David Blaine Meets Keith Hernandez

The highlight of any fantasy season is right at the beginning -- the draft. As far as I'm concerned, live draft is the only way to go. There's a certain ebb and flow with a live draft, with tense moments like trying to will a guy you want badly to stick around until your next pick, key decisions like whether to take the best player available or fill a specific category or position need. And there's even a little comedic value watching guys pick players 3 or 4 rounds too early ("with the third pick of the fifth round, the Rim Rockas select Eddy Curry of the New York Knicks...").

Waiver wire and shrewd free agent pick-ups are all fine and good, but take a lot of work staying on top of your league transactions, NBA news and boxscores. Trades are great too, as you search for that perfect deal that will vault you to the top of the standings, but you might have to deal with veto happy competitors and overbearing commissioners that can take the all the fun out of it (or is it just me?). The live draft has no downside. Where else can you have 12 guys simultaneously declare: "my team is stacked. There's no way I can lose!" just second after the draft wraps up?

When it comes to fantasy leagues, there's really only one thing that I can think of that tops a live draft. And that's FIVE live drafts. At the same time. I'm quite certain that this has never been done before, simply because no one is stupid enough or crazy enough to try it. Most rational people, even if they had five teams, would spread those out over time. This is like 'David Blaine locking himself in a block of ice for 30 days' kind of crazy/stupid. And it's fitting, because more than likely I will end the night wrapped up in a towel on the floor stuck in the fetal position.

How did I get myself into this mess? If you've followed this blog for awhile, you know that I play money leagues on CBS Sportsline. A lot of them. Not too long after entering six teams and winning five of them did I realize that the optimal thing for me to do is to enter as many leagues as possible. The incremental time and cost managing the 10th team is only slightly higher than managing 9 teams. Follow that train of thought and that's how you end up with the 44 teams I had last year.

Essentially, that's every platinum and diamond CBS roto league that existed last year, and that's my strategy again this year. On CBS, you don't have a lot of control over the leagues and the draft times. Somebody creates a league and selects the time and date of the draft, sits back and waits for 11 other guys to join. This year, in addition to not having any live drafts on Sunday, they also excluded drafts on Monday, either because they think people watch Monday Night football, folks playing fantasy football bog down their servers on Mondays tracking their players, or CBS just plain forgot to add Mondays to the calendar. With CBS, you just never know. In any case, that means the same amount of leagues scrunched into a 5-day window instead of 6. For whatever reason, Wednesday night at 9:00 pm CDT seemed to be a popular choice.

Now, it takes a lot of upfront prep to get ready for five drafts at one time. I spent an hour or so updating my autodraft list for each team just in case I missed a pick and to have my players sorted the way I wanted them (a very labor intensive process on CBS. How hard would it be to add a 'save list' feature?) Then I had to create five versions of my ultra-top secret draft spreadsheet, having to strip it down of some of the bells and whistles so I could have five going at one time. And as far as technology, I created a Global Command Center that would make NASA jealous. The highlight, converting a 32-inch LCD TV into a giant monitor. Check out the picture below. I had a PC with old school monitor running two drafts on the left and my MacBook Pro running things on the LCD and laptop screen, two teams on the top and one on the bottom. What I really needed is that new Mac OS with the Spaces feature that allows you to flip between desktops. If only Steve Jobs would've released it two days earlier.

Thankfully, I had a chance to test the system the night before, as I had three drafts at one time. I didn't have the PC running and didn't have the LCD and laptop screens running top to bottom, just showing the same thing (hadn't figured out how to do that yet), so essentially I had three drafts running on the bigscreen. Things went relatively smoothly although flipping between the three different draft rooms and figuring out which spreadsheet went with which draft proved to be more trouble than I originally had anticipated. My browser crashed once early on, but I recovered in time to make my next pick.

The night of the big event, I actually had another draft at 7:30 pm. On top of that, my wife and oldest son were out so I had to put my 3-year old daughter and 4-month old son down to bed before my 7:30 draft started, definitely no easy task. Somehow, I managed to get them down at 7:22, ran downstairs, grabbed some fruit snacks and a Coke and headed into the war room. I even had a chance to send out my updated projections to my ever-expanding list of followers.

I received a pleasant surprise in my first draft, as I was joined by my former partner-in-crime, Marc Fredman, who always loves a good live draft. He launched the draft app from parts unknown in Southern California and pinged me in gmail chat. I had given Marc the heads up that I had five at one time and might need his help if I fell asleep behind the wheel, but later decided, with true Keith Hernandez-like clarity, that 'I'm Jim Colton, dammit. I can do this.' Hey, Keith is the third most famous person to share my birthday (behind Snoop Dogg and Mickey Mantle, but ahead of John Krasinki of 'the Office'), and I was known to play a mean, gold glove first base in my youth. In any case, it was good to have Marc around for consultative advice during this first draft, where I found out that he has a new found love for Andrew Bynum that pales only in comparison for the love he had for Andrew Bogut last year. Marc, what's up with the Andrew B. fetish?

Early on in the first draft, one of the guys in the draft asked me how many 'teams you and your guys' were in playing in this year. I had labeled my teams sequentially, with the prefix '_SP' so it's easier for me to manage. He thought that I was part of some faction that entered money leagues backed by HoopsKlyce. It took me awhile to convince him I was just one dude using my own set of numbers.

The first draft went a lot slower than originally anticipated. Most drafts take right around 90 minutes, if anything you're queueing a big list for your last pick and letting it do its thing as the next set of drafts begin. But this one was painfully slow. By the time 9:00 rolled around, this draft was only in the 8th round. Did I say five live drafts at one time? I meant to say SIX live drafts at one time!

Of the six drafts, I had the first pick in two of them, last pick in two of them, and 7th pick in the last two. Just by chance, I had the three screens set up so the teams with the same draft picks were on the same screen. Having the bookend picks turned out to be a good thing, as I could make two quick picks and forget about it for awhile. The teams with the 7th pick required constant attention, it seemed like I was making a pick there every 30 seconds. And to top it off, the two 7th pick drafts were going along at literally the exact same pace. I was 'up' at the same time in nearly every round. Freaky.

[Speaking of draft picks, I've now had 22 teams that have either drafted or have had their draft order set. How many times in a 12-team league would you expect to get the 12th pick? One or two, right? As of now, I've received the last pick 8 out of 22 times! What are the odds of that, you ask...well it's 3,919 to one. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that CBS Ron is behind the scenes just trying to screw me over. I wanna know what's behind that 'random' number generator. Even stranger is the fact that out of these 22 teams, I've had the either the 1st, 7th, or 12th pick in 19 out of 22 leagues. The odds of that are something like 402 million to one. And this is a year where you want to have either the third (probably still get Garnett but get an earlier second round pick) or 6th-7th pick (hope Marion slips to you). When I've had the first pick, I've taken Garnett even though I could've had him a few slots later (he's gone as late as 6th, Marion as late as 11th). The 12th pick is a death sentence, where you likely have to build around one of the centers (Amare, Yao, Gasol) and hope that Dwyane Wade comes back sooner rather than later.]

I'd love to give you a blow-by-blow of what happened next, but honestly it's all a blur right now. I'm only vaguely familiar with who I picked as I sit here the following day. My draft spreadsheet requires me to drag and drop players into their draft slots (or type them in manually, which I usually do in the later rounds), but keeping this up over 780+ draft picks proved to be too much. I managed to keep up for the most part on all the teams except for one of the teams with the 12th pick, where my 7th-8th round picks came up and I only had players entered through the 4th round. For the most part, I end up taking on a 'best player available' strategy anyways.

All that stuff I talked about at the beginning about the draft being fun, the highlight of the fantasy season? Throw that out the window. Praying that the guy makes it back to you for your next pick? Replaced by 'Holy Crap! I'm up next!' Deciding whether to take the the best player available or meet category needs? Replace that with 'Who's available and who have I picked again?' Making fun of other guy's draft picks? No time to compute who is being picked and when. At this point, they are just names on a spreadsheet. I guess you can have too much of a good thing.

Only now can I take a step back and look and analyze my draft picks. Below is the list of the guys I drafted in each league. I'd love to get your feedback on how well I did in the comment section (by the way, at CBS you have to pick 5 G, 6 F and 2 C's, so a lot of times you see a scrub center in the last round only because you're forced to).

TEAM A (the 7:30 draft)
Pick: 1
1 (1) Garnett,Kevin - F
2 (24) Iguodala,Andre - F
3 (25) Smith,Josh - F
4 (48) Roy,Brandon - G
5 (49) Jamison,Antawn - F
6 (72) Richardson,Jason - G
7 (73) Gay,Rudy - G
8 (96) Diaw,Boris - F
9 (97) Kaman,Chris - C
10 (120) Stojakovic,Peja - G
11 (121) Herrmann,Walter - F
12 (144) Mobley,Cuttino - G
13 (145) Perkins,Kendrick - C

Comment: This league may have been won with the Iggy/Josh Smith picks. Guards went early so I had to pick Roy a little bit earlier than I wanted, there was no other compelling choice at 49 besides Jamison so I went with another forward. Luckily, I got Richardson and Gay with my next two picks. I was toying with Foye in the 7th, especially because I don't have much (any) assists, but I couldn't pass up on Gay. I have a feeling he's going to be huge this year. What can I say, much like Rick Majerus, I'm a big Gay guy. There's a good chance I'll be dealing him for a PG picked in the third round or higher later this year. I don't know if it's true on other sites, but the guys that play at CBS really overspend on assists in particular. I've got no problem finishing 8th in assists and still winning the league. If you don't get Nash, Kidd or Deron Williams (who has gone 8th in two of my drafts!), it's probably not worth going after anyways. Having Kaman as my lone center could backfire.

Pick: 1
1 (1) Garnett,Kevin - F
2 (24) Bosh,Chris - F
3 (25) Wallace,Gerald - F
4 (48) Roy,Brandon - G
5 (49) Howard,Josh - F
6 (72) Barbosa,Leandro - G
7 (73) Davis,Ricky - G
8 (96) Kaman,Chris - C
9 (97) Jackson,Stephen - G
10 (120) Lee,David - F
11 (121) Korver,Kyle - F
12 (144) Mobley,Cuttino - G
13 (145) Perkins,Kendrick - C

Comment: Very similar to the first team, forward heavy at the top forcing me to go with Roy at 48 and scramble for guards later on. Barbosa and Davis at 72/73 seem like good value picks. Korver was a panic move, I should've picked Herrmann there. Again, Kaman is the man in the middle.

Pick: 12
1 (12) Wade,Dwyane - G
2 (13) Paul,Chris - G
3 (36) Wallace,Gerald - F
4 (37) Allen,Ray - G
5 (60) Miller,Mike - F
6 (61) Odom,Lamar - F
7 (84) Foye,Randy - G
8 (85) Dalembert,Samuel - C
9 (108) Lee,David - F
10 (109) Jackson,Stephen - G
11 (132) Walton,Luke - F
12 (133) Herrmann,Walter - G
13 (156) Perkins,Kendrick - C

Comment: At 12, you gotta take the best players available and hope for the best. As I mentioned, this year it usually means having to take a flier on Wade's shoulder. None of the centers lasted until this pick so I had to take Paul at 13. Very happy to get Gerald Wallace and Ray Allen at 36 & 37. Some injury concerns with Odom and Dalembert, but hard to pass on those guys at those slots.

Pick: 12
1 (12) Stoudemire,Amare - C
2 (13) Ming,Yao - C
3 (36) Lewis,Rashard - F
4 (37) Wallace,Gerald - F
5 (60) Roy,Brandon - G
6 (61) Bibby,Mike - G
7 (84) Nelson,Jameer - G
8 (85) Bargnani,Andrea - F
9 (108) Battier,Shane - F
10 (109) Diaw,Boris - F
11 (132) Mobley,Cuttino - G
12 (133) Brand,Elton - F
13 (156) Hill,Grant - G

Comment: Very unconvential start of the draft by picking 2 centers with the first two picks (each week, you start 4G, 4F, 1C and 1Util), which means my Utility spot is spoken for every week. I'm sure those picks led to some commentary in the draft chat room, but I was too busy to read or notice. But if there's anybody that can pull it off, it's the Keith Hernandez/David Blaine of fantasy hoops! I should be able to trade one of them. The rest of the draft went well, Lewis and Wallace are good value picks where I got them, Roy at 60 is more where I'd like to see him go. Jameer and Bibby are probably earlier than I'd like to get them, but I should be okay. For a team with its UTIL spot locked up, Brand is a perfect fit.

Pick: 7
1 (7) Nash,Steve - G
2 (18) Iguodala,Andre - F
3 (31) Wallace,Gerald - F
4 (42) Martin,Kevin - G
5 (55) Odom,Lamar - F
6 (66) Ginobili,Manu - G
7 (79) Gay,Rudy - G
8 (80) Bogut,Andrew - C
9 (103) Battier,Shane - F
10 (114) Thomas,Tyrus - F
11 (127) Hilario,Nene - F
12 (138) Childress,Josh - G
13 (151) Haywood,Brendan - C

Comment: Really hoped Marion would make it to the 7th slot, but alas I'm 'stuck' with Nash as the first six picks go as planned. Can you tell that I'm big on Iguodala and Wallace? Too hard to pass on those guys when my spot came up. Not steals at those slots but appropriate picks. And that's pretty much true for most of this team. Nothing sticks out as a major steal, other than maybe Nene in the 11th and especially Childress in the 12th. Marc had nothing to do with the Bogut selection in the 8th round.

Pick: 8
1 (7) Marion,Shawn - F
2 (18) Iguodala,Andre - F
3 (31) Camby,Marcus - C
4 (42) Martin,Kevin - G
5 (55) Miller,Mike - G
6 (66) Odom,Lamar - F
7 (79) Gay,Rudy - F
8 (80) Rondo,Rajon - G
9 (103) Bell,Raja - G
10 (114) Thomas,Tyrus - F
11 (127) Conley,Mike - G
12 (138) Millsap,Paul - F
13 (151) Perkins,Kendrick - C

Comment: Boo yaa! There's Marion in the 7th slot. Definitely like to see that. The next 4-5 picks follow suit, Odom in the 6th seems like a steal even with the injury concern. Not thrilled about the 2nd half of the draft, I'll probably look to make some deals.


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