It’s a hard job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Seems like there are hundreds of so-called fantasy basketball ‘experts’ out there, yet it’s hard to know who’s credible and who’s full of Manute Bol. Somebody’s gotta call these guys out on the carpet when they step out of line, especially when they’re somebody who’s getting paid (or worse, forcing you to pay) for their sage advice.
You can see what I mean if you look at my analysis of different stat projections for the 2005-06 season. Sites like Rotowire.com and CBS Sportsline performed worse than if did nothing but just used the 2004-05 season -- the most basic approach you could think of. Even a monkey could do that. If you followed Rotowire or CBS last year, you most assuredly lost because of it. And worse yet, Rotowire charges $9.99 for this misinformation (or $14.99 as part of yahoo’s draft kit). What a joke.
It was none other than yours truly who called out The Talented Mr. Roto last year on his season-ending review of his ‘signature’ Guys I Love/Guys I Hate list, to the point he even mentioned me by name in his follow-up column. I don’t really have a personal vendetta against Matthew Berry, but given the fact that a) he’s calls himself The Talented Mr. Roto, b) he charges for his expert opinions, and c) he prefaced his column with a holier-than-thou overview (see below), he set himself up as a target.
“When you are an “Expert” – that is to say, when you are paid for your writing and predictions – especially in fantasy sports, you are only as good as your prognostications. Every year, no matter what the sport, I see folks put out their sleeper lists, their busts lists, their projections and rankings.
Then the season ends and everyone forgets. But not me. I’m like whatever animal has really good memories. Elephant? Hippo? Mo Vaughn? It’s one of those. Anyways, the point is… I like to put my money where my mouth is. As far as I have seen, I am the only columnist who grades himself after the season on his ENTIRE list, not just selected ones to make themselves look good.
So with the season closing down, I am going to print my “LOVE / HATE” list from the pre-season. This week my “LOVE” list, next week the “HATE” list and see how I did. The idea of the list was that players I “LOVED” were players that I thought would exceed their expectations. Whether those expectations were two points or 20 points a game.
So here it is. Written on Saturday, October 8th, 2006 here’s the list, completely unedited, for better or worse. The projections I am basing this on are the ones listed in the NBA.com Fantasy Basketball Draft Magazine. And here we go. I am not going to re-write all the projections and all of the final stats – you can look them up yourself if you care. Or you can trust me. “
Great concept. I’m all for it. Every fantasy columnist should hold themselves up to this standard. But then Mr. Roto tops it off by grading himself like a MBA student at Northwestern (ie, show up and you get an A. If you haven’t figured it out, I went to the University of Chicago). The icing on the cake was Desmond Mason, who he recommended and called a Win. My analysis of the best (and worst) fantasy basketball seasons of all time showed the Mason’s 2005-06 season was the 2nd worst of any player relative to league averages since 1979 (second only to Rony Seikaly in 1988-89)! And he calls this a win. In his column, he calls Mason ‘underrated’. Does that mean that people were expecting him to perform even worse than Seikaly?
So needless to say, I was very eager to get my hands on Berry’s 2006-07 Guys I Love/Guys I Hate column. I even shelled out $9.99 for his draft kit. For the most part, I agree with his analysis. Not a ton of surprises. However, check out his preface:
“This is my version of a sleeper / bust list, but with a twist. Players I love are players that I think exceed general expectations, whatever those expectations are. Players who I hate are players that I think fall below expectations, whatever they are.”
You can’t get much fuzzier than that. Given the fact that he’ll likely write another end of the season ‘How’d I Do?’ column, he’s leaving himself a lot of wiggle room. Last year, he used the NBA.com fantasy magazine as his basis of comparison, which is probably what he’ll do this year. As it turns out, the NBA.com projections (which you can get for free if you can find them) are largely the same (if not identical) to the projections he sells on his site.
The problem with the projections is that they don’t jive with his recommendations. Josh Smith is a ‘Guy I Love’. Not a big surprise. Everyone is expecting him to blow-up this year. But in his projections, he actually has him performing worse than last season! How is that possible? And I guarantee you that once Josh Smith performs at a level everyone expects him to, he’ll the first to say ‘I told you so...look how well he performed against these NBA.com (i.e. his) projections.’ Ditto Chris Bosh. He was ranked 19th last season. His projections have him going down to 29th, yet he’s another ‘Guy I Love’.
So if you shelled out $9.99 you have to ask yourself, ‘Why the disconnect? Why am I paying for conflicting information?' Thankfully they have a money-back guarantee.
Since I’m all for TMR’s one-man mission for accountability, I propose a little challenge. Let’s compare the projections that he sells on his site to mine that you can get for free here. I’m not afraid to stick my neck out on the line. There are about 270 players that were projected on both sites. Limiting it to only players that were top 140 on either of the list (the fantasy-viable population), I highlighted the 40 players where we had the biggest difference (based on my rating methodology for standard 8-cat roto leagues -- TMR didn’t include TO’s in their projections). At the end of the season, we’ll see who’s closer.
CHRIS BOSH (2005-06 Rk: 19; TMR Proj Rk: 29; Wegoblogger Proj Rk: 16)
As I mentioned earlier, Bosh was on TMR’s Guys I Love list despite projecting a big drop compared to last year. Everyone else, myself included, is expecting an uptick in production with Toronto’s uptempo offense and Bosh clearly being ‘the Man’ for the Raptors. Only this lingering plantar fasciitis can save TMR here.
RANDY FOYE (TMR: 209, Wego: 134)
Foye may be the odd-man out with Ricky Davis and Mike James around, but I do expect him to be productive when he is playing. Amazingly, TMR is projecting very low production despite roughly the same amount of minutes. 1.3 assists and 0.4 steals just doesn’t seem to pass the common sense test, does it?
KEVIN MARTIN (2005: 116; TMR: 177, Wego: 119)
As far as I know, the starting SG slot for the Kings is all Martin’s. He averaged 13.71 pts in 33.5 minutes as a starter last season, with great percentages across the board. I know he has a funky shot, but I’m not sure why TMR is projecting such dramatic decreases in his percentages. If anything, my numbers are conservative. I think I’m going to go pick Martin off the waiver wire now.
JASON RICHARDSON (2005: 31; TMR: 69; Wego: 31)
I’m not a huge fan of Richardson. I don’t think I’ve ever owned him on any team. However, he has improved every year. I know he’s got some knee issues, but I don’t think a drop to #69 is warranted.
LUKE RIDNOUR (2005: 62; TMR: 132; Wego: 75)
Even if Earl Watson cuts into his playing time and production, I don’t think he drops to #132. Last year, Ridnour was actually better down the stretch with Watson on board.
JOSH SMITH (2005: 70; TMR: 72; Wego: 34)
As I mentioned, another TMR ‘Guy I Love’. But why the projected decrease over last season? It baffles me. If anything, my #34 ranking may be conservative. It all depends whether he can put two good halves together.
JAMAL CRAWFORD (2005: 90; TMR: 164; Wego: 112)
I know the backcourt is crowded in New York. As of now, it looks like Jalen Rose is the odd man out. I’m not a fan of Crawford at all, but I think Isiah increases the total size of the fantasy pie versus Larry Brown, even if Crawford gets a diminished slice.
CARON BUTLER (2005: 34; TMR: 60; Wego: 35)
I’m a little surprised that TMR has him as a ‘Guy I Hate’. Seems like a perfect candidate for a sleeper pick. Deflated numbers from 2005-06 from coming off the bench for the first 21 games. His numbers as a starter (18.6 pts/6.6 reb/strong shooting percentages) would put him the top 30. I’m picking this guy up in the 5th round of every draft.
ANDREI KIRILENKO (2005: 15; TMR: 18; Wego: 11)
This one could go either way. Kirilenko is such an injury risk. But I believe his 2005-06 numbers are deflated because he came back slowly. He came off the bench in six games, had one start with 10 minutes, another with 8 minutes. The rest of the season – 39.2 minutes, 16.86 pts, 4.6 ast and 3.3 blocks. A TMR ‘Guy I Love’ despite the slightly lower projections.
ANDRES NOCIONI (2005: 92; TMR: 142; Wego: 90)
I’m not quite as high on Chapu as I was before the preseason…there’s some risk that he’ll be sitting behind Luol Deng. However, he did improve as the season progressed, and he was the Bulls best player in the playoffs last season. Even if he takes a dip, I don’t think it’s down to the #142 that TMR is projecting.
CARMELO ANTHONY (2005: 25; TMR: 36; Wego: 24)
Another TMR ‘Guy I Hate’. I just don’t get it. A lot of people don’t think much of Carmelo as a fantasy player, and certainly he’s not first round material. However, he had a great season in 2005-06 and it’s hard to see his numbers going anywhere but up. It’s hard to fathom his scoring average going from 26.5 to 24.2 like TMR is projecting. He’s much more likely to crack the 30-pt barrier this season, in my opinion. Be thrilled if you can land Melo in the third round.
ZAZA PACHULIA (2005: 103; TMR: 183; Wego: 138)
I’m not a big proponent of going out and drafting Zaza unless you are really desperate. The Atlanta frontcourt is a lot more crowded with Shelden Williams and Lorenzen Wright, so expect his numbers to go down. We’ll see if it’s closer to me or TMR.
SAM CASSELL (2005: 58; TMR: 97; Wego: 64)
A lot of people are predicting the demise of Sam I Am due to old age and Shaun Livingston. I expect his numbers to come down a little, but I doubt he drops to 27 minutes per game though.
PAU GASOL (2005: 27; TMR: 57; Wego: 37)
TMR is obviously expecting Gasol to come back slowly. I agree, but I don’t think it’ll dip his average to 32 minutes per. He should be productive for the second half of the season. I still rather avoid him altogether.
CHRIS WILCoX (2005: 159; TMR: 115; Wego: 82)
Finally somebody we agree on. Wilcox is a TMR ‘Guy I Love’ with good reason. He posted great numbers with Seattle last year. I guess it all depends on how close he can get to matching that ridiculous 57% FGP. A great late-round sleeper.
KOBE BRYANT (2005: 2; TMR: 4; Wego: 1)
I’m getting a little nervous that Kobe hasn’t played in the preseason yet. Could mean a slow start. Of course, he didn’t start off too hot last season either (30.8 ppg the first 20 games, 36.9 ppg after that), and ended up having the 2nd best season overall. TMR is predicting a big drop in points. Even if you take away his amazing 62-pt and 81-pt games, he still averaged 34.4 ppg last season.
GILBERT ARENAS (2005: 5; TMR: 7; Wego: 6)
Maybe TMR is betting the scoring drops because of the new ball or something. Could happen (when I get a chance to analyze the preseason data, I’ll post the findings here). If anything, the drop from the ball should be offset by what seems to be a growing number of teams attempting to adopt a more Suns-like offense. The Wizards are pretty much already there, and Arenas has the green light to jack up from anywhere. Seems like he’s the Rodney Dangerfield of the first round picks. Nobody believes that he is THAT good.
RAJA BELL (2005: 64; TMR: 116; Wego: 84)
TMR is projecting a big dip in production with Amare back. First of all, I don’t think Amare is going to be anywhere near 100%. He’ll probably be one of those aggravating looks absolutely amazing one game then astonishingly human the next. Raja’s production seemed to increase as the season progressed last year, and he’s their best perimeter defender (not saying much on the Suns), so I think he will still hold value.
MORRIS PETERSON (2005: 54; TMR: 92; Wego: 66)
Mo Pete would be No. 1 on my fantasy partner Marc Fredman’s Guys I Hate list if he had one. We slept on Peterson last year. The guy has played 82 games the last 4 seasons, and had his best year by far in 2005-06. The Raptors roster is chocked full of international players, so who knows what’s going to happen there, but I think he’s still a solid 7th round pick.
DERON WILLIAMS (2005: 137; TMR: 107; Wego: 81)
I keep having to bump up my projections for Deron, but I still haven’t been able to pick him up in any recent drafts. I got him with the last pick in a Yahoo public league early on. He could be the guy who takes the biggest fantasy leap this year. However, he might be a little overrated unless he improves his free throw shooting. Very likely could average 14-15 points per game or more this year.
TALENTED MR ROTO HIGHER
JACKIE BUTLER (2005: 250; TMR: 73; Wego: 177)
I honestly did not have Jackie Butler on my fantasy radar screen. I didn’t think anyone else did. TMR has him ranked 73rd with a 60% FGP.
RONNIE BREWER (TMR: 70; Wego: 136)
I’ll admit that Brewer is a guy to keep close tabs on. He’s the only true SG on the Jazz roster. Being a top 70 fantasy player would probably make him ROY. Seems like a stretch to me.
JUAN DIXON (2005: 161; TMR: 139; Wego: 210)
I always liked Dixon as a potential fantasy guy if he gets the minutes. TMR is projecting that he gets his chance. I’m predicting much lower minutes.
STROMILE SWIFT (2005: 214; TMR: 88; Wego: 139)
Stro gets his chance to shine again. Seems like a perfect sleeper pick. I also remember thinking the same thing last year, and we all know how that ended up (214th overall). I wouldn’t overpay. 88th seems like a major stretch.
ERICK DAMPIER (2005: 176; TMR: 135; Wego: 185)
Looks like Damp has earned the starter’s role and might get back to fantasy viability. He just hasn’t been that good since signing that fat contract with the Mavs.
TYRUS THOMAS (TMR: 100; Wego: 141)
Recently, TMR said that Tyrus could be this year’s Boris Diaw. Keep an eye on his minutes. Awfully crowded roster in Chicago though.
ANTONIO MCDYESS (2005: 182; TMR: 130; Wego: 166)
Should get a nice boost in minutes due to Big Ben’s departure, but Nazr seems to be playing very well in the preseason. I don’t think McDyess gets to the 27.8 minutes that TMR’s projecting.
MARVIN WILLIAMS (2005: 213; TMR: 117; Wego: 154)
Could battle Deron Williams for most likely to breakthrough in his second year. But beware. He seems to be going far too early in most drafts. TMR’s projections seem to be a best case scenario. If you take his best 15-game stretch over last season, TMR’s projection are 30% better than that. That’s a big jump. Could happen, but I’m being conservative. If anything, use Williams as trade bait (in one league I dealt Arenas/Marvin for Garnett).
RYAN GOMES (2005: 207; TMR: 95; Wego: 132)
I like Gomes a lot. But you need to be cautious as long as Al Jefferson is in the mix. TMR is projecting 33.2 minutes per game.
AMARE STOUDEMIRE (2005: 249; TMR: 16; Wego: 27)
See my comments for Raja Bell above. I just think he’s going to be rusty this year. Let someone else draft him.
PEJA STOJAKOVIC (2005: 52; TMR: 22; Wego: 38)
I agree with TMR that Peja should bounce back in New Orleans (I refuse to call them the New Orleans / Oklahoma City Hornets). But back up to #22 after 2 seasons of steady declines is a stretch in my opinion. Peja seems to be slipping into the early 6th round in a lot of my drafts…he’s a great pick there.
CUTTINO MOBLEY (2005: 78; TMR: 71; Wego: 97)
Hasn’t Mobley agreed to come off the bench? Nothing will kill your fantasy value more than that (see Corey Maggette last year). I don’t think you’ll see an improvement over last season.
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (2005: 89; TMR: 65; Wego: 86)
Did you see Big Fella in the playoffs last year? Looked like a shell of his former self. I don’t think you’ll see him jump 24 slots in the fantasy rankings.
STEPHEN JACKSON (2005: 79; TMR: 74; Wego: 101)
Why was everyone so shocked and appalled after the recent nightclub incident? This just in: Stephen Jackson is crazy. If you had to pick the player most likely to get run over by a car at a strip club, it’s Jackson (unfortunately for me, if you had to pick the NBA player most likely to hunt down and kill a dude with a blog who said he was crazy, you get the same answer). In any case, Jackson’s numbers the past two seasons are a little inflated due to the decimated Pacers line-up. Plus fans are openly booing him during home games. That can’t be good for a guy’s stats. Avoid like the plague.
COREY MAGGETTE (2005: 88; TMR: 53; Wego: 70)
I’ve always been a big fantasy fan of Maggette but last season turned me against him. 34 agonizingly lackluster games sent him from top 35-40 material and a solid 4th round pick to ‘that guy just cost me any chance of winning this year’. Can he get back to his pre-2005 glory? We’ll see. I hear Dunleavy can’t stand him…never a good sign when your coach doesn’t like you. A TMR ‘Guy I Hate’ despite a projected increase in production.
DONYELL MARSHALL (2005: 128; TMR: 103; Wego: 127)
Wow, did Donyell have a horrible fantasy season last year or what? This guy used to be a fantasy beast (top 10 in 2003-04). He’s having a solid preseason, so maybe he turns the corner. Still has Gooden ahead of him on the depth chart, and it seems like Donyell is one of those guys who needs starter’s minutes to be productive.
AL JEFFERSON (2005: 202; TMR: 128; Wego: 145)
The difference is mostly in minutes. Jefferson reported to camp in great shape, but I read that he was awful during the summer leagues (after dominating the year before). I had him as a sleeper pick last year, and ended up losing out on Diaw because I didn’t cut bait quick enough.
SHAREEF ABDUR-RAHIM (2005: 101; TMR: 86; Wego: 109)
I haven’t seen or heard anything that has Shareef ahead of Kenny Thomas on the King’s depth chart. TMR has him at 30 minutes per game. I don’t see that happening, unless Shareef and Thomas get into another fight and Thomas ends up on the shelf.
SHELDEN WILLIAMS (TMR: 118; Wego: 135)
I just don’t think he’s going to be that good in the NBA. Maybe it’s my anti-Duke bias. Like just about everyone else, I don’t know why the Hawks picked him at #5. Ever hear of trading down?
DAVID WEST (2005: 51; TMR: 37; Wego: 57)
I really like West. I’m picking him up in the 6th round on a bunch of teams. Jumping up 14 slots when you have Peja and even Tyson Chandler on board might be a bit of a stretch, but this is at least one case in which I hope TMR is right.
So that’s it. We’ll look at the results at the end of the season and see who won. Good luck, TMR. Like you said, you’re only as good as your prognostications.
UPDATE: OCTOBER 26, 2006 -- I've added 10 more players to the mix. These are guys were are rankings don't differ that much, but they have the greatest divergence when you look at them category by category. A lot of them make sense because they're either rookies or their role for the upcoming season is of much debate, hence the varying viewpoint. Add these to the list and consider the challenge and even 50 players.