The Memphis Grizzlies don’t have a fleet of sharpshooters standing on the arc. They don’t have a stretch 4. They don’t have a dual point guard backcourt. Heck, their shooting guard can’t even shoot.
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.
The Brooklyn Nets have made quite a splash over the summer of 2012. They made the big move out of New Jersey and re-signed Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries. They also acquired Joe Johnson (without giving up MarShon Brooks) and Mirza Teletovic, along with a slew of other moves that have significantly improved the quality of the team. One would think the team has done enough at this point, but as you will see below, they are continuing to make moves to better the roster. Mikhail Prokhorov promised a championship within the first five years when he took over the team, and it appears he wasn’t kidding around:
- Josh Childress will sign on with the Nets for a one-year deal, according to Howard Beck of The New York Times: “Childress, 29, agreed to terms Tuesday on a one-year contract at the veteran’s minimum, according to two people briefed on the contract. The deal is nonguaranteed, but Childress is almost certain to make the roster as the Nets’ backup small forward, behind Gerald Wallace. “Looking forward to the opportunity in Brooklyn,” Childress said Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. The Nets expect to sign both Childress and Andray Blatche to their contracts within the next day or so. Blatche agreed to a nonguaranteed one-year deal last week, but his signing has been delayed by a personal matter.”
- Leandro Barbosa said he is being recruited the hardest by the Nets, according to Netsdaily: “We are talking to a few teams, among them, the Phoenix Suns, who I have a professional history with…have lived there; with the Brooklyn Nets, who actually pursued us the hardest; and with the Los Angeles Lakers — They ‘re a good team with the personnel they have. Also,Steve Nash (who played with Barbosa in PHX) sent me a text. He wants me to come to LA as soon as possible. When I was at the Olympics this guy (Nash?) came at me strongly, but then they signed Jodie Meeks and I haven’t talked much to them since then. They have a lot of point guards, and if they signed me, they would have to get rid of one. It’s early. I have to wait.”
- If the Nets stayed in New Jersey, Deron Williams would never have stayed, from Tony Manfred of Business Insider: “If owners Jay-Z and Mikhail Prokhorov hadn’t moved the Nets to Brooklyn, All-Star point guard Deron Williams probably wouldn’t have re-signed with the team. ”It was a huge factor,” Williams told us about the Nets moving to Brooklyn. “I don’t think I would have even thought about staying if it (the Nets franchise) was staying in New Jersey.”
- Charles Barkley thinks the Nets are a better team than the Knicks, from Mark Herrmann of Newsday: “I like their team. I like their team a lot. I think they probably have got the best team in New York,” Barkley said at Bill Russell’s Mentor’s Champions Golf Challenge Monday morning at Friar’s Head in Riverhead. When he was reminded that the Knicks made some moves, too, Barkley rhetorically asked who they got. Marcus Camby, he was reminded. “I like Marcus Camby,” he said. Then someone mentioned, “Jason Kidd,” and Barkley said, deadpan, “What year is this?” Then he yelled over to Celtic great Sam Jones, who was warming up on the driving range, and mentioned that reporters were asking about the Knicks signing Camby and Kidd, then said of the Knicks, loudly, “They must think it’s 1995. ”It’s 2012,” Barkley said. “They went out and got 92-year-old Jason Kidd and 92-year-old Marcus Camby.”
- Former Nets player Damion James has signed on with the Hawks, according to Woj: “Free-agent forward Damion James has reached agreement on a one-year contract with the Atlanta Hawks, agent Mark Bartelstein told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday. James was the 24th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, but a foot injury helped limit his productivity with the Brooklyn Nets. He gets a chance to earn minutes at small forward with an Atlanta franchise in the process of rebuilding its roster. ”I’m excited for the opportunity that Damion has to show people that kind of player he was going to be before the foot injury,” Bartelstein said. “He’s healthy now, and this is an ideal situation for him in Atlanta.”
- Iman Shumpert hopes to return from his knee injury sometime between December and February, from Ian Begley of ESPN New York:
- Sam Presti may not feel so certain about being able to retain valuable guard James Harden, from Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: “James is somebody we value,” Presti said Monday afternoon. “We think he’s an important part to what we’re trying to do with our team and we’re hopeful that he’ll be with us.” No doubt about that. Harden is super talented, a rare combination of shooter, slasher and distributor. His offensive skills provide an amazing complement to those of Durant and Westbrook. “By the same token, we’ve been very upfront and transparent with everybody that we have some inherent challenges that we face as an organization as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement,” the Thunder general manager continued. “I know we’d love to have him here. I think James would like to be here as well. But at the end of the day … you have to find a way to make it work for everybody.”
- D.J. Mbenga is trying to secure a job with the Mavericks, according to Marc Stein of ESPN:
- Earl Barron is looking to catch on with the Wizards, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
- Would you rather eat burritos with JaVale McGee or ice cream with Chris Bosh? Trey Kerby of TBJ explains.
- LeBron James and Kevin Durant are working together again to prepare for training camp, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
- Patrick Ewing rejected the offer to become a D-League coach, and expressed his displeasure of being offered the job in the first place, from Ian Begley of ESPN New York: “One source close to Ewing said the Hall of Famer felt a bit slighted by the Knicks’ offer to coach the Erie Bayhawks because he has already established himself in the NBA. ”Patrick has paid his dues,” the source said. “He was a little insulted.” The Knicks have had several coaching staff openings since Ewing began coaching, but they’ve passed over the franchise’s all-time scoring leader again and again. Ewing has not been shy about his desire to return to New York. ”I’d be interested in any job, but this is home, naturally,” Ewing told ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian O’Connor in late March. “I still have my place here (in New Jersey), and I’d love to interview for any job, here or anywhere. ”I played here. I know the ins and outs of New York, the media, the fans.”
As August ends and calendars are flipped to September, it dawns on you: NBA training camps will open in a few weeks.
Although the Summer of 2012 will ultimately be remembered for when the Los Angeles Lakers somehow managed to acquire two of the top prizes on the market, there are still quite a few free agents that could ultimately be the difference between your favorite team making a trip to the postseason or anxiously awaiting the results of the draft lottery.
My respective five best available players are Leandro Barbosa, Andray Blatche, Kenyon Martin, Lou Amundson and Mickael Pietrus. And scores of others – including Matt Barnes, Rasual Butler and Josh Childress – are worthy role players.
As we draw closer to camp, taking note of which teams still have their midlevel, room, and biannual exceptions is a worthwhile endeavor. And to a lesser extent, the same can be said of traded player exceptions. Any of these four exceptions are assets that can ultimately result in the acquisition of a player who can help.
Just ask the Los Angeles Lakers, who used a traded player exception to acquire Steve Nash.
At this point, a surprising number of teams still have available money to spend. Here’s a full account.
Non-Taxpayer Midlevel Exception ($5 million)
This offseason was the first full one in which there were two midlevel exceptions. Entering this offseason, if a team had less than about $70 million in guaranteed salaries committed for 2012-2013, it was granted a $5 million midlevel exception. As usual, the exception can be used to sign one player or it can be split among multiple players. As of today, the only team in the league that has the entire $5 million exception available is the Washington Wizards. Each of the other teams that entered this offseason with the $5 million exception have used a portion of it.
The Milwaukee Bucks ($4.35M), Orlando Magic ($4.21M), Denver Nuggets ($3.33M), and Oklahoma City Thunder ($3.33M) have more than half of the exception remaining. The Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz each have approximately $2.5 million remaining, while the Memphis Grizzlies have $2 million.
Clearly, the Wizards, Bucks and Magic – and to a lesser extent, the Nuggets and Thunder – have the best chance of landing one of the best remaining players. Of those teams, the Thunder are the only one who can offer a shot at competing for a title. However, after recently signing Serge Ibaka to a rich extension, the prevailing thought seems to be that the Thunder will try to curb their spending. That seems especially probable considering that last season’s Sixth Man Award winner, James Harden, is entering the final year of his rookie-scale deal.
Taxpayer Midlevel Exception ($3.09 million)
Teams that entered the offseason with about $70 million or more committed in guaranteed salaries for 2012-2013 were allowed a smaller version of the midlevel exception. The Miami Heat used their taxpayer exception to sign Ray Allen, while the Los Angeles Lakers used approximately half of their exception to sign Jodie Meeks. As of now, the Lakers ($1.4 million) are the only team that has a portion of its taxpayer midlevel exception remaining.
However, after their busy offseason, the Lakers’ 2012-2013 payroll now sits at $100.7 million. This season, its projected starting lineup will earn a whopping $82.5 million. Maybe (just maybe), they’re finally finished spending.
Room Exception ($2.575 million)
The new “room” exception is a salary exception that allows a team to spend all of its room under the salary cap, and then, once at the cap, exceed it using the room exception. In other words, a team that entered the offseason with $8 million under the cap could sign a free-agent for $8 million, and then have the ability to spend an additional $2.575 million using this exception.
Ten teams still have the full exception available. They are the Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings.
Of the teams listed here, it’s probably safe to assume that the Indiana Pacers would be the most desirable destination, perhaps with the Philadelphia 76ers a close second.
Still, it’s worth noting that there’s nothing to say that teams have to spend this money, and we should expect to see some frugality with the new luxury tax era on the horizon.
Biannual Exception ($1.957 million)
The biannual exception is a familiar friend, though the rules that govern it were changed since the enactment of the 2011 CBA. It was only made available to teams who entered this offseason with less than about $72 million in guaranteed salaries committed for 2012-2013. It also is not available to any team that uses the room exception.
At slightly less than $2 million, the biannual exception doesn’t seem like much money when compared to the midlevel and room exceptions. But the minimum salary for a 10-year veteran is $1.35M, so that means that a veteran being paid with the biannual exception (as opposed to the minimum salary) stands to be paid 45 percent higher. That could make a difference with a veteran free-agent such as Chris Andersen, Rasual Butler or Derek Fisher.
Currently, 11 teams can use the biannual exception if they choose. They are the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards.
Traded Player Exceptions
A traded player exception (TPE) is a bit different than the other salary exceptions. The other exceptions can be used to sign free agents, but a TPE may only be used to acquire a player via trade. Despite this limitation, a TPE is a very valuable asset because it allows additional flexibility in deal-making. Under normal circumstances, if two teams are over the cap and wish to execute a trade, the salaries being sent and received must within a certain range in order for the trade to be allowable under the league’s CBA. By using the TPE, teams – under certain circumstances – may execute trades that otherwise could not have occurred.
A traded player exception is most commonly created when a team on one end of a deal trades a player to team that is under the salary cap. The Orlando Magic ($17.816M) currently own the biggest trade exception in league history after consummating their deal for Dwight Howard.
The Denver Nuggets ($13M, via Nene), Chicago Bulls ($5M, via Kyle Korver), and the Golden State Warriors ($3.3M via Ekpe Udoh) also have noteworthy trade exceptions.
Ultimately, this type of exception allows the team to execute a trade in which it accepts salary in return without trading any away. As always, there are rules and caveats (and expiration dates) that govern the exception. Nonetheless, the major point remains: a TPE is an asset that can help facilitate player movement and help a team build itself into a contender.
The 2012-2013 season is right around the corner. But until it actually begins, rest assured that some of these teams will spend some of their available money if they feel it will improve their chances of competing.
Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.
While everyone was watching the clock strike 12 on Jeremy Lin on Tuesday night, the bell also tolled for the end of this year’s amnesty period.
Teams had until midnight Tuesday to use the amnesty clause – a one-time provision delineated in the new CBA that provides immediate relief from both the salary cap and the luxury tax – and both the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers beat the buzzer, making late decisions to let go of Chris Andersen and Ryan Gomes, respectively.
That brought the total number of teams to use the amnesty clause since the end of the lockout to 15, creating a full NBA roster of players deemed too expensive for their own good.
You know what? That roster would be a playoff team. Easily.
Sure, it’s a little weak at the wing positions, where it could probably use a little more athleticism. And there is considerable injury history that can’t be ignored. But it has plenty of size, depth and veteran experience.
Here’s the breakdown:
POINT GUARD: Chauncey Billups (New York) would start, with Baron Davis (Cleveland) off the bench.
SHOOTING GUARD: Brandon Roy (Portland) would probably get the starting nod over Gilbert Arenas (Orlando), who also could be an emergency third point guard. Charlie Bell (Golden State) would be the team’s fifth guard.
SMALL FORWARD: Weakest position on the team, with Josh Childress (Phoenix), Travis Outlaw (Brooklyn), James Posey (Indiana) and Ryan Gomes (LA Clippers) trying to hold their own against the LeBron Jameses and Kevin Durants of the world. We would probably start Outlaw, the best all-around player in the bunch.
POWER FORWARD: Pretty good health and even better depth, starting with the crafty Luis Scola (Houston). He would be backed up by Elton Brand (Philadelphia) and Andray Blatche (Washington).
CENTER: A three-headed monster of Brendan Haywood (Dallas), Darko Milicic (Minnesota) and Chris Andersen (Denver). Not much offense but very good shot-blocking.
In December, we ran a piece that nominated amnesty candidates for all 30 teams. Of the 15 players who have been victims of the amnesty provision, we correctly predicted 10 of them, allowing for some leeway.
The 15 teams with the amnesty provision still available to them are Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, LA Lakers, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, San Antonio, Toronto and Utah.
The next time any of these teams can consider using the amnesty clause is next summer. The provision must be used on a player who was on his team’s roster on July 1, 2011.
And with players with awful contracts such as Tyrus Thomas, Carlos Boozer, Charlie Villanueva, Rudy Gay, Mike Miller, Drew Gooden and John Salmons still out there, you can bet that they will.