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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I was 8 or 9 years old when I, like nearly all other boys I knew of similar age, started seriously collecting baseball cards. This beautiful card was to blame for a lot of the shared madness.

A fun, young player that wears his hat backward and is often featured in my Sports Illustrated for Kids magazines? And, what? A rookie card is worth more money? And one of his rookie cards will be in a set by a new company with much higher quality cards so that it’ll be worth a lot of money (for an 8 year-old)? I must have this glossy picture of Ken Griffey Jr.

Thanks to my parents and some friends that were as crazy about cards as I was, in probably five years I had many thousands of cards and hundreds of Griffeys. I subscribed to Beckett Baseball Card Monthly all along, and I’d track my most expensive cards month-by-month on a primitive Microsoft Works, I think, creating line graphs to show how rich I was becoming with my handful of cards worth over $20 apiece! Anyway, I sort of still do the same thing with my fantasy players. I’ll track rankings when they come out weekly, updating both season-long and dynasty when I really have the time. It’s a great way to know the market value of your players. You might also benefit from tracking player rater data, since it’s what’s actually happened instead of a prediction of what might happen. Though, a rest-of-season rankings projection does take the season data into account, as well as prior seasons and facts about past or present injuries to the player or his teammates. There’s value in paying attention to both, of course.

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My Charlotte Bobcats fandom reached it’s peak during the 2006-2007 NBA season. My Bulls had been one of the worst teams in the NBA for nearly a decade and I liked cheering for the recent expansion team. I had NBA League Pass back then, since I was providing live box scores for a website more nights than not. The Bobcats weren’t one of the in-demand teams to cover, so I got to do a lot of their games. While the Bulls had just drafted LaMarcus Aldridge at #2 and traded him for #4 Tyrus Thomas and Victor Khryapa (yes, that happened), the Bobcats selected one of my favorite players right between those picks to join forces with other favorites Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor. That’s right, Adam Morrison was going to light up my tiny 19-inch box TV that sat beside my giant desktop computer as he turned (yes, people thought this) into Larry Bird 2.0! It was going to be fun watching this franchise, in just it’s third year, develop into a contender with those pieces.

Check it out! That weird, slippery ball they used briefly!

Okay, so the ‘Cats never really went anywhere, though Morrison did have some fun 3-point shooting streaks. I still love the snubbed and rightful 2012 Las Vegas NBA Summer League MVP and two-time NBA Champ (true). And, I still wear my Bobcats hat proudly (also true). Why am I going on and on about a player who only played in 161 career games and was out of the NBA four years after he was drafted? Because, he’s the theme of today’s strategy: The ‘Stache! I guess it’s The Stash, but at least I got to talk about Adam Morrison and Victor Khryapa.

This is a good time to stock up on and stash the players that might take off toward the end of the season and lead you to a championship.

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Somehow, we’re already halfway through the NBA season. You know your team(s). The only major unknowns left are who else will get hurt, who will get shut down, and who will get a big value increase due to those injuries and the shutting down of said teammates. Aside from trying to grab some young guys that might get some extra run down the stretch, what else can you do to increase your odds of winning at this point? Well, staying active and streaming hot players will work wonders. But beyond that, I suggest checking out your team’s standing in each of what I’ll call the forgotten stats. Even the most astute fantasy player is going to be drawn to points, rebounds, assists, and threes out of habit and because of the way that we’re most often presented with stats.

I’m going to update you on the leaders in the boring and unsexy categories of field goal percentage, free throw percentage, steals, and blocks (in addition to FG% + FT% and steals + blocks). I’m sure some of you might be much more focused on the % categories than I just mentioned, but I think most players treat them as an afterthought. So, since others are more likely to ignore these forgotten stats, take advantage of that and focus on them if you can stand to gain points there. I think you’ll find that these categories are often led by some lesser names that can be had more cheaply than the points/rebounds/assists stars. Many are even available in most leagues.

Here are your most effective players in order of Basketball Monster’s per-game values (percentages are weighted) by category or combined categories through 1/9.

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Remember Carlos Boozer? He of the lead feet on defense, yelling “HEY!” every time he missed a shot in hopes of getting a foul call? At least that’s my recollection of him during his Bulls years. He actually did play decent enough team defense to not hurt the team much while putting up 15 and 10 many nights with his no-jump fade-away rainbows. Anyway, sometime around the end of his Bulls tenure, I remember finding out that this old man on the decline was younger than me. So, I guess I couldn’t really call these NBA players that were considering retirement “old” any longer. Over the years, I’ve even embraced these guys and found that veteran players can be fantasy steals because of our ageist tendencies. And if you play in a dynasty league, they come even cheaper, of course.

Of course it’s fun to pick, trade for, and add young players right before they break out. We all want upside. But I think a lot of us don’t realize that older, boring players do have upside because of their depressed draft values. Let’s see how the NBA’s advanced age players are doing on the ESPN Player Rater compared to their Average Draft Position. I do this to hopefully show that you can win with old reliable dudes, even if they’re on the decline. You can even take this information to help you figure out who to target in trades for young, upsidey players.

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