I used to play a lot of fighting video games. Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat, and the like. I think I aged out around the time they were up to Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Super Street Fighter 2 Championship of Everything Ever Edition Turbo. But I know they kept going, adding more characters, merging games. And that’s sort of what I wanted to do this week. I’ve written a decent amount about stuff like category specialists, how scarce the stats in each category are, how volume skews percentage stats, and just how detrimental the percentage and turnover performances of your players can be. Well, today, we’re going to witness a 2018 battle royale of sorts. Using Basketball Monster, I took the standard deviation value of each individual’s statistical performance in each category, and ranked them. Other sites have slightly different values due mostly to alternate assumptions and weights. There are some writers out there who have explained fantasy basketball standard deviation values in depth and in ways that are much more exciting than those in my old college statistics books. So, if you’re really curious, you can find out more with a little searching. I’ll just say that, in general, a standard deviation score of 2 means that the performance is roughly better than almost 98% of the rest of the league. A score of 3 is about where you’d expect the best performance in the league to be, as it’s usually around the 99.9th percentile. Same thing for negative values, just reversed. So, if you see a value exceeding 3, and I’ve shared some of those insane standard deviation scores from the last few decades in previous posts, it’s super-valuable (turbo edition 64?). Some categories don’t have anyone reaching 2 or -2, meaning the numbers are more bunched up together. But some have some extreme outliers. That’s what we’re looking for today.

Boban’s gotta be in there somewhere, right?

I present to you the most and least valuable individual category performances of the year (per-game through 12/4, with some small sample players removed).

Please, blog, may I have some more?

This season of 50-point games and JaVale McGee relevance is already about 25% complete. How are your teams looking? We should have a pretty good picture of what we can expect from our lineups and most players, so where can we go from here? Let’s get creative. I’ve been talking about how the practice of ignoring categories that aren’t affecting us can give us an advantage (even if we weren’t trying to punt categories), as it presents a market tilted in our favor. Shaking up the values of players and customizing them to our teams is a great way to make some effective trades. Trades that are more likely to get accepted, because they can more easily be win/win deals. Today, I’m going to give a variety of lists of multi-category “punts” to help identify targets that often go undervalued, in addition to those that complement punting teams best.

I’ve gone on and on about how most categories get overlooked. That’s something that can give savvy managers an advantage. The masses, if they aren’t looking closely at player raters and rankings, may essentially be “punting” the ignored categories like steals, for example. As I often mention, I truly think most fantasy managers subconsciously weigh points, rebounds, and assists more heavily than the other stats. It’s understandable, as that’s how most media outlets report stats, but it’s ridiculous to do so in fantasy, as all categories are created equal.

So, first up, here’s a list of some startable players with the biggest jumps in 9-cat per-game value (per Basketball Monster through 11/25) when we ignore Points, Rebounds, and Assists. These 6-category rankings should give us the players that are most undervalued, especially by casual fantasy players. Think of them as the thinking-man’s fantasy all-stars, fittingly led by it’s perpetual mascot.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I recently met a conspiracy theorist. He seemed so proud and satisfied that he had the inside scoop on so many topics (“You know what’s going on in Cuba, don’t you?”), while the rest of us only know what the government wants us to know. Well, I went down a rabbit hole to which he directed me just for kicks. Wow, there are a lot of crazies out there trying to obtain knowledge that no one else has, regardless of how insane it is. Shout out to Kyrie.

I realized, though, that I can relate. At least when it comes to fantasy basketball. There’s certainly a draw to uncovering a conspiracy and being part of only a small group of people that feels wiser than everyone else. Or, more relatably, being the only person to know a secret. This is how I felt the first time I manipulated a fantasy bball player rater. I was finally confident enough in my Excel skills to subtract categorical columns for punt rankings. I had decided to go all-in on a punt free throw percentage 8-category Roto dynasty team. Removing the FT% category dramatically changes the value of many players. I realized that I could trade players for much more than they were worth to me while acquiring players for much less than they were worth to me. Obviously, the downside was taking last place in a category. But since I was near the bottom in FT% anyway, I only lost maybe 2 points there while gaining something like 7 or 8 total points combined in other categories. The problem in a league like that is that I would’ve needed to get first in nearly every other category to win it all. I peaked at second place.

Yeah, yeah, you’re aware of the simplest of punt strategies. I know. But, aside from overrating rookies in dynasty drafts, this is really what I’m most passionate about: the concept of ignoring categories that aren’t going to help or hurt you.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

I’m going to keep it pretty simple this week. I’d like to check in on category leaders to help figure out who the best specialists might be this season. There’s a lot of value sitting out in the free agent pool just waiting for you to stream it. Adding and rotating through these category specialists applies in roto leagues when you notice individual categories in which you stand to gain a few points. But, this information will probably help the most in head-to-head leagues where you should be swapping out at least a couple players each week (assuming you can) to customize and maximize your stats in a way that nets you the most category wins against your opponent.

“So… you’re just pasting an NBA stat leaders’ page?” Nope. I’m only going to feature players rostered in less than 50% of Yahoo leagues. Italicized players are owned in less than 25%. For shooting percentages, I’m using Basketball Monster’s values that are weighted for volume. Next week, I’ll do sorta the opposite and list the punt specialists (value rankings with each individual category removed), as well as the rankings according to some other helpful stat combinations. I’ll leave out the flukey or injured players to save you some time here, as well.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

So, we’re three weeks into another joyous fantasy basketball season. The hot waiver pick-ups are gone or have fizzled out. Hope you got the ones with lasting value. Pretty soon, the sample sizes will be large enough to know that what we’re seeing is more or less legit. For now, there’s still a lot of regressing to the mean yet to come. Hot and slow starts will mostly fade away, and the players will be themselves over the long haul. Not everyone, as plenty of players take significant leaps or stumbles for the entire season, whether it has to do with a change of scenery, personnel, and/or usage. It can be tough to figure out whose rebounds and steals changes, for example, will stick. However, we can trust with a good amount of confidence that most players shooting percentages will end up relatively close to their previous numbers. And, this early in the season, when, say, Serge Ibaka goes 15-for-17 and then 8-for-8, percentages can be way out of line and skew value if you’re looking at rankings in a trade scenario.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

It’s the summer of 2000. Who wouldn’t want to draft Shaquille O’Neal, fresh off a MVP season, in the 2nd round of a fantasy draft? Sure, his free throw percentage was terrible, but you could make up for that with a couple FT% specialists, right? Plus, Shaq still finished as the 15th most valuable player for that MVP season despite the horrendous 52.4% from the line (9-category per-game rankings according to Basketball Monster). He’d go on to, more or less, repeat his 29/13 with 3 blocks and the most dominant field goal percentage in the league (more than twice as valuable in that category as anyone else). The FT% took a slight dip to 51.3%, but this was the height of “Hack-a-Shaq”, and his free throw attempts increased from about 10 to around 13 per game. He fell all the way to the 39th ranked player. And what’s worse, his FT% negated nearly all of his positive contributions.

Last week, I discussed some of the unheralded stats: Threes, Steals, and Blocks. At this point, many experienced fantasy b-ballers know to pay a good amount of attention to those, though. Today, I’ve got three more categories to ponder that may get ignored just as much. However, these three can also hurt your team as opposed to, at worst, adding zero stats in a category (yes, a zero in a category can be a negative to your team, but I’m talking stats that can get far more negative than the best players’ positive value in the category). Today’s categories are Field Goal Percentage, Free Throw Percentage, and Turnovers. The reason I bring these up is to get you focused on these stats as much as you are on the popular ones like points, rebounds, and assists. They count for just as much, and since your competition likely doesn’t value them as much, you can get an advantage in your league.

We’ll get back to Shaquille and his efficiency categories, with his best-in-the-league FG% and worst-in-the-league FT% in a moment. But, let’s start with:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Check out this excerpt from a 2002 ESPN The Magazine article detailing an interview that provided the substance for what I think was an And1 ad campaign featuring Kevin Garnett:

Q: Are you overpaid?
KG: Hell no. If anything I’m underpaid, with everything I do. That’s a ridiculous question. I have to do everything for this team.
Q: Are you tough enough to play in the Western Conference? Maybe Minnesota should move to the East.
KG: Man, I’ve been in the Western Conference for seven years. Holdin’ it down. Nobody there scares me. Look at my numbers. You know my rap sheet.
Q: What are your numbers?
KG: Twenty, ten and five. Twenty, ten and five. Three years in a row. And I’m rounding down. Who else has done that?
Q: What does that get you?
KG: It gets you what it gets you.

Indeed.

“20, 10, and 5”. I remembered hearing that line repeatedly around the time I started playing fantasy basketball, and it always stuck with me as the gold standard baseline for greatness (big men dominated the top of the fantasy landscape) and a main reason KG was a fantasy first rounder for years. Points, rebounds, assists. That’s all anybody every really seemed to talk about. And, to this day, those are the numbers to which we all pay the most attention, whether or not we know better. Triple-doubles, double-doubles. “How did LeBron do tonight?” – “Oh, great! 27, 11, and 7!” KG would impressively go on to hit at least 20/10/5 for three more seasons, but that leaves out half his great numbers! Garnett had up to 1.7 steals per game and up to 2.2 blocks per game during his career, and that really sent him to the top of the fantasy rankings. Top 5 in 8-category and 9-category per-game rankings for at least those six seasons. If he’d started playing a decade or so later, I’m sure he’d have been hitting a three or two each game, as well.

Today, I’m going to extoll the virtues of three stats that often get overlooked. Threes. Steals. Blocks.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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?