I was looking for a picture of Dwight Howard, but I settled on one of this guy instead. I don't know what the weirdest part of this photo is, that the Superman guy is hoisting a lolli-pop, that the Wonderwoman guy looks rather comfortable in his female apron, or that this is even in the SB Nation photo files at all. But anywho...
Well, it's my turn in the box.
I was gifted with the fifth position in the FakeTeams Hoops Tournament -- the official fantasy basketball experts league of FakeTeams -- which allowed me to construct a team around Superman himself. As a result, I wound up with a pretty sweet lineup, although when I wrote about my team just days after the draft, I wasn't sure whether or not I had over-committed to my rebounds-galore strategy.
Here's what I scribbled shortly after the December 18th draft...
5. Dwight Howard
"I toiled for a minute between Howard and Love, since both offer an incredible rebounding/scoring combination. I really had to think whether I wanted the 20-and-15 guy with three-point shooting, free-throw shooting and mediocre block numbers, or the 20-and-15 guy with excellent block and field-goal percentage numbers, but god-awful foul-shooting. I decided to go with Howard since elite centers are incredibly rare, especially coming from Yahoo!, where there isn't a PF alive who isn't also considered a C. Plus, wherever Howard goes next year, it'll be on a crowded roster with at least one other established scorer, and probably two. He'll never put up better stats than he will this season, so I figured there was no better time to build around him."
24. Zach Randolph
"Man was I hoping Kobe Bryant would fall to me. Is he old? Yeah. Is he still a beast? Yeah. Things may have worked out for the best though, as I really like Randolph as a compliment to Howard. The areas that Z-bo sucks at as a forward (blocks, field-goal percentage) are areas Howard is great at. Plus it gave my team the identity as a team that would never lose in rebounding under any circumstance. It was an identity I probably beat to a bloody pulp in later rounds, but I always like to set aside one stat and categorically declare: I will never lose in this. And getting Howard and Randolph with my first two picks did just that, while still giving me players capable of putting up some points."
33. Kyle Lowry
"Sadly, Jrue Holiday didn't fall to me, so I went with the next best option. I knew I needed to draft a point guard relatively early, since D-Howard and Z-Bo never pass the ball, and I'm a big fan of the Rockets' latest trendy point guard. (They seem to go through a new one every other year, from Steve Francis to Bob Sura to Rafer Alston to Aaron Brooks.) It wasn't just that Lowry scored a lot of points and got a surprising amount of rebounds while racking up assists last year -- it's that he did it while making a tremendous amount of three's in the process. Can he keep it up for a full season? Perhaps, perhaps not. But if he can mirror what he did in the second half of 2011 and give me 16 points, 7 or 8 assists, 4 rebounds and a lot of three's, he'll be a steal at No. 33 overall."
52. Marcin Gortat
"So here's when I loved Marcin Gortat: when he was 100% healthy coming into the draft. Here's when I don't love him: right now. I'm writing this just three days after the draft, and a day after he tweeted that he broke one of his thumbs during a preseason game. Talk about a kick to the head. I like Gortat a ton. I like how many minutes he should get now that he's the Suns' starting center, and I love how well he works the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash. I was hoping for a 17-and-9 season with a few blocks, but that injury throws a wrench at my projections. Amazingly, Gortat says he's going to play through the injury, even though this very same injury kept Antawn Jamison and Joakim Noah on the sideline for two months last year. Clearly, they make stronger men in Poland. I'm cautiously hopeful he can still have a good year, but I'm obviously not as thrilled as I was coming into the draft."
61. Andrea Bargagni
"This was the hardest pick for me to make by far. This was like if I was a father, and I had two sons, and both of them had gone overboard on a boat, and I only had one lifesaver to throw. I really like Andrea Bargnani, but man, Kyrie Irving is going to be a beast with the Cavaliers -- maybe not immediately, since Ramon Sessions might have the starting role at the beginning of the year. But that team is just dying for someone to become the alpha dog, and there's no way Dan Gilbert's zeal to replace LeBron James will keep him on the bench for long. So why did I choose Bargnani? Well, he offers a lot of scoring and outside shooting from the center position, which is a rarity. And although in normal circumstances he's a pretty dreadful rebounder, he'll work well with the cadre of rebounders I've already collected. I might have nightmares passing up Irving as the year goes on, but I'm not displeased with Bargnani on any level."
80. Kris Humphries
"It's with my selection of Kris Humphries that my kingdom of rebounders reaches a new level of excess. Yeah, Howard, Z-Bo and Gortat gave me a nice little militia of rebounders, but the addition of Humphries turns it up to 11. This is my dynasty, my empire! I've now surrounded myself with a fort of some of the greatest rebounders in the universe. By my calculation, Howard, Z-Bo and Humphries should all finish in the top 10 in boards, so if I don't win rebounds every single week, I should just quit the sport and take up fantasy hockey, because I clearly don't know what the hell I'm doing. Hopefully, Howard won't get traded to New Jersey this season, because if he does, there's a real good chance he and Humphries could cannibalize each other's rebounding stats to a certain degree. Also, as an unintentional side effect of the big guys I've accrued, I should do well in turnovers this year, since very few of my players spend a lot of time dribbling the ball."
89. Jarrett Jack
"I'm all about Jarrett Jack. When Darren Collison stepped in for Chris Paul a few years ago, he looked like he was going to be a stud. And then when Collison got to Indiana, he quickly regressed to being an average, ordinary point guard. I expect the same thing to happen with J. Jack. Yeah, he's been just an average player on Toronto, Portland and Indiana, but the Hornets are so bereft of players -- especially other point guards -- that I think he can have a sneaky good season. The icing on the cake though is that he has shooting guard eligibility. That allows me to cram as many assists into my lineup as possible, which is never a bad thing."
108. Ricky Rubio
"I'm not going to lie, it's hard to be confident about this pick. Rubio is the brainchild of David Kahn, the village idiot of the NBA; only an utter doofus would gamble the future of his franchise on a European player still unsure about playing in America, only to then immediately give a max contract to a gnat like J.J. Barea the second the European player committed to being in the states. I trust David Kahn like I trust celebrities who claim their Twitter account got hacked, but there has to be something there with Rubio, otherwise there truly is no rational explanation for how overboard Kahn was to draft him in the first round. Am I expecting John Wall-ish rookie numbers? N-n-n-n-noooooooo. But I expect him to get plenty of minutes, if only at the behest of Kahn, who has to realize by now how idiotic people think he is as a GM."
"In a 14-team league, this is where we get into flier territory. The superstars are way, way in the distance, and the consistent role players have gone and left us too. All 14 players chosen in this round are massive question marks: Jamison gets hurt a lot; Dalembert was unsigned going into the draft; Shawn Marion could get usurped by Vince Carter and Lamar Odom; DeJuan Blair doesn't have any ligaments in his knees; Andre Miller is coming off the bench now. And so on. Kirilenko, though, may have been the biggest risk taken in Round 9, not only because he's perennially injured, but because as of now -- three days after the draft, when I'm writing this -- he still isn't on a team. Kirilenko was already playing in Russia, so it's not inconceivable that if he doesn't sign a contract with the New Jersey Nets soon, he could actually skip the NBA altogether and return to his homeland -- which would suuuuuck. Assuming he does sign with the Nets and can stay healthy, he's a nifty guy to have on my fantasy team. But there's a lot of 'ifs' here, perhaps too many."
136. Landry Fields
"Boy, Jimmer looked good in his first preseason game. Granted, it was against the clowns of California, the Golden State Warriors, but I would've taken a good, hard look at him had Andriesse not beat me to the punch. With him out of the way, it was either Landry or Turkoglu; Turk had some bouts of brilliance in his second stint in Orlando, and he could be in a wonderful fantasy situation if he gets moved in a deal with Dwight Howard. But I went with the more polished, more unique, younger Landry Fields, who's just an outstanding fantasy asset when I really think about it. How many shooting guards out there shoot 50% from the floor, hit a bunch of three's, and pull down close to 7 rebounds a game? Just him. And this will only be his second year, meaning he could easily develop into the next Shawn Marion/Andrei Kirilenko glue-guy role player as time goes on."
145. Carl Landry
"I love when Carl Landry is relevant. He's basically the estranged, long lost twin of Andray Blatche. He isn't on the floor to block shots, or steal the ball, or pass the ball, or do anything resembling teamwork. Landry is out there to score, and he's pretty damn good at it when he gets the chance, as seen last year, when he filled in admirably for David West. Will he get that chance this year? My guess is yes. He's got Chris Kaman and Emeka Okafor ahead of him on the depth chart, and they are two of the most fragile, injury-ridden human beings on the planet. Plus, I have a hard time seeing Monty Williams using both Okafor and Kaman on the floor at the same time. I know they're not going to be running as much now that CP3 is gone, but it's hard to have a fast break at all with two 7-footers playing beside each other, both moving at glacial speed, hoping that they don't slip on a banana peel and miss the rest of the season for the tenth year in a row. Okay, Kaman and Okafor aren't that fragile. But I'd stake my life on at least one of them missing a month with some random malady, and that's all Landry will need to become the Andray Blatche of the Western Conference."
164. Beno Udrih
"Why did I initially name my team 'Retcon Apostrophe'? Because I figured I'd build my team around Amar'e Stoudemire if I wasn't in position to draft either Dwight Howard or Kevin Love. It was a random, spur of the moment, pretty pointless decision, and it's no longer a part of my team. Those are all words I could also use to describe my selection of Beno Udrih in Round 12. This would be a different story if I knew he was getting consistent playing time, but he's trapped behind Stephen Jackson and Brandon Jennings at the moment. And while I expect Udrih to have some nice games in Milwaukee, Jackson and Jennings are chuckers of the highest caliber, and I just don't see tiny Beno Udrih being able to do much coming off the bench. And it's a shame, because he has a really nice shooting percentage for a point guard. If nothing else, he's worth immediate ownership the second Brandon Jennings gets hurt again."
173. Darrell Armstrong
"If you're unfamiliar with basketball, here's what you need to know about this pick: Darrell Armstrong hasn't played in the NBA since 2008. He's way, way retired. He had a few serviceable years as a member of the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers, but for the most part, he hasn't been fantasy relevant in an eternity. Plus, he's retired. So, why did I waste my time drafting a retired basketball player who was only just an okay player back in the day? Simple: Darrell Armstrong was my absolute favorite player growing up. He flat out played his ass off every time he was on the court. He and Bo Outlaw remain the only former Magic players to get cheered in their return to Orlando, and that's because -- unlike Shaq and Penny and the others -- they absolutely made the most out of their talent. Go look up the roster list of the 1999-2000 Magic, a team that won 41 games, and explain to me how they did it. I'll tell you how: because of Darrell Armstrong. And because I knew that anyone I selected in the final round would just get immediately dropped the second free-agency opened up, I decided to pay tribute to Armstrong in the lamest, cheesiest manner possible: by drafting him onto my fantasy team, one last time. Of course, if Gilbert Arenas or Taj Gibson or anyone taken after him winds up having a good season, then this was an incredibly stupid, shortsighted tribute. But hey, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."
As you can probably imagine, I feel very differently than I did a month ago on some of these guys. I'm still giddy about having Dwight Howard, even if he'll occasionally miss 18 free-throws in a single game and torpedo my free-throw percentage. But hey, if that's what it takes to get a 45-23-3-2-4 line, I'm happy to make the trade-off. Randolph's totally fluky leg injury is a bummer, but he should be back within a month or so, and with the Grizzlies sucking, they'll have no choice but to play him 40 minutes a night if they want to sneak into the playoffs again.
Kyle Lowry has been a beast, and Ricky Rubio has made me a believer out of David Kahn; Gortat has rebounded nicely since he got the thumb brace off; Humphries hasn't taken off like I thought he would, but he's still averaging a double-double so I can't complain; and Jack and Landry have been exactly what I thought they'd be. I've only had to steer slightly from my original lineup. Armstrong, obviously, got kicked to the curb almost immediately, as did Udrih and Kirilenko, who I had the grave misfortunate of drafting, as he did indeed decide to play in Russia this year.
Who are the newcomers to team "Trade Monster"? Samuel Dalembert (coming off a monster game, so very pleased with him thus far), J.J. Redick (still kicking the tires on him, as he's not the most diverse player in the world), Andris Biedrins (because why not?), Stephen Jackson and Kemba Walker. I got Jackson in a deal for Landry Fields, giving me a solid small forward who can randomly have a monster night, like on Thursday when Jackson had 25-6-and-6. I'm pleased with the deal, although Jackson is something of a turnover machine; I was wrong to assume I'd do good in turnovers, because between Jackson, Rubio and Howard, it's nearly impossible to win that category. The other player I traded for was Walker, who I got when I traded Andrea Bargnani to Mike Gallagher. This was a total spur-of-the-moment decision early in the year, after I came to the sudden realization that Bargnani is exactly the sort of player that I hate -- someone who contributes nothing but points. So I dealt him for Kemba, who looked sharp in his NBA debut and who I assumed would quickly move into the starting lineup. Unfortunately, that isn't the case yet, but I think it's only a matter of time since the 'Cats haven't a prayer of making the playoffs and should turn to the young, talented Kemba Walker in the relative future. (Or at least I hope so.)