Hi folks. I’m going to keep the chit-chat short this week, as this is just a sequel to last week’s punt rankings. Last week, I provided the top 20 players for punt-FT%/FG%/points and some other players that were heavily impacted by removing each of those categories. I also went over the punt-FT% complement players (rated by 3s+assists+steals+points-only). But, I was thinking about how often it’s beneficial to ignore the other categories when making pickups and proposing trades, too. You might be out of contention in a category, or maybe you’re dominating that category to the point that you don’t even need to think about it in future transactions (aside from trading off your surplus). So, let’s look at what happens to per-games season rankings per Basketball Monster when we punt these categories that aren’t often punted intentionally.

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I’ve got a punt free throw percentage dynasty team that I love so much that I practically cheer for missed free throws. Logically, I know this is silly, but bricked freebies are my brand, I guess you’d say. For those of you punters that can relate, today I’ll give you some adjusted player rankings for the season. And if you haven’t tried a punt strategy, or haven’t been successful with one, maybe this’ll pique your interest for next season.

Last week, I listed the top 20 players in each category as well as the relevant bottom 20. This week, we’ll kinda do the opposite. I’ll remove some categories that you might benefit from ignoring, whether it was part of your plan or you just found yourself uncompetitive in a category that’s not worth trying to catch up in by patching it together at the expense of other categories.

First, free throw punters. I’ll give you the top 20 in per-game value (and others that make big leaps) for 8-category and 9-category with free throw percentage removed (through 12/5). All of today’s lists come from Basketball Monster stat ratings. Keep in mind that you’re not just looking for the worst free throw shooters. Those are the guys that benefit the most from removing this category, but it doesn’t mean they’re the most valuable to your team. They ARE, however, significantly more valuable to a free throw punter than anyone else. So, if you’re at the bottom of your roto league in FT% (or if you never compete in head-2-head), don’t try to just add a couple good FT shooters to fix it. Maybe that gets you a roto point or two at most. Go all in, and trade off some good FT shooters for the guys below, especially those that are cheaper since they benefit the most from punting (in bold) and watch your team gain in FG%, rebounds, and blocks.

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For the first few weeks of the season, I try not to focus on the standings. I look, of course, but I do so knowing that there have been outlier games, whose impacts are more pronounced due to the small sample size. Also, most teams have a player or two that’s missed the majority of the games and they might also have been starting a replacement player that’s not going to keep it up much longer. However, we’re now about a quarter of the way through the NBA season. The data is relatively predictable. You should know which categories you need to focus on in order to gain points and which ones to ignore, either because you’re stuck at the bottom or entrenched at the top of a category (or if you always win or lose the category by a ton in head-to-head).

Today, we’ll look at the ESPN Player Rater. Tony RP’s Player Rater updates will give you a picture of who’s most valuable by position. I thought I’d go by category to see who’s doing what for us. Here are the top 20 players by category plus the bottom 20 for relevant ones, skipping players that have hardly played. So, it’s just the per-game stat leaders you may be familiar with, except that the percentage categories are weighted by volume. Turnovers are from BasketballMonster, since ESPN doesn’t include them.

So, how is this useful? Obviously, you want players that score well overall on the Player Rater. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be surprised to see some of your players pop up on these lists. Also, keeping in mind which categories you need help in, this can help you find some trade targets. Or, if you’re out of it in points or FG%, maybe ship off a guy that’s in the top 20 that’s not doing much else for you. If you’re in the middle of the pack in FT% and you see that you have one of the worst offenders there, maybe you can ditch him and gain points (just keep in mind what you might be losing in other categories from him). A lot can be gained by learning what’s actually happening compared to what we assume is happening based on previous years or projections.

Next week, I’ll get back into multi-category rankings for those that are ignoring categories, whether intentionally or as a matter of the hand you’ve been dealt. Think punt FG% & TOs, or for FT% punters: 3PTM+AST+ST+PTS+TO rankings, which are what you want to complement your FT% anchors with. That’s when you can really find trade value, since all players now have a new value to your specific team.

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So, Lonzo Ball put up a very impressive stat line that night with his 19/12/13 triple-double. And, as you’ve likely heard, he was five days younger than LeBron James was when he’d set the record for youngest triple-double. And if you watched ESPN’s highlight package for this game, you were treated to six Lonzo plays focusing on his accomplishment followed by one Giannis Antetokounmpo put-back dunk and a brief mention that, oh yeah, the Bucks actually won the game. Now, I’m quite the Lonzo apologist, and I spent far too much of the last year studying his game because of how much it impresses me… but ENOUGH WITH THE TRIPLE-DOUBLE MANIA! I’ve previously mentioned my disdain for how much these stat lines get overrated simply because an arbitrary number was reached in three categories. If we had 18 fingers and had decided on a base-18 number system thousands of years ago, a triple double would really be something, but is 10/10/10 a worthy threshold for what should be considered a noteworthy game? The thing that really bothers me is that, these day, even a “near-triple-double” will often get more attention than a more valuable stat line, even if it’s only like 11/8/9 (a Rajon Rondo Special). For example, Giannis went 33/15/3 that same night. Is that more valuable? It depends on whether you’re talking about value to the player’s actual NBA team or to our fantasy teams. When it comes down to who was more effective in the actual game, there are plenty of stats that try to figure that out. A simple one is plus/minus where Lonzo was +10 and Giannis was +13. That depends on who’s on the court with you, though. There’s John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating. Basketball Reference has a game score, as well. I guess we nerds will continue to try to whittle down a player’s performance into one number, for whatever it’s worth.

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Part of fantasy basketball is forming a team using the predictable stats in a way that maximizes your roto points or head-to-head category wins. Another part is getting the less predictable stats right more often than your competition, whether that means you’re benefiting from an increase in value or avoiding a decrease.

It’s early, but I thought I’d take a look at what the biggest differences are in this season’s stats versus last season’s by using the ESPN Player Rater averages (per-game).

Aaron Gordon. This season’s highest leaper.

First, a quick detour while I’m talking player rater. Here’s something it teaches us that we should keep in mind. Many people think of rankings as linear. Like, the best player is the same amount better than the 5th player as the 5th player is better than the 9th player. Not so, and we see the difference especially among the top few players when we look at their overall rating. Like with most data sets, there are outliers. That’s these fantasy stars. The top five players with their per-game ratings in each of the past two seasons:

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I love music. Fortunately, my young daughter does, too. We started her early on all sorts of stuff, but she eventually started requesting almost exclusively “girl songs.” So, I started combing through my CDs and mp3s for our daily drive to school, finding a decent amount of great female singers, mainly from the 90s. She really took to some (Gwen Stefani, Shania Twain), but not as much to others that I’d hoped she would (The Cranberries, Veruca Salt). We added in some more current stuff that she loves (Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor), and we have a great time. Now, I know there’s a good chance this isn’t resonating with you as much as it would if I said I’d kept trying to slip in more funk (she likes “Car Wash” and “Jungle Boogie”, at least), rock (Down on the Corner is popular with her, but there are only a few songs by Disturbed that are appropriate for four year-olds!), and rap (“Tricky” was a favorite for a while, fortunately), but stick with me, please. Because, I found something very enlightening when I introduced the very, very 90s classic, “Stay”, by Lisa Loeb. Was it that we only hear what we want to? That we won’t live forever? No, it’s this powerful line:

“You said you caught me ’cause you want me, and one day you’ll let me go. You try to give away a keeper, or keep me ’cause you know you’re just so scared to lose.”

It’s like a record scratch every time I hear that line. YOU TRY TO GIVE AWAY A KEEPER??? She was brilliantly pointing out that YOU DON’T JUST GIVE AWAY A KEEPER! But at the same time, you don’t keep a player only because you’re scared to lose! Such wisdom. For decades, I swear I didn’t know that lovely song was about fantasy basketball keeper leagues.

Lisa Loeb. Fantasy Oracle.

While we’re still quite a few games away from a large enough sample of current season stats to really trust them, let’s talk keeper/dynasty strategy (dynasty being a league in which you keep a large amount of your team for next season). I thought I’d share some tips and have some fun looking back at what we thought of past rookies so that we don’t get overly excited about these 19 year-olds that we’re currently trusting to save our teams.

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Quick reminders we all need this time of year: It’s early. Still really early. Three of your players are day-to-day or worse, and two more are horribly underperforming. Hang in there. Unless they’re just not getting a usable amount of minutes, give your guys some time to build up that sample size so you have a better idea of who they’ll be this season. Also, with so many players missing games early on, don’t go the other way and overrate guys that are doing well in part because a better player is out of their team’s lineup. With that said, the first few weeks can be a great time to speculate on potential impact free agents and to make great buy-low trades, since we’re all still unsure where a lot of these players will settle in.

Today, I’m going to try to give you a new frame of mind with which to view the same old stats we’ve been memorizing for years. I said I’d work on my analogies, so I’ll take another whack at one.

Everyone else in your league:

You, after reading this week’s Run The Numbers:

“Another 90s pop-culture reference?” Yes! That’s my wheelhouse.

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Well, opening night got off to a face-punching, limb-snapping start, and I’m currently watching the stats roll in from eight games at once on night two! It’s so good to have the NBA back.

Let’s get to the numbers. What if I told you that you could be Biff Tannen? Nah, crashed his convertible into a manure truck. More than once. Maybe this: What if I told you that you could have access to every sporting result alllll the way up until the year 2000??? Dang it. This analogy would’ve worked a lot better 30 years ago. Anyway, today, I’m going to hand you the 2018 Sports Almanac. The NBA section, at least. Straight out of a flying Delorean. And I’m going to try to keep it short today, because I’m including some extra credit homework for you overachievers.

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FIVE… DAYS. The NBA “offseason” has kept us almost constantly entertained with a loaded draft, free agency rumors, the best summer league ever, and multiple superstar trades. But, it’s time for some real, official action. And by that, I mean actual stats that count in our fantasy leagues, of course. This season, more than any other, I’m just a huge fan of the entire NBA and my fantasy teams. You see, I’m a longtime Bulls fan. And while I’m an optimist that’s been quite obsessed with the Sixers rebuild and their amazing potential, the Bulls have messed up their tank job in half a dozen ways prior to even getting it off the ground. So, I’m really itching for some Lonzo outlets, CP3-to-Capela lobs, and an unexpected six-steal game from my most recent free agent acquisition. Let’s get going already with this new crop of talent!

Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Last week, I talked about ways to find advantages by removing certain stats your team doesn’t need for various reasons and shuffling up player values so you have a better idea of who’s actually the most helpful for your team during drafts. That’ll be a theme as the season goes on, because it really leads us to trades that can help us a ton, while helping the other team enough that they pull the trigger. But we’ve got another weekend of drafting to go, so I’ve compiled a list of a few more places to take advantage of what I see as market inequities. If you’ve already drafted, maybe this can spark some trade proposal ideas, too.

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One of my all-time favorite movies is Rounders. Matt Damon and Ed Norton talking all smooth and playing poker in cool-looking clubs with John Malkovich spouting repeatable lines in… sort of a Russian accent. Plus, there’s a great Counting Crows song during the credits that I’ve never been able to find anywhere. Anyway, Damon’s Mike McD is the relatively good boy, while Norton’s Worm is the slimier friend.

After Worm gets them beat up with all their cash stolen for having been caught cheating, the gloves come off in an overdue shouting match between the old friends.

Mike McDermott: What the F*** were you thinking?

Worm: I was trying to give us an edge… …I don’t think like that.

Mike McD: No, you don’t THINK!

Worm: No, I don’t think like YOU! You always think you can beat the game straight up. That’s not me. I told you, I’m always gonna look for that edge. Always.

As much as Mike is the better role model, if you’re picking from the two gambling addicts, in fantasy basketball you want to be like Worm. Even if you tried, you can’t cheat in most leagues, but you want to be the one thinking differently, finding your edge. Last week, I mentioned ways to make your league more engaging. From here on out, I’ll give you ways to get an edge in your league by using the numbers to your advantage. These next two weeks leading up to the season, we’ll talk drafting.

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