• Hey Hoop Ballers! This is the first installment of my weekly feature covering deep leagues and dynasty formats. Fantasy draft season is upon us, so for my first article it only seems fitting to talk draft strategy and highlight the value of some deep league relevant players. I’ll primarily be focusing on players that should be relevant in 18-team, 20-team and 30-team formats. So, for those fantasy degenerates out there that are still with me, let’s put on our scuba gear as we prepare to dive deep into the abyss of the NBA talent pool.

    Those of you who are dedicated enough (crazy enough?) to play in 20 or 30-team leagues know that the draft has an outsized influence on your season when compared to a standard 12-team league. I’m sure you have heard the old adage “you may not win your league in the draft, but you can certainly lose it.” This is doubly true in deep leagues as the players sitting on the waiver wire following a draft are far less likely to make a meaningful contribution to your team.

    A few quick thoughts on draft strategy. I generally try to stay away from risky and injury prone players early in the draft (Joel Embiid is the poster child). If your first round pick goes down in a 12-team league, it can be a challenge to stay competitive. In a 30-team league, it can absolutely annihilate your team. So when is the right time to make some bold picks and swing on upside?

    In standard league drafts, most will recommend that the last three-to-six rounds be primarily upside picks. That makes a lot of sense when the player pool is 150-deep and there are guaranteed to be some useful guys sitting around on the wire. In deep league drafts, I prefer to go for upside in the middle rounds. In a 30-team league that would roughly be between picks 120-240.

    The logic there is pretty simple. Those are going to be late round fliers in standard leagues that have a far greater chance of winding up in the top-100 than a guy selected with pick 390 in the last round of a 30-team draft. Hitting on a few picks in the middle of your draft is essential since the comparative value of a player outperforming their ADP by “X” amount of spots begins to diminish the deeper you go. The table below pulled from Basketball Monster’s projections illustrates this point.

    Now that we have established the importance of nailing your draft, let’s highlight a few players that I think will outperform their current rankings on Yahoo and ESPN in leagues of various sizes. Value in deep leagues is all about opportunity – in fact, give me a minute to pull out a thesaurus to avoid overusing that word in my analysis of potential value picks.

    Everyone in the NBA is an elite talent, and some are more elite than others, but players don’t end up in the league by accident. Past a certain point in a deep league draft nearly all of the players you are looking at are backups. However, some have a more defined role on their team with a clearer path to minutes. Talent is important, but in deep formats I’ll take the guy in a good situation over the high-potential guy that is buried on the depth chart nine times out of 10.

    Delon Wright

    Pre-Draft Ranking: 200/551 (Yahoo/ESPN), 2016 Ranking: 234/242 (8/9 cat)

    If loving Delon’s situation this year is wrong, I don’t want to be Wright. He was able to put up back-end value last year in 20-team leagues in only 16 minutes per game behind the guard duo of Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph. Joseph has since moved on to the Pacers, leaving extra minutes available for Wright as the clear-cut backup point guard. His offensive game leaves a bit to be desired, but his ability to rack up steals and provide out of position blocks is extremely valuable. Given the extra minutes that are likely to come his way, Wright at 200 could be a steal. I think this is his absolute floor this year, especially if his offensive skillset takes even the slightest step forward.

    Sam Dekker

    Pre-Draft Rankings: 225/548 (Yahoo/ESPN), 2016 Ranking: 270/251 (8/9 cat)

    Many in the mainstream NBA media regarded Dekker as a throw-in to get the Chris Paul trade across the finish line. While his numbers don’t jump off the page, he was a useful back-end player in 20-team leagues last year in Houston. This year he suits up for the Clippers behind Danilo Gallinari and Blake Griffin. When you consider the injury history of both Griffin and Gallinari, Dekker has a solid path to a considerable boost in minutes should one of them go down. I wouldn’t take him too much higher than where Yahoo has him, but Dekker has some considerable upside at that value given the injury plagued players he is behind.

    Ron Baker

    Pre-Draft Rankings: 377/643 (Yahoo/ESPN), 2016 Ranking: 344/376 (8/9 cat)

    The contract handed to Baker was lost in the hysteria surrounding the Tim Hardaway Jr. signing, but it does seem to indicate that the Knicks are invested in developing Baker as an asset going forward. Predicting the point guard rotation for the Knicks is tricky given the recent signings of Ramon Sessions, Trey Burke and Jarrett Jack, but Baker is worth a look in deep leagues for the exact reason that rookie Frank Ntilikina is getting hyped in standard league drafts. If the Knicks are going to be as bad as we think, there is little incentive for them to leave Baker out of the rotation in favor of veteran stopgaps in Sessions and Jack. If he can get 20-25 minutes, he has a top-300 floor with top-200 upside. The beginning of the season may be ugly if he is out of the rotation but if you can ride that out I like him to end the year far ahead of where he is currently ranked.

    DeAndre’ Bembry

    Pre-Draft Rankings: 431/602 (Yahoo/ESPN), 2016 Ranking: 438/441 (8/9 cat)

    Beyond the tantalizing stat set potential, Bembry is another guy that gets a considerable boost simply due to situation. Hawks players are getting pumped up left and right this season, be it Taurean Prince, Dennis Schroder, Dewayne Dedmon or even John Collins, but Bembry largely seems to be an afterthought. At worst, he will likely be a primary ball distributor in the second unit who can also provide some defensive stats. If, however, the Hawks are sliding and Kent Bazemore or Taurean Prince struggle, he may be able to find himself in a more solidified role providing the aforementioned stats in greater abundance. He won’t give you much in the way of scoring, but he should be a reliable source of assists late in deep-league drafts. He should maintain a solid top-300 floor, with top-200 upside, so his current ranking is almost criminal.

    Isaiah Taylor

    Pre-Draft Rankings: 470/N.A. (Yahoo/ESPN), 2016 Ranking: 473/471 (8/9 cat)

    In February, the Rockets signed Taylor to a three-year, non-guaranteed deal after an impressive stint in the G-League. He only played four uninspiring games with the team last season, but he had a solid outing in Summer League and appears to have a legitimate chance of making the final roster. Take into account the glaring lack of guard depth in Houston and Taylor becomes worth a look this year as a last round pick in super deep leagues if we take into account his… wait for it… opportunity. If Chris Paul misses time this year, Taylor seems slated to be a primary beneficiary. Leaving him on the wire even in 30-team leagues would be completely justified, but there are few guys available that late that have the as much ability to rocket (that was bad, sorry) up the rankings if a few things go his way.

    Those are just a few guys that I will be targeting based on the current Yahoo and ESPN pre-draft rankings. If those rankings are updated, I will update my analysis accordingly. If you have an unhealthy addiction to using the word “upside,” or just want to chat about dynasty leagues and all things fantasy hoops, you can reach me on Twitter: @z_bodhane. Until next time Hoop Ballers!

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