Is there anything better than getting unexpectedly great performances from your players in the first game of the season? Maybe they’ll do this EVERY GAME! I’m suddenly reminded of Michael Carter-Williams’ rookie debut of 22/7/12 with 4 threes and 9 steals. Of course we know that regression to the mean is coming to rain on our parade soon enough. But, there are guys that make leaps in production for entire seasons, and identifying them is one of the keys to winning. This is an outlier, but I fondly remember picking up Shawn Marion a few games into his second season, my first in fantasy, in which he finished as a first-rounder. He led me to a debut title, and I was hooked.

I’m generally very active in my leagues. However, I’m often slow to trust guys that come from out of nowhere. No prospect pedigree? I generally chalk it up to luck. I’m much more likely to speculate on players that have shown something in the past. But, sometimes dudes do just show up. I remember being way too slow to trust Hassan Whiteside’s explosion onto the scene in Miami. Another guy that I just refused to believe in for the longest time was Robert Covington. “Who’s this undrafted guy from a small school putting up big steals and threes on the Sixers? Never heard of him. They’re tanking. Of course they’ve got to have somebody taking shots and getting minutes.” I didn’t think it would last. And if he was too good, I thought they’d probably sit him more, so he wouldn’t accidentally help them win too many games. For players with whom I’m not familiar, I’m  always waiting for the sample size to get bigger. But you can’t wait too long, or you’ll miss your chance. If you can identify the right guys, you can still snatch up some of this season’s impact players as a free agent. So, how can we tell what’s likely to continue? What should we be watching for in these first few games that might be predictive?

Please, blog, may I have some more?

At long last, the new NBA season is upon us! You’ve finally learned your Adebayos from your Anunobys from your Anigbogus. Now, let’s get our Miltons, Meltons, Okobos, and Okogies straight. The Charlotte Michael-Hyphens (Kidd-Gilchrist and Carter-Williams) and the Miami Derrick Juniors (Jones and Walton) broke up, but I think all three NBA Reggies are still on the Pistons, at least. It’s going to be a great season. We’ll start playing more with numbers next week in this column. But for now, let’s talk drafting!

Fantasy drafts are the best. Snake, auction, slow, in-person. Whatever the format, I’m in. You’re likely a grizzled veteran of fantasy hoops drafts at this point as well, if you’re part of Razzball Nation. But whether you are or not, I’m hoping I can give you a couple advantages you may not have thought of yet. Or maybe, with all the aspects of a draft to consider, something I mention will be a helpful reminder when you’re frantically scrolling through late round players that all look terrible.

Last year, I went pretty in-depth with a two-part draft strategy series (Part 1, Part 2). Some of the names may have changed, but it holds up pretty well (thank goodness I said something positive about Donovan Mitchell). This year, I’ll try to keep it a bit more brief, but no promises.

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Welcome to the second season of Run The Numbers. For those of you that are new here, I’m Tad. That clip was an homage to my avatar and my favorite basketball movie. I’m a stats nerd and I grew up in the Chicago area during the Jordan years. These days, I drool over highlight montages of prospects and manipulate spreadsheets of NBA statistics to find ways to squeeze out every last drop of value I can.

I’m not as much into predicting sleepers and breakouts. You get enough of that, anyway. I’m into finding advantages. Market inequities. This season, I’ll be providing ways to maximize the value of your team and philosophies that yield stats at a discount. I’ll also regularly update you on players most valuable to certain builds and punt strategies, which helps you even if you aren’t intentionally ignoring any categories in particular. So, you’ll definitely be getting names to target and pick up as well. We want to play smarter than our competition. Treat these players as fantasy assets. A set of numbers. Don’t get swayed by flashy plays and hyped-up, empty double-doubles. I mean, of course it’s way more fun to have highlight dunks to go along with your stats, but it’s the most fun to win!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Can’t believe it, but another fantasy season is in the books. I hope you enjoyed it and can celebrate some success. I’ll keep the talk short this week and get to the players we have to thank for our wins and those we have to blame for our losses. Obviously, players have hot streaks, so some of the most valuable players were valuable for, like, a month or maybe half a season. However, I’m going to compare season-long results to average draft position and highlight a few players that performed dramatically differently than expected.

I thought about using total season stats, but the differences there often are so heavily influenced by injuries that I don’t think it’s a good way to judge how well a player played. So, I’ll just be looking at per-game stats for 8-cat and 9-cat. Players that exceeded their draft position the most (“most” being subjective, since someone that was drafted 10th and finished 3rd could be considered more or less of a value than someone that was drafted 120th and finished 60th, for example). Then, those that finished most below their ADP. You get it. Sort of a breakouts and busts with 20/20 hindsight. I used the Yahoo ADPs (should be a mix of 8 and 9-cat leagues) and the Basketball Monster Player Rankings.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Just a few days left in the fantasy basketball season. That means it’s just a few days until the season of anticipating the next fantasy basketball season. I love the fantasy offseason almost as much as the actual season. The NBA playoffs, the draft lottery, the draft and draft night trades, free agency, summer league, training camp, and then we’ve made it back to fantasy draft season. And all the while, our hope is renewed. Until next season starts, we haven’t lost half our team to injuries!

Anyway, to round out the season next week, I plan on reviewing this season’s surprises. Who greatly exceeded expectations? Who didn’t come close to meeting them? These are the difference-makers that greatly determined the outcome of leagues this year. But first, this week, we’re gonna have some fun with an expanded version of my weekly classic fantasy line feature (which comes at the bottom of my weekly posts, in case you haven’t made it that far). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed looking back at old and not-so-old stats, whether I’d been familiar with them or not. Seeing the old stats through the lens of a fantasy bball player in 2018 fascinates me. If that sounds like something up your alley, feel free to go back and check them out to find some commentary on stats from great game, season, and career lines for legends like Wilt, MJ, and Steph. Today, I’m going with some championship teams whose seasons I just wanted to check out. And I thought I’d see who the key players could compare to these days, at least stat-wise. Thanks to basketballreference.com, of course.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I’m going to take a break from numbers this week. A break from Trey Burke, Quinn Cook, and Denzel Valentine impacting fantasy playoff teams infinitely more than Steph Curry, Demarcus Cousins, and Kawhi Leonard. A break from dealing with players on tanking teams sitting indefinitely every time someone steps on their toe, or from players on playoff teams resting without notice. Heck, a break from the NCAA tournament that only has one projected lottery pick left to watch.

This is probably going to most interest dynasty and keeper league players, but those already itching to rank and project players for next season will find this intriguing, too. Today, I’m going to look at who this summer’s free agents are. That period from the draft (draft lottery only 47 days away!) through the first week of free agency is probably my favorite on the NBA calendar, since about a third of the league seems to change teams. So many new dynamics to consider for so many teams. The impact on fantasy is huge, too. I’m definitely no insider with information to help predict who’s going where, but I do find it helpful to know whose value is likely to remain the same and whose has a wide range of outcomes. The latter are often good targets if you need to get risky to improve your keeper/dynasty team over the summer. Do you have a Terry Rozier type that would gain a ton of value if he moved on to a starting role? Is he free to do so? Also, remember to think of which teammates might be affected by these players should they change teams. For example, are the players blocking Mario Hezojna’s path to more minutes likely to get out of his way? Then again, might LeBron, PG13, and CP3 all be coming to your player’s team to squash his usage? Here are the most fantasy relevant free agents. Wow, this summer could be a big one.

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KRAMER: Wide open, I was wide open underneath! I had three inches on that guy. You two were hogging the ball.
GEORGE: Me? It wasn’t me. I never even saw the ball. All you do is dribble.
JERRY: I have to dribble, if I give it to you, you just shoot. You’re a chucker.
GEORGE: Oh, I’m a chucker.
JERRY: That’s right, every time you get the ball you shoot.
GEORGE: I can’t believe you called me a chucker. No way I’m a chucker, I do not chuck, never chucked, never have chucked, never will chuck, no chuck!
JERRY: You chuck.
GEROGE: Kramer, am I a chucker?
KRAMER: You’re a chucker.
GEORGE: All these years I’ve been chuckin’ and you’ve never told me?
JERRY: Well it’s not an easy thing to bring up.

 

You’re a punter. It’s not an easy thing to bring up. But you are. The good news is that your opponents are, too, but they may not know it yet. No, you probably didn’t plan to punt a category. But, at this point in the season? Yes, you should be punting at least one category. It might be because you’re out of the running in assists in your roto league. Maybe you’re just stuck in the middle, 300 rebounds behind the team ahead of you, and 300 ahead of the team behind you. Or, in head-to-head, you’ve seen your playoff opponent’s team, and you know you’ll double that team’s threes easily, while it’s even clearer that you have no chance to compete in FG%. You are now punting those categories that can’t help or hurt you. You can use the word ignoring instead, if that helps. You’re not trying to get players that are bad at the categories that no longer matter. You just don’t care about them anymore. So, it’s going to take a bit more work to figure out who’s worth more to your team now. That’s where today’s Run The Numbers comes in.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Whether you’re in your head-to-head playoffs or gearing up for the final month of the roto season, I’m here to help you figure out which moves to make to maximize your chances to win. Last week, I discussed the amount of games played per week and for the remainder of the season for each team and how to value their players accordingly. This week, I’ll go through some free agent specialists to consider picking up. Next week, I’ll return to my bread and butter: punting categories. As always, I don’t only mean those that went with a season-long strategy of punting free throw percentage. By this point, you have so much more information about exactly what your team needs and, almost as important, what it doesn’t need. Of course you know that you should be focusing on steals if you’re only about 20 behind two other teams in the roto category or going all in on field goal percentage if that’s the only category you need to swing the final score in your playoff matchup. But, from my own experience, I know that you’re probably still focusing on players and categories that can no longer help you. It’s so hard to decide to sit a 25-point scoring all-star for the final month of the season. But, if you’re running away with points in a landslide, those points do nothing for you anymore. I remember multiple seasons where I had to completely ignore all stats except for steals and blocks for the final few weeks of a roto league. Sitting a guy like Damian Lillard (past 30 days: 0.9 steals and 0.2 blocks) for someone like Dewayne Dedmon (1.3/1.2). Forget the names and focus on the stats.

So, today, I’ll give you some players you may be able to grab who can help you in the specific categories you need. This time of year, that’s going to include some surprise players that are getting extra run and/or usage. So, this will also be a reminder to focus on what’s going on now as opposed to the numbers we got used to in the first half of the season.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Well, it’s almost playoff time if you’re in a head-to-head league. And if roto’s your game, you’re still down to the final five weeks of the season. Dance with who brung ya, right? Nope! It’s time to look around the room for better dancers. Rather, there are certainly folks that will be dancing more often the rest of the night–er, season. The metaphor kinda breaks down there.

Today’s lesson is a relatively obvious one, especially for experienced players, but it might make the difference in your league. So, make sure you’ve thought this through. If you play in a weekly lineup league, it’s time to maximize the number of games you can get out of your team. If you have a weekly league with daily lineup changes, it gets a bit more complicated, but you still want to start the week with as many games on the schedule as you can. Also, let’s say, hypothetically, that you have a 1st round bye wrapped up in, oh, maybe the Razzball Experts League, and you want to look ahead. Well, here’s how the last few weeks shake out.

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Don’t take Anthony Davis in the top 5. He’ll miss at least 25 games. Avoid Old Man LeBron James, because he rests all the time. Tyreke Evans has only played 65 games in the last two years combined. Not even worth drafting.

A few of the prevailing opinions going into the season that I thought had gotten a bit overblown. The risk of missing games is scary, but it’s not often very predictable. And yes, I’m cherry picking examples, but AD has played 54 of the first 60 games and is #4 on the ESPN Player Rater (#3 per game). LeBron hasn’t sat one game yet, is among the league leaders in minutes per game again, and is #1 (#5 per game). Tyreke  has played 49 of 59 games, sitting five of those when the team was holding him out before the trade deadline. He’s #58 (#44 per game). And sure, that’s partly due to Mike Conley missing almost the whole season. Yes, there are examples of injury fears being once again substantiated, like in the case of Danilo Gallinari. It’s all guesswork. It’s part of the fun, predicting what a season will bring. But, figuring out the puzzle can drive you mad.

Today, I thought we’d have a little fun revisiting some preseason predictions. Maybe we can learn a bit about what types of projections are more trustworthy than others. Maybe not. I also don’t think this would be a great way to figure out who’s great at predicting things like sleepers and breakouts, because this is a small sample size. Continue to look at the methodology behind the predictions to see if it’s backed up by reason. I just figured that we rarely actually go back to see what was right and what was way off. If it teaches us something for next preseason, great.

Please, blog, may I have some more?