Fantasy: Auction Drafting Lessons

I’ll do a quick hit on the latest fantasy blockbuster before talking about auction drafts today, as promised.

Love the One You’re With

The big news in fantasy in the last 24 hours is Kevin Love‘s injury. Kent broke down exactly what it means in this morning’s Fantasy Spin but I wanted to add a few words more of caution. A broken hand or a wrist injury can cause players mechanical problems that linger far longer than the expected time for healing. The shooting motion in particular is delicate; while this is less of a problem for Love (who scores so much around the basket) than it would be for a jumpshooter, it’s still a concern, and he still needs to make his free throws. It’s doubtful that Love will suffer a permanent impairment to his play, he may have more trouble scoring than you’d expect when he does return. Longterm problems are still possible: these injuries can result in deformity, strength or other issues, and someone who rebounds as lustily as Love does works his hands very hard.

Nikola Pekovic, TimberwolvesI heartily endorse Kent’s advocacy of Nikola Pekovic as gaining value from Love’s misfortune. Not only will Pekovic grab more minutes as a result of Love not playing, he’ll also grab more rebounds when he does play. Love is a maniac on the defensive boards and reduces rebounding opportunities for his teammates when he’s out there. Pekovic, though, has the ability to board with the best: he led the NBA last season in percentage of rebounds snagged at the offensive end, but he deferred extensively to Love on the defensive end when both were on the floor. I think he can translate those skills (which aren’t identical, but are obviously quite similar) from the glory end of the floor to the business end of it.

Finally, remember… if you’re in any sort of league that has set pre-ranks and is drafting soon, take Love off the list or demote him far enough. You never do know what’s going to happen that you can’t be there. I’m sure there were a lot of fantasy players last night who were autodrafted Kevin Love because they were called away from the computer!

Do I Hear…

Mostly what I wanted to do today is talk about auction drafting, since I had an auction draft late last week where I dealt with some of the issues that Jeff talked about on Saturday in Part 5 of his Fantasy Basketball Primer. If you’re interested in auction drafting, try reading Jeff’s piece before coming back here.

A couple of background notes. I was underprepared but felt I was doing OK, then had an interesting problem that I had to put behind me the rest of the way. Let’s look at what I ended up with, in a 12-team league with ten starters per team:

11 Russell Westbrook $64
26 Andrew Bogut $14
35 Ty Lawson $42
45 Al Horford $29
54 Monta Ellis $19
62 Ray Allen $5
78 Harrison Barnes $1
108 Luis Scola $2
110 Mo Williams $4
114 Kawhi Leonard $5
115 Lou Williams $12
125 George Hill $2
135 Zaza Pachulia $1

The first number is the nomination order, to give you some idea of how active I was. Budget was $200 for the 13 players, of which 10 can play each day.

I started with two mistakes, but I think I finished well, although there is work left to be done. I don’t think $64 for Westbrook is necessarily a huge misstep. He was rated to exactly that figure on my board; there is a lot of risk there (this is a redraft league) in my mind at that figure. Kevin Love, taken two auctions after Westbrook, was the last of the big-money picks at $67 and from there an inflated market collapsed, with the rest of the top 10 players going in the low fifties. Clearly, a wait to find a frontline star might have netted a profit for me, although I did have the cheapest (although the least attractive) of top 5 players. I suppose the lesson to take home is that the price point between Westbrook and the rest is potentially large.

Following that, I had my first run-in with the auction software. Bidding on Bogut was creeping up and I was trying to move the auction along, so I reached for the “Bid” button. Unfortunately, another owner had taken the bid from about $5 to $13. So instead of a $6 bid or so, I was suddenly committed at $14. (Bogut wasn’t worth that, I thought he was $8 at discount, were I would have stopped bidding, or $10 in value).

Two players in, and I felt I was 0-for-2. In the end, because Love will be hurt, Westbrook might not have been a terrible buy… prices for stars tend, as Jeff indicates, to run in tiers.

From there, I felt better. Jeff talked about not getting caught up with “inflation” concepts in his piece. I think that’s generally good advice. I do, however, watch the pricing early on and try to wait things out where prices are too high. I did think that prices were trending high and tried to force myself to wait, but with all the attractive players being nominated heavily from the beginning, I was making more than just “enforcing” bids during much of this time. Like Jeff suggests, I always try to enforce prices to keep my fellow owners honest.

A particularly important part of enforcing prices is that it prevents any of your competitors from running away with a monster draft. I was pleased with this; I think a couple of the owners will probably have had better drafts than I did, but no one ran away with it on draft day.

I ended up with two good midlevel guys at prices I projected as good bargains, including Al Horford but particularly Monta Ellis. I left money over for Lou Williams as well, which turned out to be a good idea because he was the dreaded last guy of a tier. The $12 was a slight overspend but it did left others with worse options. I did employ the $2 endgame as well, a move I am very fond of and am happy to see Jeff approve of, and managed to get George Hill.

Finally, you’ll note how PG-heavy this draft is. I am happy with that; there are plenty of utility slots in this league where I can employ these players (it is a head-to-head format) until trade opportunities come around. Point guard is a deep fantasy spot and I would rather have the better players late on in a draft, rather than the less good players where positions are scarce. At any rate daily lineups with a utility spot or two allow you to play almost any combination of players together while you let your roster shake out. I think being point guard-rich will help me deal for a better quality of forwards than I could have bid on.

All in all, this draft was a reminder to sharpen my game somewhat. I did averagely overall, but will be better in my next auction draft. Good luck with your drafts. Finally, don’t neglect the opportunity to take part in the $1,000 Sheridan Hoops Fantasy Contest at FanDuel on October 31st. My team is in (subject to a whole lot of change) and I hope to see you there.

Thanks to Keith Allison for the photo of Nikola Pekovic


  1. A.J. says

    Allow me to offer you a drafting lesson: A guy can’t get better stats because another guy is hurt if he himself is hurt and not playing. Pekovic has spent his entire NBA career hurt, the same way he was always hurt in the Euroleague. Speaking of fantasy, you seem like the type of guy that would believe if Delonte West was given starter’s minutes in your little fantasy league, he’d turn sane.

    • Bruce Wrigley says

      A.J., Pekovic is currently healthy. Everyone says he looks great: take with a pinch of salt, sure. I’d personally hope that the surgery to remove the bone spurs will put paid to his ankle issues. Foot and ankle injuries are always harder on big men, but I’d far rather an ankle than a foot. More importantly, even when gimpy (which for now, at least, he isn’t) he’s an incredible impact player.

      I’m not seeing how he was constantly hurt in the Euroleague. He had three straight healthy years, then had a leg injury with Panathinaikos three years ago that kept him out of a few games.

      As for Delonte West, he is bipolar and I hope he is able to manage his emotional issues, which aren’t fun to joke about. West has had starter minutes before, wasn’t really any good, is getting older and doesn’t appeal to me for a host of reasons beyond his psychological burdens. I wish him well.

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