nowitzki in the auction, and $50 is about what he's worth in a $150 league. And if someone outbids me, I can spend $50 to get a similar stud. But there is no way I get Randolph's production back for five bucks. It's all about maximizing value.
The only other thing I ever consider is position scarcity. There are two positions that are fairly rare in fantasy hoops. Center is the obvious one. Point guards who get 3-pointers are not so obvious. You will need both before we are done.
So if you have a Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, or Yao Ming (if they qualify at center in your league), keep them if you can. Do not overspend to keep one of them; you can win without a good center.
But if you have a good center or a point guard who gets 3's, like Steve Nash, and you have him for market value, you can keep them.
Why keep them if they are not a bargain? Because you probably will have to overspend to get them back in the draft because of their rarity, so having them at market value actually is value.
If you have to give up a draft pick to keep a guy, it's all about value comparison. Say you have to give up a first-round pick to keep Dwyane Wade. Well, you know your league, where you pick, your rules, etc. Is Wade better or worse than who you would get if you threw him back? Again, it's all about value. You want the most for each pick.
You won your league last year? Well, getting Wade as your first draft pick is pretty good, since you probably wouldn't get him at the No. 12 draft slot if you threw him back. So you keep Wade. But if you finished at the bottom last season, you throw him back.
You might be able to get an even better player with your No. 1 overall pick, like LeBron James, for example. And if those guys are protected, you still will be able to grab Wade back with your top pick. So just like being enamored of someone who is as wise and kind as Ivanka, it's a no brainer (attempt No. 2).
OK, we have who we are keeping. Or, if yours is a start-from-scratch league, other than enjoying the Ivanka sucking up, that last section wasn't really relevant.
Either way, before we draft, we're gonna need to do some draft prep, a lot of it. So let's get going.
The first thing we need to do is learn our league's rules. I know, sounds stupid. But you'd be amazed at how many people make this mistake. More than Ivanka has admirable qualities, I'll tell you that. (No. 3. I'm almost ashamed of myself.)
You need to know how you keep score. Do turnovers count, for example? Can you play any kind of guard you want, or is there a PG/SG requirement?
Every rule, even the minute ones, like you can place an injured guy in an "IR" slot and replace him without cutting him, will play a part in how you draft.
If, in the example above, you get an IR slot, you can be more liberal with your injury-risk type picks like Marcus Camby or Baron Davis than you can be with a more stringent policy of "no bench -- everyone on your roster plays."
So get the rules, study them, learn them, devour them. And always keep them in mind when you are preparing for your draft.
A huge one for fantasy basketball, by the way, is position eligibility. If your league has not set up a way to determine this, you need to do so ASAP. Positions get weird in the NBA -- is Nowitzki center-eligible? He starts at forward and plays on the perimeter but occasionally lines up at center. What is Grant Hill? Besides dreamy-looking, mom. Is he a guard? A forward? A guard/forward? Your league needs to decide, needs to have a definitive "no ifs, ands or buts" list and stick to it. Personally, I would use the one we have for you here at ESPN.com, he said pimpingly.
Whichever list and eligibility rules you choose, you need to know what they are. They will be huge in determing how many players are eligible at center. A lot or a little? Knowing which positions are scarce and which are in abundance will guide you when you draft those positions and tell you how early you need to be concerned with filling those slots with production, as opposed to just some guy who sucks.
OK. Let's prepare for the draft. Obviously, you should be reading as much as possible. I would be checking ESPN.com at least once a day. But that's me. I like to win. And not just our fantasy content, either, but guys like John Hollinger and Henry Abbott. The Web sites of newspapers in cities with NBA teams are other good sources. And Playboy.com is another terrific site, although, to be fair, it rarely has fantasy sports content.
Don't just read fantasy sites. Read the basketball sections on ESPN.com, watch "SportsCenter" and watch actual games. That's right, actual games.
See how a guy gets his 20 and 10. Was he grinding it out, play after play, with Ben Wallace draped all over him? Or was it just garbage time?
When you watch a game, watch it from a fantasy standpoint. Who touches the ball the most on offense? Where do players stand when they have the ball and when they don't?
The reason Tony Parker doesn't get as many assists as other upper-tier point guards isn't because he's not any good. He's actually a terrific player, but it's because of the way the San Antonio Spurs run their offense. Specifically, they run it through Tim Duncan starting with his back to the glass or on the perimeter. Duncan likes to put the ball on the floor before doing anything, and then, just like everyone else when Ivanka walks into a room, your assist disappears into thin air. (No. 4. What can I say? I'm on a roll.)
I'll let you check out other places and explore. There are tons of sites devoted to fantasy basketball. See which ones you like, which you trust, whom you agree with, who are morons. It's all speculation -- some are more informed than others -- but at the end of the day, we're all just making educated guesses.
Either way, knowledge is power. The more you know -- about players, lineups, injuries, sleepers, coaching changes, schedules -- the better shape you are in. So prepare as if you are testing to get into Harvard Med School, because the only thing worse than screwing up on draft day and listening to your buddies tell you you're an ass for the next six months is having to sit in front of a TV at night and say, "Come on, Dikembe Mutombo!"
So, with draft day quickly approaching, you're going to need to do some paperwork prior to the big event to make the draft easier and yourself more efficient.
First, get yourself an up-to-the minute depth chart for every team in the NBA. You can get them pretty much anywhere. And when the draft is reaching its end and you need another point guard or starting small forward, the depth charts will come in handy. Trust me.
Whichever list/magazine/book you choose to go with, just bring one. Too much info can clutter things up. Read the ones you have, decide which is closest to what you think and go with that. The truth is, most of them generally are the same. If one has Nowitzki ahead of Wade and the other one has them reversed well, so what? They both rock.
Personally, I like to make my own list. But whatever list you have, you need to prepare it. By that, I mean I like to group players. As an easy example, you'll group your point guards.
Wade, Nash, Jason Kidd, Allen Iverson, Gilbert Arenas, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Baron Davis, etc. Those are the elite. The next tier has about eight guys, so you might say to yourself, "I don't want a No. 1 point guard lower than, say, Chauncey Billups."
So the entire list goes, then so does T.J. Ford. But don't freak out if you look at your list and see Tony Parker and Raymond Felton still are left and you pick in two picks. You are guaranteed to get one of those guys.
During the draft, it's especially important not to get hung up on one particular player. By dividing your list like this, you'll be able to better see where there is scarcity in the draft and where there is surplus. Just because you don't get Andre Miller, you're not screwed. Kirk Hinrich will be just fine.
Doing all this work now insures you keep your cool during the draft, especially as it goes on. Any idiot can take LeBron. It's the guy who grabs Luol Deng late who generally wins the league.
Another thing you want to do before the draft is prepare a "draft sheet" for every team in the league. I cannot stress how important this is. This is a sheet that has every team in your league and every position they need to fill. As the draft progresses, you are going to want to be able to know who everyone has, which positions they have filled and what they still need. If it's a keeper league, fill in who has been kept.
For example, Team 1 takes Kobe Bryant. You write down "Kobe" in Team 1's guard slot.
This way, you can see at a glance what you need in comparison to every other team. Say it's Round 8, and you need a fourth power forward, but there's a sleeper point guard you want to grab as well.
You look at your sheet, see most everyone has three forwards and that, according to your power forward sheet, Chris Wilcox, David Lee, Boris Diaw and Marvin Williams still are out there. So you should be OK when it next comes around to you. You don't need to burn the pick here. Conversely, the three teams picking after you all need point guards, so you better grab the guy now or you'll never get him. You grab the point guard and then get a decent No. 4 power forward next time around.
This sheet will save your butt more than once toward the end of the draft, and that's where leagues are won and lost, not in the first few rounds.
Anyway, I always like to have a list of sleepers I want to target -- late-round guys who, when you're in Hour 4 and can't think anymore, you can glance at the sheet and go, "Oh, yeah, I wanted to take a gamble on Andrew Bynum." Or Delonte West. Or Walter Herrmann. Or LaMarcus Aldridge. And then you grab him, instead of saying, " Oh, hell, I can't think of anybody. I'll just take Jeff Foster."
OK, it's game day, baby. Time for the big show. Don't bother cramming on the way in or anything stupid like that. It's like a test; either you know it or you don't. And if you don't, the next 10 minutes ain't gonna change that.
You want to project, even if you don't feel it, an air of confidence. Make others sweat. That's my first draft day hint. Never show fear. Just be confident. You don't have to be cocky or a jerk. But occasionally sighing a breath of relief when the guy before you picks, as if to say, "Thank God you didn't grab the correct guy," will do wonders to rattle most of your leaguemates.
Assuming a standard 10-man starting roster, here's what I want your starting lineup to look like:
Two centers, three power forwards, one small forward who gets a lot of 3-pointers and four point guards (ideally who get a lot of 3's). Get this lineup, stay healthy, read the TMR and win, baby.
(Quick point here: This isn't about getting specific positions, it's about getting players that get those type of stats. So even though someone like Lamar Odom can play small forward, he gets power forward numbers, in terms of boards and blocks.)
You must understand: Fantasy basketball is about categories, and there are a lot fewer players in basketball than in baseball, so you need to maximize every category. So, my theory, which has proven very reliable in hoops, is to build on strength.
Here's what I mean: Say you get Ben Wallace -- rebound machine, block machine, many steals for a big man. OK, by getting a guy like him, you automatically have a chance to compete in those three areas. But what a lot of people do is say, "Well, I have Wallace, I have rebounds taken care of," and draft a bunch of small forwards. Three months later, they're middle of the pack in everything and screwed.
By surrounding Wallace with rebounders, you guarantee winning that category. You can always trade surplus. So we're gonna build on strength. OK, this gets a little hairy but stay with me. It's gonna be worth it.
Hoops plays mainly in eight categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, 3-pointers, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage. Turnovers are the ninth category, but we'll deal with that in a bit.
The first thing we want to target on draft day is the rare categories. The categories that few players get. Most players score and rebound, but we can worry about that later. Every player has a field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage to think about. We'll get to those in a moment as well.
But who gets assists and blocks? Steals and 3-pointers? Who gets them with enough frequency to make a difference? Not that many. You could take my word for it, but let me prove it to you, just like Ivanka has to do as a sharp businesswoman in a man's world. (And that's No. 5. I can almost hear my phone ringing now. It'll be Ivanka, or her lawyer with a restraining order. Either way, I'm sure she noticed.)
Thirty teams in the NBA. Two starting guards for each. Know how many averaged seven assists or more per game last season?
Eleven. That's right. Just 11.
Nash, Deron Williams, Kidd, Paul, Davis, Ford, Andre Miller, Wade, Iverson, Billups and Felton. That's it.
Jamaal Tinsley averaged 6.9, so let's be generous and call it 12, OK? Twelve players get quality assist numbers.
OK, compare that with points. You know how many players averaged 15 points or more last season? Sixty-nine. I won't list them, but No. 70, Larry Hughes, averaged 14.9.
You see where I'm going, right? More than five times as many players get above-average points as compared to above-average assists. I'm sure you're willing to trust me, but doing this for every category will help.
OK, back to the rare categories:
• Blocks: Only 21 players averaged 1.5 blocks per game or more. Only 10 averaged two or more a game.
• Steals: Only 19 guys averaged 1.5 steals per game.
• 3-pointers: Only 21 players had at least 130 3's.
Compare that with the 46 players who grabbed at least seven boards a game last season, the 45 qualified players who shot more than 47 percent from the floor or the 46 qualifed players who shot more than 82 percent from the line.
So, we'll all agree that there are four categories that have a lot fewer "producers" than others. Kind of like saves in baseball. Most players get more wins than saves, making closers more valuable.
Well, some fantasy logic applies to all sports, and the biggest one is that you need guys who touch the ball. Just like you want running backs and quarterbacks in football, so, too, do you want the guys who touch the ball in hoops. And who touches it the most? The point guard.
Point guard is the only position that piles up assists. Yes, there are a few small forward-eligible players who get a nice number of assists -- Vince Carter and Odom, for example. James and Kevin Garnett defy description.
But assists in any kind of numbers are, for all intents and purposes, going to come from point guards. However, if you get one point guard or even two, what good does that do you? You probably won't have enough to do anything but finish middle of the pack, and that doesn't help us.
We play to win, we play to build on strength. And if we can build our strength in categories that few players get, all the better. They're easier categories to dominate, and the other teams will be scrambling. So, and I promise you this, if you have four point guards, you will win assists or come damn close. Think of having three closers in baseball.
If we have four point guards, you say, OK, we win assists. But what about everything else? Well, that's why we have to be careful in who we draft. We need point guards who get 3-pointers. We have to be selective. We have to be smart, because we are employing a very specific strategy.
Let's look at the list of top point guards (in no particular order):
Steve Nash, Dwyane Wade, Jason Kidd, Gilbert Arenas, Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, Allen Iverson, Andre Miller, Chris Paul, Baron Davis, Mike Bibby, Kirk Hinrich, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams, Stephon Marbury, Tony Parker, T.J. Ford, Jason Terry, Jamaal Tinsley and, at least last season, Rafer Alston.
All are eligible at point guard and all averaged at least five assists a game last season. Now, I'm going to lose everyone from this list who didn't get at least 100 3-pointers last season.
This list is now: Arenas (205), Alston (192), Bibby (173), Terry (162), Nash (156), Hinrich (140), Kidd (124), Marbury (123), Billups (109) and Felton (103).
10 guys. That's it. You need at least two, and preferably three, guys from this list.
We get two or three on this list, plus a small forward-type who gets 3's, and we are well on our way to wrapping up 3-pointers and assists. So we move on to steals. The only downside of Nash (He soooo dreamy!) is that he gets no steals, but most of these point guards do get steals.
Here's a list of guys who show up on the assists and 3-pointers list and also averaged at least one steal per game:
Arenas (1.9), Kidd (1.6), Alston (1.6), Felton (1.5), Hinrich (1.3), Billups (1.2) and Bibby (1.1).
Seven. That is it, kids. The lucky seven. And frankly, we shouldn't even count Alston, whose playing time figures to significantly decrease this season. Two or three of these guys for your team is very sweet.
(NOTE: Iverson, Paul and Wade all made the assists and steals list, but not the threes, which means you'll need a small forward who guns 3's -- Rashard Lewis, anyone? -- if you get "stuck" with one these three.)
The point is, point guards get a lot more steals than, say, forwards. But we'll come back to steals in a sec.
This is a generality, but guys who are point guards usually have good free-throw percentages. Guys like Nash (89 percent), Billups (88 percent), Mo Williams (85 percent), Arenas (84 percent), Hinrich (83 percent), Bibby (83 percent), Paul (81 percent), Wade (81 percent), Terry (80 percent), Felton (80 percent) and Iverson (80 percent) all shoot 80 percent or so from the line.
So, in conclusion, if you get point guards -- all point guards -- and make sure at least two of them show up on the upper part of the 3-pointers and steals lists, you should be set to compete in steals and 3's and win assists, while helping your free-throw percentage quite a bit.
If you play in a league that requires you to start shooting guards, that is fine, you just have to divide up the list a bit more and do a little more research.
In other words, you want to make sure your shooting guard gets a ton of 3-pointers and steals (Paul Pierce is the expensive version, Kyle Korver the late-round version), while making sure your point guard(s) is (are) a huge assist guy(s) like Kidd or Nash. Or grab guys like Wade or Terry who likely qualify at both slots. But the principles are the same. With our guard slots, we must win assists and look to be upper-tier in 3's and steals, while shooting well from the line.
So, you say, what about the other categories? That's where my power forwards come in. We're gonna have a total of five power forward-types -- three power forwards and two centers. I like to think of centers in terms of power forwards for fantasy purposes and, specifically, this system.
Rebounds are the easiest category to get. Everyone gets a rebound. So to compete in this category, we need a lot of big men. Any five guys with decent double-digit points and at least seven boards will do, just so long as they are big power forward-types. No Richard Hamiltons who don't get rebounds.
We want five big guys who all average at least seven boards a game or so. You won't win rebounds like this, unless you get a Garnett and Dwight Howard sort of combo thing going, but you will finish middle of the pack, and that's all we need.
The nice thing is that the big guys almost always have a high field-goal percentage, being close to the rim and all that, so five good big men with good field-goal percentages (this is a must!) will go a long way toward balancing out the damage your shotgunning point guards will do.
You must, must, must pay attention to field-goal percentage! This is key. Do not, I mean do not draft any big man with a field-goal percent lower than, say, 47 percent. Trust me here. Getting all those point guards that get 3's does not come without a price. That price is field-goal percentage. You can mitigate the damage, however, if you have five "big men" (two centers, three power forwards) who all are shooting 47 percent or better.
So with our five PF/C combo, we now should be in the middle of the pack in boards and at least the middle of the pack in field-goal percentage, which brings us to blocks.
Of course, only PF/C types get blocks anyways, so if we have five guys who get some, we should be fine in that category. Especially since so few players get them. Because centers are so rare and they'll go early while you are trying to lock up your elite point guards, center is a great position to get a monster shot-blocker who can single-handedly help you compete in that category.
One other thing, specific to centers: If you have a liberal league policy -- like, if Nowitzki, Duncan and Rasheed Wallace are centers -- then never mind. You'll be fine getting a quality center. And center is fairly deep this year. But if you have a fairly strict policy and/or a league filled with guys who go nuts grabbing centers, then a late-round, one-category guy is the way to go.
Look, instead of getting a "hole" -- a guy who will just sit in your lineup and not do a lot -- I would rather get a guy like DeSagana Diop who will get me three points, three boards and three blocks a game.
Getting a pure shot-blocker like Diop, a guy who won't hurt you in any one category but will help a huge deal in one category that very few people get, is a nice way around the "there are no centers" thing in leagues with strict position eligibility.
So are we up to date so far? Four point guards who get 3's and steals to go along with their assists -- that takes care of those three categories. Five big men who will get us boards, blocks and field-goal percentage. We're looking good.
But, since point guards are more rare, it's nice to backup a few of the things we need them to do. That's why you leave one, and only one, slot for a small forward -- specifically, a small forward who gets 3's and steals. In an ideal world, you have a guy like Rashard Lewis here.
Just one small forward here, and I want you to make sure he gets 3's and steals in as significant a way as he can with a good percentage. If you can't find one, don't force it. Go with another power forward. You can always find 3-pointers on the waiver wire.
The final category I will talk about is points. Everyone gets points. It's a very hard category to target, especially in this system, because so many of the guys who get a lot of points (think Ray Allen or Carmelo Anthony) are great players but are not good fits for this strategy. So I don't worry about points at the draft, and I'll tell you why.
You're not gonna win points in this system. Not even close. Don't bother trying.
But if you get the four point guards as we talked about, a small forward who gets 3's and some steals, plus five PF/C types, you will finish middle of the pack in points and boards. Points are the glamour category. It's what you see at halftime on ESPN or TNT, and it's what scrolls across the Bottom Line on "SportsCenter," but in fantasy basketball, it counts the same as boring ol' blocks or free-throw percentage. Worry about drafting the lineup I've talked about and you'll get enough points that you'll compete.
Now, a few quick things before we finally move on.
Use your head! Don't just go down your list and grab four point guards, five power forwards and a small forward. Know who is who. Read all the player prep we've drafted for you. Make sure -- I'll say this again -- make sure before you draft a guy that he is solid in the percentages and that he gets 3's and/or steals and assists. Make sure he gets boards, too.
If he isn't solid in, say, field-goal percentage, remember that you need to go higher up in that category on the next people you draft to compensate. It is all about getting the most production out of each player, and, more importantly, taking advantage of the strengths you have.
Oh, and to do this strategy properly, you need to avoid Shaquille O' Neal at all costs.
This system actually works even better if you play in a head-to-head league. In most H2H leagues, you get points for various stats (two for every block, etc.), so what that means to me is that you don't have to compete in every category. If you get two points per block and your whole team is shot-blockers, then it still will work, because if you are getting a ton of points for your blocks, you don't need them from elsewhere. The most points at the end of the week wins that week's game, just like in fantasy football.
It doesn't matter if you get the points from a star running back or an obscure tight end, they both count. So by building on strength, especially in the rare categories, you should win quite a few weeks. Be prepared to blow off categories in H2H just so you can get even more guys that qualify.
The other type of scoring for H2H leagues is the same "roto" category style we spoke of, but instead of you competing all year long against everyone, you compete each week against one team in categories like steals, 3's, points, etc. You get more blocks in a category than your opponent, you win that category. If you have more category wins, like five to three, you win the game for that week.
In that kind of system, it is super, super easy to use this system to win, because by getting all the rare categories, you'll win every week in steals, assists, 3-pointers, blocks and hopefully free-throw percentage. You don't care about points, boards or field-goal percentage. It will be an ugly-looking team, but it will win. Every week.
You just need to make sure, in that system, that your big men shoot well from the line. And you probably want to add another small forward who gets a lot of 3-pointers instead of one of your power forwards since, in this system for H2H, all you really need big men for is blocks. Get yourself a few Samuel Dalembert types and you're all set there.
I hate leagues that count turnovers. It's a negative stat. You are, in effect, rewarding someone for not touching the ball, which is insane. And it's just not a "fun" stat. Roto should be fun. I blow off turnovers for the same reason I gave above. Most of the players who are good turnover guys are poor candidates for our system. The more a player touches the ball, the more he turns it over.
Let me name some guys for you: Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James.
Pretty good list, wouldn't you say? Well, all of them were in the top 10 in turnovers last season.
So now LeBron James has a negative? Is there anyone out there, fantasy player or NBA exec, who wouldn't want this guy?
Anyway, I generally think if you are smart when you draft, you can finish in the middle and that will be OK. But if you're not, don't worry about it. A lot of point guards have big turnover numbers, and there's nothing you can do about it. It dilutes my plan a little, but it still works. You just have to be more careful in drafting.
Speaking of Drafting
Here are some more hints:
1. If you do an auction: Pay for studs. The more, the better. More so than in any other type of fantasy game, the studs truly are a cut above the rest. After you get past the LeBrons, Kobes and Dirks, it's really all the same. After the first three rounds, some are better than others, but it's not a huge difference. The difference between, say, Nowitzki and Eddy Curry is huge, while the difference between Al Harrington (16 and 7) and Chris Wilcox (14 and 6) is not very much, but one will go for a lot more than the other.
You will be able to field a solid team with a bunch of $1 forwards. So pay for as many studs as you can and then wait. There is so much talent in the NBA that the secret is to get as many difference-makers as possible.
2. If you find yourself getting screwed out of a position, don't panic! Say you've got pick No. 11 in a 12-team league and you find yourself on the short end of a point guard run. Instead of reaching for a guy like Eric Snow just to have someone, grab another center or a stud small forward. Give yourself something to trade for a guy. Snow still will be there a round later, trust me. But by cornering the market on a scarce commodity rather than just grabbing a warm body, you'll be a lot happier.
3. If you are in a snake draft, especially at one end of one, grab what you need when you can. By that, I mean if it comes to you, and you really want a good No. 1 point guard, take one. If your pick comes up and you see there are at least 12 point guards left, grab a second power forward. But one good run and you're screwed. It's 20 picks until you get to choose again, if not more. Don't wait. Grab what you need, get surplus later.
4. Don't listen to anyone else at the draft! First, and this is the secret that us fantasy "experts" hold tightly to our chests, nobody knows anything! That's a quote from William Goldman about Hollywood, but it's appropriate here, as well.
Yes, we experts probably spend a lot more time looking at stats, trends, players and teams than you do, but that's because you have a life. And we probably have been playing a bit longer. I've been playing fantasy sports since I was 14.
But again, that's because you have a life. So we probably have a more informed opinion. But that's all it is, an opinion -- a well-educated guess, but a guess nonetheless.
So if I'm telling you experts aren't always right, other people in your league sure as hell aren't. If they mock your pick or sneer at your team, who cares? Screw them. Don't let it rattle you! I often find the loudest guy at the draft usually is the stupidest. I've seen too many good drafts screwed up because someone listened to some loud jerk rather than trusting their own opinions.
Listen, you've done the research, you've played the game. Hell, you've read this far. You're into it. And your opinion is as good, if not better, than anyone in that room.
5. Have fun. Remember we do this for leisure. We all (especially me) take it very seriously and I play to win, but it's not worth ruining friendships over.
6. Finally, remember we at ESPN.com are here to help. Columns, advice, analysis, everything you need and, like, three more. So come on by and say hi. And if you happen to be the brilliant, blonde daughter of Donald Trump, all the better.
27mMichael C. Wright