If You're Hardcore: Paying for early stats

There's nothing more hardcore than an auction keeper league made up of ESPN Fantasy writers and editors.

This past election night, we ESPN Fantasy folk finally completed our auction for the second season of our ESPN Writers' Auction League.

Since the league features a murderers' row of fantasy analysts, it served as a great barometer of how many experts are feeling about certain players one week into the season.

Because this is the second year of the Writers' Auction League, it's the first one in which keeper salaries and inflation came into play. But as the inflation in this league ended up at only 15 percent, it can't be used as an excuse for some of the crazier bids recorded Tuesday night. Those bids are all about big early-season returns.

Below, the players profiled will be shown with their Writers' Auction League value, followed in parentheses by the projected auction value and current average value in ESPN auctions.

Point guard


John Wall, Washington Wizards, $40 (Preseason value $16, Current average value $18.30): Wall more than doubled his preseason projected value and still is looking like a bargain. It had to help that the draft was taking place while Wall was posting a near triple-double (using steals) against the Sixers. I was bidding against Keith Lipscomb but bowed out for two reasons: knowing Gilbert Arenas will eventually return and take away some touches, and knowing Lipscomb would stop at nothing to deprive me of the joy of owning the biggest rookie phenom my Wizards/Bullets have had since Manute Bol. I think he mentioned this in his Fantasy Focus Basketball podcast.

Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers, $20 (Preseason $7, CAV $4.90): Experts are hanging tough on their preseason predictions of Holiday's rise to fantasy mainstay. In a season in which third- and fourth-tier point guards are plentiful, it's going to pay to look at the younger floor generals with athletic upside. Mike Conley and Holiday are good examples of players in this class.

Rodney Stuckey, Detroit Pistons, $16 (Preseason $2, CAV $4.90): He's still not hitting 3s, but his early spike in his assist rate coupled with a late dearth of available starting point guards caused his price to rise. And as of Wednesday, Stuckey is officially in a contract year. But if he keeps clashing with his coach, he might find himself in line for more 14-minute outings like Wednesday night.


Baron Davis, Los Angeles Clippers, $6 (Preseason $13, CAV $11.70): I think owners underestimated the effect of the coaching change in Clipper Nation on Davis' fantasy prospects. Vinny Del Negro might not be the best X's and O's man in the NBA, but he's not going to be an enabler for Davis the way Mike Dunleavy Sr. was during the past few seasons. By the time Davis plays himself into some semblance of shape, Eric Bledsoe might have turned this situation into a time-share.

Shooting guard


Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers, $47 (Preseason $30, CAV $31): Apparently, Roy's big start has some experts (at least the two who bid him up) very excited. This high price tag was due more to a "last superstar" frenzy than his repaired knee. The last superstar frenzy can affect even experts, especially ones who have hung on to their money for way too long.

Wilson Chandler, New York Knicks, $15 (Preseason $1, CAV $1.10): Chandler was one of my chief targets going into the draft. Why? Because I had David Lee and Al Horford as two of my keepers. With two centers not known for their shot blocking, I need to generate blocks from atypical positions. Chandler can score, but he's also shown a lot of promise in the defensive categories. Any shooting guard capable of averaging more than a block a game is worth some extra money, especially one who plays in Mike D'Antoni's high-paced attack.

Lou Williams, 76ers, $4 (Preseason $1, CAV $1): This was my pickup. Like Baron Davis, I think Williams' prospects have been affected by a coaching change, but this time for the better. Doug Collins has been turning a lot of preseason fantasy expectations on their heads, making the 76ers a team to watch when looking for early breakout candidates. But what cinched Williams for me was his PG/SG eligibility, simply the most valuable classification a fantasy basketball player can have.


Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, $57 (Preseason $64, CAV $66.50): I was shocked when Eric Karabell nabbed Kobe at this bargain basement price. It seems like a lot of experts are betting this is the season Kobe's production finally takes a small dip, either through a drop-off in his stats or games played. I chalk it up to his well-publicized knee surgery, along with the drop in minutes and field goal percentage.

Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat, $51 (Preseason $63, CAV $53.70): Again, $51 is a chunk of change, but in a league with inflation, this represents a pretty steep drop-off. Owners seem to have concluded that LeBron will be the only member of the Thrice to emerge from the regular season with his career averages relatively intact.

Small forward


Dorell Wright, Golden State Warriors, $10 (Preseason $1, CAV $0): I was shocked Wright went to Neil Tardy for only $10. Maybe it's a residual effect of his former specialist (3-pointers) status or worry over the coaching change in Golden State. But you'd be hard pressed to find another small forward poised for a bigger breakout season than Wright. His seven 3s Wednesday night were punctuated by two blocks and two steals. Wright is displaying a rare mix of steals, blocks and 3s that has him in the top 20 on the Player Rater.

Michael Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves, $9 (Preseason $3, CAV $4.30): Beasley's spike came on the heels of the first two games of the season, in which he went for a combined 38 points and 17 rebounds. I stayed away from Beasley because I'm worried he'll eventually cede minutes to Wesley Johnson. Oh, and because he's a head case. But it's hard to ignore someone with Beasley's upside, especially if he continues to display his new commitment to rebounding.

Carlos Delfino, Milwaukee Bucks, $3 (Preseason $0, CAV $0): Karabell is a wise man for many a reason, not the least of which was stealing Delfino at this rock-bottom price. I love Delfino because he always finds a way to contribute in other areas on the nights his shot is off (seven assists versus the Celtics on Wednesday night, for example).


Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic, $9 (Preseason $10, CAV $7.20): At the time Lewis signed his megadeal, there was a chorus of analysts declaiming the contract, saying Lewis would eventually drop off a cliff due to mileage and age. Those people would now appear to be right. At this point, Lewis owners have to hope a switch to small forward reinvigorates his stroke.

Power forward


Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz, $38 (Preseason $9, CAV $8): While it was later in the auction and owners had money to blow, there still should be something in ESPN's draft engine to prevent owners from going over $35 for any power forward not named Nowitzki. I do take notice of the 11 assists in the past two games, but Millsap doesn't provide the blocks, steals or 3s required to give him the elite status $38 would dictate. And you have to remember that Al Jefferson will work his way into the offense sooner than later (Wednesday night, actually) and Mehmet Okur will return in the next month or so. Would you pay $38 for Zach Randolph during an "on" season? Because that's Millsap's upside.

Elton Brand, 76ers, $11 (Preseason $1, CAV $1.70): Tardy would appear to have underpaid for Brand. Brand has posted back-to-back vintage performances (combined 46 points, 21 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 blocks). More credit to Doug Collins for what appears to be a quality reclamation project.


Antawn Jamison, Cleveland Cavaliers, $3 (Preseason $11, CAV $13.30): Thirty-four years old, coming off the bench and a balky knee. Jamison should have the kind of offensive game that ages well, but one has to wonder whether his days of being perennially underrated are behind him.



Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors, $26 (Preseason $20, CAV $15.40): Me again. One of the great things about auction drafts is getting the players you feel you absolutely need for your strategy to work. I needed 3s and blocks, and wanted a third quality center for trade purposes. Also, I didn't need any more rebounds thanks to the presence of David Lee, Al Horford, LaMarcus Aldridge, J.J. Hickson and Blake Griffin. Man, that's too many power forwards.


It's a sign of the times. Not a single center-eligible player went for less than his projected value. Hang on to those centers, people.

John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.