March 6, 2020, 3:47 pm
While if feels like the All-Star break just passed, we’re already down to the season’s final quarter. And in most head-to-head leagues, we’ve got far less time left than that with playoffs about to start, if they haven’t already. It’s suddenly crunch time.
It’s also silly season, which means that it’s time to get creative to help your chances of pulling out a championship, because some of your fantasy mainstays are about to be outperformed by some previously boring and/or little-known players. An April-of-2019 Jakarr Sampson and his 20 points and eight rebounds per game over his only four games of the season comes to mind. Christian Wood exploded onto the scene in late March of last year as well.
This week, I’ll focus on late-season strategies that include pulling the trigger on dropping some players that we really don’t want to drop. While I’ll provide some examples of players to illustrate my points, this is less about the specific players (since the landscape changes so quickly) and more about the general strategies.
So what are some reasons to drop some name brand players now or within the next few weeks?
- Injuries (and Tanking/Resting)
- The fact that your team should be punting
- Number of games remaining
Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, Clint Capela, Andre Drummond, Ben Simmons, Zach LaVine, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jaylen Brown, Brandon Clarke, Marc Gasol…
Otherwise known as “names that are driving many of us crazy right now,” especially if you don’t have IL spots available. Even if you have enough to stow away your injured star(s), you’ll almost definitely lose other reliable players to injury or to resting every third game (Andre Drummond?).
Making the decision to drop a good player comes down to fantasy value and timing. In head-to-head leagues, if your playoffs haven’t started yet, they’re probably beginning in less than two weeks. Now, all of these players have their own unique situation, so there’s definitely some nuance here. But if a player is on something like a “will be reevaluated in two weeks” timeline like Ben Simmons or Brandon Clarke and you need every stat you can get, it’s really time to consider dropping him for healthy player.
You may be in a head-to-head situation where every game counts right now, and while you may have a shot at getting by with a handful of injured players on your roster in hopes of them all returning at full strength in a week or two or three, many guys in this situation are unlikely to be fully functional and to play in every game once they return. And by then, you might have been knocked out of contention.
In a roto league, you should have a better idea if you can afford to keep a zero on the bench for a few weeks since you can likely stream in players to make up for games missed. But if your setup doesn’t have a games limit or has no bench or limited transactions, you’ll surely want 20 games of Dewayne Dedmon over maybe five minutes-capped games of Clint Capela, for example.
Now, it’s not yet time to drop most of these guys if you can afford to wait a week or so to get a status update. I’m just trying to prepare you, to plant the thought in your head, that at one point soon, it could be best to drop a very good player that’s banged up or getting some extra rest. Yes, you may end up giving your direct competition Karl-Anthony Towns for 10 great games in roto or for a head-to-head championship week to use against you. But we should have a better idea soon about how unlikely those scenarios might be. And then it might be time to take a chance on the next guy that looks like a Shake Milton and cut someone big loose.
If you’re in a roto league, you can see which categories are lost causes due to your team being too far behind, ahead, or both (you may be in the middle of the pack with large gaps on either side). And head-to-head players know in which categories they dominate or aren’t competitive.
So take advantage of that knowledge and completely ignore those categories. Write them off and focus only on stats that matter. This will lead you to dropping some players’ whose value comes significantly from one category. The obvious drops would be in situations like: You’re leading the steals category by 50 and you roster Mikal Bridges, you win by more than 20 threes each week and you have Duncan Robinson or Davis Bertans, you feebly hope that Markelle Fultz will win you assists when you lose by more than 20 each week, or you’re more than 150 points behind the team in front of you and 150 points ahead of the team behind you and you’ve been holding onto Jordan Clarkson. Those players would have almost no value to such teams.
But let’s talk about some more difficult decisions that are sure to come up. It was one thing when you were still able to trade a player like Brook Lopez for someone that fit a team that didn’t need blocks. But now that the only options are waiver wire pickups, it’s certainly tougher to find a replacement with more value to your specific team. Continuing with that example of not needing blocks for whatever reason (leading the category by a large margin in roto or lost Joel Embiid or Jaren Jackson Jr. to injury in head-to-head and now Lopez is your only shot-blocker), you’d be better off with plenty of waiver options (see last month stats below).
Lopez (or Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mitchell Robinson) just isn’t very valuable when blocks don’t count. It’s so hard to even think of dropping a mid-round kind of player for a free agent, but Lyles and Olynyk have both been miles better than Lopez over the past month when you remove blocks from the equation.
Okay, here’s one more to get you thinking: Many teams find themselves strong in field goal percentage and weak in free throw percentage, or vice versa, usually depending on if your team is guard-heavy or big-man-heavy. If either describes your team and you have Zion Williamson, you need to really look at how he’s impacting you.
He is so great in field goal percentage and so poor in free throw percentage that he might be saving your team or killing your team. But if you don’t need the boost he gives you in field goal percentage, it might be time to consider dropping him. WHAT? Yeah, I know. I absolutely love him as a future Hall of Fame candidate, but his fantasy game is so immature right now that many teams that can punt points would benefit by getting rid of him. Because, by dropping that free throw percentage anchor, you would rise sharply there, not to mention the improvement in just about every other category that a replacement player (or series of streaming players) can provide. The bottom line is that, in fantasy, he’s just not helping anywhere but in points and field goal percentage. So, if neither of those categories matter to your team right now… it’s time for him to go.
You may already be aware, but if your head-to-head playoffs start on 3/16 like in most leagues, you actually don’t need to concern yourself as much as usual with the number of playoff games per team. Of the three weeks beginning on 3/16, there are no 5-game weeks and only one team has a 2-game week, the Nets in week 1. They play on Wednesday and Saturday, so if you’re an underdog and need every advantage you can get, swap your Nets for four-gamers or otherwise stream their spots. If you’re an easy favorite, hold onto them because the Nets have two four-game weeks that follow.
All teams play 10 or 11 games in this three-week span other than the Bulls, who play nine. Probably not worth worrying about. But if you’re deciding between a Bull and someone with 11 games and everything else is equal, that makes your choice easy.
A few last ways to maximize your games played. Obviously, if you can set up your team with some extra 4-game players instead of 3-game players prior to the week’s beginning, you’re at an advantage. But for in-week moves, it’s not always as simple as saving all your transactions to add some extra games on Sunday. In your championship week (or in any week that’s in question), you’ve got to plan ahead. In the case of many peoples’ championship week (3/30), the final Sunday is a day on which 28 teams play. So you’re not getting any extra games by holding onto your moves to squeeze in an extra four games on Sunday like some often do. You’ll have to pack in extra games earlier. Have a player that plays just once in four days? You might be able to find a replacement that plays three times in that span. Spend the time to figure it out. Earn that virtual trophy.
In many roto leagues, the number of games a player has left doesn’t really matter, since you’re most likely beholden to a games played limit at each of your positions anyway. But if you’re trying to scrape for as many games as possible due to any number of reasons, it’s helpful to keep the following in mind.
Beginning with the week of 3/9, here are the total number of games remaining for each team:
So, go see if there are any Lakers or Spurs available that are on par with your Hawks, Mavericks, Pistons or Blazers and get yourself an extra 18 percent production from a couple roster spots.
I hope all this gives you some food for thought and emboldens you to be ready to ditch some fantasy great when the time comes. My main goal is always to stay focused on the numbers and not the names. As always, off-brand players are going to help win plenty of leagues this season while some big name dudes are going to be a hindrance down the stretch. Don’t worry too much about preventing another team from improving by picking up the guy you dropped. Focus on maximizing your team’s ability to get the most stats that matter to your team.