Most leagues' fantasy football playoffs started this past Sunday, so chances are you're out of the playoffs and are finally focusing 100 percent on fantasy basketball. If not, good luck the next couple weeks. Either way, we're nearly a third of the way into the fantasy hoops season, and it's a great time to assess the status of your team. For some, the hours devoted to the fantasy gridiron have taken their toll on their hardwood compatriots. In other words, your neglected basketball teams might not be in the best shape right now. Good thing the Fantasy Lab has come prepared with a relatively simple strategy to help turnaround your season for those in either roto leagues or head-to-head leagues.
The key to the strategy lives in the assists column. This is one of the sexier stats in fantasy basketball because of its comparative rarity, along with blocks and 3PM -- the latter being another focus of this strategy. Like owning low-level closers in baseball solely for their saves, one owns PGs mostly for their assists, especially the mid to lower-tier PGs. Chances are if you don't have a PG dropping 8 dimes per game, or two PGs posting 6.0 apg or more, you're probably not winning assists each week in H2H leagues or your at the low end for assists in your roto league.
Now you can either try to climb out of that hole via a trade for a top-tier PG, which many of you know is no easy thing to pull off since they are always in high demand and/or are the key to another team's lofty assists total, or you can opt to go the other way, which is to dump the assists category and focus your energy elsewhere, specifically on rebounds, 3PM, points, and to a lesser extent, the percentage categories. The Lab recommends giving this strategy serious thought if assists aren't one of your core strengths. There is much more to gain by dealing assists than trying to acquire them. So it's time to rid your rosters of players like: Raymond Felton, Randy Foye, Ramon Sessions, Earl Watson, Luke Ridnour, Andre Miller and Rafer Alston. You can even make a case that Jason Kidd, Tony Parker and Chris Duhon are worth much more to another team than your own with this strategy in place.
Many assist-specific players drag you down in too many other categories while contributing in usually just one other category (oftentimes, steals), and the top ones are too high in demand to get on the cheap. Instead, trade your assists, or your stud PG, for players who can help win you rebounds and 3PM and possibly the percentages. By "going big" with your typically "small" players (PGs and SGs), you increase the odds of winning multiple other categories or closing the gap in those categories, depending on your league's style. In leagues with no distinction between PGs and SGs this strategy is especially effective since you can ignore PGs and load up on guards who rebound and/or hit threes. Plus, they usually shoot a higher field-goal percentage than PGs and don't turn the ball over nearly as often -- a huge bonus in 9-category leagues.
In Yahoo! and other multi-positional-eligibility heavy leagues, a good place to start looking is with the players who actually play small forward, as opposed to solely shooting guard. In general, these types will rebound more and get fewer assists. Hopefully, though, they will have a better shooting percentage as well and be at least a minimal source for 3PM. The ones who really stand out in the 3PM and shooting are the most desirable assets.
In order to execute this strategy, you'll first need to identify which PGs, and SGs, to a lesser extent, to trade away. If you've only got one assist-heavy PG, then this is the easiest deductive reasoning you'll do all year. If you have a couple middle-of-the-road PGs though, try to deal the ones who hit fewer than one three-pointer a game or the ones who don't bring another discernable asset to the table, like a surplus of steals, a bevy of boards or a fiery free-throw percentage.
Now, what players should you be going after? The Lab is here to provide you with a list of some targets -- some are waiver wire fodder, others can be easily nabbed in a deal -- but not the stud players. Those you can identify on your own. Without further ado:
SG eligible players
Miller is the ultimate under-the-radar player to make this strategy fly. He plays on one of the worst teams in the league in one of the worst markets and he's not flashy, so he's not highly desirable as a name. He's currently hurt, but not seriously, and will be back as soon as Tuesday. Plus, he was passing too much and not shooting enough -- something that figures to change with the Kevin McHale taking over and needing to win to keep his job. In terms of stats, he'll definitely help you in the rarest fantasy category, 3PM, and is a very strong rebounding guard at 5.7 rpg. Lastly, he's very strong in field-goal shooting for a guard. Go get him.
Say what you want about Isiah Thomas, but he did have an eye for finding talent where no one else saw anything. Chandler is another example of Zeke's prowess. Somehow Chandler finagled a SG position from Yahoo!, which is awesome for you with this strategy. In his 16 starts, Chandler is averaging 15.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 1.6 3PM with 1.1 spg and 0.9 bpg, huge big man numbers in a traditionally small man's position. Take advantage of Yahoo!'s generosity.
While I'm not one to recommend Q with his injury history and disgraceful 39.5 percent shooting over the last month, he is one of only seven players getting time on the Knicks and has always been a very strong rebounder for his size. He's the sixth-best rebounding guard over the past month with 5.4 rpg and he's connecting on a scintillating 2.1 3PM during the same span, making him and Danny Granger the only guard-eligible players averaging more than 5 rpg and two 3PM over the last month. At only 50 percent ownership in Yahoo! leagues, he's a perfect fit as a fourth guard.
While KG meant it as an insult when he yelled at Maggette, "Way to get your numbers," after a Celtics win over the Warriors, fantasy leaguers don't mind too much. Maggette always seems to get his, mostly because he puts his head down and drives to the hoop without the word "pass" ever coming to mind. But that makes for top notch free-throw shooting (85.9 percent on 8.4 FTA/game) and scoring average (19.1 ppg) for the $50 million man. He hauls in 5.7 caroms a game, too.
Maybe the Lab is delirious, but we're thinking Mike Dunleavy is D-U-N done. OK, he's not walking around with a fork in his back, but his knee injury points more toward surgery than it does matching last year's career year. Enter the Grand Marquis. The Pacers are a running team, and he's going up and down the floor to the tune of 15.9 ppg and 5.8 rpg. He's unowned in 36 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Speaking of having a fork in your back, Grant Hill is still able to get it done despite the prongy utensil. Rescuing him from the free agent pool (only 45 percent ownership) may bring ridicule and jeers from your the other owners, but when you start climbing in the standings because Hill's 6.0 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1.0 bpg and 11.9 ppg on 47.8 field-goal shooting as a starter are in your lineup, feel free to flip the script on them.
This glue guy can hold your team together right now. Owned in only 53 percent of Yahoo! leagues, this sixth man can be your fourth or fifth guard with his attributes, which happen to fit nicely in our strategy. The points aren't there every night, but he collects 4.4 caroms a game, nets 1.8 3PM a night, turns it over less than once an evening and does it all with sparkling percentages for a guard-eligible player. Plus, he's an injury away from substantially more minutes.
The anti-point guard, Gordon never saw a shot he didn't like. He's north of 20 ppg, hits about two threes per game and is money from the line (87.8 percent on about five FTA). Factor in 3.4 rpg and the fact that he's working ridiculously hard for a new contract after getting slighted (at least in his mind) this past offseason by the Bulls, and you know this will continue all year long.
PG eligible players (low assist totals)
Only a rookie, Mayo has a happy home in this assist-averse strategy. That's because the Juice-Condiment is a scoring machine with unlimited range. Scoring a healthy 21.1 ppg, Mayo is planting 1.9 3PM along with an 87.5 free-throw percentage and 46.8 percent from the field. He grabs 4.4 rpg and picks pockets 1.3 times a night as well. The only thing he doesn't seem to do well is pass -- perfect!
For being as short as he is, Robinson sure knows how to sky for rebounds. Since moving into the starting five, Robinson is pulling down a whopping 6.3 rpg to go along with 1.8 3PM and 16.7 ppg. Averaging fewer dimes a game than when he came off the bench despite six more minutes a night, he's an ideal fit for the system.
The newly minted starting PG in OKC, Westbrook is another rookie combo guard with PG eligibility who fits this strategy. The kid is a sweet on-the-ball defender and is swiping 1.8 spg, which is a nice boost. But as a starter he's yanking down 5.8 rpg, an astonishing number for a PG not named Kidd. He doesn't shoot the three all that well, but he attacks the rim leading to his 17.8 ppg average as a starter. There's more where this came from. Fun fact, he averages more offensive than defensive rebounds a game.
The Spanish rookie doesn't board all that much. In fact, he doesn't seem to do much of anything in the counting categories, but he does get steals and some sneaky blocks from the PG spot. Most important, he is hitting 2.2 3PM and rarely misses FTs with his otherworldly 95.7 percent clip.
Just because Stephen Jackson is hurt and Nellie is a mad genius. When Morrow plays, he boards and hits threes like he's mad at them.
That will do it for this week. If you doubt the validity of this strategy, know that I'm in second place in the league I'm using it in.