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?

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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?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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.

Please, blog, may I have some more?