We’ve finally reached the other side of the draft — the half that’s rife with question marks, nauseating picks and old names that bring back haunting memories. For some fantasy owners, these are the rounds that are akin to flipping through photos of your ex-lovers — the ones that broke your heart and made you the bitter drafter you are today. But maybe it’s time to let go of that bitterness and practice some forgiveness. There are hints of redemption in these waters, as players who’ve burned us in the past are in new situations that might be conducive to something of a comeback.
Many might not think much of these later rounds but that’s a mistake. Will any of these players make or break your fantasy success this season? Unlikely. However, some of these guys could turn out being staples in your starting lineups, while others might just save you the heartache of a poorly used roster spot. Besides, there are still plenty of intriguing players in the shallower end of this fantasy draft.
Henry did a solid job in round eight. The biggest surprise, of course, was Tiago Splitter at No. 95. I like Splitter and expect that he stands a very good chance at justifying this pick — I just think he could’ve been had in the last round or two. Nevertheless, I understand the lack of stimulating options around these parts, and I also appreciate that if there’s a player you really dig and must have, you might have to jump on him a round or two early to ensure you’ll have him, especially in the latter rounds.
If you’re just joining the party, here are round one, round two, round three, round four, round five, round six, round seven and the already-referenced round eight. Now let’s mosey on over to round nine, which includes a poll and new visuals (you have permission to get excited):
97. George Hill (joins K. Durant, T. Evans, A. Horford, P. Pierce, M. Camby, J. Terry, M. Thornton, T. Thomas): It might seem strange drafting Hill just six slots after TP, but there’s plenty to like here. First off, Parker wasn’t the portrait of health last season, missing 26 games. With Roger Mason out of town, Hill becomes the sole heir to whatever minutes at PG Parker leaves behind. Add to this the weakness of talent behind Manu Ginobili at the SG spot and it’s easy to see that there are plenty of minutes available for Hill, who stands a good chance of beginning the season as a starter for the Spurs. The kid hits threes, shoots solid percentages and adds a delightful mix of stats in just about every other category. I’m more comfortable with my PG spot on this squad now, which looks dandy to me.
98. Ben Gordon (joins L. James, B. Roy, C. Billups, J. Noah, K. Love, L. Deng, R. Lewis, T. Splitter): Oh, the pain Gordon put his owners through last season. He started things off with a bang, missed 20 games, played paltry minutes in the games he did play and finished the season off with a strong week (which was too little, too late for owners whose playoff periods ended before then) before sitting the last game out. Tack on the fact that Gordon’s bum ankle is recovering slower than expected and it’s clear that the skies are looking a bit glum for the guy. Despite the likelihood that he’ll start off the season with limited minutes, Gordon should be much healthier this season than last. Bear in mind that before 2009-10, the most games he only missed 12 games in five seasons — 10 of those in 2007-08. This will be a “patience pick” for this owner, but given Richard Hamilton’s suspect health the past two seasons along with the rumors that the Pistons are shopping the masked man, there’s a lot to like about nabbing Gordon here. I don’t think averages of 19/3/3 along with around a pair of threes a game are out of reach for Gordon, and if Hamilton is dealt or suffers another injury-riddled season, watch out. This squad now has a viable SG to back up Roy, who is always a candidate to rack up DNPs. Also, there are now four former Bulls on this team. Concerning Henry’s assertion that Deng could have a memorable season and will outperform Lewis the “hack” (a name I don’t have a problem with) in fantasy world, I say let’s throw it to the readers:
99. Andrei Kirilenko (joins C. Paul, C. Bosh, J. Johnson, R. Gay, M. Williams, C. Kaman, G. Arenas, A. Bynum): AK-47 has been a walking DNP for most of his career, but there are three reasons to like him for 2010-11: 1) it’s a contract year, 2) he’s likely to grab the starting SF gig in Utah and 3) he’s sitting out of this summer’s World Championships. I would be shocked if he ended up playing more than 72 games this season but Kirilenko is still a guy who can offer solid shooting percentages, along with 12/5/3/1/1 and a three every now and then. I like taking the jump with the Russian at No. 99 — Mikhail Prokohorov can join us, too.
100. DeMarcus Cousins (joins D. Nowitzki, J. Kidd, A. Iguodala, A. Jamison, A. Brooks, M. Beasley, V. Carter, Y. Ming): What better way to handle the century mark than to pick the maybe-promising player this very owner downplayed just seven picks ago? Cousins is an exciting pick at No. 100 overall. He showed off his serious skills during the Summer League and appears set to play enough minutes in Sacramento to produce usable fantasy lines. Big men tend to start off their NBA careers with slower progress than guards and forwards, and I expect that Cousins will also traverse his share of rocky roads in his rookie year. Provided his head stays on straight and his weight stays down, I’m a believer that Cousins stands a good shot at being a consistent utility player for most fantasy squads this season. (Besides, his name lends itself to some creative fantasy team names, an intangible asset for fantasy basketball.)
101. Corey Maggette (joins K. Bryant, A. Jefferson, M. Ellis, M. Gasol, R. Felton, L. Scola, R. Allen, L. Barbosa): How did this owner not notice that he after eight rounds of drafting, he still doesn’t have a single SF? (Tugging at collar, nervous smile.) I’ll admit that personally, I always do all I can to avoid drafting Maggette. His addition to a pretty deep Bucks squad doesn’t help his appeal, which is already pretty low given his career average of 64.5 games per season. Nevertheless, the guy shoots great percentages and can score 20 points in his sleep when healthy. I suspect he’ll have his hot and cold streaks in Milwaukee this season but of all the mildly appealing SFs available here, Maggette seemed to offer the most known-quantity option and could end the season with top-60 averages. Plus, maybe the deepness of the Bucks roster will help him to preserve his health a bit better. Picking up Allen, Barbosa and Maggette in the last three rounds seems like decent drafting to me.
102. Robin Lopez (joins D. Granger, J. Smith, N. Hilario, D. Rose, J. Richardson, J. Crawford, P. Millsap, T. Parker): If you look at only his season averages from 2009-10, this pick seems to make as much sense as this. But it’s important to note that in 31 games as a starter for the Suns last season, Lopez averaged 11/6 and 1.1 blocks per game, along with 59.7 percent from the field and 74.2 percent from the line. With STAT out of town and as the only true mix-it-up-inside center that the Suns have, Lopez stands to leave his mark in fantasy leagues this season — so long as he can get over his back issues, which aren’t the easiest things to get over. Still, at No. 102, Lopez is well worth the risk.
103. Roy Hibbert (joins P. Gasol, R. Rondo, T. Murphy, Z. Randolph, K. Martin, O.J. Mayo, J.J. Hickson, J. Holiday): He didn’t quite make the jump many were licking their chops for last season and his rebounding (5.7 per game last season) leaves much to be desired, but seeing as how Henry made a call for blocks for this squad, Hibbert was the most appealing option here. He’s working with the great Bill Walton this summer, which can only help, right? I mean, even if all basketball-related activities fail to change Hibbert’s game, at least he’ll be more of a quote machine this season. I expect Hibbert, who already has rock-solid shooting percentages, to play closer to 30 minutes a game this season and lift his averages closer to 14/7 with nearly two blocks per game.
104. J.R. Smith (joins D. Williams, B. Lopez, D. West, D. Gallinari, H. Turkoglu, B. Griffin, J. Nelson, R. Stuckey): We know what Smith’s deal is by now. He’s a talented dude with a grating personality who hits truckloads of threes and weighs down your team’s FG%. Last fall there was hope that he would be a starter in 2009-10 but that didn’t happen — not for a single game. Still, Smith solidifies this team’s strength with threes and gives it a much-needed SG (especially if Stuckey is given only PG status this season). The main risk to his value this season is the presence of…
105. Al Harrington (joins S. Curry, C. Anthony, T. Duncan, A. Bogut, D. Harris, K. Garnett, E. Gordon, C. Landry): Yes, another three-point gunner has joined the Nuggets. It remains to be seen if they can both play well with one another while hoisting up enough shots to slake their appetites for triples, but I have a feeling they’ll each remain solid sources of threes, especially on a Nuggets squad whose offensive schemes are relatively free-flowing. Harrington is the probable starter for the Nuggets at PF at the start of the season, especially if Kenyon Martin continues to struggle with his balky knee. Averages of 14/5 along with 1.5+ threes per game are well within reach. Harrington also adds extra bulk to a frontline that appears susceptible to DNPs.
106. Mike Miller (joins D. Wade, A. Stoudemire, A. Bargnani, B. Davis, A. Randolph, L. Aldridge, T. Ariza, A. Miller): This Miller will likely end up being the Heat’s No. 1 sharpshooter this season. With James and Wade so adept at penetrating into the middle, it’s easy to allow yourself to go off and dream of a season where Miller hits more than 2.5 threes per game. With his already solid shooting percentages and pleasing overall stats, Miller seems like a prudent, if not savvy choice here in the latter portion of the ninth round. He and Ariza shore up this squad’s threes quite beautifully.
107. Elton Brand (joins G. Wallace, D. Howard, M. Ginobili, R. Westbrook, A. Blatche, J. Wall, C. Butler, E. Turner): Back-to-back Sixers picks sickens me but at this point in the draft, the potential negative consequences are minimal. Brand has a lot of owners looking away from him after a dismal 2009-10, but with new coach Doug Collins voicing his desire to get Brand back into the swing of things, along with the departure of Samuel Dalembert from Philly, it seems that Brand will, at the very least, have plenty of opportunities to work his way back into the favor of fantasy owners. While averaging a double-double seems laughable for Brand, I wouldn’t be surprised if he reached averages of around 15/7 along with the 1/1 combo he averaged last season. This team has turned into an interesting all-or-nothing mix.
108. Boris Diaw (joins D. Lee, S. Nash, C. Boozer, S. Jackson, J. Green, B. Jennings, J. Salmons, M. Okur): I was very close to drafting an appealing center (who will go unnamed here, but who I’m sure will get drafted shortly) here, but given the makeup of this team I thought Diaw was a better fit. He was a straight-up ghost for stretches last season but his strengths are obvious: solid shooting percentages, a few threes per week and the ability to fill every single category on a stat sheet. Another potential boon for his fantasy value would be if Diaw was dealt to another team with less depth, which was almost the case when he was nearly traded to Toronto a few weeks ago. If he remains in Charlotte, he’ll have to contend with Tyrus Thomas and Gerald Wallace at the forward spots, but he’s still a solid fit for this squad. What I like about this team is the fact that it forged its admittedly flawed identity early on and has been steadfast in sticking to and building on that formula ever since. At this point in the draft, it doesn’t look all that shabby.
To recap, here are our 12 teams after nine rounds of drafting, along with a new rating system: rainbows! Each squad will be given a rating of rainbows — from no rainbows to triple rainbows — based on how intense they look to me. (If you are one of the few human beings who don’t know what this means, please watch this video.) Also, per Henry’s idea, I shall dub a few teams with names:
Team Delicious: K. Durant, T. Evans, A. Horford, P. Pierce, M. Camby, J. Terry, M. Thornton, T. Thomas, Ge. Hill ()
Team Bulls 2.0: L. James, B. Roy, C. Billups, J. Noah, K. Love, L. Deng, R. Lewis, T. Splitter, B. Gordon ()
Team Bang Bang: C. Paul, C. Bosh, J. Johnson, R. Gay, M. Williams, C. Kaman, G. Arenas, A. Bynum, A. Kirilenko ()
Team Ipecac: D. Nowitzki, J. Kidd, A. Iguodala, A. Jamison, A. Brooks, M. Beasley, V. Carter, Y. Ming, D. Cousins ()
Team 5: K. Bryant, A. Jefferson, M. Ellis, M. Gasol, R. Felton, L. Scola, R. Allen, L. Barbosa, C. Maggette ()
Team Stolen Block Party: D. Granger, J. Smith, N. Hilario, D. Rose, J. Richardson, J. Crawford, P. Millsap, T. Parker, R. Lopez ()
Team 7: P. Gasol, R. Rondo, T. Murphy, Z. Randolph, K. Martin, O.J. Mayo, J.J. Hickson, J. Holiday, R. Hibbert ()
Team 8: D. Williams, B. Lopez, D. West, D. Gallinari, H. Turkoglu, B. Griffin, J. Nelson, R. Stuckey, J.R. Smith ()
Team Frail: S. Curry, C. Anthony, T. Duncan, A. Bogut, D. Harris, K. Garnett, E. Gordon, C. Landry, A. Harrington ()
Team Dope: D. Wade, A. Stoudemire, A. Bargnani, B. Davis, A. Randolph, L. Aldridge, T. Ariza, A. Miller, M. Miller ()
Team Future: G. Wallace, D. Howard, M. Ginobili, R. Westbrook, A. Blatche, J. Wall, C. Butler, E. Turner, E. Brand ()
Team Know Your Limits: D. Lee, S. Nash, C. Boozer, S. Jackson, J. Green, B. Jennings, J. Salmons, M. Okur, B. Diaw ()
What do you think? Which team looks the best so far? Let me hear your reactions in the comments section below. Look for round 10 at Weakside Help sometime soon.