Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In this year's basketball news you could not possibly care about

There Goes My Man
The NBA auction league went away suddenly this off-season for reasons we don't need to discuss here, so I regrouped with something simple: a redraft head to head league, serpentine draft, eight categories and simple and fun. Same stakes, more smack talk, mostly guys I see all the time, with some folks from the league's distant past. I wound up with 14 teams, 12 players, which means the waiver wire is going to be pretty thin, but that's all to the good. It's not as serious as the auction league, and that is fine, too. Not having to sacrifice a weekend of prep and cleaning to make my Cave host a draft is also time back in my life.

The only problem with a serpentine draft in hoop, and it's a major one, is that there are 6 to 7 guys that are just in a different tier than everyone else, and you should have to pay more to get them. With the 10th pick, I knew I wasn't getting one of those guys. So my early draft had to carry more of an across the board feel, with the late picks being more about dice rolls. Here's where I wound up.

Sexing Mutumbos
1.    (10)    Jimmy Butler (Chi - SG,SF)
2.    (19)    Al Horford (Atl - PF,C)
3.    (38)    Mike Conley (Mem - PG)
4.    (47)    Hassan Whiteside (Mia - C)
5.    (66)    Danilo Gallinari (Den - SF)
6.    (75)    Elfrid Payton (Orl - PG)
7.    (94)    D'Angelo Russell (LAL - PG)
8.    (103)    Eric Gordon (NO - SG)
9.    (122)    Julius Randle (LAL - PF)
10.    (131)    Harrison Barnes (GS - SF,PF)
11.    (150)    Willie Cauley-Stein (Sac - C)
12.    (159)    Tony Wroten (Phi - PG,SG)

I know this is going to sound like BS, but I was honestly deciding between Butler and Horford with the first round pick... so I was thrilled to have Big Al still available in the second. Butler was my first pick under the idea that he had the most upside of anyone in his tier, with Chicago going up-tempo and Jimmy rarely getting off the floor. I doubt that he delivers top 6 value without an injury, but he's also the second-best SG in a league where SG can be surprisingly thin on multi-cat goodness.

Horford is only limited by his smart team, which limits his minutes... but you've got a big who does a fair amount of everything, even shoot threes, and doesn't kill you at the line. I also think the Hawks will have to shorten their rotation more this year, so I see potential for growth.

In the third, I was in a terrible position; waiting a point guard before things got thin, and waiting forever for the guy I wanted (Conley) to get to me. PGs that rank below Mike kept going off the board (Bledsoe, Oladipo, Lowry, even the injured Kyrie Irving), and I was certain that I was about to get poached, with no clear next choice... but the two guys before me went for bigs, and I took Conley with glee. He's just solid, with good percentages and enough threes and assists to keep me competitive. On the wrap-around, I really wanted Chris Bosh, but he went three slots before I picked. Whiteside isn't a sure thing, but there were a few months when he was ridiculously productive, and there's no doubt that (a) the talent is there, and (b) the Heat are going to do everything possible to get him going. Too much upside to ignore.

The fifth round pick, Danilo Gallinari, made me very happy. If Danilo can stay healthy, he could easily be a top-20 value, because Denver has literally no other possibilities. He's going to get as many minutes and opportunities as he can stand, and the last three months of his 2014-15 shows he can handle it. In the sixth, with any remaining point guards looking thin, I got the last one on my board that I wanted, Orlando's Elfrid Payton. He's worrisome in terms of shooting, but multi-cat otherwise, and young points sometimes are able to grow into a touch, especially on penetration.

With the first pick of the back half of the draft, I had to start going for more upside, and D'Angelo Russell was the most intriguing player on my board. I was also frankly glad to avoid Deron Williams, who went at 91 and just feels spent, and even in a redraft league, I have to go for some young sexiness. Russ might get his minutes jerked around to start, but the Lake Show is going to be horrible, and youth will be served, especially in the second half of the year. In the 8th, I grabbed Eric Gordon, who was good for me through much of last year. He might get a bit poached by a recovering Jrue Holiday, but his game is too smart to just go into remission.

In the ninth, I hated to double up on Young Lakers, but the preseason buzz around Julius Randle was too strong to avoid, and the other Laker bigs shouldn't keep him from minutes. The tenth round was the draft's first absolute poach, in that Otto Porter's under the radar minutes and multi-cat goodness went one freaking pick before I could take him. Harrison Barnes is a tolerable consolation prize, and gives me something to do while I watch my second-favorite team in the Association. It's also a contract year for him, so there's a reasonable chance he delivers more value, in less minutes, than Porter. Still, I wanted Otto.

The 11th round was nuts, in that multiple long shot lottery picks went like popcorn in front of me -- Aaron Gordon, Nik Stauskas, Frank Kaminsky -- before I could pick. Better to have it happen late than early. Willie Cauley-Stein is supposed to start for the Kings, who also might be so horrible that they just play kids who care, rather than lose and plod with Kosta Koufos. At this point in the draft, you're just hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. My draft ended with Tony Wroten, a potential volume play and still young enough that some of his horrible flaws might fade. It also gave me a guy to care about from the local laundry, and if I'm lucky, someone I can stash on the injury list. (Which turned into a stash of the Magic's rookie shooting guard, Mario Hezonja. Dude has no conscience, so he's pretty much a comp for Wroten.)

I liked my draft, and think my team will compete... but the lack of a true multi-cat star takes away all margin for error, and I'm going to need a deep pick or three to emerge. If I'm going to win, it's going to be with players seven through nine, not one through three. And by all means, get in a league if you aren't in one already. The Association is just too much fun to ignore, and having fantasy game from January to March is so much better than, well, not.

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