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Fantasy Hoops, All-Star Break Edition

2/17/2006

The All-Star break is the perfect time to (cue Jesse Jackson) reflect, detect, and project what's going on in the world of fantasy hoops. With nearly 65% of the regular season completed and the trading deadline fast approaching, the next few weeks will be crucial for fantasy squads still in contention.

Fantasy Disappointments

You're probably well out of the race if you drafted either Stephon Marbury or Steve Francis. I saw Marbury go as early as the first round and Francis as early as the 2nd round. It seems fitting to lump these two together since they are very similar -- talented but underachieving, absolutely maddening to NBA coaches and GM's. Now they're finally having the same effect on their fantasy owners. How long before we add Tracy McGrady to this list and make it a 'franchise players on lottery teams' triumverate? Honorable mention: T-Mac, Carlos Boozer, Emeka Okafor, Kyle Korver, Tayshaun Prince.

Fantasy Surprises

Chances were David West and Boris Diaw weren't drafted in your league, and the owner who swooped them up early has been reaping the benefits all year. Diaw is a personal favorite of my fantasy partner-in-crime, Marc Fredman, and how can you blame him -- the guy plays multiple positions and can fill up the stat sheet. Even after Amare comes back, Diaw will continue to put up fantasy viable numbers. He's difficult to trade because his numbers are hard to replace. West is a guy that I wish I had the foresight to pick-up, unfortunately I'm left plugging in the 3rd and 4th forward spots with guys like the aforementioned Korver and Tayshaun. West isn't spectacular, but he's solid enough to contribute in your line-up week-in and week-out.

Elton Brand and Chauncey Billups are two guys that were already solid fantasy players but have taken it to the next level this year. Both guys are outperforming a bunch of players that were probably drafted before them (T-Mac & Duncan in the case of Brand and Marbury, Francis and Bibby in the case of Billups). In one of our leagues, I drafted Corey Maggette in the 4th round w/ Billups still out there. Ouch! Honorable Mention: Rashard Lewis, Gerald Wallace (would probably be first if it weren't for injuries), Marcus Camby (ditto), Rasheed Wallace, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Mehmet Okur, Mike James, Delonte West.

'Fantasy Experts' Corner

It's been awhile since I've called anybody out for their lack of fantasy expertise. Trust me, it's not due to a shortage of viable candidates. However, this next one from Daniel E. Dobish, 'Senior Fantasy Writer' at CBS Sportsline, really deserves special mention.

The Mailbag
Chris: I'm in a head-to-head league and I need help at the forward position. I have been offered Portland's Zach Randolph for Denver's Marcus Camby. Centers are at a premium in this league, but I also have L.A. Clippers' Chris Kaman and Chicago's Tyson Chandler. Should I make this deal?

D.E.D.: Chris, this is a solid trade to help fill a need. Randolph has produced more points per game this season and is nearly identical in free throw percentage. You lose out in blocks and slightly in rebounding, but overall Randolph has been more productive. Kaman and Chandler have played well recently and should be able to hang in there for you barring any injuries. That is what tips the scales here, too - Camby's propensity for injury. He has played in just 31 games due to various ailments, while Randolph has appeared in 46 of his team's 47 games.

Okay, nobody feels the effect of Camby's knack for injury more than me -- he broke his finger and missed 8 weeks two days after I traded for him. However, Camby is a top 20 player when he actually does play, while Randolph certainly is not. Zach is listed as an honorable mention on my 'top 10 guys to never draft under any circumstances' list for a reason -- he simply is not a very good fantasy player (and as the Trailblazers are finding out, not exactly a guy you want to sign to a max contract either...yikes!). Would you waste a 5th or 6th round pick on Zaza Pachulia, Udonis Haslem, Donyell Marshall, Mark Blount or Marko Jaric? Probably not. But all five of those guys are OUTPERFORMING Zach Randolph so far this year. He's the 110th rated player on a cumulative basis, while Camby is 53rd even with all of those missed games (basically refuting Daniel's 'but overall Randolph has been more productive' claim.

So Dobish makes the fantasy rookie mistake of overvaluing points and rebounds. Guess what, Danny? There are 6 other fantasy categories and each is worth the same amount of points. The other mistake he makes is he simply counts categories when comparing the two instead of really looking at the statistical difference in each. 'You lose out in blocks and slightly in rebounding' is a slight underexaggeration when Camby averages 12.0 boards and 3.0 blocks and Randolph averages 8.6 and 0.2 (amazingly low blocks for a big). You wouldn't say a guy averaging 5.0 rebounds per game is slightly less than another guys with 8.4 boards per game, would you? The fantasy impact on your squad would be the same. Dobish mysteriously fails to mention the 1.5 to 0.7 difference in steals per game, which is another huge difference. Points is really the only thing you are gaining in with Randolph, and the 18.2 to 14.8 ppg advantage isn't nearly as big fantasy wise relative to Camby's advantage in REB, STL, FG% and especially blocks.

In my fantasy rankings, I convert each players box score into a fantasy contribution, or 'FC'. So a guy gets positive points for each PTS,REB,AST,STL,etc, with each category weighted differently based on league averages and variance. Based on my projection for the rest of the year, each game that Camby suits up for yields about 3.65 FC points, good enough to rank 10th in the league. Randolph yields 1.93 FC points per game, ranking him 105th. So if Randolph were to play in each of the Trailblazers 31 remaining games, Camby would have to play in only 16.4 of Denver's remaining 28 games to match Randolph's cumulative output. And even if their FC were equal, you'd still prefer Camby's contribution given the fact that you be able to replace at least a portion of his missed games with some other replacement-level player.

Yet another hole in Dorbish's argument (could there be anything left to poke at?), is he uses the past games played to assess future trade value. While it's obvious the Camby will likely miss more games the Randolph, just because Camby missed 39% of Denver's games to date (21 of 54) doesn't mean he's going to miss the same percentage going forward. Most of those missed games came as a result of the broken pinky finger which he's now back from. And although Zach has only missed one game so far all year, he hasn't exactly been Cal Ripken in his career either. Last year, he only played in 46 games.

Frelton Spencers Update

The Spencers are finally getting healthy and starting to make their move, moving into first in four of the six leagues. Two leagues are already locked up. S6 continues to battle injuries but should be right there by the end. No major trades as the overall level of league activity has diminished. Hopefully we'll be able to land a couple of deadline deals to cement our place at the top of the standings (and make ourselves up to $3,000 richer).

Spencers 1: Current - 73 pts, T1st place; Projected - 77 pts, 2nd place (1st place = 78 pts)
Spencers 2: Current - 70 pts, 1st place; Projected - 68 pts, 2nd place (1st place = 69 pts)
Spencers 3: Current - 79 pts, 1st place; Projected - 82 pts, 1st place
Spencers 4: Current - 78 pts, 1st place; Projected - 77 pts, 1st place
Spencers 5: Current - 74 pts, 2nd place; Projected - 75 pts, 2nd place (1st place = 77 pts)
Spencers 6: Current - 59 pts, 3rd place; Projected - 74 pts, 1st place

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