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2012-13 Draft Prep: Roto specialists

Fantasy Writer
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Rotisserie leagues are the equivalent of a Fantasy marathon. While in a head-to-head league, you're fighting on a weekly basis to rack up wins, Rotisserie requires a season-long attention to detail that can bury the less-prepared competitors.

Part of what makes Roto a satisfying challenge is trying to determine the best way to balance your team over the course of a season. Do you try to draft the most-balanced team possible and hope you can do well enough in each category to make up for the fact that you aren't dominating any particular one? Or do you try to surge out to a huge lead in a few categories and make up your deficits on the periphery as the season goes on?

Inevitably, what you will find is that you end up lacking in one category or another and will need to mix and match to compensate. Maybe you drafted Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan as your centers and are suffering from an embarrassing deficit in free-throw percentage. In another scenario, you snatch Kevin Love and Greg Monroe in the early rounds and find yourself lacking in blocks from your big men.

You might find yourself needing to turn to some less-than-optimal options to make up for your deficits in certain categories, so here's a guide to the best bets for each category.

Points

Poster Boy: MarShon Brooks, G, Brooklyn

Similar options: Nick Young, G, Philadelphia; Stephen Jackson, F, San Antonio

Brooks earned a rather inflated reputation after a rookie season that saw him score at a decent clip (12.6 points per game) without bringing much else to the table. The Nets refused to include him in any of their various offseason trade proposals, not even in the long-rumored Dwight Howard deal that eventually fell through. Brooks is an isolation scorer and he does little else. He finished third among all first-year players in scoring, but he required 11.4 shots per game to get there. He shot just 42.8 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from 3-point range, while coming in just ninth among rookies with 2.3 assists per game. For a guard who finished the season with a 22.9 percent usage rate, that's a very poor assist rate. What's left is a player who is likely to pour in 13 points with little to help in other categories. Use a player like Brooks only if you're in need of points, as there won't be much else coming from gunners like them.

Field-goal percentage

Poster Boy: Tiago Splitter, C, San Antonio

Similar options: Ian Mahinmi, C, Indianapolis; Jan Vesely, F, Washington

Most of the field-goal percentage specialists are going to be big men who stick to working near the rim and last season Splitter was the best of them. At some point, Splitter is probably going to become a starter and possibly a very good one. He averaged 17.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes during his second season while shooting an outrageous 61.8 percent from the field. Unfortunately, he averaged just 19.0 minutes per game and his role is unlikely to change entering the season. In his current position, he is a highly efficient big man who excels at finishing at the rim -- he shot 72.5 percent on shots within three feet of the rim and 67.9 percent of his shots came from that area. He knows what he is good at and tries to stick with it, which is a big key for sustaining that level. Splitter provides help at the fringes in blocks and rebounds, but Splitter's true value comes in making up for having a low-efficiency chucker killing your field-goal percentage at another position.

Rebounds

Poster Boy: Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto

Similar options: Omer Asik, C, Houston; Reggie Evans, F, Brooklyn

Valanciunas enters the league with lofty expectations heaped onto his broad shoulders. He is expected to provide the Raptors with a big presence in the low post and help make up for Andrea Bargnani's floating defensive style. For Fantasy owners, however, expectations should be tempered. Valanciunas is a raw offensive prospect -- DraftExpress.com calls his best-case scenario "Andris Biedrins meets Joakim Noah," so that says all you need to know right there. He might develop down the road, but his rookie season will likely see him working almost exclusively as a pick-and-roll option while cleaning up the boards. This is one place he might be able to provide some assistance, however. He averaged 7.6 rebounds in just 23.3 minutes per game for Lietuvos Rytas in the EuroCup tournament last season while routinely being the youngest player on the floor. It's unclear how many minutes Valanciunas will play immediately, but Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey will certainly want his size and mobility to help a team that has struggled on defense. Valanciunas probably won't finish the season with more rebounds than points -- but it will be close. He should make an impact on the boards so look toward him or other similarly skilled big men to make up a rebounding deficiency.

Assists

Poster Boy: Kendall Marshall, G, Phoenix

Similar options: Royce White, F, Houston; Boris Diaw, F, San Antonio

This is probably the toughest position in which to make up a deficit as most teams have just one primary ball-handler who accounts for most of their assists. The players who rack up gaudy assist totals tend to have the ball in their hands a lot, so you don't encounter many players who only help you in that regard. Still, there is value to be had -- if you know where to look. Marshall averaged an absurd 9.8 assists as a sophomore at North Carolina, but he brings very little else to the table. He has a lot in common with players like Andre Miller and Jose Calderon, both of whom have posted solid assist numbers without contributing much in other areas due to their limited scoring abilities. The Suns signed Goran Dragic to man the point, but he is a combo-guard who has the ability to play off the ball. Marshall has a unique ability to find open players, but he might lack minutes and opportunities. If he ever emerges as a starter he will be a useful Fantasy option in his own right, but until that happens he can be a cheap source of assists. White and Diaw, meanwhile, have a more well-rounded skill set with their ability to handle the ball and make precise passes from the power forward position. Unfortunately, they are also looking at limited roles.

Blocks

Poster Boy: Wilson Chandler, G, Denver

Similar options: Andre Drummond, C, Detroit; Bismack Biyombo, C, Charlotte

As you can see, your typical option here is the raw, young big man. But I'd like to highlight Chandler, a rare non-big who is able to make an impact blocking shots. In 2010-11, he averaged 1.3 blocks per game and he is at 0.9 per game for his career. Even in a disastrous eight-game cameo last season that ended with hip surgery, Chandler got 0.8 blocks per game in just 26.9 minutes. Chandler has the ability to be a devastating defender, as he stands at 6-foot-8 with a long wingspan. He gets many of his blocks by simply being longer than most of the shooting guards he plays against. In the past, he was a solid contributor in rebounds and points from the guard spot as well, but he is a bit buried on the depth chart in Denver so his counting stats might not be up to par. Still, his ability to swat shots without totally crippling your scoring -- which is an issue with both Biyombo and Drummond -- makes him worth considering if a need arises.

Steals

Poster Boy: Gustavo Ayon, F, Orlando

Similar options: Ronnie Brewer, G, New York; Corey Brewer, F, Denver; Zaza Pachulia, C, Atlanta

I highlighted a small guy for blocks so I might as well return the favor for the big men in steals. Normally, you expect steals to come from a quick-handed guard out on the perimeter, so Ayon certainly doesn't fit that bill. Of course, Ayon has carved out a nice start to his career by defying expectations. He was one of just 15 players at least 6-foot-10 who averaged 0.9 steals per game and he did it in by far the fewest minutes per game (20.1). He is likely to see a bigger role on a rebuilding Magic team that will want to see if the 27-year-old has more room to develop. That could mean a steal total approaching 1.5 per game, which would put him comfortably in the company of the guards and small forwards that he normally towers over. His prowess last season was unlikely a fluke, as he averaged well over two steals per 40 minutes playing professionally in Spain from 2010-12. Ayon is a solid sleeper this year, but even if he does not make a big impact overall, he brings a distinctive ability to swipe the ball for a big man.

3-Pointers

Poster Boy: Steve Novak, F, New York

Similar options: Anthony Morrow, G, Atlanta; Marco Belinelli, G, Chicago

Novak is really only in the league for his ability to shoot the ball accurately from far distances. For a few seasons, he might as well not have been in the league, as he played just 577 minutes in 84 games from 2009-11. Last season, a Knicks team desperate for offense plucked him off waivers and found a hidden talent as he led the league by shooting 47.2 percent from downtown. That is almost literally all he does. Plenty of players have made their living just bombing away from 3-point range, but few do so with the abandon that Novak does. A staggering 75 percent of his shots in the NBA have come from behind the 3-point line and last season he attempted just five of his 338 shots from inside 16 feet from the rim. Novak is single-minded in his pursuit of treys and he should be good for an average of 2.5 per game at a ridiculous percentage.

Free-throw percentage

Poster Boy: J.J. Redick, G, Orlando

Similar options: Luke Ridnour, G, Minnesota; Doron Lamb, G, Milwaukee

I actually like Redick's overall game, especially when you consider the incredible progress he has made as a ball-handler and shot-creator in his career. But he is still well-known for his incredible efficiency as a shooter. Last season he shot just 42.5 percent from the field, but connected on 41.8 percent from 3-point range and 91.1 percent on free throws. The progression of his overall game has probably pushed him out of the specialist category, but there are still few players who are as consistently dependable from the free-throw line. And what helps push him over some other specialists is that he has begun to go to the line more often -- he is averaging 2.5 trips to the stripe per game over the last three seasons. Redick is a bit more than a one-category fill-in, but he really shines at the stripe and can make up for some major deficiencies on your team.

Turnovers

Poster Boy: Matt Bonner, C, San Antonio

Similar options: Antawn Jamison, F, Los Angeles Lakers; Jodie Meeks, G, Los Angeles Lakers

Turnovers are a tricky category because most of the league's leaders in raw turnovers are superstars who always have the ball in their hands. Last year, John Wall, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash and Deron Williams represented the top five. So when you choose your team and you load up on stars at the top of the draft, you will inevitably be left staring at an ugly number in the turnover column. The easiest way to avoid turnovers would be to simply put players on your team who hardly play, but that would be cutting off your nose to spite your face. You need to find a balance in this category and it might be the toughest one to manage. This is where Bonner fits in. He is a sneakily useful option in Roto formats. He is a center who nails 3-pointers at a high volume and does little else. It's very difficult to turn the ball over when all you are doing is spotting up behind the arc and either shooting or passing the ball. Bonner might put the ball on the floor less than any player in the league, which led him to an unfathomably-low 3.8 turnover percentage last season. He turned the ball over just 14 times in 65 games last season, while nailing 105 3-pointers at a 42 percent rate. You'll take a huge hit in rebounding and blocks from the center position, but Bonner can fill in for a few weeks and help you avoid turnovers.

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Williams and Johnson tied for the team lead with 24 points scored, though Johnson was more efficient, shooting 8 of 13 from the field compared to Williams' 8-for-20 mark. Livingston brought up the rear with 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting as well.

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Oladipo ended up playing in 80 games for the Magic, and finished in the top-five in most major categories among rookies. He averaged 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He also played the most minutes total among rookies. 


Danny Granger expects to play in first postseason game
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(4/17/2014) Clippers forward Danny Granger took part in practice Thursday and plans to be available for the start of the team's first round playoff matchup against the Warriors Saturday.

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