Commentary

Checking deeper into the best real teams

Updated: October 28, 2008, 6:15 PM ET
By Eric Karabell | ESPN.com

Let's just say I'm taking the under on 60 games for Marcus Camby. I have to say this, or more importantly believe this, because I clicked on the name Chris Kaman in preseason drafts more times than any one human should be allowed to.

Fantasy hoops set to tip off
If you're looking to get an edge on the competition in your fantasy basketball league, we've got you covered. Doug Gottlieb, Eric Karabell and Keith Lipscomb preview the 2008-09 season in the ESPN.com Fantasy Tip-off Special.

And don't forget there's still time to sign up to play fantasy basketball for free!

Hey, it was in or around Round 6 or 7, draft after draft, I always needed blocks and boards, and there Kaman and his shaggy locks were. I realize the 2007-08 stats might have little bearing on the future, but the guy can rebound and block a shot, right? Nobody ever seemed to want to draft Camby, including me, so I figured, am I really going to avoid Kaman based on the theory Camby is playing a full season? Don't be silly!

And this is how major draft-day decisions sometimes get made.

I ended up drafting so many fantasy basketball teams the past few months, I might need to elicit help in running all of them. Got plans this season? Honestly, I'm not complaining, because it's fun and better than getting a real job, but if I was a lawyer assigning my time to the client, I wonder how they'd feel about Beno Udrih costing them so much money. Beno Udrih, what is that? Oh, he's just my sleeper 10th-round pick in about half my leagues. Really, when you keep drafting with those who play, write and discuss fantasy for a living, there are no sleepers, only degrees of how early you want to select them.

I'll be writing a weekly hoops column for ESPN.com, and my ideas should end up being driven from my own experiences in my leagues. Or they will come from watching the future NBA champion 76ers and their opponents. (I didn't say that future title would come in 2009, though.) Sometimes in fantasy baseball or football I'll joke that I ended up with just about every player on one of my teams. Oddly, that's not really the case here in hoops; if I liked Stephen Jackson, I tended to keep selecting him in the sixth round. In football, I would hedge my bets on Fred Taylor in one draft, then search for another injury-prone, second-tier runner in future drafts. In hoops, unlike the other sports, I don't really spread out my choices so a major injury to a Tom Brady-type doesn't kill all my teams at once. I'm a Carlos Boozer supporter; if he gets hurt, let's just say it will affect quite a few "Fine Young Karabells" squads. And yes, those injuries do drive me crazy.

To get things started for Week 1 of the season, I figure I'll share some thoughts from my drafts gone by. I know how some people look at the really bad teams as a place for fantasy stars, but when I look at my teams they seem really light in that area. There's very little sign of players from the New York metropolitan teams (except Wilson Chandler, whom I will probably be discussing pretty much every week), or the Grizzlies, Timberwolves and Thunder. I do own plenty of Kings, though, but I don't think they're all that bad. Anyway, I used the top 10 from Marc Stein's preseason Power Rankings, posted Monday, and figured I'd discuss those teams. I have thoughts on pretty much every team, but that would take too long and the editors wouldn't be pleased. Maybe next week!

Rajon Rondo
AP Photo/Charles KrupaRajon Rondo has shown steady improvement, but is he going to disappoint fantasy owners this season?
Celtics: Let's recap, shall we? I ripped Paul Pierce in one of these ESPN Fantasy 1-on-1s, taking Joe Johnson instead, but still drafted P Squared a few times. I've got Kevin Garnett somewhere, using the sixth pick to get him, and got laughed at, and while we agree Ray Allen is being drafted way too high (in the 40s), you bet I'll take all those 3s in the 80s. Seems like everyone was on to Rajon Rondo, also, which is why he must end up a bust. Can he go 12 and 6? Yeah, I think so, but I'm not sure those stats justify the fantasy public's utter love for him. By the way, I think the Celtics get back to the Finals. I love Elton Brand and the rest of my home team, but do Sixers fans really think they can beat the Celtics in the division or the playoffs? Enjoy our 50 wins and the joy that will bring.

Lakers: I couldn't find anyone who believed the case could be made for Kobe Bryant first overall, and in one draft he slipped all the way to fifth. Why all the hating? He remains a dominant fantasy player. I don't believe Pau Gasol will see his stats negatively affected by Andrew Bynum, either. Bynum will get more blocks and boards, but Gasol will score more than 20 per night and might end up hitting 60 percent of his field goal attempts. This team is going to shoot for a monster field goal percentage, unless unhappy Lamar Odom starts jacking too many 3s, which he might. Watch him get dealt. All that said, I've got the Spurs representing the mighty West.

Hornets: Until I looked it up, I admit to being a bit surprised just how many 3s Peja Stojakovic nailed a season ago. Of course, it seems nobody expects he can do that again. Why not? That's why he was such a nice value pick in most leagues. And yes, Chris Paul ends up first on the Player Rater -- again. David West became that fourth-round guy everyone loved so much he went in every third round.

Cavaliers: Bust alert, bust alert: I do not see Mo Williams matching his Bucks stats in Cleveland. Blame LeBron. He has the ball in his hands way too much, and a lot more than Michael Redd did. Mo can be this team's No. 2 scorer when it needs it, but 17 and 6 isn't happening. He'll look more like Mike Bibby, and neither will deliver for fantasy owners. Instead, I saw Williams moving up draft lists. Look, I watched all those years with Allen Iverson, and people being brought in to score 20 with him, and it never worked out. The Answer's best partner in crime was actually Dikembe Mutombo, a guy who didn't demand shots. Mo will need shots to get his 17. Figure on 14. Also, give it two weeks, people will start adding Delonte West.

Tim Duncan
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty ImagesTim Duncan is also surprised he's not being taken earlier in fantasy drafts.
Spurs: Look at this team, then look at your recent draft. How many Spurs were taken in your league? Any more than three? Amazing, isn't it? One of them is underdrafted late in Round 2, when his 20, 10 and 2 should go earlier (Tim Duncan). Another is overdrafted in Round 5, a point guard who doesn't get 3s or steals, or even that many assists (Tony Parker). And the third guy might -- I say might -- play 50 games, and I'll take the under on that. I ended up with Manu Ginobili in a Monday draft, but only when my wireless went dead -- yes, it happens to us as well -- and got stuck with him. There's no way I would have drafted Manu where he went, even though some could think he was a nice value. I don't want these injured players who probably won't suit up until the new calendar year, like Monta Ellis and Gilbert Arenas. I'm not patient in fantasy hoops, unless it's head-to-head and I'm loaded. In this Monday draft, when I really wanted Stephen Jackson, I wasn't loaded. Had to draft Raja Bell later. Ugh. By the way, when new Spur Roger Mason starts hitting a pair of 3s per game, and making Michael Finley irrelevant, he'll be a popular add, and make it four Spurs owned in your league.

Rockets: No, it's not disdain that I feel for this team, but I know I wanted no part of Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady or Ron Artest in drafts. Too many risks; too much can go wrong. And after I took Rafer Alston late in one league, and did the math on prospective field goal percentage, I decided I would have been better off forfeiting the pick. I did keep drafting Luis Scola, though, disregarding his missed opportunity from last season.

Rodney Stuckey
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesWill Rodney Stuckey get a greater opportunity to be a fantasy contributor in 2008-09?
Pistons: One more year, fellas -- can you muster up the energy to make a long postseason run? Probably not. At issue in our game is how they meld in a few newcomers to the fantasy world. In a way, the more Amir Johnson, Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell play, would it not signal this team is rebuilding? What are you going to do, play Chauncey Billups off the ball so Stuckey can run? Johnson, Stuckey and Maxiell were popular late picks in my leagues, and I even took a shot or two on them, but I don't see it paying off. Every time I saw Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince on that screen of the next 10 players available during my drafts, I looked elsewhere.

76ers: I have no concerns about Elton Brand going 20, 10 and 2. Nor do I think Andre Iguodala will have issues as the No. 2 scorer. He's better that way, and when he piles on the boards, assists and steals, you'll be happy you took him in Round 2. I did, however, go out of my way to avoid Samuel Dalembert, and to a degree, point guard Andre Miller. I do think Sammy will block some shots and Miller will get close to six assists per game, but these guys won't score. Plus, it's really starting to look like Marreese Speights and Louis Williams will see more time than we think. Speights, incidentally, can really block a shot when focused. And everyone seemed to overdraft Thaddeus Young; the guy can leap, but don't expect more than 12 and 6.

Jazz: This seems like a good team to go and steal one-dimensional fantasy guys, at least after Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. Andrei Kirilenko will block the shots, justifying his top-100 selection in most leagues, but he's not going to score. Ronnie Brewer gets steals, Kyle Korver hits the long ball, Paul Millsap grabs some boards and apparently, if Williams misses time, Brevin Knight will get assists. All these guys might be on your waiver wire, but it won't take long for a team to grab them when they spot the relevant need in three weeks. By the way, Mehmet Okur was so underrated in fantasy a month ago, he ended up overrated. Like owning a point guard who doesn't get assists (Jason Terry, for example), I think it's tough to start a center who doesn't block shots.

Mavericks: I didn't draft Jason Kidd anywhere, of this I am sure. I had a chance in my 30-team league. That's right, I said 30 teams. Let's just say if you pick first, you can watch the final episode of "M*A*S*H" before selecting again. Anyway, I ended up with the last pick. It was an e-mail draft, and I literally didn't pick until the fourth day of the draft. I could have taken Kidd, but in that deep a league, can you really afford to have any one of your top players not scoring at least in the high teens? I took Chauncey Billups with one pick, and Pau Gasol with the other. Hey, you try getting a starting center after 100 picks are gone. Anyway, I don't think I appreciate Kidd for what he does, because the bad is too glaring. He's not a good shooter, or scorer, and unless you've got a Kobe or LeBron scoring a ton, or a Boozer type to balance the field goal percentage, I don't want him. Ironically, later in that 30-team draft, at picks 60 and 61, I took his backcourt mate Jason Terry. Before you draft Terry, as I alluded to above, be aware that he doesn't get assists. Dirk Nowitzki averaged more per game. We drafted 360 players in the 30-team league, and it's fun. I'd much rather have to study Brandon Bass as a potential flex option than have a team of All-Stars.

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.

Eric Karabell | email

ESPN.com Senior Writer