The first time Wiggins guards LeBron in an NBA game, it's gonna be surreal. I know, because I just did it.
Andy Behrens is my favourite Fantasy sports writer on the planet. Love his blend of comedy & analysis. Brandon Funston is a legend. Dalton Del Don is a bad motherfinder.
And now they're my competition.
Don't get me wrong: Everybody's awesome. Andy Behrens is as funny in the Draft Room as he is in his columns. Brandon Funston is the most organized commish I've ever seen. Dalton Del Don (best name ever) is a Radiohead fan. My favourite band.
Everybody in Yahoo's Friends & Family fantasy basketball league is super nice.
They're also stone cold killers.
I've never been in a draft where every single person had at least as much knowledge as me - if not more.
The first time I played Fantasy Basketball, I won 20/22 weeks and won the championship with ease.
I've been the quintessential "smartest guy in the room" ever since.
That all changed at 4:15pm EST last Friday afternoon.
My draft analysis will be more of a draft recap. I'll go through my rationale for every single pick in every single round - and talk briefly about a few picks my Fantasy colleagues made.
It's not easy doing your first experts draft with the best Fantasy Basketball writers in the world - and finding out your draft position is being squarely sandwiched between Andy Behrens on one side, Brandon Funston on the other.
Both those guys got me several times during the draft - picking precisely the target I wanted. 1 pick before I wanted him.
Well played, gentlemen.
I wouldn't have expected anything less.
With that said, I can play.
First thing that blew my mind: Nobody made any bad picks. No head scratchers, no "didn't realize he was injured", no random selection to be fixed 'later'.
People got the players they wanted - unless another manager took him first.
That was my first lesson in an experts league: Be decisive.
I had a pretty strong strategy going in, and I stuck to it. Even pulled off a couple late value picks that got me some respect in the Draft Room. (Brook Lopez at 92 was pretty memorable.)
While I know I'll learn a lot from these guys in the next 25 weeks, I'm not intimidated. I'm the rookie in the room, but I have college pedigree.
As a fellow Canadian, I'm the Andrew Wiggins of the Yahoo F & F league. And I'm aiming for ROY.
So let's take a look at these picks...
Round 1, #5 overall.
Pick: Chris Paul
Never in my life have I had a chance to draft KD, and turned it down! In any other 1-year league, I would have taken him. But not in an experts league. If I get off to a bad start for a few weeks, if Durant's injury goes on longer than expected, my year is over.
So I went with the safe choice, and took the best PG in the game.
Round 2, #20 overall.
Pick: Dirk Nowitzki
I was targeting CB4 (he's gonna have a monster year as The Man in Miami), but Andy Behrens stuck it to me. I still ended up with the undervalued Dirk Nowitzki (had him at #16 overall in my personal top 100), but I knew that Behrens' theft would be the first of many...
Round 3, #29 overall.
Pick: Joakim Noah
Had my eyes on Kobe (I'm expecting a HUGE year from him), and Brandon Funston said "not in my house" (complete with requisite finger wag). 1 pick before me. Again. Noah's steady though, and balanced my team nicely. I'm a little worried about Pau Gasol's presence on Chicago, but Noah always gets his defensive stats...
Round 4, #44 overall.
Pick: Dwyane Wade
I wanted DeRozan, 1 pick before me: Andy Behrens strikes again. I took D-Wade as a consolation prize - but winced when I did it. I've got him at #21 overall in my top 100, but he's obviously a major injury risk. I don't like risks in the first 5 rounds of ANY draft, but for D-Wade's upside, it was worth it.
Round 5, #53 overall.
Pick: Wes Matthews
First time in 4 rounds I actually got the guy I targeted: Wes Matthews. I had him at #54 overall in my top 100 - almost EXACTLY where I got him. Eerie... Great value in the 2014/15 volatile SF slot - and his SG eligibility makes for a nice insurance policy for D Wade's health.
Round 6, #68 overall
Pick: Jimmy Butler
Behrens got me a third time in a row. I was targeting the ageless Tim Duncan, Andy snagged him 1 pick before I could. I was happy getting Jimmy Butler - his huge preseason makes me think Jimmy Butler is going off this year - but I was looking for more balance in my squad. Behrens stealing Timmy from my hands caused me to switch strategies mid-draft, and I essentially began punting blocks... Luckily, I had built in these types of transactions into my initial strategy: Where I purposely drafted players with NO NEGATIVES. I wanted players that fit into ANY strategy - should a punt strategy reveal itself to be necessary. From this point on, I basically went without blocks...
Round 7, #77 overall.
Pick: Tony Parker
I wanted another PG (as they are hard to get in the late rounds), and was choosing between Rondo (unbelievably still on the board after the first 75) and the reliable but underwhelming Tony Parker. Rondo's injury history in conjunction with my NO NEGATIVES strategy (Rondo's FT% is a major drag) made me opt for another of Popovich's ageless trifecta. Parker doesn't get me as many goodies as R2, but he won't hurt me anywhere. Fit into my strategy perfectly...
Round 8, #92 overall.
Pick: Brook Lopez
My best pick of this draft was in round 8: Brook Lopez. I had him ranked at #33 overall in my top 100, but his latest preseason injury clearly had everybody spooked. I certainly did not intend to draft Brook Lopez, but you're talking about potential 2nd round value out of an 8th round pick. I got a little chatter going when I snagged him with this late round value pick, and felt I earned some respect with that one.
Round 9, #101 overall.
Pick: Trey Burke
I was pretty happy to snag another high upside player with 101. I had Trey at #88 in my top 100, and was absolutely THRILLED to see he was still around. Especially when so many young guns started flying off the board in round 6. (I thought Pianowski's K.J. McDaniels at #64 overall was a reach, but there's certainly usage to be had in Philly.) I was choosing between Burke and Avery Bradley, and 3 picks later, former Fake Teams writer Michael Gallagher snagged Avery. Ah, right: Experts league.
Round 10, #116 overall.
Pick: John Henson
At this point in the draft, I was pretty resigned to punting blocks. But I figured I should find some anyway. Who knows? A healthy Brook Lopez could keep my team honest there, and I could always find somebody from FA in-season. I was surprised that John Henson was still on the board. I know the Larry Sanders block party appears to be in full swing, but I had Henson at #96 overall on my top 100. At #6 in the NBA in block % last year, I knew John was my guy. He's also got the chance to put up huge overall numbers after a breakout season last year...
Round 11, #125 overall.
Pick: Nikola Pekovic
Another pick I'm particularly proud of. While I wrote Pekovic as a sleeper in an article recently, I didn't have a need at the C position. But I looked around at pick 125 - and he was still on the board! This is a guy who finished #19 in the NBA in PER last season! I had him at #78 overall on my top 100, and despite not really needing that position, I couldn't pass up potential 6th round value in the 11th round. With K-Love gone, there's opportunity in that frontcourt. Lots of usage available. My readers have been grilling me over including Pekovic as a sleeper - and are adamantly behind Gorgui Dieng. But my argument is that a $12 million/year player isn't going to lose touches. At the very least, they'd have to keep his numbers up for a midseason trade. I know the risks. I'm going in with my eyes open here. But at 125, I'm comfortable with that. (Chris Liss at RotoWire took Dieng 2 picks later. Experts league.)
Round 12, #140 overall.
Pick: Danilo Gallinari
Another late pick I'm pretty proud of. Fantasy beast track record, recent injury issues. He's put up numbers in the preseason, so I'm certainly encouraged by that. And if he doesn't pan out, hell, that's what the waiver wire is for... Still, you're talking about a player who is only 1 year removed from a 55 overall ranking for average stats on Yahoo. And he's only 25 years old. While most people view 'sleepers' as synonyms for 'rookies' or 'sophomores', a rebound after a major injury is also a possibility. Especially for a player with such a storied statistical track record... (Justin Phan at Basketball Monster took Henry Sims this round. I still don't know who that is, but as last year's F & F champion, I'm going to Google Sims right now... Phan had a really fantastic draft, and he's a manager I'm going to be watching closely.)
Round 13, #149 overall.
Pick: Kendall Marshall
Easily my worst pick of the draft, but at 149, who cares? With that said, I'm still high on Kendall this year. It's mostly instinctual. By all accounts, Kendall Marshall is NOT the starting PG. But the similarities to his new coach Jason Kidd are too perfect: Both pass-first, both poor shooters from the field, both with 3-point ability and both with pretty decent size for an NBA point guard (both 6'4" even!). Is it impossible to think that J-Kidd would want a player most resembling himself to run the team's offense? Maybe I've been reading too many comic books, but the psychological architecture here is just too perfect... I'm gonna hold Kendall for a couple weeks unless/until other team needs become apparent... [Razzball's Otto Porter Jr. selection at 155 made me a little jealous too. But seeing that he just dropped OPJ in favour of Spencer Hawes (not sure how we missed him in the draft), I'm seriously considering putting in a waiver claim. I really like Otto's situation this year. I listed him as an honourable mention in my Breakouts column - BEFORE the Beal injury...]
Again, it's hard to argue with any of these managers. While some made picks I didn't agree with, they weren't made in ignorance. They were made in line with clear strategies for respective parties. With that said, here are a few picks I found curious:
Michael Gallagher took KD in Round 1. Pretty risky in an experts league...
Andy Behrens took Dragic in Round 3. There are too many PGs in PHX. Somebody's gonna get squeezed out, or all of them are gonna get compromised...
Andy Behrens took Nerlens Noel in Round 5. I think that was a reach.
Scott Pianowski took K.J. McDaniels in Round 6. I already mentioned it, but thought I might as well include it in this section too.
Adam Levitan from Rotoworld took Patrick Beverley at 73. I had him at #95 in my top 100.
Alexander took Elfrid Payton at 87. Not sure his value will be that high this year.
(I'm really just nitpicking here, and I don't really KNOW, but in an experts draft, it's not just about taking good players: It's about taking players relative to ADP.)
In summation, one of the best afternoons of my life.
Really friendly group of assassins. I'm curious to see if the civilities dissipate as the season progresses? (You know, men & competition, all that...) But it's definitely a good start.
And hey, Andy Behrens and Brandon Funston made a sandwich - with Bobman as the meat.
That's gotta be worth something, right?