Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fantasy Basketball Review

Following my intrepid auction football season in which I had mixed results (one silver, a fifth place, and two bottom feeder teams), I tried my hand at the auction basketball format on Yahoo! Sports. All leagues are H2H leagues that use standard stat cats (FG%, FT%, 3's, Pts, Reb, Ast, Stl, Blk, TO), are out of 12 teams and use a $200 auction format with playoffs (6 teams) ending last week. Here is my quick summary:

Team 1 had no identity, no soul. My first pick was Chris Paul, who had a good year, but wasn't worth the $62 I paid for him. He regressed in a major way in almost all stat cats from the previous three years. I think his health had something to do with it, as he seems tentative with that knee. But at the time, I thought it was a good pick. Next was Dwayne Wade, who was great at $52, I lowered his value because of the question marks surrounding touches in Miami, but not as low as some sites. I ended up with a guy that shot an unbelievable percentage, and filled the stat line from points to blocks. This is where my draft gets interesting. I took Deron Williams at $41, believing he'd do well with Al and that I needed to press my advantage at guard. He ended with a slightly better year than Paul, so the value is justified. But three guards?

I know in fantasy basketball you have to have a team identity, but right now it seems I'm schizophrenic about scoring, rebounding, 3's, and FG%, and want to own assists and steals. Putting $150 into assists and steals? And this is the kicker: I sucked at both! I went 13-9-0 at assists and 8-13-1 at steals, neither a dominant performance. In retrospect, I should have gone with only two of these guys and gotten a big. Here is some defense: my standard draft strategy is to draft big and get guys with good synergy. I usually want to own fg% points, rebounds, and blocks, because these are solid categories (3's, ft%, TO can be fickle), and usually guys that are good at one are good at the others. I won a title in '09 and two in '08 by drafting Dwight in the first round--usually people say he's a reach because he sucks at lots of categories (FT, 3's, Steals, TO), but he dominates the rest. Anyway, for this team, I wanted to see if another formula could work.

My next pick after Deron killed me. I went for Troy Murphy at $32, forgetting that I should never trust Avery Johnson. My thinking was that Johnson would treat Troy like Dirk, and at the very least, management would press him into action after spending that much. No such luck. This screwed my team, bad. I was counting on his 3's, rebounding, and assisting, and it killed me not to have him. Overall though, I strongly believe in drafting four great guys and filling the team with role players and guys you pick from waivers. In this case, I just got the wrong four guys. Other notable guys I drafted include Odom at $2 (great value), Okafor at $2 (unbelievable value), Cousins at $1 (insane value), McGee at $2 (great value), and Ibaka at $1. Thanks to the last two, I dominated blocks and rebounding, and also did well at FG%, but those were my only great cats.

Team 3 did slightly better, but the end result was the same (7th place, consolation bracket winner). Notable picks include Griffin at $40, Deron at $44, Josh Smith at $40, Nash at $33, Cousins at $12, Jameer at $3, Brand at $6, Ibaka at $1. I sunk $19 into Splitter, Yao, and Ariza, and could have gotten someone like Aldridge (what? he went for less than $19? well they call it a breakout year for a reason) or Ray for that. What really killed this team wasn't the draft, but a 6 week stretch in the middle of the season when I moved to Washington, D.C. for an internship and went loss-loss-loss-win-loss-loss, with a total statistical +/- of minus 9. This took me out of the playoffs; calculating the stats had I made it put me in the title game, where I would have gone 5-4 versus the loser and 3-5-1 against the eventual champion, not a bad line considering that just a few cats swinging here and there could have yielded me a championship. Things I could have done differently? Smith at $40 was way to much. I guess I valued his possible growth with a new coach and his blocks, though I got that with Ibaka. Brand was my best investment, but was on the bench during my season-killing slump (minus that slump I went 6-6-2, with a total statistical +/- of minus 1.

Team 2 was the most successful, winning the title in the public league. What was the difference? Well, these were my picks: LeBron ($62), David Lee ($42), Duncan ($28), Tyreke ($31), Westbrook ($28), McGee ($1), Andre Miller ($2). All my picks after Miller never worked out (Mike Miller, Wes Johnson, Splitter, Chalmers, Kleiza, Livingston). Critically, during my swoon in the middle of the season, I went 2-4, but with a statistical +/- of only minus 1. In fact, the only major guy that wasn't in the lineup those six weeks was David Lee. And outside of that, I dominated, closing the season with eight straight wins including three in the playoffs. My bread and butter was FG%, points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, with a good lead over the league in assists and a 50/50 shot at FT%. All my top 6 draft picks can board. All of them score, and pass well. Combined, they shoot a good percentage and get lots of steals/blocks. This served especially useful later in the season, as illustrated below.

I was really surprised that assists was my best category, showing that guys like Russell, Tyreke, Andre, and LeBron, can be great at that category without me having to draft a traditional pass-first point guard. Getting Ty Lawson after the Carmelo trade really helped. Before that, I picked up Greg Monroe, Chuck Hayes, and Marcin Gortat, getting solid block, steal, and rebounding out of those three with good shooting. This is where my philosophy of drafting helped: because I was focusing on a few categories, I could pick guys up that focus on only a few categories, and so are generally undervalued. Chuck did big things for me, soaking rebounds and stealing the ball, all while passing well for a big. Same for Monroe. These guys are great values for a team built like mine. It helped that I'm more comfortable with this overall strategy (as opposed to my shot at Team 1), but I added great guys that contributed.

I don't know that there is an overriding theme. I wanted to try new things, and I'll continue to do so. But I've found a solid strategy that works, and allows you to be more flexible later in the season because you have an area of strength that a number of guys can fill. This is something that I've done with tremendous success in year's past. Don't be schizophrenic like I was in Team 1--I think I was just going for guards, without looking at which stat categories to pick. It wasn't that going for 3's or assists was bad, but I should have stuck with it. Also, none of my big men on that team helped with the guard cats. If you are going to build your team around point guards, make sure your entire team is built that way. Blocks aren't going to help, and I should have flipped my block machines for something else. If you're going small, do it right, and pick for cats, not for position.

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