If you want to win your fantasy basketball league, you need to do your homework now, BEFORE THE DRAFT. The easiest way to do this is to create a cheat sheet.
In the past, I have used two methods to create my cheat sheets: 1.) I use large post-it notes to display my information and paste it on the shelf above my computer screen in an easily visible row; or 2.) I make a blank 8 ½ “by 11” sheet of paper the old fashioned way. Which one you choose is just a matter of convenience for you. The important part is the information you put on these cheat sheets.
The first cheat sheet I do is for each statistic category that is rated in the league. Yahoo Fantasy NBA’s standard scoring categories are: Field Goal%, Free Throw%, Three Pointers Made, Point Total, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks, and Turnovers.
Each category is important, so you need to know who the leaders are in each and who are the Deal Breakers in each category. It is virtually impossible to win your league and be last in any of these scoring categories. You can’t always be strong in all categories, but you have to be at least average in these.
The essential tools to compile this information are:
Sortable stats found under the “Players” link in each Yahoo Fantasy NBA league;
Yahoo Sports NBA Sortable Statistics http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/stats/byposition?pos=PG,SG,G,GF,SF,PF,F,FC,C; and
NBA.com Statistics webpage http://www.nba.com/statistics/
Using these tools is just a matter of making lists. However, you need to use all of these tools to build your rosters for each stat category to get all the angles on how these players are actually racking up those stats. Prior to the draft, the Yahoo Fantasy NBA “Players” link only has cumulative stats from last season. Yahoo Sports NBA stats and NBA.Com stats give you more understandable per-game averages that tell a more complete story for last season when a player had a lot of games due to injury or suspension.
One of the best tools for compiling categorical statistic lists is NBA.com Stats Per 48 Minutes. Projecting stats for last year’s young rookies, inexperienced or injured players who will have more time this season can be best done with stats per 48 minutes. It shows you what kind of impact these players had when they were in the game, despite their lack of playing time.
In doing my cheat sheets, I try to list the leaders in each stat category that I know I would write up, from the category leader to better-than-average players in that statistic. I give more weight in the shooting percentage categories to the players who shoot and score the most. It’s best to use Yahoo Sports NBA Statistics to see who the real statistical users are with shooting percentages. This helps eliminate players who barely scored or shot last season from the percentage standings.
It’s also important to find players who will hurt your chances of winning a Statistical Category. I call these players the “Deal Breakers”. Often times a Deal Breaker is great in most statistical categories, but absolutely horrible in one category, horrible enough to keep you from winning your league. The biggest Deal Breaker of all time in Fantasy Basketball is Shaq. Shaq shoots more free throws than any player in the league and shoots a paltry 53.1% from the free throw line. He might actually run out of more free throws in a night than the rest of your starting 5s could attempt … Find the Deal Breakers and drop them from your draft list.
It is also good to look at statistics such as roll assistance and flight-to-roll ratios. NBA.Com statistics will give you access to this information. Turnover assistance can be a very valuable tool when choosing point guards to write. Any player with a high steal-to-spin ratio is also a solid choice for your draft.
I always try to focus on shooting percentages first when writing down, but I’ve also found that players who get a lot of steals consistently rank very high in the Yahoo Fantasy leagues. Steals always seem to lead to more assists, a high percentage of shots and lots of free throws.
Turnover is Fantasy Basketball’s most ignored statistic. People tend to go for the high-flying, high-scoring players when they draft fantastic leagues. I have found that I have more success winning fantastic leagues by recruiting strong players who are less spectacular than fun-to-watch superstars. Some of the players who lead the league in turnovers are the gaming superstars: Allen Iverson, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant and Steve Francis. A more successful fantasy basketball alternative to these players, when it comes to turnovers, could be: Donyell Marshall, Michael Finley, Raef LaFrentz, and Shane Battier.
In Part II of this article, we’ll take a look at how to create a cheat sheet project.