You've seen those GEICO commercials with the googly-eyed pile of cash? That kind of explains what I'm doing here. I'm watching you.
Actually, I'm watching the fantasy basketball draft results on ESPN.com, and throughout the preseason, I'll summarize the output registered by our highly handy Live Draft Results feature.
Studying the live draft results can help you prepare for your own draft. Of course your individual draft list will differ from the cumulative picks made by the thousands of ESPN.com fantasy hoops gamers, but if there's a player you really want for your team -- in my case, that would be Eric Gordon -- just scan the list and find his name. As of this writing, you'd see that Gordon's overall average draft position (ADP) is 59.2, and, on average, the second-year Clipper is the 13th shooting guard-eligible player being taken in ESPN.com drafts.
The value of this information is it gives you an idea of what to expect going into your draft. If you plan on grabbing Gordon, you have evidence suggesting that he'll most likely go at the tail end of the sixth round of a 10-team draft. (Or, if your league is 12 teams, Gordon projects as a late fifth-rounder.) So if you pick early in the sixth round, and you don't have another pick 'til late in the seventh, odds are you're looking at your last chance to get him. If you like Gordon enough, you should think seriously about pulling the trigger. But if he does fall to the sixth round or later in your 10-team league, even if he wasn't one of your draft priorities, it may be time to reconsider. At this point, you could be looking at a real bargain.
Live draft results also allow you to evaluate players by their auction value. But since the majority of leagues run snake drafts, this column will focus on that format.
For this week, I'll toss out the names of a handful of players who I think are being undervalued or overvalued in early ESPN.com drafts. Then, during the next two weeks -- and once many more leagues conduct their drafts -- I'll bring up additional names and share with you trends in players' ADPs.
Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey Nets (ADP: 37.7, fifth among centers): Only nine players averaged more blocks per game than the 1.8 Lopez tallied in 2008-09. Among them were Yao Ming, who won't play this season, and Chris Andersen and Ronny Turiaf, players who typically go unrostered in standard leagues. Players with fewer rejections than Lopez had last season include Tim Duncan and Josh Smith. In short, Lopez, now entering his second season, is already an elite shot-blocker. On top of that, count on bumps in his point and rebound totals as Lopez becomes a bigger part of the Nets' offense. I'm thinking he should be a top-30 pick.
Manu Ginobili, SG, San Antonio Spurs (ADP: 80.5, 19th among shooting guards): Ginobili is fine. After various injuries limited the former All-Star to 44 games last season, Ginobili says he's not in any pain as he prepares for this season. Yes, the Argentine is 32 now, and Gregg Popovich will always conserve his minutes, but I don't see why a healthy Ginobili can't approach his stellar 2007-08 numbers.
Paul Pierce, SG/SF, Boston Celtics (ADP: 23.0, fourth among small forwards): The C's Mr. Clutch, Pierce logged his typical line of 20.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 3-pointers in 2008-09. However, the veteran did this while playing close to 38 minutes per game, and that probably won't happen again. The Celtics took steps to shore up their bench, and new addition Marquis Daniels should help ease the load on Pierce. While it's hard to imagine a steep decline in his numbers, I think Pierce should go closer to No. 30 than 20.
Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder (ADP: 50.7, 14th among point guards): I'll be honest, in a couple of weeks I might renounce this call. Going into his rookie season, some wondered whether Westbrook could handle the point guard position right away, and the kid (he turns 21 next month) made amazing progress. Still, Westbrook doesn't shoot 3-pointers, and he shot only 38.4 percent overall from the field after the All-Star break. His 3.3 turnovers (for those in leagues that count them) is another crippler in fantasy. Yes, Westbrook has serious upside, but for this season, I see Jameer Nelson (ADP: 58.3) and Andre Miller (ADP: 66.9) as better values at the point.
Paul Millsap, PF, Utah Jazz (ADP: 90.4, 22nd among power forwards): It was a question whether the Jazz would retain Millsap this offseason, but the team rewarded him with a $32 million, four-year deal. But you know who's also ready for another season in Salt Lake? A healthy Carlos Boozer. So, what to make of Millsap? Apparently, the Jazz will play him a lot at small forward this season. The move makes some sense given that Andrei Kirilenko made only 10 starts last season. But even with time at small forward and time backing up Boozer, it's hard to see how Jerry Sloan consistently finds 30 minutes a night for the 24-year-old. Keep in mind that Millsap averaged 34 minutes as a starter in 2008-09, when he was racking up double-doubles in place of an injured Boozer. I like the tenacious Millsap as much as the next fantasy owner, but I think you're expecting a bit much here, especially when he's going in about the same spot as Anthony Randolph (ADP: 93.0).
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.