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  • Starting from the Bottom: A New Dawn

    What’s up Hoop-Ball dynasty die-hards! The regular season is almost upon us, so it seems like a great time to check back in on my rebuilding dynasty team to see what action has transpired. For those of you who may be new to the site, this series of articles specifically focuses on the trials and tribulations of rebuilding a dynasty team that I took over at the end of last season.

    So that is the rough primer on what “Starting from the Bottom” is. My goal in these articles will be to not simply recap waiver moves made, trades executed, trades turned down, and matchup results – that is fairly boring and uninstructive. Instead, the series will focus more on why I made a particular move, and why I did it at that specific time. That way, we can all collectively learn something (and share a few laughs at my expense for my inevitable missteps) as I work to right this ship

    As a quick reminder, here are the league settings that we are working with.

    The League

    Overview: 12-team head to head 9-cat league. Daily changes. Free agent auction waiver wire with $100 acquisition budget per team. No trade deadline.

    Rosters: 21 player rosters with 10 bench spots, 4 IR spaces and 6 G-League development spots for players have logged less than 100 NBA games.

    Keepers: Keep 18 of the 21 player roster each year

    The Team

    I won’t rehash all of the moves late last season that led me to this point (check out the first article in this series if you’d like to see those), but will instead start with my team composition prior to the rookie draft that took place.

    I ended the season with an abysmal 60-118-2 record. Certainly bad enough and then some to land the first overall pick in the league’s three-round free agent draft (mostly rookies). One of the first exercises that I went through after acquiring the team was categorizing players on my roster to help orient my thinking when making calls on waiver acquisitions or trade offers. Prior to the draft, I wanted to update my categorizations, as I needed to make a call on who to drop to clear up space for the incoming rookies. The categories (color-coded above) are:

    • Building blocks – this is not the same as untouchable, but are long-term assets that will require a steep return to move. (green)
    • Holding for now – solid players that may not quite be building block material. Or top-100 players that do not fit your timeline, but you would be sellin -low if you traded now. (yellow)
    • Players that you are actively shopping – this one is fairly self-explanatory. These guys are on the block and you are aggressively pursuing trade offers for (orange)
      • Drop candidates – it is important to always know who your most droppable players are in the event you need to clear a roster spot for a trade, or a must-own guy hits the waiver. In this case, these were the guys that I needed to clear out to make room for incoming  rookies (red)

    Keeper Selection and Free Agent Draft

    My roster prior to the draft consisted of the following players.

    Keeper Selection

    I needed to jettison three players to make room for the incoming rookies, and actually struggled with keeper selections more than I had anticipated. MarShon Brooks, Greg Monroe, Frank Kaminsky and Dragan Bender were the four players that I was most willing to part with, albeit for fairly different reasons.

    MarShon Brooks had a ridiculous top-25 run after joining Memphis for the final seven games of last season. Looking at his performance objectively, I had little to no hope that he would: 1) see the same playing time this season on a Grizzlies team that is likely looking to get back to the playoffs; 2) continue to shoot 50 percent from the field. Still, it was a strong enough stretch of play that I had to at least entertain the idea of holding Brooks and seeing what the trade market looked like for the 29-year-old guard. Ultimately, I determined that holding Brooks and parting ways with a younger asset with more upside was not worth the risk.

    Greg Monroe was a top-150 player last season in only 20 minutes per game, and has a reliable track record as top-100 player when the minutes are there. The key word there is minutes – and there may not be many of those to go around on the Raptors even before the addition of Kawhi Leonard. Add that to the fact that new Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse’s resume is built on emphasizing pace and space, and the plodding Monroe seems likely to be on the outside of the rotation looking in.

    After the Hornets moved on from Dwight Howard, it seemed like Frank Kaminsky may be in a position to show some signs of life following a largely uninspiring start to his NBA career. However, the offseason additions of Miles Bridges and Bismack Biyombo dashed any hopes of a Kaminsky breakout. He is still young, but Kaminsky’s per-minute production has been lackluster to this point, so without the promise of a big increase in minutes, continue holding out hope on Kaminsky seems to be a losing proposition.

    Dragan Bender just narrowly made the cut as a pre-draft keeper. He looked terrible in Summer League and has shown very little promise of delivering on his top-5 draft pedigree. The Suns also added Deandre Ayton, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, and Richaun Holmes this offseason, which may indicate that the Suns are losing hope in Bender as well. With all of that said, Bender is still only 20 years old entering what could be a make or break third year to prove that he belongs in the NBA. I’m not going to be contending for a title any time soon, giving Bender and the faint glimmer of upside remaining for him the edge over Kaminsky.

    Free Agent Draft

    I need help just about everywhere, so I determined that a “best player available” approach would be my guiding draft strategy regardless of a player’s position or stat set strengths. In fact, that is usually my guiding philosophy in rookie drafts whether I am contending or not. There is so much that we cannot predict when it comes to situational changes and stat set development. Owners are generally better served by drafting the most promising talent available versus tailoring a pick to specific categorical or positional needs.

    This draft class is absolutely loaded with talent up top, so my plan was to do whatever it took (short of trading Harden) to secure another pick inside of the top-5. Unfortunately, other owners at the top of the were also in the buyer’s market, making the cost of a top-5 pick prohibitively expensive. Here is a look at how the draft went down. I’ll pause after each round to quickly describe my pick in a bit more detail.

    Rookie Draft

    1. Luka Doncic (me)
    2. Deandre Ayton
    3. Jaren Jackson Jr.
    4. Trae Young
    5. Wendell Carter Jr.
    6. Marvin Bagley
    7. Mohamed Bamba
    8. Kevin Knox
    9. Collin Sexton
    10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
    11. Mikal Bridges
    12. Lonnie Walker

    Despite my lack of elite big-man talent, Luka Doncic simply holds too much promise to pass up on at the number one spot. I have modest expectations about his first year in the league, but have a high degree of confidence that I have selected a future top-25 player in Doncic.

    Round 2

    1. Mitchell Robinson (me)
    2. Michael Porter Jr.
    3. Elie Okobo
    4. Spencer Dinwiddie
    5. Moe Harkless
    6. Miles Bridges
    7. Aaron Holiday
    8. Grayson Allen
    9. Josh Okogie
    10. Cedi Osman
    11. Kevin Huerter
    12. Dzanan Musa

    After going with what I felt was a fairly safe pick in the first round on Luka Doncic, I felt comfortable taking on a bit more risk in the second round with a high-ceiling boom or bust type player. Mitchell Robinson was at the top of my board after many of the likely top-10 guys were selected, and he fills a position of need for me, so I really could not have asked for much more at pick 13.

    Round 3

    1. Zhaire Smith (me)
    2. De’Anthony Melton
    3. Trey Burke
    4. Chandler Hutchison
    5. Kevon Looney
    6. Robert Williams
    7. Jerian Grant
    8. Troy Brown
    9. Kieta Bates-Diop
    10. Omari Spellman
    11. Anfernee Simons

    I was torn between Zhaire Smith and De’Anthony Melton at this point. Melton fell further than I expected, so I had not even really entertained the idea of selecting him at pick 25. At the same time, Zhaire Smith might have gone inside of the top-15 had he not suffered an offseason foot injury requiring surgery. Smith’s raw offensive game makes him hard to project, but the upside that he brings on the defensive end alone combined with his pure athleticism lead me to believe that – at his ceiling – he will be the more valuable fantasy producer than Melton. Only time will tell I made the right choice, as there are legitimate questions as to whether he can ever reach that ceiling, but at this draft price, I’m convinced that I made the best choice given my need for early-to-mid round production. Also, selecting Zhaire Smith comes with the added bonus of an extra roster spot for the foreseeable future. I can just stick him in one of my IR spots and effectively gain another late draft pick.

    G-League Team Selections

    1. Jarred Vanderbilt
    2. Isaac Bonga
    3. Jonah Bolden
    4. Furkan Korkmaz
    5. Monte Morris

    This year, the league voted to add six G-League spots to each roster as well. To qualify for a G-League spot, a player has to have logged less than 100 NBA games in their career. Selecting unproven players this deep can feel like a bit of crap-shoot, but I stuck to my big board and continued my approach of grabbing the best player available and swinging for the fences on upside. A few quick notes on each of my selections.

    Jarred Vanderbilt was in the conversation as a lottery player last year with Kentucky before he went down with an ankle injury that kept him out for the remainder of the season. When he was on the floor, Vanderbilt demonstrated a limited offensive skillset, but absolutely dominated the boards with 18.5 rebounds per 40 minutes. If he sees regular rotation minutes in the next few years, his potential to develop into an elite rebounder should give him some fantasy relevance even if he never develops a reliable shot.

    I was hoping to land Anfernee Simons in this spot, but he went a few picks before I was back on the clock. With Simons off the board, I grabbed Isaac Bonga – a wiry wing player who clearly needs some time to develop following a sub-par performance at Summer League. If he ever puts it all together, Bonga has immense stat set potential to provide a combination of threes, assists, steals and blocks given his smooth stroke, long frame and aptitude as a distributor. I would wager that he spends a vast majority of the season in the G-League, so I won’t have to worry about him hitting the 100 game mark anytime soon.

    Jonah Bolden has a long way to go before he sees reliable rotation minutes in the NBA, but the blueprint for fantasy success is there. When Bolden is on the floor, it will almost invariably be due to his defensive impact. He is a freak athlete with a huge wingspan and a reliable 3-point shot. He’s not there yet, but could serve as a steady backup big man in a Philly with the potential to play some minutes at the five alongside Dario Saric, or potentially at the four next to Embiid. This pick was all about upside.

    Furkan Korkmaz’s 40-point outburst in Summer League showed one thing for sure – he is not shy about letting it fly from deep. The Sixers’ bench unit needs spacing, so Korkmaz could see rotation minutes this season when Redick and Covington are off the floor. There isn’t a ton to see here from a stat set perspective outside of threes, but I’m optimistic that I may have landed a solid trade chip in Korkmaz at the very least.

    Putting my Nuggets fandom aside, there is a lot to like in Morris as a dynasty asset. He may not have the absolute ceiling of Vanderbilt, Bonga or Bolden, but when you watch Morris it becomes apparent that he belongs in the league. My immediate hopes for him were dashed a bit after the Nuggets signed Isaiah Thomas to presumably serve as the first point guard off the bench, but I’m betting on him to develop in time into a reliable 25-ish minute per game contributor who will get you a few assists and triples on solid percentages. Not exactly the high ceiling type of player that I have been consistently targeting this draft, but it was too safe of a pick to pass on this deep.

    I opted to leave my final G-League spot vacant, as we had to spend $1 of our free agent acquisition budget per G-League slot. It is not too expensive, especially considering how few quality players are on the wire, but I like the flexibility that a free spot provides to grab a hot two-way player or stash someone who comes out of nowhere to dominate the G-League.

    Trades

    Following the draft, my focus immediately turned to working the trade market to try and secure some younger second or third-year players that may be flying under the radar in exchange for my veteran assets. I let it be known that James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Smart (I can’t take the percentages) were all on the block.

    Putting Harden on the block was a tough decision as he still has plenty of elite production left in the tank, but ultimately I decided that he didn’t fit my timeline. My hope was to get deeper and land a few younger pieces that are already at, or close to, second round value. After much effort in vain to pry away the likes of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell as the centerpiece of a package for Harden, I ended up securing a somewhat lateral deal that I was happy to make.

    I Send – James Harden

    I ReceiveAnthony Davis

    I wasn’t sure that I would be able to land Davis, but him or Jokic were my top two targets if I were to make a 1-for-1 trade with Harden. It worked out well for both teams. I get a younger and equally elite option in return for Harden, and they diversify their stat set a bit, as they were already top-heavy in boards and blocks.

    No one is biting yet on any of my offers to ship out Ariza and Evans, so I’m content to sit tight on them as wait for a sell-high window to emerge. The same goes for George Hill and Brook Lopez. I’m expecting a bounce-back year from both of them, so if I sold now I’d likely be doing so closer to last season’s value. I’m not actively shopping either of them at the moment. Instead, I will patiently bide my time and hold both of them in the hope that they re-emerge as consistent top-100 fantasy options, then sell them off at a corresponding price.

    Waiver Wire Action

    Following the conclusion of the draft, Zhaire Smith went straight on my IR, opening up another roster spot to add some depth to my team. The wire is barren given how deep the rosters go, but there were still some diamonds in the rough to be found.

    Derrick White had been rostered during the draft, but was dropped to clear out a roster spot in a 2-for-1 trade that went down. White looked fantastic in Summer League, averaging 18.4 points on 43-percent shooting with 2.2 triples, 5.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks in 25 minutes per game. Before the injury to Dejounte Murray, there was a chance that White was looking at extra minutes. Now he might start. As a long-term option, I like his chances to develop into a comfortable top-150 player on the back of a diverse stat.

    Trade Targets and Strategy Notes

    As a general rule, I rarely trade for rookies until a buy-low window opens as they under-perform (Malik Monk) or are battling injuries (Jonathan Isaac). People are simply too attached to their rookies in that first year, and you often end up significantly overpaying for the shiny new toy. With that said, here are few guys that I will be trying to acquire.

    Zach Collins – We may see a step forward from Collins this year, which wouldn’t be hard to do following a finish outside of the top-350 last season in 66 games played. His per-36 numbers leave a lot to be desired, and the name value and draft pedigree may make Collins an impossible get, but I’m happy to test the waters.

    Malik Monk – After a less than stellar rookie campaign, I’m still in on Malik Monk as a potential breakout candidate this year. Even if he comes off the bench behind Jeremy Lamb, he has flashed enough to warrant consideration as a future top-75 player with some growth as a distributor. Similar to Collins, his owner may still be attached, but it is worth floating an offer before the season kicks off.

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – In a number of startup dynasty drafts and mocks, Hollis-Jefferson was picked well outside of the top-100. As a 23-year-old player that has a real chance of finishing inside the top-100 in redraft formats, that seems to indicate an opportunity to buy-low. The injury concerns are real, but I’m willing to roll the dice on a guy who took a quiet step forward last year.

    Josh Richardson – Following a rough start to last season, Richardson was sitting on the wire in many redraft leagues. He ended up getting back on track on the way to a breakout top-60 finish, but I can’t help but wonder if that initial disappointment is lingering in his owners’ mind. The next step in his evolution as a player is adding some consistency to his offensive output. We know the defensive stats will be there, so if the scoring comes along he is in the discussion as a top-25 player. He was so hyped last year that some owners may be dealing with a bit of a hangover in that regard.

  • Dynasty Dose: Rookie Rankings

    With all of the talent in the class of 2018, Zach looks at the players that dynasty owners should be targeting as the best long-term assets.
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  • The Layup Line: Thursday, May 3

    IT'S AN ALL-EAST SLATE TONIGHT
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  • The Layup Line: Thursday, April 26th

    It’s Thursday Night and that means there’s going to be some quality, nationally televised PLAYOFF basketball being played in between wondering if you should dare switch the channel during commercials to see which NFL teams are actively screwing up their futures. Only one feature game tonight and it should be a doozy so lets get after it.

    Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks

    The Celtics are a game away from making it into the second round and the Bucks are back at home to try to bring this to a Game 7. With so much great basketball all around, this series has stood out as one the best in the playoffs so far and a Game 7 would cement that status. The series been chock full of close games, ridiculous finishes, and bad blood. Come to think of it, that last part has actually been the really under appreciated part of this year’s playoffs. Almost every series has had some real testiness behind it. The fouls feel harder and the nastiness has kicked up a level. This one has been no different and it’s a welcome feeling.

    Celtic Snide

    Since there’s only one game tonight, I’ll just run through a number of things I’m thinking about for each team.

    Terry Rozier insisting on calling Eric Bledsoe “Drew” is some great shade. First, there are few more infuriating things that someone calling you the wrong name. That’s way crappier than trying to pull the “Who’s that guy” card. Second, Drew Bledsoe had a great career and then was replaced by Tom Brady who went on to become an all-time great. Don’t think that messaging hasn’t sunk in. Eric Bledsoe has been a good player on bad teams and had a history of injury issues. So if this is also Terry Rozier’s way of saying, you’re past you’re prime and time for you to go then it’s an incredible burn. If Eric Bledsoe really wanted to flip the script and bring this beef full circle, he could refer to Rozier as Terry Glenn, so long as he doesn’t go full Parcells.

    Jaylen Brown has been fantastic in the series and it’s a shame that he’s likely doomed to a 6th man scoring role next season. This assumes that both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward return to full health and will be starters alongside Al Horford and Jayson Tatum. Fantasy owners are going to start a #FreeJay campaign when his nightly lines start to look like they belong to Shabazz Muhammad.

    I don’t know if this Celtics team can make a deep run without Irving and Hayward, but I want them to just so we can turn Marcus Smart into a full-fledged playoff villain. Smart’s return was a huge factor in Boston’s Game 5 win and that alley-oop block on the Freak was a thing of beauty. He’s going to make enough defensive plays for every opposing fan to want to punt him into the sun. Marcus Smart is the kind of player that everyone else hates, but you’d absolutely love if he were on your team. This generation needs a new Bruce Bowen and Smart could fit that bill.

    I hope the Sixers give Markelle Fultz some playing time for a potential Tatum vs. Fultz grudge match. This has been such a fantastic season for the 2017 draft class and whoever gets the best of the traded pick war would just be a cherry on the rookie sundae. If these two teams wind up fighting for the future of the East year in and year out then I hope we can look back at this being the start of something special between the two.

    Deer Crossing

    Call me crazy, but I think it’s a wise idea for the Bucks to get Giannis more than 10 field goal attempts. Only getting 10 FGAs in Game 5 is simply unacceptable, I don’t care who is guarding him whether it’s Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes, or a Cthulu that rises up from under the arena. Giannis had exactly two games this season with 10 or less FGAs and take a wild guess how those games wound up for the Bucks.

    They’re not Irving and Hayward, but I also wonder what this Bucks team could do if John Henson and Malcolm Brogdon were fully healthy. Henson has missed the last couple of games with a back injury and Brogdon is still finding himself after his knee injury. When the Bucks get going Henson can be a menace to opposing big men and Brogdon has sneaky offense. The Bucks are missing those factors on nights when Giannis can’t do it all.

    I hate to write the Bucks off and move onto next season when they still could force a Game 7, but so much of what happens to this team depends on who will be their next head coach and what they do with Jabari Parker. Parker’s squeaky wheel act seemed to work, but that was partly due to the team losing Henson. Most teams’ cap situations aren’t great so Parker may find getting offer sheets pretty difficult. Perhaps there’s a bit of a “prove it” deal that his people and the Bucks can work out. I can’t possibly imagine that the Bucks let their former No. 2 overall pick walk without knowing what could be if he can get a healthy season in alongside Giannis, Middleton, and Bledsoe.

    Part of what makes this Bucks team so frustrating is that the talent is there, but the results haven’t been. That’s got to fall on coaching. Jason Kidd was never consistent with player rotations and Joe Prunty isn’t a viable long-term option. So much of the Bucks’ would-be success also hinges on finding the right head coach and they have no shortage of options. It’s probably the biggest job available given whoever takes the reigns will be coaching an in-his-prime Greek Freak. And given how close he was to Kidd, it behooves management to find someone who can take his freakish talents to the next level and keep Giannis happy. A happy Freak is going to be the best kind of Freak.

    But I do hope there is a Game 7, because Game 7s rule. A Bucks win tonight means shifts all the pressure onto Boston and Brad Stevens. If the Celtics lose in 7 then the season is a failure, regardless of who is in and out of the lineup. Win and, well, they were supposed to win and their reward is a fired up Philly squad that is growing in strength by the day. Don’t let us down Bucks.

  • The Layup Line: Thursday, April 19th

    TIME FOR DAME TO SHINE
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  • Fantasy Weekly Report: Weeks 25-26 ($)

    ONE BROW TO RULE THEM ALL
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  • Fantasy NBA Tonight ($) for Wednesday is Live at 6:30pm PT.

    GOODBYE TO THE 2018 NBA FANTASY SEASON
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  • Nightly Pickups: Tuesday, April 10th ($)

    It’s here, the eve of the 2017-18 regular season finale. For managers in tight, do-or-die matchups in their finals series, these moves could be the difference between gold or silver hardware on your profile’s make-believe trophy case. Pickups Ersan Ilyasova, Philadelphia 76ers – Dario Saric left tonight’s game after banging his face. This should open […]
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  • Nightly Pickups: Monday, April 9th ($)

    GOODBYE MY MONDAY, GOODBYE MY FRIEND
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  • Fantasy NBA Tonight ($) for Monday is Live at 8:00pm PT.

    THE SPURS HOPING TO CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOT WITH WIN
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  • Nightly Pickups: Sunday, April 8th ($)

    THE LAST SUNDAY OF THE REGULAR SEASON
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  • Fantasy NBA Tonight with Aaron Bruski ($): Waiver Wire Edition

    Aaron Bruski does his last waiver wire show of the year for premium members.  Get your questions in early!
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  • Pickups of the Night: Friday, April 6th

    THE TANKS ARE FIRED UP AND CREATING TONS OF VALUE
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  • Fantasy NBA Tonight ($) for Friday is Live at 6:00pm PT

    REST DAYS AND SILLY NIGHTS
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  • Nightly Pickups: Thursday, April 5th ($)

    Larry Nance Jr. (49%) – Nance Jr. managed to put up only three points but added 10 rebounds and a steal in 17 minutes. He only shot 1-of-5 from the field which is usual for Nance who’s been a .560 percent shooter since joining the Cavaliers roster. He outplayed Tristan Thompson tonight as Thompson played only […]
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