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Pip-pip! Huzzah! Ha-cha-cha! And bully! It’s time to wake grandma up, ask her where she keeps the key to the liquor cabinet, threaten her with permanent relocation to a faraway retirement community if she doesn’t tell you where the key is, get the key, use the key, grab that $9 bottle of champagne and pop that sucker. Now take an extra swig from the bottle, because you’ve waited extra long to get to this point in the season. We’re starting with the league’s 10 best picks in fantasy basketball, followed by the next 10, then the top 20 at each position shortly thereafter. Then the top 100. Then the top 200. Then some tiered rankings, maybe a few watercolors, a Haiku here ‘n’ there. Then the world.

All rankings are an amalgam of 9-category roto and h2h leagues (note the season projections at the end of each blurb. They’re compiled in increments of five-tenths. Why? Would I be here if I could predict in increments of one-tenth? C’mon. That’s just crazy talk).

Here ’tis, the top 10 for 2011 fantasy basketball:

1. Kevin Durant – Kid Delicious topped last year’s rankings too, but I was more sure of his No. 1 spot then than I am now. Mostly because we saw what LeBron was still capable of doing playing alongside other all-stars. Durant is also playing alongside an all-star and a bunch of guys I think will surprise fantasy folk (<– not LARPers) this year. Still, I think Durant’s supporting cast will make the Thunder better more than it will make Durant less productive. So why am I still second-guessing this top choice? I’m going with his ankles. Everytime he lands after a jump, I think, “This is it. Those little spire legs and ankles are never going to be able to support the rest of him. He’s done. Broken ankles.” His skinny legs and wide feet are what Chaplin imagined when he stuck those forks in the baked potatoes and made them dance. All that, and he’s still good enough to list as numero uno.
Season Projections: .470/.880/2 3pt/29 pts/6 rbd/3 ast/1 stl/1 blk/2.5 tov

2. LeBron James – There are guys in the league that seem absolutely indestructible. Tim Duncan in 2002. Garnett in ’04. Elton Brand in ’06. (Unless you were on the Jazz throughout the ’90s, most elite indestructible guys eventually destruct and miss half-a-season. It happens, but you can’t avoid these guys just because you fear this is the year they snap a femur). They’re the elite guys you target because, on top of their skill, they never seem to get injured. Even when they get hurt, they avoid injury. Being hurt and injured ain’t the same. I encourage you too look up the definition of each, but only after you’ve finished reading this post, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll get to flippin’ through the ol’ dictionary and WHAM-O, half-a-day has passed. Book learnin': what a delight! Anywoot, 2011 LeBron James strikes me as an indestructible player. Sure, he’s been hurt, but the only time he’s missed extensive games was when the Cavs rested him at the end of the 2009 season. Ain’t no rest for the wicked in short seasons. But there will be rest for the weakened. Here’s to hoping ‘Bron stays indestructible.
Season Projections: .515/.755/1 3ptm/25 pts/7 rbd/7 ast/1.5 stl/1 blk/3 tov

3. Chris Paul –Other fantasy blogs are going to lump in Paul with the first two blokes and tell you that you can’t go wrong choosing either one of them with the No. 1 pick. I won’t argue against that (mostly because arguing with a computer screen is the second-best way to get your neighbor to call the police on you. The first-best way, you ask? Retrieving your mail in an open bathrobe and nothing else), but I can’t honestly say I’d consider picking CP3 if either of the other two are still on the board. There’s just enough unsuredness to make me … well, unsure, I guess. He’s missed 17+ games twice in his last five seasons, the Hornets are in all kinds of flux and I’m not even sure if the Hornets matter because Paul might not be on N’Awlins’ roster much longer. Paul’s NBA value has yet to be fully realized. It’ll happen if he lands in New York or L.A. But if he lands in either of those places, I think his fantasy value takes a hit.
Season Projections: .480/.860/1 3ptm/18 pts/4 rbd/9.5 ast/2.5 stl/0 blk/2.5 tov

4. Derrick Rose I almost sent Rose up to number three. I was close. Real close. I would have done it, too, if it hadn’t been for those nosy kids and their dog, Scooby. In just 0.6 mpg more than the previous season, Rose added 4.2 pts, 1.4 3ptm, 1.7 ast and shot almost 10 percentage points better from the line in addition to his already stellar stats. Never mind taking Chris Paul over Durant and LeBron, I’m not sure I’d even take him over Rose. I would, but just by THIS much. You can’t see me, but my thumb and forefinger are really, really close together, thereby signifying the slight advantage I feel Paul has over Rose. And what’s the advantage? Well, mostly that I’m not sure where Rose can go from here? Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau runs too tight a ship in Chicago to let his star PG go any more than he has. In fact, I envision a more efficient season from Rose (fewer TOVs, better FG%, most ASTs) at the slight down-tick of his scoring. Not that it will matter much on draft day. A Rose by any other name might be Jalen.
Season Projections: .460/.850/1 3ptm/24 pts/4 rbd/8 ast/1 stl/0.5 blk/3 tov

5. Dirk Nowitzki – His rebounding has dipped more often in six years than Lenny Dykstra throughout his entire chaw-filled career. Also, my wife refers to him only as, “that blonde guy who looks like an ’80s player from the waist down.” Why, yes, it is he. The Finals MVP back again to do everything just about the same way he did it the year before. He won’t be as efficient (he shot a career-best .517 from the floor last year) and as long as Dallas keeps Tyson Chandler or replaces him with someone of that ilk (or “Ill ‘K,” if you’re a Beastie Boy), Dirk (or Durr ‘K, if you’re a Beastie Boy) won’t grab more than seven boards a game. He’ll be 34 at the end of this season and, forgive me, I imagine this is the last time we’ll see him in the top 5 on most fantasy boards.
Season Projections: .475/.885/1 3ptm/22.5 pts/7 rbd/2.5 ast/1 stl/1 blk/2 tov

6. Pau Gasol – I know, I know. Pau’s value shrinks if Andrew Bynum is healthy. First of all, Andrew Bynum is never healthy. Second of all, it’s not as drastic a plunge as, say, deep V-neck t-shirts from American Apparel. He averaged 19/10/4 starting at center with Odom in Bynum’s place and 19/10/3 with Bynum at center. Also, I’m pretty sure Pau owns a half-dozen deep V-necks. Also 2: The Bride of Also – I reserve the right to completely void this entry if Dwight Howard dons a Laker jersey at any point this season.
Season Projections: .529/.830/0 3ptm/19 pts/9.5 rbd/3.5 ast/0.5 stl/1 blk/2.5 tov

7. Dwyane Wade – I never have anything insightful to say about Wade (or anyone really, but especially Wade), and that in and of itself, is the biggest insight I can offer about the guy. He’s you’re slightly younger brother’s Kobe. He’s you’re slightly less front-running cousin’s LeBron. He’s Lisa Bonet’s Kadeem Hardison-less Dwayne Wayne. He’s whomever you want him to be. Unless this is 2007 and you want him to be healthy. Otherwise, even with James and Bosh shootin’ the curl in Miami, Wade is still the best fantasy option at SG, still a great source of blocks from a backcourtsman (<– fancy term!) and still has yet to play 80 games in a season. Wait, that last one wasn’t a positive thing. Doesn’t matter. Whatever. This is Miami. They’re used to things being done kinda half-assed.
Season Projections: .485/.765/0.5 3pt/26 pts/6 rbd/5 ast/1.5 stl/1 blk/3 tov

8. Stephen Curry – Did anyone have a 19/4/6 season with 2.0 threes and 1.5 steals per game while leading the league in FT% more quietly than this kid did last season? Part of it was his nagging foot problem that forced him to miss eight games. Part of it was that he played for Golden State. Had I divided this excuse pie into only two parts, I’d be done. But I divided it into three parts, so I still owe you one. I tend to think the high expectations leading into last season pickled his favorability with fantasy owners instead of, ahem, currying it. He was better, but not immensely better and it made his owners feel as if he was underachieving. Totally unchill, bro. In 2010, he was being drafted somewhere between No.5 and 14 after a spectacular 18/5/6 rookie campaign. Where was he going to go from there? 30/15/15 with the ability to balance the U.S. budget and explain to people why Whitney Cummings is popular? No way. He showed minor improvement as a sophomore and will add slightly to those improvements this season.
Season Projections: .470/.895/2 3ptm/21 pts/4 rbd/7 ast/1.5 stl/0 blk/3 tov

9. Deron Williams – I ranked Deron Williams here last season and he ended up missing 17 games, turning the ball over a career-high 3.5 times a game, doling out a four-year low in assists and shooting .439 from the floor (the lowest since his rookie season). He injured his wrist and even when he was healthy enough to play, it killed his shot. Wow. Doesn’t seem like a top 10 player to me. Ah-ha! Me thinks you doth protest too much, Italicized Voice. I’m not protesting. It takes at least a nine-man drum circle and a tent full of Hemingway books before it counts as a protest.All that bad news about D-Will and he still ended with a career-high 20.1 points and 10.3 assists per game. Alas, he’s one of the few players who started playing professional basketball on time this season, something that may prove itself useful in the first four weeks of the season. It’s also worth pointing out that while Williams was suffering from a .349 FG% in 12 games as a member of the Nets, he was also averaging almost 13 assists and 1.5 steals. Look for a very good season from New Jersey’s finest.
Season Projections: .475/.800/1 3ptm/19 pts/4 rbd/10.5 ast/1 stl/0 blk/3 tov

10. Kevin Love – There are a lot of players that could have been listed here: Kobe, ‘Melo, Amar’e. I went with Love. Always go with love. Hos before bros, I always say. Love offers far fewer weaknesses than anyone else ranked outside the top 10. He’s a big man who shoots threes and free throws well, passes the ball and does the rebounding work of two average fantasy forwards. The same way Wade’s blocks make him way more valuable than the average SG, Love’s accuracy from outside 10 feet make him a huge asset amongst big men. Now imagine if either Anthony Randolph or Ricky Rubio turn out to be valuable and either free up Love (Randolph) or set him up with ease (Rubio)? Love was double-teamed automatically by February and still averaged a double-double every night, he was that good. Love may be all you need, Lennon, but Minnesota could use a third weapon to throw out there besides Kev’ and Beasley. If Minny finds that weapon, it’s not inconceivable that Love could add another 5-6 points per game and an extra rebound or two. Goosebumps!
Season Projections: .475/.845/1 3pt/19 pts/14 rbd/3 ast/0.5 stl/0.5 blk/2 tov

  1. Eric says:
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    Nice, I was looking forward to this

  2. Tony says:
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    Basketball!!!

    Loving it.

    What do you think DURANTS worth in an 18 team league with $200 to buy 8 players? The commish of the league and I emailed back and forth he said in Auction he thinks he’s going to get around $65 this year? I think he’s nuts and DURANTULA will go for more near $80-90 in this league. Last year D-Rose was back in the draft and he went for $66? Do you think this guys throwing 7 different kinds of smoke saying $65ish? I kinda do.

    18 teams, not that many studs, 90% never go back in the draft, salaries go up but you just dont release the Durants, lebrons, etc. One of the contracting teams had Durant. So he’s kicked back in.

    Lets say I bought Durant for a crazy amount like $90. I have $117 to spare after my keepers. LOL this would give me $27 to buy my last 3 guys? I’d probably end up buying a guy for $20-25, and then keep my last $2 and buy whoever i want at the end of the auction for $1 a piece?

    My lineup would be:
    1-Durant $90
    2-Stephen Curry $38
    3-David Lee $29
    4-Dar-Collinson $16
    5-P. George $10

    6-“XXXXXX” $25
    7-“XXXXXX” $1
    8-“XXXXXX” $1

    It would kind of be a boring auction. I’d buy durant then sit there. I guess i’d be smiling, but no action til almost the very end then LOL.

    THOUGHTS?

  3. Adam

    Adam says:
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    @Tony: Meh. I wouldn’t worry about how fun the draft itself is. think about how fun the rest of the season would be if you had two of the eight best fantasy options in the league?

    I’d tend to agree that Durant will likely go for more than $65-ish. If I were you, I’d plan on spending $90 and go hard to the mothereffing paint to make sure you come out of the draft with him.

    Durant and Curry alone in a league like yours should get you pretty far. And like I told you earlier in the summer, if you spend your meager earnings wisely, pay attention to hot rookies, advantageous injuries, sophomores making big jumps, etc. you’ll do fine.

    Don’t underestimate how important a free agent stud like Durant is. If you don’t spend $90 for him, what two or three players would it be wiser to spend it on?

  4. Tony says:
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    @Adam: Thanks adam, just looking for some confirmation. And I agree.

    I think Durant goes for $75+ easy, pushes $90 and may go more. I look at it this way, if i go in thinking I spend up to $90 anything less is gravy, anymore and well, im only leaving my self with $27 as it is, whats the difference if I spend $95? haha…. I still get durant it just means instead of a $25 I have $20 for 3 more guys…. tomato tomatoh….

    And exactly in respect to your last comment. Last year I spent $28 on Evan Turner? $30 on Demarcus Cousins? I mean rookies even go high, guys spend the money PRAYING that in another year they’re Kevin Durant in his Soph yr? I think Kevin Garnett and Elton Brand went for like $20 last year, if I could get a $90 Durant then possibly a bargain on an oldie but a goodie, that might be decent too, most rooks that are worth the money go for higher than they should and more than what i’ll have left… believe it or not.

    I definitely think im gonna go balls out. Owning Durant at $90-100 will be more fun than not owning durant!

  5. Tony says:
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    I know u said watch for 2nd year guys, rookies etc…. in this league its so deep there’s hardly any relevant players that are getting mins left in the FA pool. A few guys emerge but everytime you go to look another owner already has that guy.

    We buy 8 players, then do a snake draft after for 5 more rounds of players.

    13 on each team times 18 owners….. 234 players drafted.

  6. Adam

    Adam says:
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    @Tony: Jonas Jerebko still available? I’d target him if he is. A lot of people are forgetting about him after he missed all of last season. If you can get him for $5 or something, it could prove huge.

  7. Tony says:
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    @Adam: He’s on someones team right now sure if he’s being kept….

    thanks

  8. DWRlovesKAR_OLR says:
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    @Adam so I have a budget of $360 dollars to spend on(14 starters & 8 bench spots) come draft night. I saw in your last response I should go after a guy in your top five. Am I thinking in the wrong direction if I was to go hard after two of your top ten guys? Say a combo durant & Gasol or say a Bron & curry or maybe two guys in your top five. I would say I be close to spending about $200 dollars of my $360 with those two guys. Then just fill my roster with guys that are young and hopefully cheap like you had mentioned in the previous response. Any advice would be awesome. Thanks!
    Oh and thanks Trevor for your input as well. The more the better thanks guys.

  9. Adam

    Adam says:
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    @Tony: Damn deep keeper leagues. /shakes fist, shoos youngster off lawn

    @DWRlovesKAR_OLR: Yeah, that’s my general advice in super deep auction draft leagues. But, be careful. You don’t want to spend a combined total of $338 on, say, LeBron and Dirk and then get stuck paying $1 for each of your remaining 22 players. No two players in the league are good enough to make up for what you’ll have to settle for with a team full of $1 players in a 300+ person league (helllooo, Travis Outlaw!)

    I wouldn’t drop more than $85-95 on any single player, (GEEZ you’re in a deep league!) but I would spend every last cent leading up to that on two of the top 15 players in the league and then buy low on a handful of “calculated risk” guys and players that tend to be undervalued (many of whom I pointed out a few comments ago).

    I’ll work on a post about undervalued players to target in auction drafts soon.

  10. Tony says:
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    @Adam: yep, there’s so many guys on so many teams i tried finding Jerbko and can’t even find his name, so maybe he will be available, haha….

    I’ll be very interested if you can do an article on undervalued auction guys…. I’m going to have to do some digging myself. And then in an auction ya just never know… sometimes you just have to find that Lull in the auction where a better player is going for cheap, guys get tight with their cash or are waiting on something else and the opportunity arises….

  11. Adam

    Adam says:
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    @Tony: ” … i tried finding Jerbko and can’t even find his name …” Could it be that you misspelled it (Jerebko)?

  12. DWRlovesKAR_OLR says:
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    @Adam that would be awesome if you could piece an article on undervalued players for us auction drafters.
    My next question is say I’m going to target two guys from your top ten. To be my corner stone of my squad. Should I be looking to pair two certain players together? Or am I over thinking it?

  13. Adam

    Adam says:
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    @DWRlovesKAR_OLR: I’m unlikely to get around to doing another Fantasy Draft Pairings list like I did last year. Here’s the link, if you want to review it –> http://basketball.razzball.com/2010-fantasy-basketball-draft-strategy-pairings

    Generally, the idea is to focus on one or two top 10 guys that you definitely want to own and think you have a good shot at obtaining. This is easy if you have a keeper or two. From there, the object of a good draft is to play Jenga until it’s over. Don’t tip to any one side. Keep balanced.

    Complement your last pick with your next pick and try never to go more than three rounds without attending to each of your stat categories.

    It’s tempting to focus on 5-of-9 stat categories and run the table, but that’s tempting because it’s lazy and easily exploitable.

  14. Shawn says:
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    Would you keep Bosh or Nene in a keeper league – ( my other keepers are Wall/Kobe

  15. Adam

    Adam says:
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    @Shawn: I’d go Bosh. I guess it might depend on where Nene lands, but I’d almost certainly go with Bosh anyway.

  16. Shawn says:
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    thx a lot! What about Wall or Tyreke Evans, thinking wall but Im a big fan of Evans.. wanted your opinion

  17. Adam

    Adam says:
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    @Shawn: I like ‘em both, but I think you’ve got to go with Wall. He had an outstanding rookie season (overshadowed by Blake) that I might argue was better than Evans’ rookie season the year before (Evans averaged four extra ppg and nearly five field-goal percentage points more than Wall as a rookie, but Wall dished 3.5 more dimes and had one more steal every other game). I’m banking on Wall shooting better than .409 this season from the floor, which will increase his scoring and shore up the biggest gap between the two. I also think Wall’s supporting cast is weaker than Evans’. It’s real close (I’ve got them both ranked between 21 and 26, I think), but I’d go Wall.

  18. JP says:
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    DWill’s overall season rankings the last 4 years (avg, cumulative):

    07-08 = (31, 22)
    08-09 = (28, 39)
    09-10 = (22, 23)
    10-11 = (24, 46)

    At what point does he stop getting ranked in the top 10 each preseason? He could be the most overrated player in fantasy b-ball. I’d probably rather have any of the guys you list 10-20 over him, except Dwight (who I won’t touch in % leagues), plus LaMarcus & AlJeff. Under no circumstance would I take him over KLove or Carmelo (whose fantasy stats blew-up in NYC). Maybe I’m over-hating but he’s shown me nothing to prove that he belongs in the top 10. The final stats don’t lie and we have a large sample size.

  19. JP says:
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    Forgot to add that I’d much rather have Wall in rd 3 or 4 than DWill in rd 1 or 2. Wall will finish the year ranked higher than DWill.

    If Paul ends up getting his wish and going to NYC, does he make the leap to #1?

  20. Adam

    Adam says:
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    @JP: What site or system are you using to acquire those rankings? How was a guy with a .507/.803/1 3ptm/ 18.8 pts/ 3 rbd/ 10.5 ast/ 1.1 stl/ 0.3 blk/ 3.4 tov line, who played all 82 games in 2007-08, ranked 22nd? Out of curiosity, who was ranked 21st that year?

  21. JP says:
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    @Adam: Basketball Monster – best site (by far) I’ve seen for player rankings. Dunleavy was the #21 player that year – his one great fantasy season.

  22. Adam

    Adam says:
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    @JP: I like BM’s organization, but you gotta be careful. It ranked Garnett seven spots higher than Rose at season’s end, listed Nash as the 50th best player in the league and sank Griffin down to 83rd overall (all under per game averages). The trouble I have with BM’s organization is they weigh negatives (poor %s, turnovers) disproportionately against the other counting stats, which explains some of the odd rankings you’ll see scanning the site. It’s fairly inconceivable to me that a fantasy owner would have preferred Elton Brand’s 81 games of cumulative production over Kobe’s 82, Westbrook’s 82, Martin’s 81, or even ‘Melo’s 77 games.

  23. JP says:
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    Adam – I agree and only use past year’s rankings as a guide in making predictions and rankings for the coming season. BM weighs each stat equally though so you get a high amount of Value for dominating a category (i.e. Love in REB, Nash in AST, Dorrel & JRich 3PM, etc). Check out the Help/FAQ tab which further explains their ranking system. It’s not perfect but I find it to be much better than Yahoo and better than the ESPN player rater, which does not count TO.

    I’m not sure how you can say that %’s or TO’s are weighed disproportionately when each stat category counts equally. I’m more of a roto player but am involved in some H2H leagues so I understand the whole punting categories strategy but you still need to look at each stat and how each player helps or hurts you in each area. Everyone follows the flashy stats like PTS, AST, REB but unless you are in a pts league or one where some stats are weighted differently, each individual stat counts the same. Guys like Garnett or Brand won a lot of people their leagues last season because of their solid across the board contributions.

    Again, the point of my original post was to show how DWill has never really come that close to being a top 10 player. Years of stats and rankings back this up. Yet, year-after-year, he’s consistently ranked in the top 10.

  24. JP says:
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    BTW – if Love bumps up his 3PM/STL/BLK (which I really think he can), while keeping all the other stats close to where they were last year, you are looking at a guy who will challenge for the #1 overall spot. His ceiling is that high. The only other guys I’d consider taking over him at #4 are Wade, DRose or Curry.

  25. Shane says:
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    Kobe’s hitting the single’s bars now – does that affect your prognostication about how he’ll perform this year? Lakers have a bunch of off court issues to deal with this year…

  26. Adam

    Adam says:
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    @Shane: It’s really hard to say. For any true insight, you’d have to know the guy personally (and I don’t). The best I can offer is to look back at his performance in ’03-04.His 23.7 PER was slightly above his career average, his Win Shares that season were 10.7 (fourth lowest in the last decade, but higher than each of his last two seasons). His scoring average was the lowest of any of the last 12 years and the second-lowest field-goal percentage during that time, too. Some of these stats probably came about because those Lakers teams were in a rebuilding period (this was the season with Payton and Malone), but considering the Laker made (are making?) plays for Dwight and Chris, perhaps the Lakers are in a rebuilding period again.

    We’ll see a dropoff. Maybe because of age, or because the Lakers aren’t quite as good as they once were, or simply because Phil is gone. Or maybe, yeah, divorce is hard and it takes its toll. Likely, a little of all these things will play a part.

  27. jb says:
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    i have to choose between drose and dwill. i picked dwill because he’s more reliable and tested through the years. last year, he’s hurt but still managed to be the 20-10 guy. what do u think? did i make a lousy decision? this was mind boggling to me. it’s like arian foster/adrian peterson pick haha

    well, i’m gonna show u my roster too. 12 team h2h

    pg dwill
    sg joe johnson
    g reke evans
    sf beasley
    pf b griffin
    f cousins
    c bynum
    c bogut
    util calderon
    util tyrus thomas (per 36 is really high)
    bn rubio
    bn perkins (slimmed down !!)
    bn fields (drafted because he is the best SG in boards)

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