With the 2016-17 season finished and the playoffs and offseason ahead, many fantasy basketballers are already thinking about how they are going to dominate their league next year. For those of you that are like me, here is an early guide of 10 things to remember for next season. Keep in mind that there are bigger factors than just previous year’s stats to take into consideration when you renew your dynasty league or begin a new startup.
#10. Do Not Overrate The Rookie Class.
Making the jump from college to the pros is a gigantic step. Most players coming into the league are between the ages of 18 and 22. When you assess your lineup from last year, ask yourself, “what was the average age of the players that netted me the most points”? The answer shouldn’t shock you that it is usually players ages 24 to 32. So while this is the most hyped Rookie class since Lebron, Melo, Wade, and Bosh in 2003, don’t put all your eggs in the Rookie basket quite yet, especially in a redraft league. Remember, even in 2003, Darko Milicic was drafted second overall. There are no guarantees with the draft; the only thing you can count on is a large learning curve for the Rookies which may not translate to playing time and/or production for your team.
Side note: if you are rebuilding a dynasty team, this isn’t necessarily a bad draft class to start that mission with but, it will still take lots of time.
#9. Do Not Get Sucked Into Summer League Hype.
This philosophy goes hand-in-hand with drafting Rookies. It is usually the second year players that have the NBA schedule and routine down that stand out in Summer League. They are also standing out against Rookies and non-rostered players. While it is fun to get in on the hype and hope your team’s 11th man on the bench is going to be a key contributor, put it in perspective- there is a reason the first ten guys on the team aren’t playing at Summer League. If you are in deep leagues, you may find one or two diamonds in the rough during Summer League but, it is rare.
#8. The Projected Salary Cap Is Lower Than Expected.
How can this be? Your favorite team was going to have cap space to sign a max level free agent! The fact of the matter is this: the lowered projection of $101 Million ($6m lower than initially projected) has huge implications. Now that fewer teams will have max cap space, expect fewer big name free agents to be on the move. Couple that with the new CBA rules that monetarily encourage players to re-sign with their current team and you will not find elite talent moving much. This makes tradable assets more important than ever as trades are how teams will get their superstars for the next calendar year. Therefore, there will be less guessing on players and how their production will be impacted on new teams (or the impact of other players joining their team).
There is also a flip side to this which will be the most fun aspect to watch. Since lots of teams freed up a bunch of cap space for this expected free agent boom, many teams will have cap space to spend on players that won’t necessarily be considered max level players (smart GMs will spend big for mid-level players on short term deals). This is where fantasy leagues will be won; by predicting the biggest contributions by the role players.
#7. Coaching Changes Are More Important Than You Think.
If you don’t believe me, ask James Harden – the guy that now plays lots of Point Guard for offensive mastermind Mike D’Antoni (check out a previous article here about coaching styles and how they impact players).
For the first time in 40+ years, no coaching changes were made mid-season so the coaching carousel is a bit unknown at the moment. There will be new head coaches in the NBA next season- be sure to look at track record before making too large of an investment. Especially if it is the next coach forced to use the triangle offense (sorry Knicks fans, I couldn’t resist).
#6. Do Not Invest In Role Players On Bad Teams.
Last year, you thought you were the cats ass when you grabbed Hollis Thompson, Matt Barnes, Terrence Jones, or Tim Frazier (to name a few) late in your draft. Guess what? They were probably great for you at least for a month or two and you got comfortable. The fact is, none of those players were relevant by seasons end. This is what happens to role players on bad teams; they stop receiving playing time. Whether it is a coaching change, a youth movement, a spark plug brought in on a 10 day contract, a trade, being trade filler, or any other circumstance (you get the point)- these players are just too risky to help guide your team to a championship. During the draft, these players are the real world equivalent to super sizing your drive-thru order. Those few moments you have to decide on it, it seems like a great idea but, it almost always ends in regret.
#5. Pay Attention To Who Was Retained As A Restricted Free Agent.
This theory goes along with some of the other ideas mentioned above. Restricted Free Agents are players that are coming off of their rookie scale contracts, or players entering their fifth year in most cases. When teams decide that they are investing to keep players around, usually on larger scale contracts, this means that they see them as a big part of the team’s future.
This is where it is tricky. In obvious scenarios, high draft picks are retained to be franchise cornerstones and they usually receive a max extension before hitting restricted free agency anyway. These players are getting drafted in your leagues draft no matter what. It is the other players that you have to keep an eye on. For example, last offseason, Portland decided to match what seemed to be a large offer for Allen Crabbe. What this told me, and other fantasy owners, is that Allen Crabbe wasn’t going to sit at the end of the bench and wait his turn again. This solidified the idea that he was a legit, rotation player and was going to remain one because he was going to be on the Trailblazers for another four years. As an organization, they are not going to waste an enormous amount of money just to keep Allen Crabbe off of a cellar dwelling team in a different conference (Brooklyn Nets)- they were investing in him to be a big part of the future of the franchise. As a fantasy owner, he is a safe, stable late round play that won’t chew up adds, drops, or make you suffer through sporadic playing time.
#4. Be Open To Analytics.
While most fantasy leagues are tracking “old school” statistics, NBA front offices are tracking Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Plus/Minus to name a couple. That makes the formula easy: Good advanced statistical numbers = minutes = chance to produce for your fantasy team.
Gone are the days of inefficient basketball that keeps players on the court just because they can score 20 points per game on 7 of 22 shooting. Find the players on the teams that are using these statistics and feel confident knowing they will sustain year-round production.
#3. Trust The Expert Rankings.
They are paid to figure these things out. You aren’t.
#2. Value All Categories Equally.
Can you name who lead the league in steals? It was John Wall closely followed by Draymond Green. These guys are fantasy studs, everyone knows that but, number three has been a steady fantasy contributor for years that often gets passed up: Trevor Ariza (147 steals). Another surprise player in the top ten in total steals: TJ McConnell with 134 steals finishing 6th in the league. These late round “steals” don’t have to be steals for you and your team; they can be a part of your strategy- target them a round ahead of projected pick slot and you’ll be winning those often forgot about categories in Roto Leagues and picking up some nice padding in Points Leagues.
Turnovers count just as much as other categories. James Harden led the league with 469 turnovers. The next three: Russell Westbrook (425), John Wall (322), and Lebron James (302).
Here is what is interesting, the gap between Harden and #5, Demarcus Cousins (269) is 191 turnovers. Guess what the gap was between Cousins and Garrett Temple who finished 166th in the league in turnovers? Yes, it was 191- Temple finished with minimal playing time, and thus, minimal turnovers (78).
So while Harden, Westbrook, Wall, and James are going to be enormous contributors in most other categories, don’t ignore turnovers- they (the turnovers) hurt you in most Roto and Points Leagues. So do your research on the next tier of high turnover guys and see who can help versus hurt your team.
#1. Stick To Your Draft Strategy.
I have spoken to many veteran fantasy player over the years and everyone (including myself) has fallen victim to straying away from their strategy at least once. Whether you are chasing certain statistics, drafting the best available players, drafting for position scarcity, or whichever one of the many strategies there are, stick to your game plan. Do your research, identify the players you wish to target, and draft away. Trust your research over your split second instincts.
So there you have it, 10 things to keep in mind before next season begins. If you are interested in playing in the best fantasy leagues in the world, visit www.dynastysportsempire.com. There is no other experience like it.