As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it is more difficult to rebound from a poor fantasy basketball draft than any other sport.
In fantasy football nearly every team will suffer some series of debilitating injuries through the course of the season. Normally the team that wins is exactly the one who plays the waiver wire the best. Lots of luck involved.
In fantasy baseball, every season contains surprises galore among both pitchers and hitters. If you are astute and dedicated, you can put together a great team full of guys who weren’t even drafted. I’m in a league this season where I drafted only eight of the 23 guys on my current roster.
In basketball, however, it is much more difficult to survive botching Draft Day. The key seems to lie in the lack of in-season surprises and the relative few team-shattering injuries that occur over the course of a season.
Lets take a look.
Reviewing the top 20 players in each of the major categories from last season, I see VERY few major surprises. Jose Calderon got more minutes than expected and made the most of them and Al Horford and Nick Collison might have gone undrafted in some leagues and both finished averaging better than nine rebounds per game. I don’t really see any other guys that were undrafted coming into last season that emerged as must-have players.
However, look at baseball this season. Ryan Ludwick, Carlos Quentin, Aubrey Huff, Skip Schumaker, Jack Cust, Cliff Lee, Ervin Santana, John Danks, Nate McLouth are al players who probably went undrafted in most leagues are will help a lot of people win some money in the next few weeks.
Also, while a major injury can crush your fantasy basketball team, they just don’t happen all that often. Yao went down with a big injury as did Andrew Bynum, who playing out of his mind. But in a 12-team fantasy league, only a select few with have to deal with that kind of injury, meaning the players the draft are the one – for better or worse – than you will be trying to win with.
(In contract, every team in a 12-team fantasy football league with be delivered some kind of kick-in-the-groin injury, if not more, over the course of a season.)
However, none of this means that once you’re done drafting your team, you just sit back and see what happens. It’s important to assess any potential weaknesses as quickly as soon possible and put in a plan to have them eliminated.
But they key to the post-draft approach, above all things, is patience. Basketball season is a marathon that unfolds over time. Roles change and player responsibilities change as this season and if you were smart in your pre-draft planning (and in the draft), you should have roster full of guys you are confident who are/will be very effective.
I prefer to have a wait and see approach with my teams. Especially in a daily league that allots 82 games per position, switching guys constantly in-and-out will lead to maxing out you position limits and chaos down the stretch. It’s best to take the slow road and make VERY few changes in the first couple months of the season.
The exception to this strategy is injuries, both to your team and actual NBA teams. Injuries to your team may necessitate a move. Injuries to an NBA team may make a previous borderline player now very ownable (i.e. Garnett going down would make Leon Powe a must own as 11th/12th guy).
Early in the season, I tend to not even put a guy in my lineup unless he’s helping me in at least three categories. I won’t stick Anthony Carter in one of my utility spots just for a few steals and assists when I know I could use those games of eligibility in February on a better overall player. I try to avoid specialists until the stretch run, keeping with my philosophy of having a roster of the best overall players.
Once March hits, I’m usually going full throttle, playing every player in pretty much every game. There are a few reasons for this:
1. There are always owners who have wasted some eligibility on players and while they may have some big cumulative numbers, you will catch up to them quickly once you use your games on higher quality players.
2. Injuries, suspensions, etc have usually left me playing catching up at a few positions, especially since I’m unwilling to plug just anyone in those empty spots early in the season.
3. In the last couple of the weeks of the season, any player you have that is playing on a good NBA team will likely be useless and will you will be cursing that Dirk only player six minutes in the final days when you really needed some rebounds.
Post All-Star break is always the best time to really target what categories you need to improve and, more importantly, actually have a chance to gain points in. This is when the specialists come into play and it may be worth it to grab that players who contributes the one stat you need so desperately to make a move in the standings.
This post is mostly an exercise, since I’ll be bringing these strategies up as the season goes along as well. I’m even considering giving a weekly breakdown of my teams’ performances (and my strategies) during the season, although as some of my competitors already know about this blog, that may not be so smart.