Fifth Quarter Strategy

With all the prep I do prior to the season to devise my own projections and rankings, I still ponder different ways to construct a team long after the season has started.

The most irritating thing is that it’s too late to even test the theory in an actual league. I’ll have to jot down the idea and wait until next year. I can’t handle it, I’m just not that patient.

When recently examining my 8-category roto league squad – which includes 11 players who were drafted and two picked up off waivers – I noticed that 11 of those players were ranked in the Top 97 of my preseason projections.

The other two players – Marc Gasol and Rafer Alston – are currently outperforming their projected value. Not a bad team for a league that drafted 156 players overall.

And yet, when I put the entire roster together and look at the projections, it still appears to fall short of what I think it will take to finish in first place. The team seems to be lacking slightly in FG% and assists and is quite a bit deficient in rebounds.

Of course, the team is still very capable of winning the league, but as it is currently constructed it is not a sure thing. And damnit I want security! Here’s a quick look at the roster:

Gs: Joe Johnson, Vince Carter, Eric Gordon, T.J. Ford, Nate Robinson, Michael Redd, Kirk Hinrich, Alston

Fs: Josh Smith, Rudy Gay, Paul Millsap, Carter, Redd

Cs: Chris Bosh, Gasol

Keep in mind, I’m not judging the team on it’s performance thusfar. The injuries to Carter, Gordon, Ford, Redd and Robinson make it impossible to judge the team’s full performance after just a few weeks.

But the team does reflect lack of rebounds and blocks as both my utility players are always guards. Smith by himself makes up for much of the blocks deficiency, but the shortfall in rebounds and assists are mainly attributed to the fact that I have few players who are projected to be leaders in those categories.

Bosh is the only player on the roster projected to finish in the top 25 in rebounds and Ford’s projected to lead the team in assists per game while ending the season 20th in the NBA.

By drafting according to my projections, which reward multi-category balance above all else, I may have wound up with the most well-rounded players but lost out on those who dominant particular categories.

It often seems as if players like Marcus Camby, David Lee and Ron Artest get draft far too early because they contribute heavily in one of two categories. As a result, I was winding up with all-around contributors like Gordon, Gay and Millsap long after I thought they should have been drafted.

So now I’ve begun to ponder whether the best move is to target only those players who heavily dominate specific categories, essentially eliminating all others from the chance of being drafted. Unfortunately I can’t experiment with this in an actual draft, so I ran a test using my projections.

I reduced my draft list to only players projected to finish in the top 15 in each of the eight roto categories. The list was reduced to just 84 players:

Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Danny Granger, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Dirk Nowitzki, Andre Iguodala, Johnson, Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, Gerald Wallace, Smith, Chauncey Billups, Amare Stoudemire, Caron Butler, Pau Gasol, Howard, Deron Williams, O.J. Mayo, Manu Ginobili, Devin Harris, David West, Tim Duncan, Al Harrington, Troy Murphy, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Baron Davis, Al Jefferson, Rashard Lewis, Monta Ellis, Kevin Martin, Ben Gordon, Mo Williams, Ron Artest, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, Raymond Felton, Trevor Ariza, Steve Nash, Millsap, Jose Calderon, Nene, Lee, Blake Griffin, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Derrick Rose, Brook Lopez, Andris Biedrins, Jameer Nelson, Zach Randolph, Luis Scola, Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, J.R. Smith, Redd, Anthony Randolph, Emeka Okafor, Tony Parker, Andrew Bogut, Tyrus Thomas, Kevin Love, Elton Brand, Mario Chalmers, Ramon Sessions, D.J. Augustin, Camby, Andrew Bynum, Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, Peja Stojakovic, Rudy Fernandez, Kendrick Perkins, Chris Kaman, Danilo Gallinari, Tyson Chandler, Samuel Dalembert, Chris Andersen, Ronny Turiaf, Hasheem Thabeet

That’s a long list of both the game’s best players and one-dimensional role players expected to either make a lot of 3-pointers or block a lot of shots. If we reduce the list to players projected to finish in the top 15 in more than one category, we have only 30 players:

James, Granger, Wade, Paul, Nowitzki, J. Johnson, Bosh, Billups, Stoudemire, D. Howard, Harris, Duncan, Kidd, Davis, Jefferson, Kevin Martin, Arenas, Nash, Calderon, Lee, Griffin, Rondo, Allen, Lopez, Biedrins, Okafor, Bogut, Camby, Bynum, Stojakovic

There are some big names missing on that list but if you could wind up with 13 of those 30, you’d be in pretty good shape. Alas, that would be impossible. Instead, using only the larger list and looking at my league’s draft results, my team could have been:

Bosh, Johnson, Lewis, Josh Smith, Mayo, Kaman, Terry, Tyrus Thomas, Trevor Ariza, Shaquille O’Neal, Ronnie Brewer, Rudy Fernandez and Samuel Dalembert

Looking at the potential for the two teams considering their projections, here’s what it looks like: 


FG% FT% 3s Pts Reb Asts Stls Blocks
Fake Team .480 .751 0.83 15.47 6.20 2.45 1.17 0.95
Real Team .462 .788 1.11 16.89 5.19 3.49 1.12 0.63

While it’s pretty close, this exercise makes me feel quite a bit better. My actual team has edge in four of the eight categories while the teams are nearly even in steals.

The hypothetical team is exceedingly poor in FT%, points and assists to the point where they’d likely finish in last place in those categories. The real team is much more balanced – a reflection of the strategy used.

Furthermore, the bench on the real team is stronger. Having to place Fernandez, Dalembert or Brewer in my lineup in case of injury is a shaky prospect. Having Redd, Hinrich and Alston is prefereable.

I exit this exercise feeling much better about my usual strategy of valuing balance above all else. Of course I’m always tinkering and the key is to find a way to properly value position scarcity and one-category dominance in a system that generously rewards more multi-talented players.

And clearly, I need another big man. Anyone want to make a trade?


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Filed under Draft Strategy, Fantasy Team Analysis

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