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Fantasy Hoops

12/08/2005

What happens when you get 2 MBA's together to tackle the world of fantasy basketball?  The results can be scary.

My buddy, Marc Fredman and I, joined forces two years ago and signed up 3 teams on ESPN.  One of our teams reached as high as 3rd among the tens of thousands of teams on ESPN.  The grand prize was a 32-inch plasma TV.  We were right there at the end but finished 7th overall  (in order to win it all, you'd need some level of cooperation from the other members of your league).

Thankfully, we stumbled across the CBS Sportsline  money leagues and realized this was the way to go.  Instead of busting our chops for the next to impossible chance of winning the one overall ESPN prize, we could easily win enough leagues on CBS to buy our own freakin' plasmas or whatever else we wanted.   Sportsline has different levels, but the best payout is the Platinum leagues -- $100 for the first team, $80 for each additional.  For each league you win, you get $600.  We signed up 6 different teams, so we only need to win 1 out of 6 leagues to make our money back, and winning all six will give us a nice return of over $1,500 each.  I'd estimate that I've won about 65%-75% of all fantasy leagues that I've participated in over the past five years, so turning at least some profit won't be a problem.

All of our leagues are standard 12-team, 8-category (no turnovers) roto leagues with weekly line-up changes.  The weekly line-up is a new format for me, and it presents new challenges such as tracking match-ups and injuries closely and deciding who to start and who to bench for the upcoming week.  The nice thing is the level of micro-management is less than a daily league.  Plus, since we only have to win our league to get paid, I'm hoping some teams will be able to just coast to victory.

Marc, being a Kellogg grad, is more of the visionary, strategic thinker.  He's always on the lookout for waiver wire pick-ups and potential blockbuster trades.  I'm the University of Chicago MBA, so obviously I'm the numbers guy.  I developed the models we use to draft, analyze potential trades and deciding who to start.  Marc & I worked together in London back in 2000 while in a rotational program at a very large bank.  We combined our skills in the workplace as well, to the point where the department head called us 'the greatest team they ever had'.  And this was despite Marc's tendency to come strolling in to the office at 10:30 am.

Fantasy basketball is the perfect opportunity for us to join forces again.  First of all, basketball numbers are much more predictable than baseball or football on a game-by-game basis.  You don't know whether Albert Pujols is going to hit a homer on a given day or if a running back is going to score 0, 1, or 2 TD's in a given week (unless your LdT), but you can be pretty certain that Kevin Garnett is going to give you somewhere around 21-10 on a given night.

Also, I believe there is a greater degree of arbitrage in fantasy hoops.  There can be a huge discrepancy between perceived value and fantasy value.  A fantasy basketball player is simply a set of 8 numbers, one for each category.  It doesn't matter how spectacular or how dominant that player is on the court.  The best example is Shaq -- continually he's drafted in the 1st of 2nd round although he's an automatic death sentence for your team and is a Top 100 fantasy player at best.  It's amazing that even some professional fantasy columnists don't even understand this.  The Diesel was the top-rated center  by the 'experts' at CBS Sportsline.  Other overrated players include Tim Duncan, Jermaine O'Neal, Steve Francis, Zach Randolph, Jamaal Magloire and Desmond Mason.

A related arbitrage is the fact that teams tend to overvalue points and rebounds and undervalue the other categories.  Marc & I try to exploit these arbitrage opportunities via trades and build teams with the best chance of winning their respective leagues.  I'll keep you posted on our progress as the season progresses.

As for now, I'll leave you with our top 40 fantasy players based on our projections for the rest of the season.  Our model, named Lil Penny, projects each players week-to-week stats based on number of games, opponents, home vs. away, etc.  Shaq's ranked 75th.

1. Garnett,Kevin
2. James,Lebron
3. Marion,Shawn
4. Nowitzki,Dirk
5. Arenas,Gilbert
6. Iverson,Allen
7. Pierce,Paul
8. Wade,Dwyane
9. Allen,Ray
10. Mcgrady,Tracy
11. Camby,Marcus
12. Duncan,Tim
13. Nash,Steve
14. Bryant,Kobe
15. Brand,Elton
16. Kidd,Jason
17. Billups,Chauncey
18. Lewis,Rashard
19. Davis,Baron
20. Ming,Yao
21. Carter,Vince
22. O'Neal,Jermaine
23. Jefferson,Richard
24. Kirilenko,Andrei
25. Wallace,Rasheed
26. Redd,Michael
27. Webber,Chris
28. Jamison,Antawn
29. Francis,Steve
30. Odom,Lamar
31. Stojakovic,Peja
32. Gasol,Pau
33. Artest,Ron
34. Bosh,Chris
35. Davis,Ricky
36. Marbury,Stephon
37. Miller,Brad
38. Maggette,Corey
39. Bibby,Mike
40. Paul,Chris

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