Fantasy Preview: Five Biggest Mistakes Roto Owners Make
Don’t screw your team up yet again.
The NBA season is on its way, which means that fantasy basketball season is also on its way. Our friends at 10Ten Media who publish the annual Pro Basketball Preview & Fantasy Guide are helping with SLAM’s fantasy hoops coverage this fall, and here’s Part 1: a look at how you’re probably screwing up your roster year after year. Don’t be a dummy, learn from those mistakes.—Ed.
by Zachary Cohen
You’re doing it wrong. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most rotisserie basketball owners are making the same mistakes again and again. And again and again and again. This year, it’s time to do things different. It’s time to do things smarter. It’s time to do things better. And it’s time to dominate the suckers who just don’t learn.
This is not meant for owners in points-based leagues. Understand that distinction. The majority of fantasy basketball leagues are traditional eight-category roto leagues, in which having the most steals or highest FT percentage in your league is just as valuable as having the most points or rebounds. It can be tough to wrap your head around, but no more. These are the five mistakes you’re making.
1. Drafting Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin will pile up double-doubles this season. He can score and rebound, and even passes well for a forward. But his negatives often get swept under the rug. Griffin has short arms and, despite his athleticism, doesn’t block shots. He didn’t in college, he hasn’t so far in the NBA and he won’t in the future. He’s a non-factor on the defensive end, both in fantasy and real life. He also can get a bit wild at times (2.3 turnovers per game is a lot for a forward). But the worst part of Griffin’s game for both himself and his fantasy owners is his poor free throw shooting. Griffin shot .521 percent from the line in 2011-12, which hurts even more than you think since he took the fourth-most foul shots in the NBA. Only Dwight Howard is more of a fantasy FT percentage killer. Griffin came off the board in Round 2 in some roto drafts last year. In reality, he’s a fringe starter in roto.
2. Drafting the First-Time 3-Point Shooter
A lot of fantasy owners become enamored with 3-point specialists. If you have a sniper on your team, that’s great. But it’s not something you should look for out of a player who suddenly emerges as a 3-point threat for only one season. Fantasy owners (and Nets fans) learned the hard way with Shawne Williams. Not only did his 3s per game drop from 1.33 (for the Knicks) in 2010-11 to 0.84 last season, but his FG percentage plummeted from a relatively harmless 42.6 percent to a devastating 28.6 percent. Dorell Wright saw a similar drop last year. A lot of 3-point specialists shoot well for one season and then get a sense of entitlement. They think they have the bright green light for whenever and from wherever, and their shooting percentage drops even if they’re making the same amount of shots. When a 3-point specialist goes sour, it affects more than just your total 3s. It costs you expected points, and in many cases ends up killing your FG percentage. If you’re taking a long-range bomber, make sure he’s proven himself for more than a year.
3. Underrating Sixth Men
The sixth man position has a new meaning in today’s NBA. Many teams opt to bring one of their better players off the bench for instant offense. The sixth man gets a crack at playing against the opposing team’s second unit even if he should be on his own team’s first. Just think of Manu Ginobili over the last decade. While most owners were scared off by his “sixth man” label, he consistently delivered top-20 fantasy value. Players like Ginobili, James Harden and Jason Terry should not be frowned upon in fantasy drafts just because they don’t start. These guys play starter’s minutes and give the kind of production that belongs in every fantasy starting lineup.
4. Not Playing the Percentages Properly
You can’t just look at a player’s FG or FT percentage alone. You must factor in how often that player actually shoots, otherwise you’ll end up overrating big men with a high FG who barely shoot, and bench players with high FT percentages who rarely get to the line. Sure, Andris Biedrins shot 60.9 percent from the field, but with only 1.4 FG attempts per game, that has a tiny effect on your team’s percentage. (In a typical league, Nene’s 53.7 percent shooting on 10.1 shots per game is about four times more valuable than Biedrins’.) Similarly, if you only look at Jannero Pargo’s .950 FT percentage you may think he was worth owning last year. But with only 20 FT taken all year, his high percentage barely makes a dent among the thousands of attempts your team racks up.
5. Failing to Understand “Good” Defense
Many times owners will go after a defensive stopper to help them out in blocks and steals. But quality defense doesn’t necessarily always translate to quality fantasy production. Some good fantasy defenders are actually horrible defenders in reality. Al Jefferson can’t play a lick of D, but due to his wingspan, size and tendency to anchor himself around the basket, he averaged 1.7 blocks per game last year. It doesn’t matter that his opponent is scoring on him, as long as he’s tallying up blocks. Monta Ellis is another player who allows points to be scored on him, but he averages just about 1.5 steals per game. A truly effective NBA defender is more likely to deny his man the ball or force a bad shot, while it’s often the lazy, gambling defender who ends up racking up steals and blocks.