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.