Tuesday, January 25, 2005

How Am I Doing It?

Quote my FBB cohort: “But yeah, you certainly snuck into first place. Nice work from Tinsley, Hinrich, Big Z, but other than that, I have no idea how you’re in first place.”

OK, I’m going to make this a bit more conventional “blog” today by focusing on myself. But there’s a reason. It’s true, I did find myself at the top of the standings yesterday morning. (I since fell back into second, but just play along.) Take a quick look at my roster, though, and you might find that a bit odd. I have no superstar. Ray Allen was my first-round pick, and while he got off to a great start, he’s been rather ordinary since then, currently coming in at #15 on the Player Rater and only #33 in the past month. My second round pick, Baron Davis, has predictably missed more than half the season. My sixth round pick, Theo Ratliff, was a monumental disappointment who has been released. Yet I’m still at the top. How’d I do it?

First, I should mention that even without Davis’s services for most of the year I have a dominant lead in assists and am a very solid second place in steals, and have a possible 30 out of 36 points in 3s, steals and assists, which you may recognize as the PG categories. This is because I loaded up on PGs. You load up on PGs, good things happen. Did I know Jermaine O’Neal, Stephen Jackson and Ron Artest would find themselves suspended for a large portion of time, leaving Tinsley as the team’s #1 option? Well, except for the Artest part, no. So that was sort of lucky. Even with Davis, Hinrich and Tinsley, I went with Marko Jaric late in the draft. Imagine if I hadn’t dropped him right before he got hot. But by playing the rotating PG game and getting decent play from guys like Speedy Claxton, Earl Watson, Rick Brunson, Jason Hart (you liked those 21 assists over the weekend, right?), etc. for a few games at a time, I was able to put myself in very strong positions in these three categories?

How do you supplement all of those point guards? With big men, big men, big men. For much of the year I’ve had four point guards and four big men in the starting lineup. Forget about those middling shooting guards/small forwards. You want big men who will help you in FG%, rebounds and blocks. Again, I got some good luck when Hubie Brown quit and Pau Gasol became a borderline stud, but those things happen sometimes. Baron goes down, Tinsley goes up. Ratliff sucks, Gasol becomes a stud. Luck tends to even out over time. Ilgauskas, Gasol and P.J. Brown have all been very serviceable, and as much of a stiff as Ratliff was, I was able to build such a big lead in blocks in the couple months he was around that I was able to release him and still maintain that lead with relative ease.

Back to those swingmen … the best of the best are obviously great assets – Kobe, Tracy, etc. But for the most part these players aren’t helping you too much. As a general rule I tend to avoid players who have points as one of their two best categories. Guys like Paul Pierce, Michael Redd, Richard Hamilton, Corey Maggette, etc. It’s not that these players don’t have value, but it is inflated because of points. It’s not as simple as this, but 22 points and .5 steals is nowhere near as valuable as 13 points and 1.8 steals. This is why for those SG/SF slots I like to try and find people who have something different to offer. (For more on this, see my cohort’s earlier post from today.) Tayshaun Prince and Josh Smith are the only two guys who have seen time at my SF position. They may not score a lot, but their high FG% and blocks are especially valuable at that position.

By almost all of your roster space on point guards and big men, you’re taking care of 6 of the 8 categories, leaving only points and FT% out there, and you can argue that loading up on PGs helps you in FT%. The thing about those two categories is that those are the hardest to be dominant in. Let’s go back to the Rater leaders in each category. You’ve got Shaq in FG% at 4.67, Maggette/Dirk in FT% at 1.61, Q in 3PM at 3.45, KG in rebounds at 3.61, Nash in assists at 4.27, Hughes in steals at 2.75, Timmy in blocks at 5.03 and AI in points at 2.11. See how points and FT% have the lowest numbers? That means the average player will be closer to the median in these categories, meaning you can focus on them a bit less.

Another reason I’m at the top is that I’ve used more games than the rest of the teams near the top of the standings. Some may think this puts me in a bad position for later in the year, but that’s just not the case. I haven’t gone crazy with filling every position every night; I’m still six games under the projected max as of right now. But if someone’s going to have a good game, I’m going to take advantage of it. Marcus Camby’s not going to play tonight, so even though I’m right on target for games at center, I’m going to take Nene off the bench and plug him in. Take the stats whenever you can get them. You’ll have enough guys miss games due to random injury to make up for it. Also, the options for making up games at the end of the season aren’t that great. So you’ve got 9 games in hand at center, but the trading deadline has passed, so you’re stuck plugging Jerome James or Etan Thomas in there and hoping for the best.

So there’s a quick look into my thought process while managing my team. It’d be a lot easier if we could just get all of the best players, but that’s not how it works. And sometimes, if you play it right, even if you don’t have any of the best players, you can still do pretty well for yourself.

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