DeMarcus Cousins flying up draft lists
I'm with you. I really like DeMarcus Cousins, and it's not all box score gazing that has me feeling this way, either. The pre-draft talk about his attitude is looking rather shallow and uninformed. If Cousins has a chip on his shoulder, that's not necessarily a bad thing. And if he's unafraid to speak his mind, I find the candor and introspection refreshing, especially coming from a 20-year-old.
Still, it is mostly the numbers, isn't it? Sixteen points and 16 rebounds in his first preseason game, followed by 15-and-3, 17-and-11 and 20-and-8. Cousins is soaring in fantasy drafts. In fact, he's currently the second-biggest mover on ESPN.com's Live Draft Results.
If you're unfamiliar with this tool, the Live Draft Results link provides composite data of the most recent standard fantasy basketball drafts -- and auctions -- on ESPN.com. This information is designed to help you make decisions about the players you're targeting this season. For instance, Russell Westbrook's average draft position (ADP) is 31.5. So, if you're in a 10-team league and you want Westbrook, figure you'll need to get him by early in the fourth round -- or maybe even in the third round if you really want him.
But back to Cousins. I won't argue with his current 96.4 ADP, especially now that Samuel Dalembert's groin injury could cause him to miss a month or more of the regular season. Just keep in mind that he is young, and young bigs need to adjust to the pro game. It's great that Cousins is unafraid to mix it up, but he'll need to learn to channel his aggression enough to avoid foul trouble. That lesson may take a while if the preseason is any indication. In his first exhibition game, against Robin Lopez and the Phoenix Suns, Cousins picked up five fouls in 29 minutes. Facing an older, savvier center -- the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Kaman -- Cousins fouled out in just 21 minutes. He fouled out again (in 25 minutes) against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 10, though somewhat encouragingly he had four fouls in 22 minutes in a rematch with the Warriors on Oct. 12.
If you dig into the Live Draft Results and compare Cousins with other centers (he has PF/C eligibility), you can slot him in just behind Roy Hibbert (87.9), Andrew Bynum (88.6) and Emeka Okafor (92.8 ADP). I can see taking Cousins ahead of Okafor, who's the definition of a known commodity. Unless close members of the Okafor family are playing fantasy hoops, no owner will ever be excited by picking Okafor. By the ninth or 10th rounds, most of us are ready to roll the dice. I could even see drafting Cousins before the oft-injured Bynum, but I draw the line at Hibbert, a player I really like this season (more of that in a bit). Actually, Cousins as a rookie could be a lot like Hibbert in his first season, when he continually put himself on the bench. Yes, Cousins has more ability than Hibbert, I just offer that as a cautionary tale.
Bandwagon Watch: Piling On
Nate Robinson, PG/SG, Boston Celtics (ADP: 103.4, up 36.6 spots): Am I missing something? Robinson is being taken ahead of the likes of Mike Conley and Jameer Nelson. Yes, these two are Okafor-boring as point guard picks go, but they still start. I get that Krypto-Nate has ramped it up on D, and he's tamped down on the clowning around. And with Tony Allen now playing for the Memphis Grizzlies, Robinson's place in the rotation is secure. But he won't see that many minutes behind Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.
Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers (ADP: 87.9, up 5.9 spots): The main reason I'm high on Hibbert this season is because the Pacers are making him a bigger part of the offense. Coach Jim O'Brien wants to run more traditional half-court sets, so Hibbert should get more minutes and more touches down low. If you're going to take a chance on a guy, take a chance on one with double-digit scoring and 2.0-plus-block potential.
Michael Beasley, SF/PF, Minnesota Timberwolves (ADP: 82.7, up 5.8 spots): It's tough to gauge Beasley's value, but the Wolves are obviously invested in his success. Expect Beasley to lead the team in scoring.
Raymond Felton, PG, New York Knicks (ADP: 59.4, up 5.4 spots): Felton was brutal (four points, four assists and five turnovers) in the Knicks' preseason opener in Paris, but you're obviously undeterred. Mike D'Antoni + point guard = dimes. I get it.
Ben Gordon, SG, Detroit Pistons (ADP: 98.3, up 4.1 spots): I guess fantasy owners are thinking of the fast finish Gordon tacked on to his disastrous first season in Motown. In April, the 27-year-old averaged 20.0 points, 2.1 3-pointers and 1.6 steals. Assuming he's healthy following offseason ankle surgery, Gordon is a worthy late-round flier.
and Filing Off
Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks (ADP: 68.1, down 11.3 spots): If Cousins' frankness is refreshing, Bogut's is downright depressing. Earlier this week, the big Aussie told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he might not be truly healthy all season. Of course Bogut's injury woes stem from last spring's horrific fall that resulted in him injuring his right hand, wrist and elbow. "The elbow, finger, everything I won't be 100 percent, so I'll have to play through the pain through the season," he said. "Even once it gets better, I'm still going to be 90 percent for the year or 85 percent. I don't have my mobility and flexibility like I should, but I just have to adjust to it." So explains Bogut's draft-board dive. Keep following his progress through the preseason -- Bogut is expected to play soon -- but how effective he'll be right away remains to be seen.
Evan Turner, SG, Philadelphia 76ers (ADP: 109.1, down 7.5 spots): Turner struggled in summer league play, and that's continued into training camp. In his first four preseason games, Turner was just 6-of-30 from the field. The Sixers have already slated him to back up Jrue Holiday, so if you do draft Turner, be patient.
Paul Millsap, PF, Utah Jazz (ADP: 72.2, down 4.5 spots): I'm a little surprised to see Millsap slipping, though if you look at the power forward list you'll see he's in an interesting cluster of picks with Luis Scola, Kevin Garnett, Blake Griffin and Anthony Randolph. But as long as Mehmet Okur (achilles) remains sidelined, Millsap -- who's averaged 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks in 49 career starts -- should be a solid fantasy asset.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
2011 Basketball Draft Kit
ESPN.com's fantasy experts offer all the information you'll need to succeed in your draft this year.
Draft Kit Home
Get in the Game
2010-11 Projections and Profiles
Strategy and Analysis
• Players to target in turnover leagues
• McKitish's Love/Hate for '10-11
• Sleepers/Busts for '10-11
• McKitish's Draft-Day Manifesto
• Mock draft analysis: Oct. 15 | Sept. 23
• Offseason movement analysis
• Rookies to watch in 2010-11
• Potential fluke players revealed
• Risk-taking draft approach
• Auction draft strategy
• Draft strategy: Tips for building a winner
• Head-to-head versus roto strategy
• Intro to fantasy basketball