If you want to win your fantasy basketball league, you have to do your homework now, BEFORE THE DRAFT. The easiest way to do this is to make a Cheat Sheet.
In the past, I've used two methods for making my Cheat Sheets: 1.) I use large Post-It Notes to display my information and stick them to the shelf above my computer screen in an easily viewable row; or 2.) I make the old fashioned 8 “” by 11 “blank sheet of paper cheat sheet. Which ever you pick is just a matter of convenience to you. The important part is the information you put on those cheat sheets.
The first Cheat Sheet I make is for each statistical category that is ranked in the league. Standard Yahoo Fantasy NBA scoring categories are: Field Goal%, Free Throw%, Three Pointers Made, Total Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks and Turnovers.
Every category is important, so you have to be aware of who the leaders are in each and who the Deal Breakers are in each category. It is virtually impossible to win your league and be in last place in any of these scoring categories. You can not always be strong in every category, but you have to be at least average in them.
The essential tools for compiling this information are:
The sortable stats found under the “Players” link in every Yahoo Fantasy NBA league;
Yahoo Sports NBA Sortable Stats http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/stats/byposition?pos=PG , SG, G, GF, SF, PF, F, FC, C; and
NBA.com's Statistics web page http://www.nba.com/statistics/
Using these tools, it's simply a matter of making lists. You need to use all of these tools however in making your lists for each statistical category to get every angle on how these players actually accrue those statistics. Before the draft, the “Players” link of Yahoo Fantasy NBA only has last season's total collected statistics. Both Yahoo Sports NBA statistics and NBA.Com's statistics give you more understandable game per games rates that tell a more complete story for last season when a player had a lot of games off for injury or suspension.
One of the best tools for compilation categorical statistical lists is NBA.com's Statistics per 48 minutes. Projecting statistics for last years young rookies, inexperienced or injured players, who will get more time this season can best be done with per 48 minute statistics. It shows you what kind of impact those players had when they were in the game, despite their lack of playing time.
In making my Cheat Sheets, I try to list the leaders in each statistical category that I know I would draft, from the category leader down to the better than average players in that statistic. I give greater weight in the shooting percentage categories to the players who shoot and score the most. It's best to use Yahoo Sports NBA Statistics to see who the true statistical users are with shooting percentages. This helps eliminate players that barely rarely scored or shot last season from the percentage rankings.
It's also important to find players that will hurt your chances of winning a statistical category. I call these players the “Deal Breakers”. Oftentimes a Deal Breaker is great in most statistical categories, but is absolutely horrid in one category, horrid enough to keep you from winning your league. The All-time largest Deal Breaker in Fantasy Basketball is Shaq. Shaq shoots more free throws than any player in the league and shoots a miserable 53.1% off the free throw line. He might actually miss more free throws in one night than the rest of your starting 5 might attempt … Find the Deal Breakers and exclude them from your draft list.
It's also good to look at statistics like assist to turnover and steal to turnover ratios. NBA.Com's statistics will give you access to this information. Assist to turnover ratio can be a very valuable tool in picking point guards to draft. Any player with a high steal to turnover ratio is a solid pick for your draft as well.
I always try to focus on the shooting percentages first when drafting, but I've also found that players that get a lot of steals are always ranked very highly in Yahoo Fantasy leagues. Steals always seem to lead to more assists, high percentage shots and lots of free throws.
Turnovers are the most ignored statistical in Fantasy Basketball. People tend to go for the highflying, high scoring players when drafting for fantasy leagues. I have found that I have more success winning fantasy leagues by drafting solid, less spectacular players, than superstars that are fun to watch. Some of the players that lead the league in turnovers are the games superstars: Allen Iverson, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant and Steve Francis. A more successful Fantasy basketball alternative to these players, with regard to turnovers might be: Donyell Marshall, Michael Finley, Raef LaFrentz and Shane Battier.
In part II of this article we will look at putting together a draft board Cheat Sheet.