May 16, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Nerlens Noel is interviewed during the NBA Draft combine at Harrison Street Athletics Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft 2013: What The Sixers Can Learn From Fantasy Drafting

Fantasy sports are one of the great escapes for modern sports fans. Putting together a roster of athletes and trying to gain superiority among family and friends is the closest most people will get to being the GM of a sports franchise. After almost a decade of participation in these games, equal parts triumph and tragedy, I’ve learned the ins and outs of smart drafting strategy.  Here are some of the more important nuances, and why the Sixers should care about them.

Forget Team Needs – Draft The Best Player Available

Seems like a statement from the Master of The Obvious – why wouldn’t you take the best guy left on the board?

Despite seeming like a clear cut concept, the concept of taking the BPA is one that most successful players use to their advantage.  Less experienced fantasy sports players will make filling out all positions their top priority. This strategy will get teams stuck with Tony Romo while elite wideouts are still on the board.

The Sixers most glaring need is in the painted area, Andrew Bynum’s absence and Spencer Hawes’ propensity for floating around the perimeter leaving a big hole by the rim. As a result, most mock drafts currently have the Sixers taking a big man, namely Indiana’s Cody Zeller.

Zeller would be a decent addition to an anemic frontcourt, and may end up being a worthy selection, but taking him for the sake of taking a big man is asinine.  The Sixers simply aren’t good enough to worry about how the player they draft fits with their current roster.  If they aren’t talented enough, having a guy who slots comfortably into their current team will just stagnate their climb from the Atlantic Division basement.  The priority for the Sixers right now should be to stockpile all the talent they can, regardless of how the pieces fit.

Stay Calm – Don’t Lock In On “Your” Guy

Every league has the guy who sees players as “his” guys.  Year after year, he locks in on players he really likes and will do anything to get them on his team.  This is especially obvious in auction style drafts.  Nothing is more hilarious than driving up the price on your opponent’s targets, depleting his budget on players you have no interest in.

This is a part of the Draft that ties very closely to the BPA concept, and one that really comes back to bite teams.  As highly regarded talent starts to slide down the draft board, teams often ignore what could be a steal to select someone they’ve been honing in on.  The savvy teams take advantage of this; for example, San Antonio is still reaping the benefits 12 years after Tony Parker fell into their laps at the 28th pick.

Having teams hellbent on drafting a specific player also drives up the trade value of your own selection. In this year’s talent scarce draft, teams drafting lower than Philadelphia’s 11th pick might try to jump up to ensure they pick before all the talent is gone.  If the Sixers can get added value for their pick because someone else has their eyes set on a specific prize, they should jump at the opportunity.

Focus On Defining Skills/Traits

One way to build a juggernaut fantasy team is to get players who find a way to separate themselves from their peers. There are plenty of big men who can put up double doubles every night, but how many will shoot a high free throw percentage for your team too? There may be 10 good quarterbacks just below the elite tier, but which ones will contribute rushing yards too?

No 18-22 year old man that the Sixers might draft is going to come into the league a perfect player, but many have already shown signs of the skill that will make them relevant NBA players for years to come. Kenneth Faried is the first example that comes to mind. Although he played at a small school and had a shaky offensive game, Faried displayed an elite knack for rebounding in college, surpassing Tim Duncan’s record for total rebounds.  He has continued his Windex-like cleaning of the glass in the NBA, averaging 8.6 rebounds in just 26 minutes of action.

This stands in stark contrast to Evan Turner, who was good at everything and great at nothing in college. Faced with stiffer competition and better athletes in the pros, Turner has had no elite skill to fall back on and has struggled to string together consistent performances as a result.

Cross Your Fingers And Hope For The Best

Fans might balk at this, but drafting is not an exact science. Everyone has been a part of fantasy drafts that they came out of feeling bad, resigned to a low playoff seed at best. What any good manager knows is that the rankings and predictions are arbitrary, and no one can know for sure what will happen. I’ve won fantasy titles with the illustrious Vince Young as my quarterback.

As good as people feel about Sam Hinkie being in place for the Sixers, he’s dealing with the same crap-shoot as 30 other franchises. Players get pegged with labels like “sure thing” only to drop out of the league in a few short years, and unheralded guys rise to prominence.  For every Greg Oden who fell victim to poor genetics and injury luck, there’s a Steve Nash who went from small conference stud to MVP of the league. There’s no way to tell how a young man will react to the professional grind of the NBA on and off the court.

All fans can ask of the Sixers is to do their due diligence prior to the draft. If they can stick to the tenants laid out above, they’ll be well on their way to bringing the team back to respectability.

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