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Fantasy Basketball: Scout, Like Jean Louise Finch

by Dave Fuller

Fantasy basketball is similar to Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird in more ways than you might think. The word "scout" is involved, and you really have to understand the subtleties of the game to get the most out of it. Well, maybe you're smarter or more perceptive than me, and you can pull more connections out of the two than I can. If that's the case, you'll probably excel in what I'm going over today.

I'd like to think I fully understood TKaM last time I read it, but there will probably always be nuances between what Lee meant and what I get out of it. But then again, when doesn't that happen? Anyway, I face the same issues in fantasy basketball when I attempt to scout how players are developing or currently performing. I admit I'll probably never understand the things that allow professional scouts to project the careers of players coming out of the NCAA. And I don't expect to. Instead, I'll use what I've learned to get a sense of how well an NBA player will perform in the short term. Even there I'm no expert, but any information I can take out of the game is crucial to further develop my all-around fantasy game. The same goes for anyone who plays.

Let's look at Monta Ellis as an example to explain. Click through here to read one scout's take on career potential before he was drafted in 2005. Right away you can see they were a little off on their ranking of Ellis using their "Six-Star Rating System" based on what we've seen from him so far. After that, their take on his overall strengths and weaknesses is dead-on. From what I've seen (which they're also dead-on about), he has quickly developed into a big-time scorer, has a silky-smooth jumper with a fantastic stroke, and his all-around game really compliments his incredible understanding of the team dynamic. After last night's game vs. the Nets on TNT, I can also assure you his development and maturity growth has occurred stunningly quick. Ironic, that's exactly what Ellis is.

So, what can you or I take from this information? Quite a bit. Sure, Ellis isn't long like a Danny Granger or Kevin Durant, so it's not like you can easily project him to be a big blocks or steals guy. It's also difficult to project just how well he'll be able to adjust when it comes to scoring against bigger players (almost everyone in the league compared to him).

But since hind-sight is 20/20, we can see why his skills have developed to this level based on his scouting report. It doesn't mention how quick he is, but most scouting reports include details like that. Knowing this, it would have been easy to expect at least around a steal per game with good minutes solely because of his ability to out-run some defenders. The fact that they list his strengths as unselfishness, shooting, and an all-around game allow us to figure he should be able to get minutes due to the fact that he can play a team game at a level that deserves at least some minutes. They harp on his ability to shoot, so we have to assume he'll be able to at least be able to score from outside the paint when set up nicely. This could bring him low double-digit points, or even better if he can learn to create his own shot. His small size should logically inhibit him from posting big rebound totals, so there's another thing we can gather.

And really, even a relatively basic projection like that that you can compile by looking at others' scouting reports will be helpful. We can likely come to expect the "stats" we listed him as being able to put up, and know that everything else is gravy. Once he starts putting doing what we expected, you can put him on your radar to further witness his development. That's where personal scouting comes into play. With a player like Ellis, you can just tell he's escalating his game to such a level that he could garner All-Star considerations as early as next season or 2010. And he's only, what, 22?

Ellis has been gravy to every Warriors fan, but what becomes important are his fantasy contributions. Like I said, a combination of scouting reports can allow you to project his statistics for the short term, so that's what I'll do now based on what I know. Those who are into fantasy basketball should like these numbers, and they're the kind that should increase Ellis' value throughout the second half. Valuable information like this allows one to trade for a player before he truly explodes, thus increasing the profit margin. And this was just one simple example. There are truly endless possibilities, and it all starts with a little Scout.

Projected 2007-'08 2nd Half Statistics -- Monta Ellis :: PG/SG, Golden State Warriors
35.0+ min. | 20.0+ pts. | 50.0+% FG | 80.0+% FT | 0.2 3's. | 4.0+ reb. | 3.0+ ast. | 1.0+ stl. | 0.2 blk. | -2.0 TO