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Embracing The Taint

Banking on turnaround stories and finding value in fantasy hoops

By Adam Hoff

If there is one constant with every fantasy basketball draft I've ever been a part of it, it is this: no one wants to take The Tainted. I'm talking about the players who suffered nagging injuries the previous year, who slumped miserably, or both. When an NBA player has a really bad year, he is tainted, simple and plain. When this happens, said player begins to slide down draft boards. It happens subconsciously long before draft boards are even constructed, but when lists and rankings are finally released, the same names are all way, way down the page.

Because these guys have such a “blah” factor working, it makes sense that you won't want to draft them. However, these are the players who are most likely to succeed above expectations, which is the name of the game. The best way to get ahead in fantasy is to consistently draft guys who have better talent than their draft pick would indicate. Get a fourth round talent in the sixth round and a sixth round talent in the ninth round and you are on your way.

With that in mind, here are players to target in rounds four through 12 in your upcoming drafts. I did away with the first three rounds, because those draft spots require an opposite strategy. In basketball you can't afford to lose a star to injury, so the best bet is to take the safest, most reliable options up front, and then go for value and upside as the draft goes on.

Round Four - Stephon Marbury. No one wants this guy because he submarined so many teams last year, but in case you hadn't noticed, Larry Brown (Marbury's personal tormenter) is gone. Not only that, but the new man on the sidelines - Isiah Thomas - is the guy that traded the store for Marbury almost three years ago. The stage is set for a big comeback, at least where stats are concerned. The Knicks plan to run a lot of pick-and-rolls out top and to get out in transition, both of which play to Starbury's strengths. I think he gets back to his 20 and 8 form with good percentages and provides late second/early third round value.

Round Five - Manu Ginobili. Manu was dinged up last year and he's become an extremely unlikable player with all the flopping and whining, so nobody wants to draft him. However, between his ability to get steals, threes, and all the traditional categories, he is a bargain this late. Last year when everyone thought he was on the verge of being a megastar, he was going in the third round, which was idiotic. But the Spurs will need big production from Ginobili this year and I think he can produce fourth round numbers.

Round Six - Larry Hughes. Everyone thinks that Hughes' terrible numbers can be attributed solely to his change of scenery and playing with LeBron, but I disagree. No, he won't be a top 15 player like he was two years ago, but he can easily be top 40, which puts him in round four of almost any league. His finger was mashed all season last year and he was never comfortable with the Cavs. Expect a big improvement and nice value in the sixth round.

Round Seven - Zach Randolph. I had to double-check this one to make sure it was even a legitimate place to put him. But sure enough, Randolph is going in the late seventh round on average, which is crazy. Considering that Brandon Roy - a rookie - is really the only other Portland player that can score on his own, Randolph should get a ton of touches down in the post, where he is one of the more effective players in the league. He won't get blocks, steals, or assists, but a return to 20/10 with much better percentages (he shot a hard-to-believe .436 from the field last year) seems likely.

Round Eight - Tyson Chandler. It was an incredibly disappointing season for Chandler last year, as he was often unable to beat out the likes of Darius Songaila and Othella Harrington for minutes. The Hornets have big plans for Chandler and are imploring him to be aggressive, so it seems at least possible - if not probable - that this is the year when Chandler finally starts to play like Marcus Camby Lite.

Round Nine - Jamal Tinsley. Obviously, if you take Tinsley, you are playing with fire where injuries are concerned. However, it seems this is finally the year when fantasy owners are giving up on him, which makes it a perfect year to snatch him up late. The Pacers are going with Darrell Armstrong as the backup point guard, so they must have some faith that Tinsley is going to stay healthy. If he does, you are going to be loving the assists, boards, and steals he provides from the point guard position.

Round 10 - Marvin Williams. This is sort of cheating, because Williams was only a rookie last year, which makes it hard to classify him as a bounce back candidate. But considering how lost he looked on the court most of the time, a turnaround would still be a major story. I think he has it in him. With long arms and quick hands, he can get steals and blocks, and even at his worst last year he appeared able to score, rebound, and get to the line.

Round 11 - Mike Dunleavy. I know most people are done giving this guy chances, but I'm willing to extend one more. He's playing for Don Nelson, which should help. Nellie likes to exploit matchups and use weird lineups and Dunleavy is nothing if not versatile. I think he'll get plenty of minutes and touches playing both forward spots and have by far his best year yet. In fact, I'm predicting that he finishes in the top 50 for fantasy, which would obviously represent huge value for a pick this late.

Round 12 - Damon Stoudemire. Even at round 12, this is a reach. But the last time Mighty Mouse was being written off, it was 2004 and he went on to have a fantastic season - the best of his career. Memphis is going to be hard pressed for points with Gasol out, so expect Damon to jack his fair share of threes. He's always been a good rebounder for a point guard and as long as Fratello doesn't install some weird platoon at the position, the numbers should be there.

Take another look at those names. I bet you are close to throwing up in your own mouth. Don't worry though, that is just The Taint. If you grab all these guys, pair them with a nice trio of top picks (like, say, Ray Allen, Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard), and make a few adjustments for positions and certain statistical needs, I think you've got a winning team. Remember, it is all about value.

Adam Hoff is the columnist for WhatifSports.com.

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