Aaron Bruski

The Step-back 3

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SBT: Playoff Mock Draft

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The days leading up to the NBA playoffs always sneak up on us, and the best surprise for me are the 2-4 fantasy playoff drafts I participate in.  The leagues are setup to be simple (we use www.fantasypostseason.com) and in most cases you draft and that’s it. 


Aside from the simplicity, I’m a huge fan of playoff leagues because they introduce an important element that is often forgotten about in fantasy sports – who wins and who loses. 


Because opinions are going to vary when projecting winners and losers in reality basketball, there are usually drastic swings in fantasy valuations between owners heading into drafts.  Add a short ramp created by the 2-3 day window between the regular season and the playoffs, and seeds that are decided on the final day, what you end up with is a lot of freewheeling confusion. 


That’s not to say that owners aren’t prepared and honing in on a well-thought through strategy.  Everybody’s just approaching the maze from a different entrance and nobody knows where anybody else is until it’s too late. 


I’ve come across a few strategies that I’ve found to be successful, and every year I seem to add another layer to them.  I lay out the rosters for every matchup on a few different pieces of paper, and I try to gather as much information as possible.  The single-most important piece of info is Vegas line information, because those guys are just amazing at getting it right.  And per usual, there’s an increasing ability to get multiple viewpoints, game tape, etc. to evaluate with, and I try to work up a chicken-scratch game synopsis once I’ve gone through it all.  Once I feel comfortable, I try to weight each series with a number of games I feel represents the risk/reward of each team, and then that final number is used to multiply against projections.  The math, while eventually important, isn’t as important as finding a relationship between the values of the players you’ll be ranking. 


The draft itself is where the money gets made, literally.  And there are two opposing schools of thought.  One is to add up the projections and stick to them like they’re a road-map.  The other one is more interesting, and it was told to me by Gregg Rosenthal just minutes before I entered a BIG money playoff football draft a few years back.  If you're not familiar, the two sports are very similar in a playoff format.    


So I message Gregg and ask him, “any last advice?”  I can’t recall his exact words, but it was something along the lines of ‘don’t worry about who you think is going to win or lose and draft studs.’


The long story short is that I took Larry Fitzgerald in Round 3 of that eight-team draft, and when he split the Pittsburgh safeties in the Super Bowl I won the whole thing.  I don’t know that I took him early or late, but my 1.25 games played prediction and his associated stats put his numbers a little bit lower than some other guys that were available.  I thought of the advice, and the fact that every year there are surprises that nobody sees, and I took talent over pure projections. 


So in this draft you’ll see some folks that did the same thing that I did back then, and you’ll see some guys stick to players from the top 3-4 favored teams.  Some guys will ride a certain team hard and others will spread out the risk.  That’s the beauty of this format, as owners are going to get more or less who they wanted before the draft.  And while taking talent over ‘games played’ worked for me once, owners need to stay flexible and evaluate each round of the draft on a case-by-case basis. 



And without further ado, the Second Annual Rotoworld Playoff Draft.....


*Points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks are all worth 1 point.  Turnovers are worth a negative point.  There are bonuses for 3-pointers (one point), double-doubles (three points), triple-doubles (eight points), and 30-point games (five points).  It sounds like we’ll be tweaking next year’s draft to include higher scoring for steals and blocks, but for this year it’s a popcorn stat format.  


**Ryan ran into computer trouble and had to autodraft. 


  1.  Matthew Braine: LeBron James
  2.  Ryan Knaus: Blake Griffin
  3.  Adam Levitan: Dwyane Wade
  4.  Matt Stroup: Kevin Durant
  5.  Guster drummer Brian Rosenworcel AKA Thundergod: Derrick Rose
  6.  Doc: Serge Ibaka
  7.  Scott Shniderman: Russell Westbrook
  8.  Aaron Gleeman: Tony Parker
  9.  Aaron Bruski: Andrew Bynum
  10.  Ethan Norof: Kobe Bryant


Round 1 Notes:  Griffin at No. 2 is obviously an autodraft pick, and I’ll ignore those going forward.  Otherwise we have the Heat, Thunder, Bulls, Spurs, and Lakers all going off the board first.  Doc both set up our draft and got it mixed up with our draft later in the night, so he thought steals and blocks were worth more and took Ibaka.  Let’s just say we’re all limping to the finish here.  I think you have to take a consensus top pick here even if you’re not totally sold on them, because enough of your other highly projected players will be available in Rounds 2-3 due to differences in opinions on who will advance.    


  1.  Norof: Pau Gasol
  2.  Bruski: Tim Duncan
  3.  Gleeman: Chris Bosh
  4.  Shniderman: James Harden
  5.  Doc: Josh Smith
  6.  Thundergod: Manu Ginobili
  7.  Stroup: Luol Deng
  8.  Levitan: Chris Paul
  9.  Knaus: Joakim Noah
  10.  Braine: Rajon Rondo


Round 2 Notes:  After taking Bynum in the first round based on scarcity at the center position, I went with the highest projected player remaining on my board in Duncan.  I’ll try to tweet out my final predictions in a little bit, but here's my ordering of teams in terms of games played: SA, MIA, CHI, LAL/DAL, MEM, BOS, IND/OKC, DEN/LAC/ATL, PHI, NYK/UTA, ORL.  Entering the draft, I was leaning ever-so-slightly toward the Mavs, which is why OKC is so low on that list.  I bumped them up a smidge because of my ambivalence.  As you can see, players were taken from the Lakers, Spurs, Heat, Thunder, and Bulls for the most part, but members of the Hawks, Clippers, and Celtics made it into Round 2.  Levitan used the Larry Fitzgerald theory and went with CP3, while Doc went with Smoove and Braine went with Rondo.  If either of your Round 1-2 picks doesn’t make it out of the opening series, you’ll need a late-round flier or two to hit. 


  1.  Braine: Carlos Boozer
  2.  Knaus: Marc Gasol
  3.  Levitan: Danny Granger
  4.  Stroup: Joe Johnson
  5.  Thundergod: Roy Hibbert
  6.  Doc: Ramon Sessions
  7.  Shniderman: Rudy Gay
  8.  Gleeman: Paul Pierce
  9.  Bruski: Mike Conley
  10.  Norof: Zach Randolph


Round 3 Notes:  I’ve seen drafts go haywire by this stage, but this one remained relatively tight.  Each of these selections are key guys from the Bulls, Grizzlies, Pacers, Hawks, and Celtics.  The only team I don’t have making it out of the first round is the Hawks, and their series with the Celtics is going to be a tight one.  Rosenworcel and Knaus did well to tap into the top tier of the shallow center position, and I like Gleeman’s combo pick of Pierce this round and Garnett the next round.  They’ll get their numbers, and if they make it past the Hawks they’ll provide a solid baseline value for him. 


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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. In 2015 he was named FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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