- Jason Langendorf, ESPN Boxing
The easiest thing in the fantasy world is to make a first-round pick in an NBA draft. Easier than a Paris Hilton joke. Easier than a 16-game season against the Houston Texans. Unlike football and baseball, basketball has very few DEFCON 1-level disasters waiting to happen. And you know who you are, Daunte Culpepper and Curt Schilling.
Later picks are even tough to muff in hoops leagues. Full-fledged breakouts usually are those everyone sees coming or aren't entirely apparent until two months into the season, after someone who took a shot in the dark on the waiver wire realizes they've struck gold with a GF Bobby Simmons or PG Damon Jones. The mega-flops often turn out to be the aged (PG Sam Cassell) and infirm (PF Chris Webber), players savvy owners tend to avoid or downgrade in the draft anyway.
But leagues often are won with late-round or free-agent gap-fillers, particularly roto leagues. I'm talking about a guy whose autographs you wouldn't have wasted a napkin on in November, but whose $300 throwback jersey you giddily snap up off eBay in March because he lifted your blocks category by six points. These players are special because only a select few can make a significant push in one category without burying their owners in others. Call this the All-Spackle Team. Or whatever. Just don't wait too long to pick these cats up.
Jason Langendorf goes category-by-category and gives some under-the-radar help for your fantasy squads.