The All-Star Break means three more weeks, or 2.5 more matchups, until the head-to-head playoffs begin in most leagues. And even for Roto-Leaguers, we’re already 70% of the way through the season. At this point, you know your teams. Or, at least you can if you take a few minutes to examine them. Odds are that there are stat categories that hardly matter to you by now. Once again, that can be because of a punt strategy or simply because of the way your team and league shook out. For example, though I didn’t intend to punt any categories this season, I ended up dead last in FG% in a roto league with no chance of catching up. That category doesn’t mean anything to me now, so I can ignore it. Similarly, in the head-to-head Razzball Experts League, I have little chance to win assists in any given week. I could try to make that up or I could double down and load up on the other categories. I have a feeling your teams may have also lost some categories early. Or maybe more likely, you have a team that just dominates a category or two to the point that you can ignore it and still win. And even if you don’t find yourself far out in front or way behind in any categories, there are likely a few roto stats where you’re too far away from the teams above and below you to worry about them.
So, today it’s time to check up on who might be available and extra-valuable to YOUR team. We’re not just looking at traditional hot waiver wire pickups. Some of them would apply, but glance through this list after you know what stats you can safely ignore, and see if somebody’s right for you. Consider using the opposite train of thought when deciding who to drop, too. You’re lapping the competition in rebounds? You may want to drop an end-of-the-roster big instead of a worse overall player.
You’ll see the top players I recommend that are available in at least one-third of Yahoo leagues here, along with their 8-category and 9-cateogry punt rankings that are based on the per-game performances of the past 60 days (through 2/12) according to Basketball Monster.
Today is one of my favorite days of the year. I hope that by the time you’re reading this that 40+ fantasy-relevant players have been traded and the NBA and all our leagues are in total anarchy. As of late Wednesday night, I’m happy to see we’re well on our way! Once the dust settles and you’re surveying the landscape, hopefully having snagged some newly valuable players during the dust storm, remember that your leagues’ trade deadlines are probably about three weeks away. So, let’s talk general trade strategy. I’m not going to get into specifics about buy-low players or fitting certain players into certain team builds. Just concepts with a little evidence sprinkled in.
Let’s start with consolidation. That’s normally the name of the game for experienced fantasy veterans. The ol’ 2-for-1 deal (or 3-for-2, etc.). For example, you trade a 7th-round guy and a 5th-round guy for a 3rd-round guy. Then trade that 3rd-round guy and a 6th-round guy for a 2nd-round guy. Keep reloading with savvy adds (guys often worth like 10th-round value) from the waiver wire and repeat until you’ve got mostly players ranked in the top 40 or 50. Hopefully, most of us have leagues too competent to allow for many of those deals. But anyway, the general advice is to get the best player in a deal and to try to trade two good players for a great player.
A few years back, there was this popular book series that was also one of the first click-baitey lists I remember seeing online. It was called “Eat This, Not That!”. Or, as it might as well have been called: “Feel Guilty Every Time You Have A Deep-Fried Onion Appetizer.” They’d present two relatively similar items at a restaurant, one with roughly half the calories and a fraction of the saturated fat. That one was usually smaller, and shockingly, not deep-fried. I remember grumpily learning that some of the absolute worst things you could eat were also some of my favorites, of course. That would be these beauties:
The Triumvirate: The Awesome Blossom, The Bloomin’ Onion, and The Cactus Blossom. No thanks! I won’t be substituting grilled salmon and fresh vegetables! I LIKE having my entire recommended weekly allowance of calories BEFORE my entrée arrives!
So, this week, I thought I’d take from that and from another idea I’ve always liked: Comparing nameless stat-lines. So, let’s do a Roster This, Not That! How’s this going to give us an advantage? What I’m going for here is, unsurprisingly, picking two players with relatively similar stat sets. One will generally be a player that your typical fantasy manager will value close to his draft price, and the other will be an overachiever, and possibly an under-the-radar one at that. Then, if you think that player might not be properly valued in your league, you should try to acquire him, as he could come cheap. If you have the player he’s being compared to, you could even see if you could make the swap and upgrade somewhere else at the same time. Now, if the other manager is up on their current player rankings, you may not get a deal, but, even so, they could be skeptical that the surprising player can keep it up. I’ve admitted before that I’m reluctant to change my perception of a player quickly. I pretty much value players where they were drafted for a little too long, since I’m resistant to believe the small sample size is more predictive than the career body of work. Which is right? That’s part of the fun, of course. So, here are a handful of comparisons I came up with (see if you can guess a few). It’s less about these specific players than the overall concept. Make sure you’re not just sticking with the big names. When it comes to fantasy, you’ve got to think of these players as a set of numbers.
Last year, I mentioned that I was a big baseball card collector as a kid, having been the perfect age when that really became a big thing. I was fortunate to have a group of friends who loved to trade cards and a dad that would take me to baseball card shows to build my collection. I had chosen Ken Griffey Jr. early on as my favorite player, so fortunately, I was on the lookout mainly for his cards. If I can ever decide to part with them, at least I have hundreds of cards featuring a Hall of Famer. The same cannot be said, however, for my brief foray into the world of basketball card collecting. I decided to complete a small set of the 1993 NBA Draft first-rounders. And from this group, like when I picked Griffey as my favorite player when he was a rookie, I chose an exciting young player to focus on. The decision to collect Isaiah “J.R.” Rider cards for a few months did not return the same joy and imaginary wealth, unfortunately. But it certainly was easy to trade for his cards!
Speaking of trading, as I write this, the trade deadline, one of my favorite days of the year, is only 15 days away. Now, after a trade goes down that day, do you want to be one of the people rushing to your app, hoping you’re the first to see if the guy that’s getting a huge bump in minutes and usage is still available? Or, do you want to be the one that they all curse when they find out you picked him up a week earlier? Obviously, we can’t stash all the players that could be in line for a big increase in fantasy value, but today I’m going to try to identify a handful of players to either stash now or to keep an eye on, depending on your league size, as the trade rumors continue to come out. And with that list, I’ll provide their per-36 minute stats. No, most won’t get that many minutes even if they are the beneficiaries of a deadline deal, but it’ll at least give you an idea of what they could do with an increase in minutes… plus, it’s fun.
While perusing the standings the other day, I was surprised to see we’re already past the half-way mark of the NBA season. And for those in head-to-head leagues, that means we’re almost 2/3rds of the way through the fantasy regular season! It’s time to take stock of our team(s) and see where injuries, pick-ups, and dropped busts have left us situated. For example, half my starters this week on one team have been free agent pickups. I have some idea of my team’s strengths and weaknesses, but it’s a vastly different group than what I started with. Once we identify our short-comings, it’s as simple as grabbing a couple centers for a pair of guards to make up ground in boards and blocks, right? Maybe. But there are constraints that might make it more complicated than that. You may be losing stats you need by doing that and you may not be able to fit two extra centers into your lineup, anyway.
This week I’d like to bring up a concept many of you are probably familiar with, but often goes forgotten: Out-of-position stats. What if you’re low in rebounds, but you don’t have room to add/start a center? Well, you could trade a traditional point guard (assuming you were set with PG stats) for Dejounte Murray (9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, and yes, by the way, I’m choosing an alternate universe in which he’s healthy for this hypothetical situation). Considering trading for or picking up players that get atypical stats for their position can make a ton of sense for a lot of reasons. Maybe you lost a big assist guy like John Wall or your dominant rebounder in Clint Capela. Maybe you’ve got another out-of-position stats guy that hurts you because of what he lacks (Dejounte’s assists and three-pointers, for example). Also, when you have out-of-position stats, like say Nikola Mirotic’s 3s, you can afford to have additional atypical players that others in your league might devalue, like Elfrid Payton, a guard that doesn’t hit many threes. Get creative and check out some of the players I’ve listed below.
Amazing, yet totally believable headline from earlier this season: “Pelicans’ Anthony Davis drops rare 5×5 statistical game…”
Jaw-dropping headline from last week that I’m still not over: “Nurkic’s NBA-best 5×5…..” <RECORD SCRATCH>
That’s TWO five-by-fives already this season! A 20/20 5×5 from Jusuf Nurkic!?! The NBA is definitely “Where Amazing Happens”.
Quick nostalgia video for my fellow StarCraft and/or Aliens fans regarding the quote I hear in my head each time a 5×5 is mentioned:
I’ll try to keep it relatively short this week, as the concepts won’t be new. I thought it was high time we look at statistical scarcity again, now that we have a significant sample of this season’s stats. We’ve talked about how statistical performances compare across categories based on player rater values and just how good stats have to be to offset those that negatively affect us among other similar ideas. But this time, I’m back to comparing the scarcity of our counting stats, this time through the lens of the 5×5.
As a grizzled fantasy veteran like many of you, I have most players’ typical stat sets from the last few years stuck in my head. It takes a long time for me to change my opinion, regardless of how hot or cold someone gets for a few weeks or so. I generally go with logic and think “small sample size — regression is coming”. But I wasn’t always so boring. It wasn’t always this way…
Flashback to the year 2000…
(Okay, sorry. I’ll try to stay focused. Stupid gifs of everything in history at the click of a button.)
…You’d find me in my dorm room, navigating my way through my first fantasy basketball season, loving our super-fast ethernet connection (no more AOL dial-up like at home!). Putting off homework by manually adding up my team’s stats on Yahoo each night in the pre-StatTracker days. It was an 8-cat Roto league (still my game of choice), so I didn’t need to get too crafty with weekly games played, matching up against specific teams, or checking NBA opponents. I’d been a big NBA fan, but I’d lost touch somewhat since my Bulls had disbanded in 1998. So, my main strategy was simple: Look at stats for the last month, and pick up whoever the best available guys were (I remember a guy I’d never heard of, Bo Outlaw, providing some sneaky stats for weeks and months at a time). Give them a couple of games to see if they’d keep it up, and if not, swap ’em for the next hot thing. Could it be so simple? Well, I ended up winning that league that season. And most seasons after that. You may not have found my friends in my league adding up their teams’ stats at 4 a.m., I guess.
Thought I’d have a little throwback fun this week. Who’s tired of the Jordan vs LeBron debates? Yep. Me too. Jordan never lost a finals! LeBron hasn’t lost a conference finals in 8 years! Look at his teammates! Look at HIS teammates!… blah, blah, blah. Here’s the real question we care about in our world: Who was the better fantasy player? Now, it’s not quite the same argument as greatest of all time, because there are at least a handful of other players that have been more valuable fantasy-wise than one or both of these guys, but lets see if we can make some sense out of their fantasy careers. Thanks once again to Basketball Monster for having historical player raters.
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).
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.