One 2009 Fantasy Tidbit

With the season still a month off there isn’t all that much action going on for NBA fans. Unless of course you’re one of those fans that plans on participating in a fantasy league this year. In that case now is the time to start thinking about your fantasy draft.

My first fantasy draft was for a football league back in the mid-90s. To date myself, the stats were done by hand, and there was no web page for the league. In fact I was the only person in the league that used the web at that time. There was one building on campus that had computers with internet access, and I’m pretty sure the other guys in the league never set foot into the Math/Physics building. Well except maybe on those cold and windy days to cut across campus.

As most people in their first fantasy league, I didn’t do very well. Today I have many fantasy rules that I adhere to, most of which I broke that first year. For instance don’t let home team biases affect your draft (especially if you’re a Jets fan). Also don’t let video games warp your judgment (especially if you’re kicking butt in an old version of Madden with Randall Cunningham). And remember that a player’s real value is not equal to their fantasy value.

For years after I joined fantasy leagues of all types. I remember walking into my first baseball draft with a laptop and being laughed at by everyone in the room. Today most drafts are done online with people sitting at their PC. Anyone walking into a draft only with a magazine they picked up along the way is probably in for a losing season.

Being that I’m at a unique position to have a basketball database at my hands, I usually take the time to put together a nice excel sheet for my draft, ranking players based on z-scores customized for my league. I also add a column for the player’s Yahoo rank, so I know approximately where each player should be drafted. Because my draft isn’t until the end of October and some of my opponents might be readers, I can’t reveal too much about my sheet or rankings.

However I’ll throw out one tidbit for my faithful KnickerBlogger readers in 9 category leagues (FG%, FT%, 3PTM, PTS, REB, AST, ST, BLK, TO). There’s a top 10 player whose ranking in my system is considerably worse: Dwyane Wade. In Yahoo’s ranking Wade is #9, and that does seem reasonable considering he’s one of the best players in the game. Wade averaged just under 25 points, 7 assists, 4 boards, 2 steals, and a block last year. So why should you avoid him in your league’s draft this year?

Wade averaged 4.4 turnovers per game last year, by far the worst in that category. To put this in perspective, Wade committed double the amount of turnovers as Chauncey Billups (Yahoo ranking #15). The closest person to Wade’s 4.4 in the top 100 is Steve Nash with 3.6, but the differences between the two punctuates Wade’s other weaknesses. Nash is fantastic in regards to FG%, FT%, and 3PM, while Wade is poor in all three categories. Wade is not a three point shooter, as his 0.4 3PM/G shows. His FT% (75.8%) and FG% (46.9%) were their lowest since his rookie season. Because of these four categories, Wade drops to 89th in my rankings.

A legitimate question to ask might be: what would Wade be ranked if he bounces back to his career averages? I plugged in his career per game averages for FG%, FT%, and TO, and Wade’s ranking only went up to 57. You may have high hopes for Dwyane because with the additions of Marion and Beasley to the offense Wade might be able to cut down on his turnovers. However you have to consider that he has missed a total of 62 games over the last 2 seasons.

Like most category killers (Dwight Howard, Okafor, Shaq), there is a special strategy to using them. You can treat them like a hot potato, closely monitoring the stat they kill (FT%, TO, FG%, etc.) and trading them at the right moment. Or you can punt that category and trade for players with the same weaknesses. Once you’ve given up on free throw percentage, players like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady become more valuable to your team.

Category killers worthy of a fantasy team usually offer something of great value to your team. For instance Howard will help your team with FG%, REB, and BLK. Steve Nash will give you FG%, FT%, 3PM, and is second in the league in AST. LeBron James will help in just about every category other than FT% and TO. Unfortunately Wade will hurt your team in turnovers, without offering any great help. You can make up PTS, AST, and STL elsewhere. Caron Butler (Yahoo #10), Baron Davis (Yahoo #12), and Allen Iverson (Yahoo #14) are comparable in those categories, and better overall. Wade is one of those players where his fantasy value differs greatly from his true value, and there’s no reason to grab him in as early as Yahoo suggests.

Hahn: Grizzlies/Knicks Can’t Meet On Zach Deal

Yesterday Alan Hahn reported that the possible deal between the Knicks and Grizzlies is dead. Although the deal seemed to “heat up” as the papers caught wind of it, New York President Donnie Walsh called the deal “dormant” more than a week ago.

Knick fans are probably unhappy with the news, as most fans are anxious to see Randolph in another uniform just so that David Lee can inherit the starting role. I put myself in the position that I’d rather see no deal than a deal that hurts the Knicks. Trading Randolph fits with both the short and long term plans of New York, and it’s entirely possible that the Knicks can get a better deal down the road. At worst you’d think the Memphis deal should still be available in February.

There is other thing I noticed in Hahn’s article:

It was the second time this offseason that a chance to move Randolph’s three-year, $48 million contract did not result in a trade. The Clippers had interest in him back in July, but also wanted the Knicks to give up a first-rounder in a deal that would have sent a second-round pick to New York. Walsh said no to that and the Clippers instead traded the second-rounder to Denver for Marcus Camby.

Like myself, Hahn believes that Los Angeles wanted a first round pick in order to take Randolph off New York’s hands. To me it doesn’t make sense that New York would refuse to trade Randolph for nothing in return to the Clippers, then work on a deal for Darko & Marko with the Grizzlies. Given Donnie Walsh’s tenure in the business, it seems to make more sense that the Clips wanted a first rounder instead of Walsh failing to realize that getting nothing for Randolph was a smart deal.

And this from Hahn’s chat:

[Comment From Big Wayne]
If Jamal Crawford has a breakout season this year under Mike D, do you think he’ll opt out of his deal next summer?? Would it be a good thing or a bad thing if he did that??

I think he will, Wayne and if I were his agent I’d advise him to. Jamal is nearing 30 so this may be his only time to cash in with free agency. I think if he has a breakout, all-star type year, he would have to opt out. Now, would Jamal agree to take around the same amount of money (which helps the Knicks payroll) in exchange for a long-term committment? That’s what we have to see. It’s a critical year for Jamal. He has to prove not only that he can consistently score and play defense, but he can be a leader, too.

This is interesting. Let’s just assume that Hahn’s correct and Jamal does opt out. If the Knicks don’t resign him, they’d be saving $10M in 2010. This would leave the Knicks with a hole at shooting guard, unless they can get a good shooting guard in the draft, cheaply in free agency, or as their big free agent in 2010 (Wade?). However Walsh has said publicly that he likes Crawford (on many occasions) so you’d have to wonder if he’d offer Jamal a long term deal to stay.

Indexed: The Big Indexed

[One of my favorite web sites is indexed. The author, Jessica Hagy, conveys ideas using simple mathematical objects like graphs and Venn diagrams. This form of representation is easily understood due to its visual nature. Since imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I’ve decided to create some images that are appropriate to this blog.]

The Big Indexed
The Big Indexed

A = Boxer
B = Pit Bull
C = Rottweiler
D = St. Bernard

Breaking Down the Memphis Offer for Zach

According to multiple sources, the Memphis Grizzlies have put an offer on the table to the New York Knicks: Zach Randolph for Marko Jaric and Darko Milicic. From Memphis’ side, they would gain a scorer they sorely need since the departure of Pau Gasol. New York on the other hand would rid themselves of Randolph’s contract, and would be able to hand over the starting PF job to USA Select Team member David Lee. But how much does this help the Knicks in terms of future cap space?

In 2010, the year of multiple big free agents (LeBron, Wade, Bosh, etc.) Zach Randolph is scheduled to make $17.3M. Of the contracts they would be receiving, only Jaric would still be on the books for $7.6M. So the Knicks would shave off approximately $10M. According to Hoopshype, with Randolph the Knicks would be at about $45.5M. So one might assume saving $10M would bring them well below the cap which is currently set to $58.6M.

However Hoopshype doesn’t factor in players with team options, nor do they factor in players who get their contracts extended. If you add in Danilo Gallinari’s $3.3M, Wilson Chandler’s $2.1M, and this year’s #1 pick ($2M-$3M) the Knicks salaries creep up to $54M (with Randolph). Additionally the team may sign David Lee and Nate Robinson to contracts as opposed to letting them leave as unrestricted free agents. These two could well bring them in the $64M – $70M range.

So if the Knicks accept this trade now, they would be faced with a tough decision down the road. Option “A” would be to Let Lee and/or Nate walk in free agency without anything in return. This way they would definitely be in the range to grab a top free agent. But the team would be weaker and less palatable to free agents. Option “B” would be to accept the trade and resign Lee and/or Nate now in order to get them cheaper. Of course this would probably still put them over the top free agent limit in 2010. Option “C” would be to accept the trade and hope to trade one of the following players in the near future: Eddy Curry ($11.3M in 2010), Jared Jeffries ($6.9M), Marko Jaric ($7.6M), or Jamal Crawford ($10.1M). In this option, not being able to move one of these players could mean the loss of a free agent.

Donnie Walsh is also facing another dilemma. Is he getting enough in return for Zach Randolph? With Memphis’ cap situation, they could make the trade without offering Jaric. But obviously they gain fiscally by moving Marko’s contract. Walsh might be able to get the Grizzlies to accept an offer for just Darko or even to throw in something better (perhaps a future pick or one of their guards). If they hold onto Zach, the Knicks could get more in return from another team especially if his offensive numbers increase in D’Antoni’s offense. Additionally playoff bound teams may get more desperate to improve themselves as the season wears on.

If Walsh accepts this deal and lets Lee or Nate walk, he’d be getting little in return for these investments. However it could turn out that getting nothing for these players benefit the team the most if they are able to land a superstar player. That’s something New York has lacked since Ewing was in his prime in the mid-90s. Ironically getting the worse of these two deals, but improving the team greatly would be the opposite of Isiah Thomas’ modus operandi. Thomas was able to make every trade seem to be in his favor, but the team always ended up worse.

Personally I would take the deal, but I don’t think it’s a no-brainer. If he accepts, Walsh will have some tough decisions to make. In the present he’ll have added another player to an already crowded roster. There’s a reason no moves have been made yet, possibly to have leverage over a buyout of Marbury, Rose, and/or James. This trade could undermine any behind the scenes bargaining that’s already occurred. And in the future he’ll have to figure out what do if he can’t move a lesser Knick (Jaric/Jeffries) for a shorter contract to make cap space for Lee & Robinson.

[edited to reflect the #1 pick.]