Friday, September 22, 2006

NBA Fantasy Basketball : Hints + Tips

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Fantasy basketball -- every armchair enthusiast's chance to be GM. But it's more than just being Elgin Baylor, it's personal. It's about beating your buddies. Rivalries that go on season after season.
The Basics
If you haven't gotten into Fantasy NBA already, now is the time to do it. Get a group of like-minded budding basketball experts together and start those battles which are going to bring that added level of interest to the NBA season.
The popular choice for most Fantasy Basketball veterans is Yahoo! Fantasy NBA. The guys at Yahoo! have been running FNBA for years now and the product is top quality and gets better every season. The actual "prettiness" of the interface has been a little lacking at times, but they have certainly upped that this season with the advent of the NBA's own entry into the Fantasy market. has noted the popularity of FNBA and how it attracts a new level of fandom to the sport, so have decided to bring this aspect of the game in-house. NFL and other sports run top-notch fantasy games from their own sites and now NBA is offering Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner. At this stage it's hard to say which one is going to be better, so if you're like me, you'll enter a team in both versions this season. If you just want to go for one, I would recommend Yahoo! purely based on their track record.
There are also various Fantasy games out there where you have to pay, providing you with extra features and prize money sums. I prefer to stick with the free one myself and make the wagers on the side with friends.
With the NBA season approaching and thus Fantasy drafts approaching, I thought it a good time to start with some tips for putting together a winning strategy for your team. If you want to analyse the full details of the rules, I recommend you go to one of the sites above and read up on their Help sections (which are quire useful). Rules do vary from league to league and can be adjusted by individual commissioners.
What I am going to discuss here are some key tips for getting over the line in your league. These articles will continue in the coming weeks as we wait for the season to start. Today's topic is potentially the most labour-intensive part of preparation: ranking players.
Ranking Players
No matter what type of league you are competing in, the key is that you need to put a spreadsheet together. That is of course assuming that you want to win. If you just want to select players that you like to add some enjoyment to the season, then do it. But believe me, you will soon grow bored of your fantasy team as it languishes at the bottom of the ladder and your co-competitors will not want you to join their league next season.
The difficult truth -- a good player in reality does not equal a top fantasy NBA player.
Most Rotisserie FNBA leagues involve the following categories: FG%, FT%, 3PM, REB, AST, STL, BLK, T/O (less is best) and PTS. The objective is for your fantasy team to rank highest in each of these categories with comparison to your competing FNBA teams.
Your spreadsheet needs to take into account the statistics from 2005/06 for every player. You then need to rank each of these players with respect to the average for the league in each category. For example, if Tim Duncan averages 20.0ppg for the season and the average ppg across the league is 11.0ppg, then Duncan is 9.0ppg above average. This increases his fantasy value. However Duncan also shoots significantly below average from the free throw line. This decreases his fantasy value.
The reality of this means that a player such as Duncan may kill your fantasy team in one category, despite the fact that he is highly useful in many others (blocks, rebounds etc). A player such as Shaquille O'Neal is a FNBA rookie mistake from this perspective -- he will absolutely demolish your chances of winning the FT% category. If you have him on your squad, you might as well give up on that category and get every other poor FT shooter in the league and concentrate on their other categories.
The techniques of ranking using a spreadsheet can get a bit daunting if you are not too keen on mathematics or use of Excel, but try to follow this analysis. In order to rank your players, you need to do the following:
1. Copy the 2005/06 NBA statistics for every player in the league in the categories listed above.
2. Make adjustments to the statistics to reflect what you predict the players to output during the 2006/07 season.
3. Insert rookies to the list and make conservative estimates of their statistics.
4. Work out the average for each category of all players (eg work out the average PPG, the average FG% etc).
5. Calculate the standard deviation for each category. Your spreadsheet software should be capable of doing this for you.
6. Take each player's output in each category, subtract the average for that category. Divide this number by the standard deviation.
7. The resulting number if ABOVE ZERO, is GOOD. If BELOW ZERO, is BAD.
8. Tally all category results as per 7 (remember that turnovers is a negative). This total determines the rank for each player - the higher the better.
That's enough to get you started in your preparation. More hints and tips to come in future posts!