With all the rust out of the way, our second mock draft in preparation of the NBA season had its own unique excitement. At this point in training camp, the value of players seemed much more rigidly defined; those involved also had a larger sample size of drafts to pool Average Draft Position (ADP) from. Every year in any sport, there are certain year-to-year trends to follow or patterns that emerge that subtly change strategy.
After getting the fifth overall pick this time around -- I picked sixth in the first mock -- even I decided to stray from the tried-and-true formula of selecting point guards and power forwards with your early selections. And indeed, if anything, my belief that you have to play things a little bit differently this year was reinforced. This year, there's a lot of depth at power forward, but not so much at shooting guard or small forward. Or, more precisely, you want to invest your middle-round picks in that depth at power forward more so than at the 2 or 3, because that's where the upside lies.
Everyone's strategy would undoubtedly be sharper this time around, and it would be interesting to see how the couple of weeks of training camp would affect how early everyone's favorite sleepers went. This mock would also be done with a slight twist, with turnovers added! That's how every basketball league should be played if you ask me, with some kind of way to factor in turnovers, as they are one of the most important categories in real life. Other than the turnovers, however, it's your typical 10-team league.
To reintroduce you to our 10 participants, we had (in order of first-round selection) Brian McKitish, Eric Karabell, Tom Carpenter, Seth Landman, yours truly, Keith Lipscomb, Josh Whitling, Neil Tardy, James Quintong (who took the place of Matthew Berry, resulting in a massive reduction in draft chatter) and John Cregan. Let the games begin!
My strategy: Right off the bat, I decided to switch it up, figuring it would be boring if I selected Dirk Nowitzki again. Remembering how much I disliked having to take Ben Gordon and O.J. Mayo in the middle rounds last time, I decided to go with a dominant swingman this time around. There are a lot of power forwards I like in the middle and late rounds, so to position myself to capitalize on that value, I decided to avoid a power forward early on. I also thought about Deron Williams here; next time I pick fifth or six (or whenever he's available after the top four), he is who I will probably select, even if it is a slight overdraft.
What I liked: I liked Whitling's pick so much that I decided to use that as my strategy in the future if I get a pick in the middle of the first round again. Williams is head and shoulders above the next batch of point guards, all of which come with some kind of wart attached. Quintong getting to nab Dirk with the ninth pick is also about as perfect as you can play the first round.
What I didn't like: I am liking Al Jefferson, Amar'e Stoudemire and Chris Bosh over Dwight Howard more and more. There's nothing wrong with D-Ho, but I am just gaining more and more faith in the former three, and the idea of punting a category has never tickled my fancy. I'm also not the biggest fan of Kobe's; his precipitous drop in free throw attempts could be a sign of things to come, and like the Celtics, the Lakers will be blowing out teams all season, so Kobe won't have to extend himself nearly as often during the regular season.
My strategy: There was no one I really loved on the board at this spot, so I went with the best player available. I liked the idea of starting my team with two stud swingmen, letting me cherry-pick the best talent and value at all the other positions from this point forward. That's easier to do this season because the middle-round swingmen don't offer great value, anyway. I like Iguodala because I still think he has a little upside; he could still improve his shooting percentages and become a total stud, or the 76ers could tap into more of their potential and start to become more of an up-tempo team.
What I liked: So far Whitling has the best team, as Bosh could just as easily go quite a few picks earlier. I also would've picked Roy if he was available with my pick, so kudos to Lipscomb. That will become a recurring theme, by the way, as Lipscomb repeatedly took my picks. I also briefly debated taking Carmelo Anthony, and he was the last of the truly elite options at the 2 or 3.
What I didn't like: I don't necessarily believe Joe Johnson is in that crop of elite swingmen. He's been around 39 minutes a game for the past six seasons, and while normally that would be a good thing, it's unsustainable in the long term, and we're already hearing that the Hawks will limit his minutes in preparation for the playoffs. It's also tough on your field goal percentage when someone shoots 18 times a game with such a low rate of conversion. I discussed my dislike of Duncan last time, but I didn't mention Chauncey Billups, another aging veteran I am not fond of. You have to remember the Nuggets finished with more possessions per game than all but five teams, so his low number of assists and steals should be seen as a red flag for the 33-year-old point guard.
My strategy: This is an excellent position to be in, with nearly all of the elite point guards at my disposal. My favorite of them is Jason Kidd, who has aged well since focusing on his long-range shooting. He's a threat to decline any one of these years, sure, but he simply contributes in too many categories not to be worth the risk, and if the Mavs feel comfortable making him the focal point, so do I. I debated selecting Brook Lopez, but I decided I'd rather grab Andrew Bynum or Greg Oden later. With the benefit of hindsight, next time around I just may select Lopez -- his blocks are really convenient to have.
What I liked: It still bugs me a little that you have to start taking Elton Brand around the third round, but considering there are no blocks this year, I am kind of tempted to do so anyway. Almost everyone went with a point guard or a big, which, stylistically at least, is hard to argue with.
What I didn't like: I don't see what makes Paul Pierce any better than the plethora of other small forwards like Gerald Wallace or Caron Butler that were selected a round later. I'm also not sure about Calderon over Rondo. These are fairly minor complaints, however.
My strategy: I might've selected a big who blocked shots, but once Josh Smith was taken right before me, the value was at point guard. Ellis gives me three scorers to negate Kidd being a non-factor in that category, and like Granger and Iggy, he shoots a strong percentage in the process. Ellis also has shooting guard eligibility, which gives me a lot of trade flexibility.
What I liked: Once all the elite point guards go off the board, Baron Davis (and Ellis) are really the best of the rest. Unfortunately, Davis' turnovers hurt a lot, but if he's willing to defer to his talented teammates more often, Davis' assists could shoot through the roof, and his field goal percentage may not be so intolerable. Gambling on Smith is a good idea, as blocks are hard to come by and he's still young enough to significantly improve. Wallace and Butler are also the last of the elite small forwards in my eyes.
What I didn't like: Cregan needed a swingman, but it's surprising that he selected Vince Carter over Kevin Martin, Wallace and Butler. Carter is comfortable deferring and the Magic have a lot of offensive firepower, and since Carter has averaged just 1.0 steals in two out of the past three seasons, he's not enough of an all-around threat to make up for any decreases in scoring. I'm not a fan of David Lee, either; the mid-round power forwards have much better value than a guy who is really only a major contributor in one (common) category: rebounds. Derrick Rose went later than he usually does, but I'd still take Jameer Nelson or Tony Parker over him; he's yet to develop 3-point range, doesn't boost your free throw percentage significantly and will barely keep you afloat in steals.
My strategy: I was just selecting the best value here, and Parker looked like the best player on the board. Even with the addition of Richard Jefferson, Parker still has a shot at 20 points per game. He's in his prime at 27, making him well-suited to carrying the team in the regular season, and he's still getting better, too. If he makes it a point to get to the line more, he could become elite, and Granger's 3-pointers allow me to absorb the blow from Parker. If I can turn up a quality third point guard, he also makes great trade bait during the season.
What I liked: Everyone likes Russell Westbrook, myself included, so kudos to Karabell. Nelson is also a nice grab, since he's a rare point guard who can give you a lot of 3-pointers while maintaining a solid field goal percentage. And since it's a head-to-head league, Rashard Lewis' 10-game suspension doesn't hurt nearly as much.
What I didn't like: Now that word is Antawn Jamison could undergo shoulder surgery, you best believe McKitish would like a do-over with that selection. We start only one center, so why grab Andris Biedrins when you already have Brook Lopez? Otherwise, although I may disagree with a few selections stylistically, it really just boils down to preference; everyone went around their ADP.
My strategy: I was ecstatic to grab Andrew Bynum, as all signs point to a breakout as long as he can stay healthy, and I don't mind betting on health for most players. If Bynum was selected, I would've started taking some of my sleepers, such as Anthony Randolph, and looked at grabbing Greg Oden later on.
What I liked: After a bit of hesitation, I've decided I still like Ray Allen quite a bit this season; shooting ages quite well. He helped more when he would get to the line more, but fading into the third option sure did a lot for his field goal percentage last season, so maybe it's a worthwhile trade. It's nice when one player can reinforce a lot of potential weaknesses (points and 3-pointers, as well as shooting percentages). Emeka Okafor is also a great fit for Landman. Honestly, though, I'm not a big fan of this round.
What I didn't like: This is where you see how shallow small forward and shooting guard are. It's not that guys like O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay or Ben Gordon are bad, but that they offer little upside in the roles they're in. They probably won't be much worse than their ADPs, but they also don't look to be much better, either, when there are a lot of other high-upside picks available at other positions. In fact, if you ask me, that sums up this round of drafting -- a lot of solid picks, but a limited amount of upside. I actually like many of the picks in Rounds 7, 8 and 9 more than the picks in this round. I'm not much of a fan of Hedo Turkoglu, either.
My strategy: My queue list had quite a bit of my guys, so whoever fell to me and was the best value was who I would take. Once Anthony Randolph and Andrea Bargnani were selected, it was between Tyrus Thomas, Kevin Love and Greg Oden. Thomas has finally cut down on his fouls, averaging a manageable 2.7 in 31 minutes in 29 contests after the All-Star break, so he was the choice. With an average of 2.1 blocks in that span, he was a no-brainer and filled an important need. At this point, I'm just setting up for my next picks -- I have a strong idea of who I want them to be, it's just a matter of selecting the guy who won't be there a round later, even if it means selecting them a round earlier than normal.
What I liked: I love the value Randolph and Bargnani provide in Round 7 rather than drafting your Troy Murphys and David Lees in Round 4 or LaMarcus Aldridge in Round 5. I wouldn't be surprised if Bargnani and Randolph especially had better seasons than the latter three, and for the value, it just can't be beat. Toss in Thomas, and selections like Kevin Love (who was injured after the mock took place), Charlie Villanueva and even Michael Beasley later on and it's become clear that, if you don't get an elite big man -- or even if you do, just don't get too many -- the right decision is definitely to wait and load up on those mid-round values. On another note, Al Horford is one of my favorite centers around because he's both consistent and ever-improving at just 23 years of age.
What I didn't like: I understand Quintong loading up on 2s and 3s at this point, but I'm not a fan of Ron Artest. On the Lakers, he is forced into a complementary role; he's destined to be the fourth option. Assuming that to be true, Artest could still approach last season's plethora of 3-pointers now that he's a capable long-range shooter, but it's hard to believe he'll approach 15 shot attempts, And if the Lakers turn a number of contests into one-sided affairs, his minutes will drop significantly, as well. Andre Miller is another example of a talented player in a poor team situation. He's coming off the bench and playing for a team that finished last in possessions per game last season. You might say Miller arrived in part to help the team run more, but head coach Nate McMillan prefers a plodding pace with an emphasis on the half-court game, and Miller's former team, the Sixers, finished in the bottom third in pace last season.
My strategy: Kevin Love is my boy, and if I had to go a round or even two rounds earlier to grab him, I would. This may be stating the obvious, but if a sleeper is a guy I really expect big things from and I suspect some of my peers in the league have him on their queue list, too, I won't hesitate to reach a little to make sure I get him. If you like your guy that much, don't quibble over draft position so much. Unfortunately, Love broke his hand Friday and will miss six to eight weeks. If this was a rotisserie league, he'd probably be worth hanging on to, but in a head-to-head league, every one of those missed games hurts.
What I liked: This whole round had a ton of talent go in it, and I actually like this round, as a whole, more than Round 7. Boris Diaw is another quality power forward available this late; I like Manu Ginobili over a lot of earlier selections at shooting guard; and Thaddeus Young, T.J. Ford and Shawn Marion are rock solid at their positions. Ford is especially underrated; although he went with the 88th pick last time around, he was taken 13 picks earlier in this one as Lipscomb, who also drafted him a month ago, felt that he couldn't wait any longer. In all of ESPN leagues, he's the 102nd pick on average, so he still seems to be quite underrated. And now that Love is out, Luis Scola moves up my cheat sheets, and I may just very well transfer all my adoration for Love onto Scola.
What I didn't like: Stephen Jackson was my least favorite pick in this round, as it seems like he has a lot of warts. He has the normal age, health and career-year concerns, but now his role as disgruntled ex-captain is threatening to come to a head. He now says he is "scarred" and feels like he cannot play for the organization anymore. The problem, though, is that the Warriors extended his contract with an absurd three-year, $28-million guarantee for a good, but not great, player. The last thing you think the Warriors would do in this situation is play Jackson for the 38-40 minutes he's used to logging, and the Warriors have no shortage of swingmen to replace Jackson with. That's just one too many concerns for me to be comfortable going near Jackson, at least when there are still quality options available.
My strategy: I didn't expect to pick three power forwards in a row, but it's turned into a good thing now that Love is out. My enthusiasm has tempered for AK-47 a bit now that coach Jerry Sloan has said he doesn't mind playing Paul Millsap at small forward. As soon as Carlos Boozer is traded -- which still seems a matter of when, not if -- I will be all over Kirilenko's bandwagon, but until then there are just a lot of safer sleepers out there. And since there's a very real chance Boozer may not be traded until the trade deadline in February, Kirilenko could disappoint for half the season before breaking out. If I could do it over again, I'd have selected Beasley, who I am gaining a lot of confidence in. It might not have been perfect value-wise, but when the nine other people in your league all know what they're doing, I care less about value and more about going with the guys you feel confident in staking your success on.
What I liked: The most promising thing about Lou Williams is his aggression at getting to the line. In 31 games after the All-Star break, Williams got to the line 5.5 times per game, converting 81.2 percent of the time in just 25 minutes per game. If he can either shoot a decent percentage from long range, or just stop shooting 3-pointers altogether, his field goal percentage could rise substantially as he focuses on attacking the rim. He could be a mini version of Monta Ellis if things break right. I'm also a big fan of Carpenter's grab of J.R. Smith. I think it's much smarter to bypass guys like O.J. Mayo and Stephen Jackson to wait and grab Smith, who has a ton of potential and should finally step into more playing time this season after maturing last season. And if I didn't draft Parker earlier, I would have been in position to pick up Mike Conley; instead, it's Quintong who gets the approval.
What I didn't like: Lipscomb waited quite a bit to get his point guards, and while I think Ford was a good start, Mike Bibby as your second point guard is an example of the danger of waiting. I suppose that's better than Carpenter, though, who still only has one point guard; although I like Smith as a player, five point guards went off the board in between Carpenter's next selection. I also don't get the D.J. Augustin pick. Sure, the Texas product looks like a nice little player, but unless an injury strikes, he won't get enough playing time to produce. Using up a roster spot in a 10-team league while waiting for an injury seems like an inefficient use of resources.
My strategy: Barbosa was one of my favorite picks of the draft, since if he has the bounce-back year I expect out of him -- and better yet, gains point guard eligibility -- he'll allow me to use one of my point guards as trade bait. He's also important because he reinforces my 3-pointers, since Ellis and Parker are weak in that category. I also love guards with field goal percentages around 44-45 percent or higher; Kidd, who barely attempts any shots, is the only player on my roster who should fall short of that mark.
What I liked: The only reason I'm not a big fan of Blake Griffin is because I have no idea what to expect, and I prefer to stay away from a lot of uncertainty. There are also a lot of other power forwards I like, so I just prefer not to deal with the headache. That's just my personal preference, however; someone else not afraid to take the risk, like Tardy, ends up capitalizing on owners' uncertainty to end up with a bargain. Meanwhile, Karabell's selection of Trevor Ariza this late is brilliant, and another reason why I'm not a big fan of a lot of mid-round swingmen. Ariza is rock solid, and I would feel comfortable with him even as my best small forward on a team, which is where he fits in on Karabell's team. It's always easy to find talent at shooting guard and small forward on the waiver wire anyway. Quintong grabbing Andrew Bogut with the 92nd pick just seems wrong -- a No. 1 center this late? Yeah, the injury concern is real, but consider that the likes of Rasheed Wallace and Joakim Noah went right after him. At least you know Bogut is a solid No. 1 center when healthy. And for a team in need of a solid third point guard, Raymond Felton may not be perfect, but makes for good value in the 10th round.
What I didn't like: Why is Wallace, on average, the 98th selection in drafts? Did something happen to Kendrick Perkins? I actually like Perkins a lot -- as a player more than a fantasy selection, however, thanks to the presence of Wallace -- but I don't see how both players don't just cancel themselves out for fantasy purposes.
My strategy: I figured Beasley would be taken by the time it swung around to me, but I was still annoyed when it happened right before my pick. That let me know that the next time I should just not select Kirilenko and instead take all of my sleepers a round earlier to ensure I can get all of them. I like Tyreke Evans a lot, enough to now consider him part of my "must-grab" sleepers whenever I do a draft. Paul Westphal was hired to let the kids play, and he'll let them run their behinds off, too, while he's at it. It's difficult to predict exactly what Evans' production will be, but because he can do so many things -- score, get to the line, pass and rebound, all while accumulating the hustle stats -- it doesn't really matter as long as you know he's going to play. And although he's not a pure point guard, that's only a good thing for now. It means he'll be able to play at the 2 to get some extra minutes out of him.
What I liked: Rodney Stuckey's lack of assists aren't ideal, but I still like everything else about him. Beasley, of course, is my favorite pick of the round, although I am slightly worried at him playing small forward. Does Udonis Haslem really need to start? Come on now. But on the bright side, at least it should expedite the process of Beasley gaining range from beyond the 3-point line. Luol Deng is also a high-quality value pick this late; he still has some upside left, and even if he just plays up to his previously established level, he'll be more than worth his draft position. Also, the more disgruntled Stephen Jackson becomes, the better Anthony Morrow looks. And considering Cregan already has Al Jefferson and Amar'e Stoudemire to handle most of the traditional big-man categories, Lamar Odom's little-bit-of-everything stat line fits in real nicely.
What I didn't like: Just like the Bucks, the Timberwolves don't seem to realize how good Ramon Sessions is, and until they do, I don't like him nearly as much as a sleeper. He's someone to keep an eye on during the season, but since he's coming off the bench to start the season, I don't see why you'd keep him on your roster in the meantime.
My strategy: Once again, Lipscomb took my pick, as I was really looking forward to nabbing Roy Hibbert this late. I would've liked a nice high-upside center, as I would feel much more comfortable with a nice second option behind Bynum. Next time around, I'll know if I want Hibbert I'll have to take him earlier. I feel comfortable with Carl Landry anyway, who is one of the few offensive options on an undermanned Rockets team. Some of you may already be shaking your heads, ready to fire off an incendiary comment, but the difference between Landry and Sessions is that Landry can be valuable without averaging 30 minutes per game, and Landry also has a better opportunity to play himself into more minutes -- he should see a lot of time on the floor with Luis Scola, who can move to center. Of course, at this stage of the draft there can also be a lot of overanalyzing on who everyone selects; chances are almost everyone selected would be dropped for the flavor of the week once the season is underway.
What I liked: Stephen Curry is a nice lottery ticket to have, especially since we should see early on how much playing time he'll get. I get the feeling that if he's truly NBA-ready, he could earn himself a lot of playing time shortly. Channing Frye was also near the top of my queue, and he looks certain to at least be somewhat valuable in points and 3-pointers. He'll get enough minutes to be a decent contributor at the end of your bench, at least until something better comes along. I also think Spencer Hawes is a big steal this late. Centers last longer when you only have to start one. Come to think of it, that's actually an interesting strategy to think about next time, not taking a center until one of your final two or three picks. Could you gain enough value with the other picks to make up for it? Brief aside out of the way, as previously mentioned, I think Hibbert has a lot of upside. Chances are he'll just foul too much to garner enough minutes to truly break out, but if you're just looking for a decent amount of blocks with a healthy sprinkling of upside, you could do much worse. You also can't argue with selecting Josh Howard this late.
What I didn't like: In a turnover league, owning Shaq hurts a lot. He kills you in free throw percentage and turnovers. And as far as I'm concerned, it's an open question how much he plays, since Zydrunas Ilgauskas is still a productive player. The less he plays, the less his free throw percentage kills you, but I think people may be expecting too much in points and rebounds from him. Jamal Crawford and Brandon Rush were also uninspired picks.
My strategy: My final-round lottery ticket is usually Danilo Gallinari, who in all honestly will probably be dropped for something better immediately. That's not to say I don't like him, but it will probably take a couple of weeks to see how legitimate Gallinari is, and in the meantime I doubt anyone else would pick him up, either. That really sums up the final two rounds' worth of picks anyway. Since it's a head-to-head league, however, you still want all of your picks to produce somewhat, so the decent contributors still have their value. In the future, though, I am starting to like Chris Douglas-Roberts more than Gallinari, so Douglas-Roberts will likely become my new final-round lottery ticket.
What I liked: Karabell makes another solid decision here by taking Jason Thompson, a nice balance of immediate production and long-term upside. You also can't argue with the upside of Jonny Flynn, or the solid production of Richard Hamilton or Andres Nocioni.
What I didn't like: I actually like Kyle Lowry more than Aaron Brooks in the long term, though I wouldn't use a pick on either. And before the news of Antawn Jamison's injury, the selection of Mike Miller looked odd, but now it might become prescient if Jamison needs surgery. And while I'm not a big fan of Samuel Dalembert, I like Marreese Speights more in the long term. I'm actually more surprised we didn't see Corey Maggette go off the board. Coach Don Nelson plans to use Maggette a lot at power forward now that Brandan Wright is injured, and he'd also stand to benefit from a S-Jax implosion.
Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.