Every year now dating back to 2004 when I was with CBSSports.com, I’ve taken part in the Ultimate Basketball Challenge. It is an ultra-competitive Fantasy Basketball draft with some of the brightest minds in the industry.
The nice thing about this league is that the roster of owners has not changed dramatically either. My former co-workers and friends, Brian Flood and Sergio Gonzalez of CBS, are in the league, which gives me a little bit of extra incentive. Other bright minds such as Matt Buser of Yahoo! Sports and Steve Alexander of Rotoworld.com really keep you on your toes, too. Tom Carpenter of ESPN.com is also a sharp, and always seems to be in contention. Over the years, David Klyce of HOOPSKlyce.com has been a rival and a friend, too. Always happy to associate with a Columbus guy. Fantasy veterans Hector Castro, Andrew Feingold, Dave Gawron, Tim Trout and Keith Wayland are also no slouches, either.
This league never has any ‘bye’ weeks, and nothing comes easy. I am proud to have won back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, and I blame the lockout last season, and subsequent condensed schedule, for my failure to Three-Peat – ha.
Here is the intricate scoring system used in this head-to-head league. It might look funny at first, and believe me, it took years for me to figure it out, mostly with brutal results in the early years.
3PT – Three Pointers Made (.08 points)
AST – Assists (.17 points)
BK – Blocks (.25 points)
FG – Field Goals Made (.25 points)
FGA – Field Goals Attempted (-.08 points)
FT – Free Throws Made (.25 points)
FTA – Free Throws Attempted (-.08 points)
PTS – Points (.08 points)
ST – Steals (.17 points)
TO – Turnovers (-.17 points)
TRB – Total Rebounds (.10 points)
It is interesting, and you just have to take my word for it or test the scoring system yourself, but it is one of the best around. The scores come out to mirror those of ‘real’ NBA games, and you really have to be careful not to load up on those players who do not take care of the ball well. Those turnovers can really, really hurt. Getting ready for this league is almost like preparing for a Rotisserie-style format.
Anyway, here are the results from this year’s draft. You’ll see a common theme below, something which I preach frequently either on our Sirius XM Radio spots each week at 9:30am ET (Sirius 210/XM 87). Call in at 1-888-963-2682 if you want to discuss hoops, by the way.
TEAM ROTO EXPERTS
TEAM ROTO EXPERTS
|1||12||Marc Gasol, MEM||C||10||109||Luke Ridnour, MIN||G|
|2||13||DeMarcus Cousins, SAC||C, F||11||132||Jason Richardson, PHI||F, G|
|3||36||David Lee, GS||C, F||12||133||Gustavo Ayon, ORL||C, F|
|4||37||John Wall, WAS||G||13||156||Jason Thompson, SAC||F|
|5||60||Kemba Walker, CHA||G||14||157||Kevin Seraphin, WAS||C, F|
|6||61||Andrea Bargnani, TOR||C, F||15||180||Brandon Rush, GS||F, G|
|7||84||DeMar DeRozan, TOR||F, G||16||181||Jose Calderon, TOR||G|
|8||85||Darren Collison, DAL||G||17||204||Alec Burks, UTA||G|
|9||108||Gordon Hayward, UTA||F, G|
You guessed it. That common theme is positional versatility. If faced with the choice of a player eligible at just one position, or selecting a guy who is eligible at multiple positions, I’ll even reach down a spot or two on the cheat sheet to nab that two-position player. The flexibility during the season helps out tremendously when, not if, injuries crop up. Instead of dumping players you really like and adding short-term solutions, or flavors of the week that won’t pan out long-term, you can find replacements in-house by just mixing and matching. It’s a winning situation unless the players you draft are absolutely horrid.
The first instance where eyebrows might be raised is at the top of Round 2, where I elected to go with Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins. He is one of those ‘slash’ players, as he plays both center and power forward. In this league, field goal percentage does play a big role, so I am hoping that Cousins will smarten up and make better decisions. He tends to get a bit overconfident, and will shoot anytime, anywhere. Los Angeles Clippers F Blake Griffin was picked right after at No. 14 overall, and then Cleveland Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving and Miami Heat G Dwyane Wade. First, I have found that depth of ‘bigs’ is not as great as the guard position, thus my thinking. And I passed on Griffin because he is locked into that forward spot, and I can’t move him around if needed. Sometimes, like I did in Round 1 with Marc Gasol, you have to accept a one-position guy. But I didn’t want my first two picks to have no flexibility position-wise.
Heading into end of Round 3, the pickins’ were pretty slim already up front. However, Golden State Warriors PF/C David Lee, again, because of his position flexibility, stood out. Only Denver Nuggets F/G Andre Iguodala got my interest at this point. I went with Lee to give my team a base of three strong big men, and in Round 4 it was time to break out the dice. I bypassed Iguodala for Washington Wizards PG John Wall (knee). Yes, he is sidelined until Thanksgiving or so, but to get this kind of first-round-type talent with the 37th pick overall, it was too hard to pass up.
At the end of Round 5, it seemed like an eternity for my pick to arrive. My queue was picked apart, and I was disappointed to lose out on Portland Trail Blazers F/G Nicolas Batum, who ended up going to Dr. A. I love Batum’s upside, and he will be used not only at small forward, but the shooting guard position as well in the Rose City. Still, I was pleased to land Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Bobcats, a player with tremendous upside. With the second end of the back-to-back picks, C/F Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors was too tough to pass up. I think he has a chance at a special season, and it came down to him or Philadelphia 76ers F/G Evan Turner. Rightly so, E.T. went off the board next to Klyce, and Buser stepped in with Minnesota Timberwolves F/C Nikola Pekovic. This was right around the time news of Kevin Love‘s broken hand surfaced, as this is a long-term draft done over the period of days. It was a nice grab for Buser for sure.
Heading into the middle rounds, I liked my picks of Toronto Raptors G/F DeMar DeRozan at the end of Round 7, as he is a big-time scorer. He might take a bit of a step backwards with plenty of depth in Toronto this season, but he’ll still meet or exceed expectations at this juncture of the draft. Dallas Mavericks G Darren Collison gets a clean slate and a starting gig in Big D. He’ll work with F Dirk Nowitzki (knee) soon, as he gets a chance to log plenty of assists with one of the best big men in the game. I also was pleased to land Utah’s Gordon Hayward, another ‘slash’ player, at the end of Round 9. I could have taken a chance on someone like Minnesota Timberwolves G Brandon Roy (knee) at this point, or reached for a player like Toronto Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas. I had already secured my core of big men, and I don’t like to gamble on players coming back from significant injury, in the event of Roy, when there are other perfectly able-bodied players like Luke Ridnour (my 10th round pick), San Antonio Spurs F/G Kawhi Leonard or even tried and true veteran G Jason Terry of the Boston Celtics. I’d rather limit my risk, saving those gambles until the final picks or two.
Speaking of gambling, I stayed fairly conservative until Round 14. I feel I reached for Washington Wizards big man Kevin Seraphin, especially since the Wiz have so much depth up front. Still, when he was given the chance, he was a double-double machine last season, so he isn’t a bad insurance policy for my bench. In retrospect, a guy like Chicago Bulls F Taj Gibson or even Milwaukee Bucks C/F Drew Gooden might have been a better alternative.
I gambled again in Round 16, going for Toronto Raptors G Jose Calderon. The cupboard was pretty bare at this point, but Calderon stuck out like a sore thumb. He could be a middle-round pick, but the addition of Kyle Lowry, and his uncertain status in Toronto make him a risky pick. Calderon is dependable, yes, but there was talk he could be an amnesty case, but the Raptors ended up keeping him. It poured cold water on his short-term Fantasy appeal, although I expect the team to move him as the season goes on. Eventually, sometime down the road, Calderon will find himself starting and in a very prominent role. I’ll keep him on my roster, and reap the benefits down the road.
I was also lucky enough to have the honor of selecting Mr. Irrelevant, and that goes to Utah Jazz G Alec Burks, who is certainly not irrelevant for Fantasy owners. He showed he can be a reliable scoring option in Salt Lake City. Yes, he is still very young, and somewhat buried on the depth chart by an influx of veterans, but also vets with a propensity for injury. Sooner, not later, Burks will get a chance to show off his scoring touch.