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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Recently, I wrote about the per-36 numbers of this year’s rookie crop to try to figure out what we might see down the road from them if all goes well. Today, as we head into the All-Star Break, I thought it would be good to think more short term. Let’s see if this season’s per-36 (per-minute stats multiplied by 36) rankings can tell us a bit about who to target before fantasy trade deadlines. I’m looking specifically at players whose minutes can be expected to increase after the break that could be worthy of a roster spot (or at least a spot on your watch list). I’m going to use Basketball Monster’s per-36 player rater (8-category through 2/12) and pick out players, in order, who aren’t near the top of the overall rankings so that they’d come more cheaply or may even be unowned in your leagues. Now, remember that the order here is based on per-36 value, but many players down the list will likely play more minutes than many above them, so this isn’t the order in which we should value them. However, if you expect two players to play the same minutes, go with the higher ranked player. Also, very few of these guys will be sniffing 36 minutes per game, so don’t expect these numbers from any of them. They’re just to be used as a guide.

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Who doesn’t love drafting a rookie and watching him reach his rookie ceiling, a la Donovan Mitchell? While we’re waiting on more deadline deals to go through, and since we’ve got the all-star break coming up, I figured this was a good time to start looking more at the 2018 draft prospects in order to better our chances at landing the right rookies next season.

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I’ve long been fascinated by punt strategies, especially punting free throws, as you may recall. In getting deep into the math of that years ago, I started paying a lot more attention to field goal percentage and free throw percentage in fantasy. I think it’s a spot where knowledgeable fantasy players can find an advantage. It’s one thing to compare two players by their counting stats, but, as you probably know, FG% and FT% involve another dimension: volume. Even if you’re fully aware of that, though, how often do you just look at a player’s percentage and think “Hmm 70% — not bad for a center” or “Wow, 81% — this guy will help me win the category” without looking at how many attempts they take per game? We shouldn’t even look at the % for fantasy purposes. Just look at a player rater value instead, since volume is already then taken into account.

Today, we’ll look at the leaders and bottom-feeders in ESPN per game Player Rater values (through 1/30) for players that have a decent number of games played (and are still playing). I’m including the value this time instead of the rank so we know just how much these guys are affecting the category.

For reference, a zero rating in FG% is currently around 45.5% and it’s about 76% for FT%. So, keep that in mind as you relate these ratings to your specific league.

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