Tuesday, January 31, 2006

How to Block Punts.

Errr … I mean, “How to Punt Blocks.” The concept of punting a category was brought up a couple of weeks ago. Punting, especially in a roto league, is a particularly risky way to go about doing things. For example, in our league right now, the league leader has 81 out of a potential 96 points. Punting a category here would mean that you would have to basically be first in every single category other than the one you’ve punted to stand a chance of winning the league. Not gonna happen. Now, of course, some leagues will have money going to second, third, or even fourth place. So punting in order to get to one of those spots is much more conceivable. Anyhow, rather than go on a rant about whether or not you SHOULD punt a category, the fact of the matter is this: the sooner you decide to punt, the more likely you’ll be at succeeding in reaping the benefits.

So let’s take a look at one of the easiest categories to punt: blocks. I say it’s the easiest because of a couple reasons. One, blocks are very highly valued in fantasy leagues, because they’re the scarcest asset of the scarcest position (centers). Two, their value is pretty clear, but very separated by position. For example, Delonte West’s 0.8 blocks are great from a PG perspective, and a guy looking to gain in blocks would love to add him to their team, even though there might be big men out there who will block more shots … West’s position alone gives him value in blocks.

Anyhow, my theory on how to punt blocks goes like this, and it’s really the only thing you need to know about punting any category:

Every block your team gets is wasted value.

Listen, if you’re gonna punt blocks, it doesn’t matter if your team blocks 100 shots over the whole year or just 20. 1 point in a category is 1 point in a category. Meanwhile, the rest of your league is jockeying for position in blocks, so you’ve got a commodity on your hands that you can get rid of for help in other categories. But punting a category is so much more than just getting rid of your studs in that category. I mean, if all you do to punt blocks is trade Sammy Dalembert, then you’re not doing a very good job. For example, let’s say you’ve got a guy like Vince Carter, who’s got plenty of value, and is an asset to any team. But if you’re punting blocks, he’s actually a serious detriment to your team, because his 0.7 blocks, from a SG position, are tremendous value that you can’t use. Carter’s overall value is on par with a guy like Michael Redd, who blocks a terrific ZERO shots a game – as in, none, all year long. So while the guy who has Redd on his team will see a Carter-for-Redd swap as a fairly even deal (injuries aside), for you it’s a coup – You get huge help in threes, moderate gains in both percentages, and even a slight uptick in points and steals, while only really giving up a couple boards and assists.

With that in mind, let’s look at some guys to target if you’re punting blocks:

C: Brad Miller, Zaza Pachulia. Center is the toughest position to fill with few blocks and high value. Centers with value are on the court a lot. 7-footers who are on the court a lot compile blocks. Miller and Pachulia buck this trend. They’ll contribute in other categories but neither blocks more than 0.5 shots per game – that’s as good (or bad) as you’ll get for a center that has any value.

PF: Antawn Jamison. If you’re going to punt blocks, Jamison is a must-have. Why? Think about it: The stat strength most common with good blocks is good rebounding. Turning away blocks will often mean inadvertently turning away boards. Jamison, however, grabs 9.8 boards per game while only blocking 0.1 per. He won’t single-handedly solve your boards problem, but he’s a great start.

SF: Paul Pierce, Peja Stojakovic. Pierce is similar to Jamison in that he’s got very good board numbers (particularly from a G/F), plus his FG% is nice as well, which is another category you’re going to struggle in if you punt blocks. Peja is absolutely allergic to blocks, but still has plenty of value.

SG: Ray Allen, Michael Redd, Rip Hamilton. I don’t need to tell you that Allen has value. It’s all over the place. Hamilton, though, is a great candidate – he has relatively low value compared to some other guys on this list, blocks 0.1 shots per game, but has spectacular FG% (.506).

PG: Any and all. Listen – if you’re trying to punt blocks, and your PG is getting more than 0.2 bpg, you’re just not trying hard enough.

So that’s how I’d do it. Maybe next week I’ll go over another category that I like to think is fairly easy to punt. But this is a blueprint for how to go about punting any category. Hope it helps.


Anonymous Charlie said...

As a formerly satisfied owner of Zaza Pachulia, I hereby declare Zaza a slow, foul and turnover committing cock tease. The guy should be clearing the glass for everyone sace Joe Johnson on an awful Hawks squad, but he isn't performing nearly the way he was at the beginning of the season. I was entertaining offers for him at the beginning of the season, now the 2 gumpy white Chrises (Kaman and Mihm) put up better numbers. No real advice needed or being given here, just venting. I feel better now. (oh wait, I had to throw Zaza in my lineup this week...5 pts and 5 boards due to foul trouble last night, big surprise)

11:14 AM  
Blogger JM said...

Nice article,
When I was preparing for my draft, I read some conclicting ideas abou the concept of punting categories/building on your strengths vs crafting a well-balanced team. Some wrtiters said "build on your strengths" and don't worry about drafting a well-balanced team. i.e. try to be really good in a few categories (preferably scarce ones like blocks,assts,3's) and its okay to be bad in other categories. They said that trying to be "well-balanced" ends up meaning mediocre in everything.

I didn't buy that strategy, and instead went for a well-balanced squad. (my first pick was a pg (arenas),second pick was a sg/sf (Pierce), third pick a pf (D.Howard), no upper echelon centers avaiable in 4th round, so I picked R.Lewis (sf) and waited for the late 5th to get Dalembert (who luckily has played like an early 3rd rounder).

I've been happy with this strategy, as I'm currently in 2nd place in a 12 team league (likely 1st if you factor in games played).
Out of the 9 categories, I'm
in 2nd for Blks, 3rd for stls,pts, 4th for rbs,asts, 6th in FT%,FG%.
The only category that I'm not better than average in is Turnovers.
(My nemesis category) where I'm in 9th.

My question is whether punting Turnovers is a worthwhile endeavor? At this point I'm heavily considering Turnovers for all my transactions (waiver wire pick-ups, trades, decisions who to start,etc.) since its my only bad category.

Is this a waste of time. Should I punt it? As anyone tried punting TO before?

I guess I should keep the idea in mind as the season goes on, if I get too far behind the guys right ahead of me then I could give up and punt it. At this point there's 3 teams that I'm in reach of passing if I improve, and one team which would pass me soon if I get worse.

2:55 PM  
Blogger T-Plan said...

Punting is real and it works, especially in H2H format. I've won my fantasy basketball league twice in the past 5 years, and both times I punted a category. If you are sacrificing improvement in 8 other categories to balance out a major deficiency in TOs, you're shooting yourself in the foot.

For the first of those 2 championships, I found myself 3 weeks into the season averaging 9 blocks per week. On the other hand, there were teams averaging 25, 30, even 40 per week. So I decided to trade away the few I had and focus on dominating everywhere else, since I had a well-balance squad that passed well. I also found myself with a hole in 3-pointers, so I punted that one too and traded Mike Miller (who was then a 3-pt specialist only) for Andre Miller (who averaged over 11 assists/game that season). Won the league running away, and I hardly ever won those 2 cats again.

Last season I drafted gunners who contributed in other categories (and got lucky with Okafor). However, as a result, I had probably the worse FG% as a team that I've ever seen. I would be happy to get into the 40%+ range most weeks. But I dominated in everything else and again won the league running away.

The years in between I went for balance and got killed. I even punted TOs one year, but I suffered from a really bad draft that season and had no chance. Any other year, I think it would have worked.

This year I drafted defensive specialists (AK47, Artest, Josh Howard, Gerald Wallace) and filled in the rest with serviceable Centers (Zaza and P.J. Brown), Assist-happy PGs (Baron Davis and Rafer Alston), and a few 3-point gunners (Jason Terry, Sheed, Eddie Jones, Hedo Turkoglu). Now that I'm 70% of the way through the season, I realized that my only hope is to punt FT% and sell points for stats in other categories that help me dominate.

So I'm punting 2 categories, but especially FT% since I still hold enough points to beat half the league anyway (amazing how early-season injuries force you to stack talent before it is all gone). However, I spent half the season waiting for Ron Artest to return and now I'm waiting on Gerald Wallace, so I won't know for at least 2 or 3 more weeks if my plan worked. Check back then . . .

3:17 PM  
Blogger Rook said...

Great, great article.

Definitely different issues in roto and h2h leagues. I'm in a roto league, and I'm also interested in the issues around punting TOs. I'm in third place in my league overall, with lots of stars with 3+ TO/game on the team. I'm on pace (after games factor in) to finish last in TO.

So the question is, should I use the blog's tactics of how to make trades to make my TO situation even worse (targeting other categories and taking the "1" in TO), or steadily try to improve it?

Some factors that I think play in to the decision:

1. How close the category is now. My TO race, per game played, is still pretty close. For example, my team has made 2.26 TO/game, and other teams are around 2.25, 2.13, 2.22, etc.

2. How many people you could possibly catch. In my league, there are 5 guys I could probably have a chance at catching (they're within .2 TO/gm), which would give me a "6" in the category -- not too shabby. In leagues where the best you could get is a 3 or 4, I'd probably say punt.

3. The other personnel already on your team. On my team, I have some people who could (humorously) be described as turnover superstars, given their overall production: Rasheed (1.1/gm), David West (1.6/gm), and a couple other guys with around 1.6/gm. Given that trades that really work (in my league at least) can be hard to make, I'd say this weighs in favor of NOT punting, since it'd be hard to find the right buyers to clear out the low-TO talent. If your team doesn't have a bunch of guys with good TO value, I'd say punt.

I guess the added wrinkle of TO-punting is that you can't do well in a league overall without a bunch of guys who handle the ball a lot and thereby rack up the TOs. It's not impossible, though: the guy in second place in my league is second-best in TOs.

Anyone have more experience in TO punting? The blog is definitely right that if you're going to punt, the earlier the better.

5:51 PM  
Blogger bv said...

Turnovers are a totally different thing. I don't play in a league with turnovers, and actually i like it better that way b/c the best players, as you say, handle the ball a lot. It seems detrimental to the idea of a "fantasy" team to have good players have negative aspects just because they get the ball a lot. But that's a discussion for another day.

7:09 PM  
Blogger JM said...

Seems like we're in a very similar predicament - regarding whether to punt TO or not.
You make some good points, i.e. evaluating your roster and deciding on how realistic it'd be to make trades to make my TO's worse, as suggested in the original post.

as for the factors you recommend considering:

1. The category is close now:
I'm in 9th at 2.04, the 3 teams I'm in close reach of above me are at 2.09,2.06,2.04. The three teams below me are a bit further away: 2.17,2.24,2.25

2. The highest I could possibly reach would be 4th place (a "9"). The 4th and 5th place guys are currently .22 and .17 ahead of me

3. Other personnel on my team:

over 3.5 TO/game: Arenas
2.5-3.5 TO: Pierce,R.Jefferson
1.5-2.5: Ridnour, Dalembert,
M.James, Brand
0-1.5: Battie,Childress,Josh Howard

Thus my guys who're best at TO are in the bottom teer of my roster (#50-#100 ranked guys). I don' have any TO studs, like Sheed or David West who's a top 50 guy overall, and is also great in TO. On the other hand I don't have many TO killers. Basically, I'd be doing fine in TO if it wasn't for Arenas and Pierce. Thus it may not make sense to try and overhaul my roster to get really bad at TO. I'm doing great in the standings with my current strategy.

So where does that leave me. To punt or not to punt?

I think all 3 of your criteria above point me toward NOT punting.

Not an easy decision. Any thoughts?

TO definitely adds a perplexing layer to fantasy basketball.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Rook said...

BV, I hear what you're saying about TO leagues. I've never played any other way, so I couldn't say which is better. It does add a layer of complexity, which is (in theory) good because it leads to more divergent needs for different teams, and therefore (hopefully) more trades. Having TOs also prevents anyone from running away with the league, since it's very hard to have good TOs AND other good categories.

As for your team, jm, I'm not sure... your team's built around Arenas and Pierce, and you probably can't move them. There's definitely not a compelling case for punting. Playing PFs at the util spots definitely lowers TO, if your assists/steals can afford it.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Well, Qyntel Woods played again tonight and was solid with 15/9/3 with 2 steals and a three in 37 minutes of action.

The question is, can he keep it up. He's been playing very well this week, #21 overall acording to yahoo.

Would it be worth it to drop someone like Drew Gooden, based on speculation, for him. Drew is getting 10/9 with decent percentages, but that is about it. I just picked him off the waivers the other day, and he is in a timeshare, so it'll be tough for him to really contribute a lot on a consistent basis.

If Qyntel gets 35 minutes a night, he would be great. But NY has nate Robinson, Trevor Arazia and the original Q, along with Marbury and David Lee to play the 1-3, where Qyntel plays.

So....other than being a Eddie Griffin-esque tease, what is Qyntel going to be ...opinions only...obviously.

4:10 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Alright, so I'm not a very patient person. I dropped Gooden to pickup Qyntel. Now, I was planning on doing this and then dropping Krstic for Perkins (which would give me a rebounding edge and extra blocks that I could use).

Unfortunately, someone else picked up Perkins earlier today. Lesson learned = it doesn't pay to wait and see.

What about Robert Swift? What is his value comparable to Krstic and to Perkins. I'm definately pissed that I didn't pick up Perkins, but I don't really have a say in the matter now. The only thing I'm not diggin is that Swift only has C eligibility as opposed to Perkins's PF/C status, which is much nicer for flexibility sake (why Lamar Odom doesn't have PF status is beyond me).

Anyways, that would leave me with only Troy Murphy and Boris 'versatile' Diaw for PF spots.

This is really frustrating. If only I'd swapped Krstic for Perkins when I had the chance (but Krstic has played well lately and it's tough to drop a "hot" player).

The biggest thing I'll miss is the blocks, as only Dalembert and G.Wallace supply a steady stream of them for me.

5:28 AM  
Blogger Coach T said...

Good topic. I really think you need to draft with balance in mind. But at this point of the season punting is a good option.

I wouldn't completely punt the entire category though, at this point in the year you can also punt to "maintain" position if you know that it's highly unlikely that the teams behind you will catch you. Teams in the cellar often times barely even put up a fight and give up...

I guess you could call that the "pooch punt".

I really believe in roto leagues that you have to at least be in the middle of the pack at every stat category to have a chance at winning it all. I'm still gutting it out to get 6 points out of a possible 12 in a category with that in mind.

11:02 AM  
Blogger T-Plan said...

To Jeremy:

Man, I would not drop Nenad Krstic. He has been up and down, but his 2nd half was much better last season.

As for Perkins and Swift, they are both essentially rookies. Swift is a 2nd year guy who barely saw the court until January of this season. Perkins is a similar situation. While they could both outperform Krstic, I'd take experience over upside.

If you do decide to switch for Swift, the only upside is that he sat most of the first half and should avoid the rookie wall for most of rest of the season. But his numbers really don't enamor me all that much either way, so only grab him if he specifically fills a dire need.

Also, Nenad isn't really doing all that badly this year - very similar stats to last season. He just doesn't have that much upside. And you've probably seen the worst of his downside already.

The biggest kicker - Krstic is the only one of these 3 guys without a decent option on the bench behind him. Swift has Petro, Fortson, and some other chumps to take away minutes if he disappoints. Perkins has perennial bust Kandi-Man, who shows flashes from time-to-time and could steal floor time if he has one of his positive statistical anomalies.

3:42 PM  

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