If you haven’t heard by now, Henry at Weakside Help and I at — well, here — am going on a mock-drafting adventure. Here’s a quick overview: we’re building 12 teams in a standard nine-category league, round-by-round (for 13 rounds), in order to build the best teams that we can, while also drafting in an appropriate order.
So far, the first two rounds haven’t strayed too much from the script, which means some eyebrow raising is bound to be in store in this round.
Now for round three, where things start to get dicey:
25. Al Horford (joins K. Durant, T. Evans): Many of you might scoff at this pick but that’s probably because you haven’t been paying attention to this guy. During his three years in the league, Horford has improved his shooting from the field (55 percent last season), rebounds (9.9 per game last season) and scoring (14.2 per game last season). The big man also offers his share of steals and blocks (though it’d be nice to see him block more shots), rarely turns the ball over (1.6 per game for his career), and shoots well from the charity stripe (78.9 percent last season). Oh, and any slight risk to his value the addition of Shaquille O’Neal would’ve presented seems to be all but dead, since the Hawks aren’t ready to pony up the cash that the Big Diesel desires. Horford’s quietly managed to build himself into one of the elite center-eligible fantasy players available, and adding him to a team that has Durant and Evans fills out the roster quite well — seriously, name one category that this squad is seriously lacking in so far? This team is looking tighter than [name of your favorite celebrity crush].
26. Chauncey Billups (joins L. James, B. Roy): Mr. Big Shot always seems to hang around in the top 20 every season, and while there’s good reason to think his motor’s due for a sputter, it’s hard to let him slip much further than this. Roy at No. 23 overall scares me a bit, given a health record that elicits as many groans as M. Night Shyamalan’s name on any screen nowadays. But if he’s anywhere near healthy, there’s no denying his value at that spot. So, on one hand, Billups acts as something like insurance for Roy. On the other hand, this team is looking really strong in assists and threes. James’ somewhat shaky FT% is lifted by Billups and Roy, while Billups’ low FG% is lifted by LBJ and Roy. One through three are filled up pretty well here — now on to build the frontcourt! Or not. That’s for Henry to decide.
27. Joe Johnson (joins C. Paul, C. Bosh): JJ always seems to find himself around the No. 25 spot each year, and this season is probably no different. He’s pretty boring, in a good way — you know you can count on him for 21/4.5/5, along with solid percentages and a nice dash of threes. This team now has a rock-solid backcourt and a capable big man, and assists will abound. My only fear is that Johnson’s dreadful playoff woes will carry over into this season. Is it likely? No. Is it a scary possibility? Yes.
28. Andre Iguodala (joins D. Nowitzki, J. Kidd): AI9 is an all-around guy who, by all accounts, is thriving in Team USA’s summer activities so far. The two threats he’s facing is the addition of a similarly all-around guy in Evan Turner, along with new head coach Doug Collins. Iggy has top-20 talent written all over him, but he took a small step back last season, shooting a lower percentage from the field and scoring fewer points. While I’m not confident that he can turn things completely around this season, I expect that using a No. 28 pick for Iguodala could turn out to be a huge bargain. If coach Collins can figure out how to breathe life into the carcass that contains Elton Brand, and if Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams improve, AI9 could have a more efficient season than he did last season, though that might not necessarily mean bigger all-around numbers. Kidd and Iguodala pretty much cover all the bases, while Diggler and Kidd can lift Iguodala’s pedestrian FT%.
29. Monta Ellis (joins K. Bryant, A. Jefferson): I dislike Ellis’ frailty, and he turns the ball over like it’s his job, but I just couldn’t resist a backcourt of Ellis and Kobe. You want firepower? That’s firepower up your nose right there. Along with Jefferson, this squad potentially has three 20+ PPG guys. Points and steals are pretty strong here, while rebounds should also be aplenty. Sure, turnovers are almost a lost cause now, but who cares? OK, I’m slowly starting to fall back to earth…and I’m realizing that this could be one of the worrisome backcourts in this draft from a health perspective…and I’m also remembering that Nellie and his insane offense isn’t guaranteed to return in the fall…and I’m still not convinced that Ellis is OK playing alongside a stud like Stephen Curry…but I’m choosing to take on those risks with this squad. These three dudes could each put up two or three eye-popping lines every week. I see this pick as my one Twinkie for the month.
30. Nene Hilario (joins D. Granger, J. Smith): He played a full 82 games last season, which was a relief to see. While Nene tends to go on frustrating cold streaks, taking him here makes this team one of those dreaded reb/stl/blk monsters. Granger, Smith and Nene are each capable of averaging 1+ steals and 1+ blocks per game, and they’ll each grab around 5-9 rebounds on any given night. Also, Nene and Smith will lift Granger’s low FG%, while Granger can do his best to keep this team afloat with his insane gunning beyond the arc. This frontcourt is pretty menacing so far, albeit a tad fragile (Granger, Nene).
31. Troy Murphy (joins P. Gasol, R. Rondo): Murphy is underrated in most fantasy circles. A big man who double-doubles and knocks down around two threes every game should get more recognition, right? Yes, but his spotty health history has owners scared. The good news is that he’s played 72+ games in each of the past three seasons, which is great by his standards. Toss him in the pot with Gasol and Rondo and you’ve got a good handle on rebounds, and a decent shot at assists and steals. Also, Gasol and Murphy’s strong free-throw shooting makes up for Rondo’s mediocrity there. Murphy also gives this team a much-needed source of threes.
32. David West (joins D. Williams, B. Lopez): I agree with Henry that D-Will and BroLo (love it) are a very, very strong foundation. I saw two ways to go with this pick: branch out and try to cover lacking categories (points, threes) or bolster this team’s strengths — I chose to go the latter route. West, like Murphy, is an underappreciated fantasy entity that could easily go in the top 25 in most drafts. He falls lower than he should in many drafts because he has a boring name (no, seriously) and because he has a boring game that leads to boring stats. But, as fantasy fans know, boring isn’t always bad. With West on board, this squad has a good grip on FG%, FT% and rebounds. Williams gives any team a shot at winning assists each week, but this squad clearly needs help with threes. The good news is that this owner can now focus on needs without worrying too much about disturbing the stuff he’s got nailed down already.
33. Tim Duncan (joins S. Curry, C. Anthony): Ah yes, the king of boring himself: Mr. Duncan. Yes, he’s a stud in decline. Yes, his minutes have been falling for five consecutive seasons. Yes, he struggled during the second half of last season. And yes, he’s still a fantasy stalwart. Duncan can no longer be seen as a major health liability, thanks in part to his tightly controlled minutes — he hasn’t played fewer than 75 games in those five seasons of declining playing time. The man is a walking double-double, along with 3+ assists and 1.5+ blocks, and he averaged a career-low 1.8 turnovers per game in 2009-10. Let Curry and Melo deal with the scoring, threes and steals — TD will handle everything else. If this owner is apprehensive about Duncan’s production down the stretch, he can easily trade him for good value after the first month of the season.
34. Andrea Bargnani (joins D. Wade, A. Stoudemire): Call this pick what you will — Bargnani is a legit sleeper this season, if you can even call him that anymore. It’s no secret that with Chris Bosh out of town, the Italian big man is now the primary offensive weapon for a depleted Raptors squad. I mean, come on — the only other two players currently in Toronto that scored 10+ points per game last season were Jarrett Jack (11.4) and Jose Calderon (10.3), and this season’s roster doesn’t have many offensive weapons, to put it lightly. Averages around 20/8 along with 2+ threes and 1.5+ blocks are well within reach for Bargs. While neither Stoudemire nor Bargnani are monsters on the glass or on defense, together they’ll accumulate enough rebounds and blocks for this squad to compete. Is this a bit of a reach? Sure. If Bargnani shies away from what should be his leadership role on this team, will this pick make me look foolish? Definitely. But I’m willing to take that risk.
35. Manu Ginobili (joins G. Wallace, D. Howard): Howard (whom I would’ve waited a bit on, but maybe I’m too tough on the beast) and Wallace will bang out the big-man stats, while Ginobili brings a much-needed guard to this squad. He benefited from Tony Parker’s absence last season and turned in some monster lines, but unless TP gets hurt again (very possible), Ginobili is back on the pine to start most games for the Spurs. Nevertheless, he’s always efficient no matter how many minutes he gets and gives this team threes, assists and steals, which were all needs up to this point. He also brings this team’s FT% up to a respectable level (73 percent, if you use last year’s stats). While Howard, as Henry pointed out, is a portrait of health and fitness, Ginobili and Wallace make owners feel like they’re walking on egg shells. Alas, that’s the gamble I think this potentially well-rounded team should take.
36. Carlos Boozer (joins D. Lee, S. Nash): With Lee and Nash, you’ve got percentages melded down, and rebounds and assists have a solid foundation. Adding Boozer to the mix doesn’t hurt the percentages and reinforces the rebounding and assists (Lee and Boozer each averaged 3+ assists per game last season) for this squad. I’m expecting Boozer to take a step back this season, thanks in part to the post-big-contract effect, and thanks in part to Joakim Noah, who takes up more real estate in the paint than Mehmet Okur did. But with Lee and Boozer set to grab 20+ boards together each night and Nash set to dish out 9+ assists (yes, I’m probably not as optimistic as Henry and think Nash could be set for a slight decline in production this season), along with shooting percentages that are nearly unbreakable now, this squad should have an easy time looking for guards and forwards who can rack up threes and steals. This team’s weaknesses are in the steals and blocks columns, but there’s plenty of time left to fill in those gaps.
So, to recap, here are our 12 teams after three rounds of drafting, with grades on how good they look so far in my eyes (though through just 36 picks, it’s tough to discern huge differences among them yet):
Team 1: K. Durant, T. Evans, A. Horford (A)
Team 2: L. James, B. Roy, C. Billups (A-)
Team 3: C. Paul, C. Bosh, J. Johnson (A-)
Team 4: D. Nowitzki, J. Kidd, A. Iguodala (B+)
Team 5: K. Bryant, A. Jefferson, M. Ellis (A-)
Team 6: D. Granger, J. Smith, N. Hilario (B+)
Team 7: P. Gasol, R. Rondo, T. Murphy (A-)
Team 8: D. Williams, B. Lopez, D. West (B+)
Team 9: S. Curry, C. Anthony, T. Duncan (A-)
Team 10: D. Wade, A. Stoudemire, A. Bargnani (B+)
Team 11: G. Wallace, D. Howard, M. Ginobili (B)
Team 12: D. Lee, S. Nash, C. Boozer (B)
What do you think? Which team looks the best so far? Let me hear your reactions in the comments section below. Look for round four at Weakside Help sometime soon.