Building a Better Squad

As any good fantasy owner knows, improving your team should be a constant priority. Perhaps more than most, I am tirelessly trying to devise new methods of how to make my teams flawless. Of course, you can never completely succeed, but the fun in is the journey.

In fact, too often I get caught up crunching numbers to the point of where my blogging frequency and sleep time often get compromised. Don’t feel bad, just try and reap the benefits from my increasingly wasted minutes.

I would love to hear feedback on this post, especially if you disagree with any of my thought. After all, I can only analyze the standard league’s I’ve been in and even though it’s in double figures, it’s still a pretty small sample size.

I’ve found that in a standard eight-category or nine-category, 12-team roto league, it’s going to take around 8 or 9 points per category to finish in first place. That’s between 65-75 points in eight-category leagues and 72-81 points in nine category leagues.

In all of the league’s I’ve been in over the past six years, only one team finished in first with a number exceeding those ranges: a 77-point first place team.

Of course, it’s extremely difficult to finish in the top four in every category. But if you lock down first place in one category, it give you leeway to finish eighth in another, etc.

So the question remains: how much per category is going to get me into the top four. This took a lot of number crunching. In the 12 leagues I analyzed, a team that would finish in the top four in nearly any fantasy league in a given year would have its 10 starters combine to post numbers like this:

FG%                .470

FT%                .790

3s                     1.00 per game

Points               17.0 per game

Rebounds         7.0 per game

Assists              4.0 per game

Stl                    Between 1 and 2 per game

Blks                 Between .8 and 1.0 per game

Check your current and past leagues. Had your team posted these stats and done a good job maximizing game limits, I believe you would have finished first 9 times out of 10.

Of course, it’s hard to put forth a lineup of 10 guys out of 156 owned that will averaged a combined 17.0 points per game. Not to worry … those are lofty benchmarks. Don’t expect to reach all or even most of them.

The easiest to reach are the percentages and 3-pointers.  The hardest are points and rebounds, but 16.0 points and six rebounds per game would also put you in contention in nearly any league.

Of course the problems here are varied. Before the season you don’t how players will perform and during the season you don’t know how they will continue to perform.

The answer is in projections, preferably those that factor in past performance. Great rankings can usually be found on Basketball Monster, ESPN or the guys at Basketball Prospectus.

Of course, all projections are somewhat risky and basketball lags behind baseball in this kind of science, but they are still excellent resources.

During the season, each player’s remaining performance must be viewed differently. For instance, there is no reason to think Dwyane Wade won’t continue to perform at his current levels all season. But we know Paul Millsap will be damaged by the return of Carlos Boozer and every Golden State Warrior will be impacted by Monta Ellis coming back.

Conservative projections are the best way to go. Even though conservative estimates won’t help you reach the benchmark stats noted above, all you have to do is get as close as possible. That way, players who overperform will provide a tremendous leap forward.

Now I know you may think it seems like far too much hardwork to do all that number crunching. After all, you can’t possibly be as geeky as a guy who named a fantasy basketball website after a Star Wars reference. (And if you are a paying member of Basketball Reference, the site will do it for you via the Team Analysis tool).

But actually, it’s a pretty easy process thanks to the joys of Microsoft Excel, which can do math for you. Yes, it means we are one step closer to machines ruling the Earth, but who cares? Fantasy championships are far more important than the impending enslavement of the human race at the hands of the demon-mechanical masters.

First you print out or jot down projections, an average of multiple projections or previous season numbers for the players on your team (this can also be draft prep but that’s a LOT of players to consider). 

Then in your Excel file list the players in Column A from 1-13. Then in columns B through L (or however many columns you need) list the following stats for each players: Field Goal Attempts, Field Goals Made, Free Throw Attempts, Free Throws Made, 3-pointers, Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks and TOs (if applicable).

Now at the very bottom of each statistical column on the first empty row after each player’s stats, you can use that cell to devise the average of the stats.

You would have 13 players listed for a standard leagues. Column G, for instance, would be each player’s points per game average. So, in line 14 of column G just type in “=AVERAGE(G1:G13)” and hit return. Viola, now cell 14 contains the average scoring for your entire team.

Follow suit with the remaining stats and you’ll have a good idea of where you stand. You may only be in the top half of the league because have more games played than opponents, not because your team is “better”. This helps you know for sure.

The truly great thing about this is you can cut and paste players into or out of the rows being averaged and the totals will automatically update. That way you can experiment to find the best combination of players to reach the previously stated statistical benchmarks.

It helps you find where your team is strongest and where it needs the most help.

This all seems like a tremendous of work and thought for something incredibly trivial. But if you find it enjoyable (and for some sick reason, I do), perhaps you find these tidbits interesting.

I’m realy curious to find out others’ thoughts on if they find the numbers stated earlier are an accurate reflection of what it takes to win on any given year.



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3 responses to “Building a Better Squad

  1. Great post! I’ll be linking to it from my blog. I wanted to mention that I am creating a new tool in the NBA section right now for my website ( that will really help you with this type analysis. I have done many an excel comparison and the tools I have in place in conjunction with the upcoming one will hopefully finally alleviate some of my need for excel number crunching. I was hoping to make it my Christmas gift to the fantasy world, but it is still a few days away… bah. I’ll send you a link when it is there for you to try out. As far as your analysis goes, the suggestions look reasonable. My guess is that you are right and that if you hit all those goals you will win most leagues. I’ll test out a few of the teams in my various leagues (some 9-cat and one that is an “efficiancy based scoring” league [think fantasy football type scoring]) and I’ll let you know how it works out.

  2. Pingback: Fantasy Basketball “magic numbers”

  3. Josh here again. I mentioned the tool I was working on previously, but I took a little longer than expected because I added a collection of other updates to the package – see the SignAndTrade blog for a list of all the site updates that came out in the same package. You can see the fantasy tools collection at ( or just the specific tool to Analyze teams and compare entire teams to one another at ( Let me know what you think. If you think others will find it useful pass it along. Enjoy!

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