Welcome to the first full season of the Fantasy Spin. From now until the NBA tips off, we’ll help you prepare to draft. All year long, we’ll keep track of injuries, role changes, suspensions and more. Every morning, we’ll recap who’s hot, who’s not and who looks best on the waiver wire. Follow us on Twitter @SheridanFantasy for updates.
Joining me on the beat are two terrific writers who excel at all fantasy sports, not just hoops. Over the years, we have been friendly rivals in some very tough leagues. Individually, we may disagree on a player’s value. Collectively, our goal is to help you win your league, or to make money in daily fantasy games.
Bruce Wrigley sees basketball like a point guard or coach, teaching me something new whenever we go to a game. His fantasy approach is also more analytical and statistical than my style. Jeff Nichols understands rules, loopholes and how to exploit them better than anyone. His strategy tips and roster-management advice will be useful whether you’re a novice or a veteran. In addition to their weekly columns, Jeff and Bruce will make guest appearances here in the Spin whenever I get a DNP-Old, like Tim Duncan. It’s great to be working with you, gentlemen.
Always remember that fantasy is the “toy department” of Sheridan Hoops. We’re grown men who write about a game that’s based on a sport. Elsewhere on this site, you’ll find experienced journalists who know basketball — like our founder — and what they write about the real NBA is important background for those of us whose imaginary leagues matter just as much.
Let’s start with Sheridan’s September Power Rankings, which are reality-based. Some Raptors fans are incensed at “their” team being #29 on the list, but if you take an objective look at the other four teams in that division, Toronto will have a tough time escaping the basement.
Fantasy owners shouldn’t care. The important nugget of information is that Chris, who has been to Europe and seen Jonas Valanciunas play, believes the rookie will be plagued by foul trouble. That means quick hooks, fewer minutes and lower production. JV remains high on my list in keeper leagues because he’s a skilled 7-footer, but 2012-2013 may be frustrating at times for his owners. Landry Fields, who Sheridan calls the worst offseason signing in the NBA, may in fact be overpaid and even handcuff Toronto financially in its rebuilding efforts, but that’s irrelevant to fantasy GMs.
There’s more great background from the boss in his Offseason Report Cards, and Chris Bernucca has taken an in-depth look at each team’s roster moves during the summer. Again, the expert analysis is based on real teams, real budgets and real competition. It’s still important to anyone preparing for a fantasy draft, just subject to interpretation.
It’s seven weeks, one day and a few hours until the Wizards visit Cleveland in the first game that counts. Some fantasy leagues are drafting already. Unless those owners have a crystal ball, it must involve a lot of guesswork. Most leagues, including all but one of mine, draft much closer to the start of the season. That’s when we need to be fully prepared.
Until the exhibition games begin, our focus here will be primarily on player values, team rotations, position scarcity and other general topics. Then we’ll try not to overreact when an unheralded bench player has a big game, but we’ll be making adjustments to our cheat sheets. Especially with players returning from injury, it’s nice to see them in action before clicking Draft.
Sharing all these opinions with you doesn’t help in my own leagues. It’s like playing poker with my hole cards face up. Opponents will have a pretty good idea who my best sleepers are and where I’m likely to draft them. The temptation to pretend I don’t like Mirza Teletovic, in order to get him on my team, is overcome by annoying qualities like honesty and integrity.
If you’re playing in a “default settings” league, that usually means 12-team leagues with 13-man rosters. A mere 156 players will be owned: roughly the starting five for all 30 teams, plus six other guys.
If you’re in a highly competitive 20-team league, or multiple leagues, with experienced owners who know each other well, so are we. There are almost limitless types of leagues, given all the variables. Rotisserie, Head-to-Head and Points are the three main branches of the fantasy tree. Number of teams, roster sizes and several other factors create a multitude of formats.
On Wednesday, we’ll publish version 1.0 of the 2012-2013 Depth Chart, listing 300 players. It’s our best guess, after internal debate, of who will start and back up at each position. 144 of those will be free agents in standard-sized leagues, and it’s that group we’ll be discussing quite a bit over the next few weeks.
Rankings and Context
It’s impossible to compile a one-size-fits-all list of “top 50 point guards” or “best rookies.” What any player is worth depends so much on your league settings, and the most important consideration is whether or not you have keepers.
Let’s consider the talented rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, expected to start at SF for the Bobcats. It’s a bad team, he’ll have a steep learning curve and isn’t worth nearly as much as he will be next season, or the year after that. In a redraft league, feel free to let someone else “overpay” by taking MKG too soon. In a dynasty league, where he has a chance to be a strong contributor for the next decade, he looks like a top-five pick.
At the other end of the age spectrum, how about Steve Nash? For this year only, he is very draftable. Gunning for a championship, dishing to all those weapons, he should put up huge numbers one more time. Unfortunately, in one league I have to choose between Nash and Ty Lawson as my final keeper. It breaks my heart to throw a fellow Canadian geezer back into the FA pool, but considering Lawson’s total future value, it’s a no-brainer.
Don’t expect a list of players ranked 1-300. Those are available from many other sources. Instead, starting this Friday, I’ll post my Tiers for each position. Chris Paul is absolutely a Tier 1 PG, who deserves to be drafted early in any format. Lawson, running George Karl’s fast-paced attack, is a solid Tier 2. But where do we put Derrick Rose? I’m thinking Tier 3, but only in certain leagues.
The Spin will be here by 9:00 a.m., every day from now through the regular season. Tomorrow, it’s New Names You Need To Know, including rookies you might remember from the NCAA, European imports and a few sleeper possibilities who didn’t play anywhere last year. Anyone with zeroes across his stat line from last year is a potential bargain in the deepest leagues.