Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I am the Lord your God

Last night, The Miser and I were discussing segments of this theory that I came up with a few years ago when writing for Dime, so I figured I’d throw it up here as my first contribution.

Bottom line, some of you idiots have no clue how to value a player (Moop, I’m looking in your direction). It is more than adding up stats and plugging them into a spreadsheet (would The Flux please stand up). It is more than guffawing at big dunks and vicious blocks ([cough]Loser’s Row[cough]). To determine the true value of a player, there are five distinct commandments a fantasy player must abide by:

ONE: Thou Shalt Be Consistent—It seems these days that the term “fantasy stud” is tossed around as carelessly as Paris Hilton at an Oscar party. But in the good old days, “stud” was reserved for the players that put up the solid line every night. While a player with good averages will often get the job done, a consistent player is one you will look to at the end of the night and say “now that’s what I was expecting.” This is the first thing you look for in a player. If a player with this quality is offered to you, a threshold has been met and you should proceed less cautiously through the rest of the analysis. But as the consistency drops along the scale, your Alert Level should begin to creep up toward the red.

Consistency Scale (out of three games)

High Value: 3 games. Ex: Dirk Nowitzki, Allen Iverson

Medium Value: 2 games. Ex: Gerald Wallace, Josh Howard

Low Value: 1 game. Ex: Josh Smith, Ron Artest

TWO: Thou Shalt Command Thine Offense—Nothing is more frustrating than watching your first round pick wait outside the arc for some undrafted, rookie PG to dish him the ball. So, a solid but intangible factor in determining a player’s fantasy value is whether the team’s offense runs through him. This characteristic cannot be read in any box score, but only can be seen with one’s own eyes by actually watching a game. For those of you without the NBA Package, go to a bar to watch the player, because this is crucial. The most obvious picks for controlling the offense are point guards, but many teams also use their big men or shooting guards to control the half court offense. It is essential that the player does not always depend on a teammate to get him involved, because the more a player relies on others to get him the ball, the less you can rely on him to put up consistent stats.

Command Scale (out of three half court offensive possessions)

High Value: 3 touches. Ex: Steven Nash, Gilbert Arenas

Medium Value: 2 touches. Ex: Ray Allen, Tim Duncan

Low Value: 1 touch or less. Ex: Andrei Kirilenko, Mike Miller

THREE: Thou Shalt Be Unique—Let’s say you’ve got 8 positions and four bench spots in your league, and there are daily lineup changes. Now, would you rather (1) have six players starting while four ride the bench because of their lack of position eligibility, or (2) wrestle a bear with a roast beef sandwich stuffed down your pants? Personally, I’m thinkin’ I’d try my luck with the grizzly. A player with position eligibility can change the whole dynamic of your team, especially if he has a flex position (e.g. PG/SG, PF/C). But some positions in the NBA have a dearth of depth, while others are teeming with talent. So look to load up on shallow positions, even if only to use those players as trade bait later on.

Position Scale

High Value: PG, C

Medium Value: SF, PF

Low Value: SG

FOUR: Thou Shalt Overcome Thine Mistakes—Even my High School English professor could drop 20 points in an NBA game if she jacked up 100 shots, and she just got a new plastic hip. But at 10% FG, how useful are those 20 points? The point is: what good is a player that fills up one category if he swamps you in three others? A solid fantasy player needs to help you in all categories, or at the very least put up enough numbers in several categories to overcome his helplessness in the rest. While some league managers like to load up on position specialists despite their weakness across the rest of the board, I advise building a team with players that will put numbers in every column of the box score so that if a stat specialist falters, the rest of the team picks up his slack.

Balance Scale (out of 9 categories—PTS, RBS, ASTS, FG%, FT%, 3PT, BLK, STL, TO)

High Value: Top 50 in 5 or more. Ex: Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade

Medium Value: Top 50 in 3-4. Ex: Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer

Low Value: Top 50 in 2 or less. Ex: Eddy Curry, Rip Hamilton

FIVE: Thou Shalt Be Secure In Thineself—Just like on sunset walk through Central Park, some players are always looking over their shoulder or asking for trouble. While the only valid information about a player is what he is likely to do in the future, we usually use past performance to predict future value. But sometimes what lies ahead is vague and unquantifiable; therefore, it is important to put some time into considering what externalities may affect the player in the future. If there is a rising star coming off the bench behind him, that may decrease his burn in the future. If he has a history of knee problems, you may want to weigh his chances of finishing the season healthy. Mastering this part of the analysis will only come with practice, but it never hurts to take the time and read some articles just to ensure that your investment is protected and intact for when he shows up in your team’s locker room.

Dependency Scale (based on external factors)

High Value: Superstar; clean bill of health. Ex: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James

Medium Value: All-Star; rising star on bench; moderate-to-risky health. Ex: Jermaine O’Neal, Marcus Camby

Low Value: Mid-level star; splitting time; bad history of injuries. Ex: Jason Terry, Grant Hill

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