If you want to win your fantasy basketball league, you have 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 make my Cheat Sheets: 1.) I use large Post-It Notes to display my information and paste them on the shelf above my computer screen in an easily visible row; or 2.) I make the old 8 ½ “by 11” blank sheet of paper. Whichever you choose is just a matter of convenience for you. The important part is the information you put in those cheat sheets.
The first cheat sheet I do is for each statistical category that is scored in the league. The standard Yahoo Fantasy NBA scoring categories are: Field Goal%, Free Throw%, Three Points Scored, Total Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks, and Turnovers.
Each category is important, so you need to be aware of who the leaders are in each one and who the Deal Breakers are 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 must be at least average in them.
The essential tools to collect this information are:
The sortable statistics found under the “Players” link for each NBA league in Yahoo Fantasy;
NBA Rankings Statistics from Yahoo Sports http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/stats/byposition?pos=PG,SG,G,GF,SF,PF,F,FC,C; and
NBA.com statistics website http://www.nba.com/statistics/
With these tools, it is simply a matter of making lists. However, you should use all of these tools when making your lists for each stat category to get all the angles on how these players actually increased those stats. Before the draft, the Yahoo Fantasy NBA “Players” link only has the total cumulative stats from last season. Both Yahoo Sports NBA stats and NBA.Com stats give you more understandable per-game averages that tell a more complete story from last season when a player had many free games due to injury or suspension.
One of the best tools for compiling categorical stat lists is NBA.com Stats for 48 Minutes. Projecting stats from the past few years for young rookies, inexperienced or injured players, who will have more time this season, can best be done with 48 minute stats. It shows you what kind of impact those players had when they were in the game, despite their lack of playing time.
When doing my Cheat Sheets, I try to list the leaders in each statistical category that I know you would write, from the category leader to the best-than-average players in that statistic. I give more weight in the shooting percentage categories to the players who shoot and score more. It’s best to use NBA stats from Yahoo Sports to see who the real users of shooting percentages are. This helps eliminate players who barely scored or shot last season from the percentage ranking.
It is also important to find players who 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 prevent you from winning your league. The greatest Deal Breaker of all time in Fantasy Basketball is Shaq. Shaq throws more free throws than any player in the league and shoots a measly 53.1% from the free throw line. In fact, he could miss more free throws in one night than the rest of his 5 starters could attempt … Find the breakers and exclude them from your draft list.
It’s also good to look at stats like helping rotation and stealing from rotation ratios. Statistics from NBA.Com will give you access to this information. The relationship between assist and turnover can be a very valuable tool when choosing point guards for the draft. Any player with a high steal-to-turnover ratio is also a solid pick for your draft.
I always try to focus on shooting percentages first when I draft, but I’ve also found that players who get a lot of steals always rank very high in the Yahoo Fantasy leagues. Steals always seem to lead to more assists, a high shooting percentage, and a lot of free throws.
Turnovers are the most overlooked stat in Fantasy Basketball. People tend to go for high performing and scoring players when selecting for fantasy leagues. I found that I have more success winning fantasy leagues if I select solid, less spectacular players than superstars who are fun to watch. Some of the players who lead the league in turnovers are the game’s superstars: Allen Iverson, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant and Steve Francis. A more successful Fantasy basketball alternative for these players, regarding turnovers, could be: Donyell Marshall, Michael Finley, Raef LaFrentz, and Shane Battier.
In Part II of this article, we’ll see how to put together a cheat sheet for the eraser board.