• You ever finish a fantasy draft, put your hands behind your head, grin, and reflect upon how wise your draft selections were compared to your competition, let alone to the players suggested by the site based on their rankings?

    Well, even though it wasn’t ideal to have three auto-drafters in this 12-team mock draft that we held on October 2nd, it was noteworthy to see that one of them came out fourth in the projected standings I used (and I’m not even using the projections of the site that auto-drafted the teams). If ever there was an argument for sticking with the boring strategy of drafting the players that fall to you while simply paying attention to injuries and scarcity (both positional and statistical), this mock makes it. But while doing that should keep you in contention, we can do better than just “in contention.” This was a 12-team, 8-category roto mock draft on Fantrax, so let’s give some credit to the Fantrax projected values, as I believe they drove the default player order.

    How can we learn from this mock draft? Well, I’ll show you the projected standings and then I’ll break it down by round. You’ll be able to see some examples of drafting from and near your draft slot with different strategies and determine if they were successful. Also, I always find it helpful to note where certain positions and stats dry up so I know what to prioritize.

    First, a bit about my strategy in this draft: Though I’ve listened to at least a dozen mock drafts (or draft results) on podcasts this offseason, the only actual drafting I’ve done has been for two deep dynasty startups. My plan here, based on what I’ve gathered during draft season, was to make sure I had at least two guys that can nail down assists within the first three rounds and at least three solid big men that can contribute in blocks by round six.

    I feel that assists and blocks are generally the stats that dry up most quickly, and there are plenty of those bigs available in rounds three through six. There are some amazing wings of course, but unless one falls into my lap, I think it’s best to wait on them and put them to use patching up whatever roster holes I end up with.

    In order to get some variety in the draft, I invited some friends from my home league that aren’t directly influenced by Hoop Ball (yet!). So I ended up drafting with three of them, three Fantrax auto-drafters and five folks that came here from the Hoop Ball universe.

    Full disclaimer before you take a look at these projected standings: They’re from Basketball Monster since I’m very familiar with how to run a projection there. Also, this site’s projections have a big impact on me, so of course these standings are going to love much of my roster. However, my oldest friend in the world (by length of friendship… he’s not, like, a great-grandfather) came out tied with me for first. Reminds me so much of high school physics where he paid infinitely less attention than I did all year and then beat me on the final after studying for one night. But anyway…

    It’s a little difficult to figure out how to best project your league’s standings, but I highly recommend that you do. You can use a site like this or you can pretty easily use Excel to do most of it for you after you’ve done some projection pasting and looked up a few simple formulas.

    One issue is that many teams will have an injured player or two, or at least a player that’s expected to miss around twenty games. If you use averages, that won’t be very accurate since it won’t account for these players. If you use total stats, each team will have an uneven amount of games played. I set this Basketball Monster projection to use our bench players to replace our missed games (based on how many games each player is projected to play) up to the point where we’re each at or near the maximum number of games played (820).

    Obviously, in a real league, we would be replacing injured players with free agents and making dozens and dozens of moves per team, making this projection even more inaccurate. And then there are the upside stashes that won’t be started unless and until they show they’re worth starting. But you still want to pay attention to what your team is expected to do so that you have an educated guess as to what you’ll need to do in order to win your league. I’m just getting familiar with the RotoBalance App by Hoop Ball, and it seems like an excellent free tool to use to keep tabs on your team for this purpose.

    Now let’s take a look at the draft.┬áThe auto-drafted teams have “LA” next to their picks, and they were Team ugiche, waputs 101 and Team brucass11. They vary wildly when glancing at their strengths and weaknesses.

    Neither Jusuf Nurkic nor Klay Thompson were drafted, though I’d definitely recommend taking one of them late if you have two free IL slots. If we could have picked up injury replacements, I think they’d have surely been drafted.

    As I mentioned, I wanted excellent assists early. I treated that as the tie-breaker between the guards and the bigs in the consensus top-5. Actually, using that criteria, it might have been smarter to go with Giannis Antetokounmpo with similar assists to Stephen Curry at a non-guard position. I just don’t like that free throw percentage risk this early. I don’t really think there’s a wrong choice in that group of five, though.

    The only picks that look a bit out of the ordinary here are LeBron James going slightly higher than in most mocks (though it’s right in line with Fantrax’s ADP) and Luka Doncic. MattO may have reached a bit, but a couple things: He’s on the end, so if he wants Luka, he’s got to take him at 12 or 13. Also, this is 8-cat, where Doncic finished around #55 in per-game rankings compared to the #100-range in 9-cat last season. With a bump up to his European career norms in field goal percentage and free throw percentage and the typical improvement in other areas from year one to year two, he’s certainly capable to getting into the top-20.

    And I know that many people have a set number six, seven, eight, and maybe beyond that, but I think six is the start of such subtle differences in value among the players that you can take any one of about 15 players in the second half of this round. It just depends on your risk tolerance and what you plan to do next.

    No players really jump out here as overdrafted, but I love Jrue Holiday at 21 and Nikola Vucevic at 22. And remember that this is 8-cat, so Westbrook takes a healthy leap compared to turnover leagues. There were multiple centers available that I love at 23, so I decided to grab one at 26 and take the last point guard that I felt great about in Trae Young at 23. That put me in excellent shape in three of the four “guard stats” (counting points as neither a guard stat or big-man stat), leaving just steals as a need. This has me all set up to grab a bunch of big men soon that can help me catch up in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage.

    Khris Middleton and Blake Griffin stand out here to me as players I wouldn’t want quite so early, but Blake is right at his Fantrax ADP and Middleton is less than a round earlier than his. Let’s see how teams have started off so far so you can get an idea of what sorts of trios are possible.

    Harden/Siakam/Simmons (not many blocks)

    Steph/Trae/Ayton

    Giannis/Vucevic/Donovan

    AD/Jrue/Fox

    KAT/Butler/Collins (not many assists)

    Jokic/Kemba/Zion

    LeBron/Booker/Russell (not many blocks)

    Lillard/PG/Middleton (no bigs yet or for a while)

    Embiid/Drummond/Aldridge (only bigs – our high-ranking auto-drafter)

    Kawhi/Westbrook/Turner

    Beal/Gobert/Dray

    Luka/Kyrie/Blake (not many blocks)

    All reasonable picks here. Alert to Fantrax drafters: Mitchell Robinson is down at 94 in their rankings, so get him into your queue before it’s too late. I think that’s quite a steal to get him at 43. As my turn came up, I was thrilled that Chris Paul had fallen to me. I’m definitely with Dan Besbris in my love for old and boring players that fall into my lap because they’re… old and boring. That’s often where the value lies.

    However, there was another old man point guard that I love just about as much in Kyle Lowry, so I counted on the dude with the next two picks to leave one for me and I selected my second big man in Bam Adebayo. And for a guy that generally avoids the hype, I now have a third-year player and two sophomores.

    The quality high-assist players are pretty much gone after Lowry, and there won’t be another with the potential for 8-plus assists for a couple rounds in most drafts. Danilo Gallinari’s value could far exceed this pick (#32 in per-game value last season) given good health. Similarly, Robert Covington (last year’s #25 per-game) could really help a team win the too-often-ignored categories of threes, steals and blocks. As far as young upside, Jayson Tatum is a nice post-hype sleeper at 57.

    Kevin Love, Eric Bledsoe and Al Horford make great old-man squad picks here in the 60s. Another Fantrax ranking alert: Brook Lopez is at 75, so queue him up early and grab last year’s #54 (#32 in total stats) well before that if you’re searching for blocks. I went with yet another second-year man in Wendell Carter Jr., who I think has a pretty safe floor and great block potential. This is also where I feel like the reliable centers have more or less dried up. There are certainly good ones left, but they’ve all got warts.

    I made a dumb mistake here, as I thought it was my turn at 73 and I clicked on Jonathan Isaac. I even looked at the list of drafted players and saw Isaac there. But as you can see, that wasn’t my turn. A few minutes later, I checked back in and noticed I’d auto-picked Lonzo Ball. Fortunately, I had a handful of players I liked in my queue, so I wasn’t upset about the pick.

    Lonzo joins Ja Morant and Ricky Rubio as the last few big-assist guys off the board (maybe Jeff Teague later). If you’re hurting for dimes in this range, make sure you target one of them. However, I love Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s overall game and would’ve taken him at least a round earlier than this had I been more set with my blocks. Bojan Bogdanovic is a guy that should probably stay on the board a while longer than this.

    And not to keep hammering MattO’s picks, but Brandon Clarke will probably be available a few rounds later and he may need a season or two to reach his immense potential.

    DeMarcus Cousins goes to an auto-drafter, so here’s another reminder to always have at least a few players you want in your queue so you don’t end up with Boogie.

    Caris LeVert could easily end the season right at this rank, but he probably has the most upside in this round.

    That is, unless Dewayne Dedmon can replicate last season (I’m thinking he won’t).

    Everyone else here seems fair enough. In this range, you can make an argument for drafting just about anyone that typically goes within the next 40 picks. It just depends on what you need and how risky you can afford to be.

    Some good picks to start off this round. I especially like T.J. Warren and four quality guards for those in need this late in Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Marcus Smart and Jeff Teague. I think they’d all be fine picks at least a round earlier. I felt like I needed another big to keep up, even after grabbing Dedmon, so I went with Kevon Looney. This was a good lesson for me. I should’ve taken another big in the 7th so that I could be grabbing guards I value more highly than my last two picks.

    I like all these picks, assuming they filled needs. JaVale McGee could be the last reliable shot-blocker here. This is the point at which I was ready to pay attention to the wing positions I might be missing. Fortunately a few of my point guards and centers qualified at the two and the four, so I think I only needed a three.

    I waited until the last second to make my pick, and even though I clicked on the button to draft Kevin Huerter before the clock ran out, I didn’t have enough time to complete the ensuing pop-up box that asks you to assign the player’s position (something to keep in mind on Fantrax). Once again, I had one of my next favorites in Mikal Bridges queued up, so it didn’t hurt too much.

    And I once again missed my chance to draft here as I was taking notes for this recap. Fortunately, Evan Fournier was the guy I wanted. The safe players are just about gone by this point. But that’s alright, since we’re into our final three rounds. Rarely do players after this point stick on rosters for very long. It’s time to take some lottery tickets unless you have clear areas of need and/or you already took some high-risk, high-reward players and need some reliable guys to compensate.

    Wings galore! Like I said, my strategy had been to grab some wings at the end to fill in some holes. For example, threes and steals are relatively plentiful among many of these players. What I did learn is that I should’ve prepared a bit more for which specific wings I wanted. They started all looking about the same and very few looked attractive. I ended up grabbing a guy in which I don’t have much faith in Malik Monk, but there’s a chance that he gets to launch tons of threes on a bad rebuilding team.

    Aaaaaand a bunch of guys with holes in their games to round it out. A few known-quantity boring guys in Reggie Jackson, Harrison Barnes and D.J. Augustin and a couple unknowns in Grant Williams and Jarrett Culver. In a real league, half of these players would be dropped in the first week as we hunt for breakout free agents.

    Speaking of which, here are some of the best undrafted players that could easily have been taken in the last few rounds. Also helpful to see what players might be around in case you do need to replace some injured players post-draft.

    First by ADP, and then by projected value:

    So if you like, take a look at the rosters below and/or glance back up at the projected standings. Pay attention to what you need to be competitive. Not the exact numbers, but maybe how many high-quality big men or standout guards you want to target in order to build a well-rounded team. And like I said, I think it’s imperative to review the spots where the players you consider trustworthy at a position or a certain stat run out so that you know what to prioritize and where you can wait a bit longer.

    Check your site’s rankings, since that’s probably going to be the default draft order. Scroll down and make sure you’re the one that takes the Mitchell Robinsons and Brook Lopezes of Fantrax, guys that are so far lower than they should be that your competition might not even see them by the time they should be taken. Best of luck to you all and make sure you have some fun.

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