Fantasy Basketball Autopick Draft Strategy and Results
October 15, 2012 | Mike Baum
I compiled my preseason top 100 rankings last week, and over the weekend I decided to put them to the test, signing up for a 12-team Yahoo public league autopick draft, using my top 100 as my pre-ranks.
Since it was an autopick draft, I didn’t have the benefit of assessing my strengths and weaknesses mid-draft and adjusting my ranks accordingly. I also didn’t adjust my rankings to account for instances where Yahoo had over or under-ranked certain players. If you are participating in a live draft, these are obviously adjustments that you want to make. With that caveat in mind, let’s take a look at the results:
I drew the dreaded (by me, anyway) 8th overall pick, a draft slot where the clear-cut studs are usually gone, and you’re left choosing from a group of 8-10 players with similar value. Staying true to my ranks, I took Andrew Bynum with the 8th overall pick. This pick doesn’t look great right now based on Bynum’s shaky health, but when he is on the floor I expect Bynum to perform like a first-rounder and post elite FG%, PTS, REBs, and BLKs.
With my second pick (17th overall) I snagged DeMarcus Cousins. Drafting Centers with your first two picks is not usually a sound strategy, but given Bynum’s questionable health and Cousin’s breakout potential, I’m actually very happy I landed him. Cousins is being drafted in the first in a lot of expert drafts I’ve seen this fall. The Bynum/Cousins combination is about as high upside as it gets at the Center position.
In the third round (32nd overall) I landed Rajon Rondo. My team desperately needed a guard, and I’m happy to have Rondo, who should lead the league in assists and also produce elite STLs. Rondo is finally ready to emerge as a leader both on and off the court for the Celtics, and I think 2012-13 will be a career year for him.
In round four (41st overall) I took yet another Center in Roy Hibbert. This is obviously a situation where I wouldn’t have drafted a Center had I been drafting live. This pick would make more sense to a team that had no starting center in the fourth round, not a team that had two already. Disappointing pick.
In the fifth round (56th overall) I drafted my first three point shooter, Klay Thompson. Thompson is locked in as the Warriors starting SG, and should make 2+ threes per game and score in the high teens.
In the sixth round (65th overall) I got stuck with yet another Center, JeVale McGee. That makes 4 centers with my first 6 picks. I can already see that this team will have no trouble racking up FG%, REBs, and BLKs, but FT%, AST, STL, and 3PM are becoming real areas of concern. Jrue Holliday or Wesley Matthews would have looked nice here.
In round seven (80th overall) I got Damian Lillard, and I’m ecstatic with the pick. Lillard will start at PG for the Blazers right away, and should offer plenty of PTS, ASTs, STLs, and 3PM. I had him in my top 50 on my initial top 100 list, and I advised you to target him as soon as the elite PGs were off the table, so 80th overall feels like an absolute steal.
In round eight (89th overall) I got another steal that I’m very excited about, Isaiah Thomas. As a starter last season, Thomas averaged 14.8 PPG, 5.4 AST, 3.1 REB, and 1.6 3PM. There is some concern that Keith Smart won’t make him the starter or give him major minutes, but I think Thomas’ talent will win out and he will be a top 15 PG this season.
In rounds nine and ten (104th and 113th overall) I added more bigs to my roster, landing Glen Davis and Derrick Favors. I expect both players to easily outperform these draft spots and provide more depth/trade bait to my team.
In round eleven (128th overall) I snagged one of my favorite sleepers, Kawhi Leonard. Leonard is the ultimate glue guy for roto owners, because he does a little bit of everything without hurting you anywhere. I expect Leonard to carve out a major role on the Spurs this year, and flirt with a top-50 valuation.
I closed out my draft with Nikola Pekovic (137th overall) and Rodney Stuckey (152nd overall). Pekovic is my 7th Center-eligible player, and while I don’t need him on this team, I like the value this late. Stuckey gives my team some much-needed scoring punch. I think that a healthy Stuckey could become a ~20 PPG guy. As a 13th round flier, I’m happy to have him.
Analysis + Plan of Action
Overall this team is somewhat unbalanced, and will require some work to straighten out. Because it was autopicked, Yahoo’s computers didn’t stop drafting Centers for me, even when I clearly had plenty. I was pumped to land Lillard and Thomas in the middle rounds, but I’m still slightly worried about AST with this team. Of all the categories in fantasy basketball, assists are often the hardest to find on the wire or trade for. I’m also dangerously light on threes with only Thompson, Lillard, and Thomas contributing significantly to that category. Thanks to Rondo, McGee, and to a lesser degree Bynum, Cousins, Favors, and Glen Davis, I’m certain to struggle in FT%. I should be strong to dominant in FG%, REBs, and BLKs, a product of having a team built around big men. I’d predict this team to finish middle of the pack in PTS, STLs, and TO as currently constructed.
Because I took a chance on a number of young players who are not yet household names and/or do not have strong statistical baselines (basically all of my picks from round 5 on…), I feel like I will have a difficult time getting fair value in preseason trades. My plan is to wait for some of these players to establish value, and then work a few trades from my areas of surplus (PF/C) for my areas of weakness (SG/SF).
My initial thought was to deal JeVale McGee (and his horrific FT%) for another scoring G/F, preferably someone who makes threes. To my surprise (trading is rare in public leagues) I received an offer from a Center-needy owner asking for Nikola Pecovic for his Andre Miller. Miller would help me in ASTs, but he doesn’t score or shoot threes well, so I countered with Jason Terry, which was accepted. In his new role with the Celtics, Terry should give me plenty of 3PM and solid ASTs and STLs, all areas of need/concern for me. I won’t really miss Pekovic, so I thought this was a good first step in helping to balance my team. I can still shop Hibbert and McGee, and I will be looking to secure another 15+ PPG scorer who makes some threes and gets steals. Ideally I’ll get someone who is SF eligible, since I only have Thompson and Leonard who qualify there, and one of them will usually be manning the SG slot.
The biggest lesson learned is that autopicking your fantasy team is never really a good idea. When you autopick, you deny yourself the ability to adjust your strategy to your team’s strengths and weaknesses on the fly. You are much more likely to end up with a team that is unbalanced when you autopick. Another important lesson learned is that over-ranking big men and leaving yourself short on G/Fs is dangerous. I was able to get good value in Glen Davis, Derrick Favors, and Nikola Pekovic in the later rounds, picks that made my early round picks of Hibbert and Mcgee seem wasteful. If I were to attempt to autopick another team, I would slide many G/F up on my rankings, and slide many Centers down.