Fantasy: 2011-12 Second Half Stats

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There are a lot of factors to balance in trying to determine what fantasy players to target during drafts, and it does sometimes feel like juggling cats. One of the markers that is sometimes unremarked, but that is helpful to use when studying players for drafting in fantasy is to look at what players did in the second half of the year before. This is particularly useful in predicting performance in the upcoming season for three reasons:

  • players are likely to be used in patterns and circumstances more similar to those in the second half of the previous season than the previous season overall;
  • players prone to improvement or decline (through age, experience, longterm health issues or simply through the natural process of making adjustments to their game) are likely to show improvement or decline within the previous season, including from first half to second half; and
  • particularly with regards to 2011-12, players had a long offseason break and abbreviated preseason, so second-half stats would be more reflective of performance under normal circumstances.

There are many reasons why you should be cautious of such numbers, of course. Injuries mount in the second half of many seasons, so rotations are disturbed. The sample size of the stats is smaller than a full season so statistics are less reliable as a predictor of actual quality of play or of player quality.

What we find in other sports I have studied, baseball in particular, is that examining both full-season and second-half stats are marginally better predictors overall of the following season than the overall stats alone. Both need to be looked at (along with much more, naturally) for a comprehensive picture, but second-half stats are at least useful, and where players have demonstrated marked improvement it’s well worth looking at the reasons why.

Photo of Ersan Ilyasova by Klearchos KapoutsisWith all this in mind, I thought I would share some of the numbers I crunched from last year’s second-half statistics. If you want an easy place to acquire last year’s second-half only stats (in this case, from each team’s last 33 games played) you can get them in raw format from Doug’s stats page. (Always an excellent resource for raw stats; a very useful feature during the season is his “Last 10 Games” stats compilation).

What I will share here is a custom measure tailored for a standard format, nine-category league (FG%, FT%, 3PTM, PTS, REB, AST, BLK, STL, TO). I obtain this custom measure by looking only at the better slice of NBA players, so only the 160 players with the most second-half-of-the-season minutes, plus a few starters who didn’t make that category. In this case, we study 198 players in all. Normally, for a smaller league, I use a few less players than that, but essentially the 198 top players are pretty much the fantasy universe for most leagues.

The rating (which is far from the only one I use, but is one which I find easy to calculate and helpful) is the total number of standard deviations, in each category, that the player is above the average for this group of better players. What I’m trying to get at is what a player is doing to help you win or lose each of the nine categories while he is on the floor.

Crucially, these are per-minute stats. Since I am looking primarily at second-half performance as the relevant indicator here, how well a player played, I find per-minute stats the most useful. Since I develop my own measure of how much each player is likely to be used in the coming season, I concentrate on quality instead of quantity. The percentage measures are weighted by how many shots a player takes, so that high-volume shooters move up or down on that basis. So I measure total successful makes above or below average expectation: for this group of players, it was 46% for field goals and 77% for free throws.

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Fantasy: Auction Drafting Lessons

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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

Fantasy: Camp Battles

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In today’s column I am going to take a look at how some of the most interesting camp battles are turning out. It is very early but it’s worth looking at the impressions of people who are watching teams closely, in order to get a sense of who is gaining and who might be losing ground. If you have an early draft (and I’ve already had one and have another coming up on Friday) then it’s well worth passing on some players who don’t have a safe job and who aren’t impressing early.

There are always lots of good reasons for not picking a guy. This is one of the lessons of many years of drafting that you should take on; a wart can turn into an infection pretty quickly. While it’s true that a lot of fantasy work is old-fashioned prospecting (a lot of spadework and sluicing, hoping to turn up one nugget) you need to make sure you’re looking in the right areas. There’s no shame in passing on one opportunity in the hope of finding a better one somewhere else.

Golden State

Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times is reporting that Harrison Barnes will be part of the regular rotation and remains in the hunt for a starting spot. Thompson reports that Barnes will start tonight, and it’s all part of a desire by Marc Jackson to see how he works with the starters.

This is something you’ll see a lot of during preseason, and something you should be aware of if you’re not used to following preseason games. Players will be shifted up and down the lineup a lot, and it’s not because they are in the doghouse or necessarily even being rewarded; coaches want to see how various players perform together as units.

Barnes, obviously, is a talent. He is up against Brandon Rush at the moment; while Rush improved by miles last season and may have the inside track early as a more experienced player more likely to provide presence on an iffy defensive club, it’s clear that the Warriors view Barnes as an immediate competitor for his minutes.

Orlando Magic

Not surprisingly, Jacque Vaughn is trying to keep order amidst roster chaos in Orlando. The Associated Press is reporting that amidst injuries, though, E’Twaun Moore made a strong and impressive showing in the preseason contest against the Hornets. Moore, not surprisingly, didn’t get much of a run last year with the Celts and he didn’t play well when he did, struggling to run the offense although that can be hard to do in garbage time. Learning to play the point at the NBA level is tough; Moore was a two-guard at Purdue. If he sticks, though, and if he can learn as fast as a 16/7 game indicates he might, there isn’t any reason he can’t take more time from Jameer Nelson. Nelson is 30 (hard to believe) and there’s mileage on him, as a little man in a big man’s game.

Similarly to the Golden State situation mentioned above, according to the AP Vaughn is assessing all the combinations of starters and so expects his big-man rotation to appear in flux through the preseason. I think Gustavo Ayon is worth keeping an eye on there, by the way. Ayon was very effective for the Hornets last season, passes very well for a guy his size, hits his shots and knows his game.

Washington Wizards

If you’re thinking of drafting John Wall (or might already have him) you will no doubt be looking for an early-season replacement while Wall rests and rehabs the stress injury to his knee. One potential solution, especially in a deep-league situation, is to grab his replacement in D.C.

Michael Lee of the Washington Post reports that the early indications are that the replacement may be Shelvin Mack, the former Butler Bulldog who backed Wall up for the most part last season, but it may also be A.J. Price or veteran free agent Jannero Pargo.

I like Mack, who shot poorly but not embarrassingly last year but was otherwise competent, and have always been a skeptic of Pargo, who in my view won’t be as good a defender as Mack is (he lacks the size and strength). But a team like the Wizards may decide they want the veteran presence while Wall recuperates, and so both might get forced into some sort of jobshare. If that’s the case, then Mack doesn’t seem like a useful add, and it’s enough reason to be skeptical of the better player for now.

Boston Celtics

In my view, the most exciting early-season roster battle is shaping up in Boston, where as Scott Souza of the Metrowest Daily News reports, Jared Sullinger has been impressing everyone in training camp and has likely carved himself a roster spot already. The thing with Sullinger is not only that he seems likely to impact the rotation, he may be working himself into major minutes, having hit the ground running and impressing Rajon Rondo as “the smartest rookie we’ve had”.

Sullinger’s competition for minutes seems most likely to be Brandon Bass, who I didn’t think settled too well in Boston last season. Sullinger offers a bit of extra size at the power forward spot, something that might well be coveted as the Celtics try to ease the 82-game pounding that Kevin Garnett will take, and also has considerably more offensive rebounding ability.

Why is that key? Boston finished last in the NBA in offensive rebounds by a country mile last season. It’s an area of extreme weakness that they will be looking to shore up. Not only does Sullinger have the talent and skill as well as the body to be a good offensive rebounder, he obviously relishes it as a look at the last two years’ Ohio State games will tell you.

Whisper it softly… but I think this guy should (might not, but should) become a starter from day one.

$1000 FanDuel Fantasy Contest

Sheridan Hoops readers can face off against me, Kent, and hundreds of other readers and fantasy players, at our partner site FanDuel on Hallowe’en, October 31st. I have registered and selected a lineup (featuring Kobe, Nash, Andrew Bynum, and the majestic power of Landry Fields) although I likely will be changing it obsessively 400 times between now and then. Sometimes, you just can’t wait for the season to begin.

FanDuel is worth a spin even if you don’t like to play for money. I am going to be trying some weekly leagues once the season begins, and I will update you on how those go.

Thanks to the United States Navy for the photo of Harrison Barnes, and for much else besides.

Fantasy Spin: October 4, 2012

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Yesterday, Kent posted the results of our Elimination Roto Draft (and here is part II), a 20-team league with a wonderful quirk that Jeff, Kent and I are all members of. This is my first year in Elimination Roto for basketball but I’ve participated in a similar baseball league.

The format imposes a couple of unusual constraints on drafting, but generally the lessons we can draw from this draft are similar to those for normal roto drafts. I wanted to draw three out specifically, from my experience Tuesday night, that are applicable to all fantasy drafting. I have to relearn these all the time, as I found out to my cost; and also somewhat to my benefit.

I spoke in the comments to Kent’s piece about the difficulties of picking on the ends of a snake draft, which is that you will target players and never have a chance to draft them. This is especially true of snake drafts in deep leagues; with 32 players going between some of my selections, there was simply no way to obtain some guys in an advantageous position.

My draft went as follows:

  • 17 Kyrie Irving
  • 24 Blake Griffin
  • 57 Tyson Chandler
  • 64 Tyreke Evans
  • 97 Lou Williams
  • 104 George Hill
  • 137 Drew Gooden
  • 144 Thomas Robinson
  • 177 Nick Young
  • 184 Zaza Pachulia
  • 217 Amir Johnson
  • 224 C.J. Miles
  • 257 Enes Kanter
  • 264 Josh Childress
  • 297 Jermaine O’Neal
  • 304 Earl Watson

The first lesson isn’t one of the three, it’s lesson zero: be lucky. There’s no substitute! As Jeff has noted in the comments to Kent’s piece, there was no reason to hope or expect Kyrie Irving to slide to the #17 pick. The upside risk here is tremendous, and I was just lucky that he fell.

Lesson One: Understand Your Format

20-team elimination roto, as I mentioned earlier, has some interesting constraints. A good example of how those impact a draft is how it impacts my draft of Thomas Robinson in the 8th round, 144th overall (right around the end of a standard format 12-team league like a Yahoo! public league).

You need to survive the early months in elimination roto, because finishing in the bottom two spots in any month ends your season. However, you want to be able to save games played early in order to move up in the mini-drafts. Therefore while you’d like to take some players likely to start slow (or who will be hurt early) and stash them for when you’ll be piling up numbers, if you do too much of it you will be burned.

Both of those went into picking Thomas Robinson at 144. He’s probably a little better than that; I think of him as a 10th- or 11th-rounder in a normal 12-team league, so around #110-125 overall. But since I was picking him with a top 8 pick I had a dilemma. Was it too early to take a guy who might be mostly sitting and learning in November and December? Knowing I had good power forward coverage in Drew Gooden and Blake Griffin, I felt safer in taking him. I think he’ll pay dividends down the line. But still, it’s going to hurt to have my #8 rotation guy playing light minutes early in the season, and I may need to scramble if I get out of the gate poorly.

The same need for knowledge of your format applies to your categories in roto or head-to-head. I think Tyson Chandler at 57 is something of an overreach most of the time, but crucially our league counts both offensive and defensive rebounds, something not every league does (the default Yahoo! public league settings, for example, count only total rebounds). I felt much better taking Chandler there and will benefit from his high field-goal percentage as well, particularly since I have some shot-happy guards.

Think early, before the draft, about your format and let it help plan your strategy. This draft came so early that I hadn’t really done that yet, although I improvised reasonably well. I still left myself short; I had a panic buy of C.J. Miles in the 12th round because I needed someone to go to for minutes and counting stats in case several of my risky picks don’t pan out early. (Early in the season is the hardest time to scour the waiver wire).

Lesson Two: Draft What You Know

This was one thing I did well. The most noticeable thing about this draft is that I have already written about seven of my top eight draftees in this space in the past month.

Warren Buffett, in his Chairman’s Letters, writes often about how when he is picking public stocks to purchase for Berkshire Hathaway, he usually disdains the opportunity of picking tech stocks. This hurts his performance against the market in some years and helps him in many more. Why no tech stocks? It’s nothing to do with the companies themselves or any opinion about the long-term value of the industry. It’s simply because he doesn’t understand the tech very well, and if he doesn’t understand the tech he doesn’t understand the business, and if he doesn’t understand the business he can’t evaluate the price.

In other words, buy what you know.

(By the way, those Chairman’s Letters are a fantastic education in finance as well as in critical thinking. A great read.)

The lesson for fantasy players in a draft is obvious. You will often have much better knowledge about some players than others. Use it! In writing previews of the Pacific and Central divisions, I did a lot of research on the players. In writing a Jump Ball on Lou Williams, I did the same. In your case, you’ll have done the same to a greater or lesser degree: you read about or watch some players much more than others. You know who is a bargain and who is a dog; so when you are evaluating those players, you have much more price certainty. Yes, ultimately the market knows a lot, but it doesn’t know everything. It’s important for you to check your knowledge and understanding against what others know and to try to be objective. At the same time, you’ll know best — sometimes better than anyone else in your draft — about certain players. Use that advantage. You can draft perfectly well in a fantasy draft, for example, by studying one conference twice as hard and the other one hardly at all.

I followed the same principle in taking Amir Johnson in round eleven. As a Raptors fan, I think I have a good idea of his strengths and weaknesses, those of his teammates, and how that is likely to play out during this season. I draft him with eyes open (and at any rate, most of you won’t need to evaluate the 217th pick since you won’t have one) and knowing he can help balance a potential weakness thanks to my high-risk pick of Thomas Robinson.

Don’t be afraid of your knowledge. It’s all you have.

Lesson Three: Plan for Emergencies

You’ll have noticed that I dribbled the last three picks off my foot out of bounds. In mitigation: I wasn’t there, folks.

Things happen in fantasy drafts. Your computer goes ‘futz’. Your wife or girlfriend or boyfriend drags you away. Or, in my case, I had to attend to the children’s bedtime. And yes, I had lost track of time. So I hit the autopick box in the Yahoo! draft widget, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best.

But I was in the midst of making a list for the end of the draft when I did it. This was shortly before the Kanter pick; I had him top of my queue and was hoping he’d drop. I love Kanter, who had an extremely effective backup role last season and is a developing offensive threat; other than Irving and Evans, he’s my favorite pick of the draft.

But the rest of my queue was a disaster, because it wasn’t sorted and I had just started pulling guys off. As a result, I lost out on several players I’d rather have taken, such as Charlie Villanueva and Jordan Hill. Childress and O’Neal were on my list to look for with the 16th and last pick; instead I had them in Rounds 14 and 15 and got an Earl Watson autopick from the computer with the last one. In the grand scheme of things, the 14th, 15th and 16th picks in this format don’t amount to anything because even if they start the season with me they will be gone after the first month. So I use them to take upside players, to take a chance on something good. Now I’ll need to scour the waiver wire, although I’m keeping Childress, a talent who has lost his way, for the time being.

Plan for emergencies. Keep that queue full of players as you draft and make sure they are reasonably sorted. If I’d been dragged away in the sixth round and not the 13th, I’d have faced drafting disaster.

Thanks to Dirk Hansen for the picture of Thomas Robinson.

Fantasy Spin: September 28, 2012 – Part I

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Central Division Fantasy Preview Part I

The Central is a tough division to handicap behind the overwhelming favorite, Indiana. Thankfully we as fantasy players don’t have to predict the outcomes of the games. The Central probably has less frontline fantasy talent than any other division this season.

So far this week, Kent looked at the Atlantic and Southwest, Jeff raved about the the Northwest and I visited the Pacific.

There is plenty to choose from in fantasy terms in the Central, where weak competition helps a lot of players become better choices than they otherwise might be. They won’t be your first pick, but might be your last couple. For me, the Central is as it always has been… a slow and somewhat rugged division with better big-man play than anything else and a lot of halfcourt sets, always tough on fantasy production.

As before, when I speak of a player’s round I refer to a 12-team league. My ADPs (average draft positions) come from Yahoo!.

Indiana Pacers

It’s really nice for fantasy players when a team returns most of its core and all its best players. That settled team is one reason I think the Pacers deliver a lot of value — there is every chance that they will charge out of the gate as a result — and there are specific skills on this team that you can make use of, as they rebound the ball on the offensive end and get to the line. None of the Pacers is a true stud and because the minutes are shared more democratically by Frank Vogel than by other coaches, Pacers will actually tend to underperform their rankings in pure skill terms. Consider them the Eastern version of the Spurs, who Kent discussed yesterday.

Best to Own

Danny Granger. An ADP of 27 is (I think) a touch high for Granger, when players like Andre Igoudala and Blake Griffin are coming in behind him. I still think he’s good to own with a lesser third-rounder (and you should leap on him if he’s there with your fourth choice in a 12-team league). My concern is always his shooting; it doesn’t take much for a .425 guy like Granger to start really struggling. Still a good source of threes and free throws (a combination I always love) and there’s no real reason he can’t shoot better, as he once did.

Roy Hibbert. Blocks shots and rebounds. The disturbing trend for Hibbert has been that he shoots less and scores less as he has matured as a player, something that sometimes indicates that a big man is physically declining. However, Hibbert’s boards and blocks are better than ever, and his overall efficiency was much better last year at both ends. They need to find him more, and I think they will.

Solid Contributors

George Hill. One of the advantages of being a settled team is that you can make changes because you want to, not because you have to, and the trade of Darren Collison to Dallas, confirming Hill’s anointment as the starter, was a change the Pacers wanted to make. Hill is a much better player although his playoff performance threw up some question marks, because he didn’t get many assists and had some trouble as the primary ballhandler. Should easily have career highs in everything and will score his share of points.

Paul George. I wasn’t sure that George had it in him to be a quality starter, but he’s proving me wrong. Like a lot of other Pacers, he plays an efficient game. Terrific rebounder for a guard-rated player and will get more assists.

Sleepers

Tyler Hansbrough. I think David West will get less time this year (as the senior player and the guy most likely to be rested) and I like Hansbrough despite his not having kicked on last year as I thought he should after his very fine 2011. He shot poorly last season and I think that will improve. To do this, Hansbrough must improve his passing. He’ll also be available in every league.

DJ Augustin. Absolutely the best point guard (in point guard terms) that the team has. There’s a strong potential for Augustin to play major minutes as part of Vogel’s balanced rotation.

Players to Avoid

David West. I feel terrible saying this, because I think West is a fine player, but he’s always been a much better real player than fantasy player and he’s a poor fit for their rotation. His skills are in decline, and he never did rebound quite as well as I thought he should. His ADP of 81.3 is far too high for a guy who is a tenth-round talent.

Gerald Green. If your league doesn’t penalize turnovers, Green becomes a better bench option. Most leagues do, though, and Green is turnover-prone but doesn’t add enough elsewhere to be useful.

Miles Plumlee. I don’t think Plumlee is an NBA player.

Lance Stephenson. Guard who can’t shoot.

High Risk/High Reward

Ian Mahinmi. I always thought Mahinmi had great physical gifts. He didn’t show enough of that in Dallas but he should get minutes early. Hansbrough may still be in Vogel’s doghouse as he was in the playoffs, and if so Mahinmi will get even more time on the floor. Block numbers have been disappointing but he has the potential to grab a lot of rebounds if he plays and his offensive game is much better.

Sam Young. Young had an awful season last year, dumped on the Sixers and then buried alive. There is talent there, and he too has an all-around type of game that may suit the Pacers well. Must be a better passer to do so.

Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose is supposed to be back “at some point this season”. Unfortunately, that “some point” currently appears to be March instead of January. When he returns, not just Rose but every Bull will begin paying his fantasy dividends. I wouldn’t draft two Bulls, but you might keep a careful eye on Rose’s recovery and when he is moderately close to playing, consider picking up any who have been extra disappointing.

The Bulls had a lot of churn on their roster, meaning they are tougher to handicap. They still are well-coached, still have a good interior rotation, and will still play a tough brand of basketball.

Best to Own

Joakim Noah. A superb offensive rebounder and a great passer for a big man. Noah helps in every category but I think he will improve most in his worst, which is scoring.

Solid Contributors

Carlos Boozer. Boozer and Noah could easily have flip-flopped here; Boozer combines physicality with brains as well as any player in the league (a rare compliment from me in that vein for a Duke player). He is a joy to watch play and remains a very strong rebounder on the defensive end.

Luol Deng. Without Rose, I expect Deng to do more things and see more of the ball. I’m exposed with this selection because Deng played quite poorly last season, we don’t know how his wrist will be, and the Bulls have little reason to continue to feed him so long as he keeps finding iron and being outfought. I believe in him. He should get more opportunities to shoot threes (Kyle Korver is gone) and I think that total will double.

Sleepers

Kirk Hinrich. I am no fan of Hinrich, but apparently nor is anyone else. An ADP of 143 (and undrafted in many leagues) for a guy who can take care of the rock and get it to the right places. And the Bulls still have a lot of right places. He won’t get many hustle stats for you but as a backup point guard you can do very much worse, and he’ll also have a licence to bomb from deep.

Nate Robinson. He and Hinrich both can’t be successful, and I can’t imagine the Bulls making Nate the starter at the point, but he should play, his offensive skills remain solid, and he will always give a solid effort.

Taj Gibson. It breaks my heart to put Gibson in this category and not one higher, when Nate freakin’ Robinson and Kirk freakin’ Hinrich are also in the sleeper category. Nevertheless, it seems clear now that the Bulls like Gibson as a complementary-only player. He likely won’t play enough to make a selection worth your while, but Gibson is undrafted in 95% of leagues. There is every chance he gets another ten minutes a game, and if he does he’ll be as good as many fulltime starters.

Players to Avoid

Richard Hamilton. Rip is aging and has lost effectiveness. Rose would (and will) allow him the floor space to make his cuts and curls that make him so effective. Hinrich and Marquis Teague (and Nate Robinson) will not.

Marco Belinelli. I know shooting guard is the weakest position, but you have to do better than Belinelli, a no-conscience guy who doesn’t help in any category except threes. I imagine my opinion of him as a fantasy player is colored by my view of him as a real player, but I still don’t think you want him.

High Risk/High Reward

Marquis Teague. Is Teague the best point guard in Chicago? Probably. But he had a brutal summer league. I can’t anoint the guy a sleeper, but I can point out that getting the ball to a fine group of forwards is the easiest way for an NBA point to learn on the job.

Derrick Rose. Yes, you will have to stash Rose on your bench all season and there’s no guarantee you’ll get him at all. I can’t call him a “sleeper” because Rose isn’t likely (even combined with whoever you pick up to replace him) to outperform his ADP of 63 unless he comes back in January. But I can advocate you taking him, hanging on, and hoping for the best. Maximizing that really good risk is the way you finish first.

CONTINUE READING Part II…

Thanks to Zach Primozic for the photo of Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah.