• We’re in the eye of the “NBA Offseason Storm” and news (even rumors) have slowed down to a crawl. That’s not a problem. In the midst of the calm, I’ve been taking the opportunity to up my fantasy analysis game and take it to the next level.

    Allow me to pause the sound of chirping crickets with a bit strategy talk in today’s Daily Dish.

    I have always found the Head to Head format to be very interesting. Unlike in Rotisserie, where you can just slot in the best players to achieve a well-rounded team, the ability to punt categories in H2H allows for some intriguing, if not quirky draft strategies. I recently decided to comb through the various rosters of my Head to Head (H2H) leagues from the 2016-17 season and take a look at which teams did well, as well which strategies or team builds managers preferred to use in their drafts.

    How much do trends in real-life NBA spill over into our game of make believe basketball team management? Apparently, our drafting tendencies and team build preferences are influenced by what’s popular in the league today.

    “I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    I recently decided to comb through the various rosters of my Head to Head (H2H) leagues from the 2016-17 season and take a look at which teams did well, as well which strategies or team builds managers preferred to use in their drafts.

    I found that small-ball rosters saw more success last season compared to balanced or other punt strategies. For example, the 16-team, 9-CAT league where I bagged the gold, I had Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green, and Isaiah Thomas as my core players. My punt free-throw strategy in a 20-man, H2H league did not fair as well, as I finished in 17th place. Paul Millsap and Andre Drummond‘s downward slide hit me hard.

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    Considering that 10 of the Top 20 players in 9-CAT last season were point guards or point guard-eligible in Yahoo, it’s easy to see how small-ball would be a popular draft strategy. Even if you went “Best Player Available” (BPA), you would more than likely wind up with one to two guards in for your first three to four draft picks. Knowing this BPA trend is noteworthy because you can take it into account when planning your draft strategy. The prevalence of small ball in the meta game means it is also harder to compete in the classical small-ball categories of points, assists, steals, threes, and free-throw shooting percentage. On the other side of the coin, it’s also easier to win field-goal percentage, rebounding, blocks, and turnovers against the “average” opposing team in your fantasy league.

    If you want to compete or crush your league with a small-ball lineup this coming 2017-18, how many assists, steals, threes per game should the players on your team average? Good question.

    Last year, Yahoo’s live draft app showed you in real-time how competitive your team was in each category as each pick was being made. That, however, does not help us in our preparations. To address this “need” I decided to get the average of the Top 150 players in 9-CAT in each relevant category. How does this help me or you? Well, for starters, knowing what a Top-150 guy would be averaging in a given category can give you a mental, ballpark figure of how your draft is going and what your team’s needs might be.

    For example, say I draft John Wall, who averaged 10.63 assists per game last season, in the second round of the draft and I know that the average Top-150 player averaged 3.11 assists per game; I will have an impression or a rough idea how far ahead of the curve my team is in that category and how much leeway I have to grab high-value players with low assist averages. Conversely, I can also make room in my early picks and grab guys who don’t pass much like Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns, knowing I plan to target Ricky Rubio in the middle rounds of the draft. Both bigs are solid shooters from the line and will not hurt my team there, keeping it as a viable category to compete in moving forward.

    Once I finish my personal rankings, I will arrange the players’ names in a snake-draft format in one of my spreadsheets to get a visual feel of how I project the draft should go based on value. I’ve done this for a few years now in preparation for my 7-CAT leagues. I call it my “Draft Road Map”, something to help me not get lost once there’s a 90 second time limit for me to make a decision in a live online draft. After pouring over projections (something I will begin doing this season), I will at the very least be able to associate players names and their key stats. Once I’ve got that down, and get the latest news updates, I’d say I would be pretty much locked and loaded for a draft.

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    Since I do not plan to make any projections for the upcoming 2017-18 season, I decided to go to the best in the industry. It’s a good thing that he’s the head honcho here at Hoop Ball, you probably heard of him. We privately call him “sugar bear” or “hot stuff“, but his parents named him Aaron Bruski. Oh, by “we” I meant “just me”, and by “call him”, I meant “refer to him in my head”; but that’s another story for another time. Seriously though, Aaron was kind enough to give us a bit of a sneak peek, well more of a dangling bra strap of a tease for his Bruski 150, by sharing with us the category averages of what his Top 150 players are projected average this 2017-18. These are the top 150 relevant players (no rookies) that he’s ranked to-date. He did warn me that “there’s some statistical noise in the data” that is hard to remove at the beginning of the season. Still, I find it personally useful to know ballpark numbers that my fantasy team’s starting roster should strive to exceed if I want to be competitive in certain categories.

    2016-17 Top 150 (9-CAT)   29.99 15.10 1.31 5.76 3.11 1.03 0.66 0.48 11.76 0.77 3.46 1.79
    Bruski 150 2017-18 Projections   30.25 15.28 1.37 5.72 3.01 1.09 0.68 0.47 11.89 0.78 3.47 1.78

    As you can see the Bruski 150 is closely in line with what the top players did last season. The difference is, who will be this season’s Top 150 players to drop those averages? Names will drop out from last year, while other will be seen higher in the rankings. And for those juicy details, we’ll have to wait for Aaron to come out with his 150. Hopefully, the wait won’t be as long nor as agonizing as it was for Season 7 of A Game of Thrones to get here. Regardless, I’m sure that all of this prep will get me (us) ready to kill it in fantasy basketball this 2017-18.

    Basically, as a rule of thumb, the averages your first 12 picks should be ahead of the projected average in the categories you want your team to compete in. The bigger the gap, the greater the impunity your team will crush the opposition in those categories. Remember, in head to head, a win per cat gives you one point for the week, whether you win by a little or a lot. Ideally, the best team build would be a group of players whose averages beat your opponents’ in as many categories. Now you have the benchmarks to help you get ready to do so accordingly.

    There you go, whether you want to compete using a small-ball, balanced, or big ball lineup in Head to Head this season, you’re now armed with that little bit of extra information to give you an edge. Just another tool to, in the immortal words of Conan, the Barbarian:  “…crush your enemies. See them driven before you to hear the lamentations of their women.”

    Remember, you can always reach me on Twitter: @FantasyHoopla, if you want to chat about fantasy hoops!

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