Below is a high level look at how to put a successful fantasy basketball team together. I group players into three categories, and I will explain how I group those players.
With roto, there's really no getting around the idea of building a balanced team. You are going to have to place high in pretty much all of the categories. In fact, you have to get in the Top 3 in each category on average to have a shot to win it. This depends on how many categories you play with, but in a 12 team league, with the setup I play (8 categories), I'm trying to amass 80 points as a team to win. That's what I'm shooting for on draft day: to build a team that can project to get me 80 points overall. If I get last in a particular category, I need to get 79 points across 7 categories, meaning I need to get first in 2 categories, and 2nd in the other five categories.
With head To head, I don't think balance is as important. I think you can punt a category or two, and build on the other categories. The key is to build off of the categories though. If I can mostly ignore FT% and Assists, I can dominate in Head To Head, as many of the rankings factor the scarcity of assists and avoiding guys who's FT% can hurt your team total in that category. If I can win 6 of the 8 categories most of the time, I'm going to have a solid Head To Head team.
Going back to roto from here on out, although many of the same things can be applied to head to head.
Every league is different, and you may be able to win your league with less than the 80 point target I mentioned earlier, but until it all plays out, you just do not know. What you have to try to get in the mindset of, is aiming to be in the top three in every category (if you were playing in an 8 team league, the target would be 48 points. In a 10 team league, it would be 64).
So you know what you have to do, it's all about just going out there and doing it. Easy enough, right?
Like everything else, it's easier said than done, and you have to get a little lucky.
In an ideal world, if you were to win every category, you would need 10 players that put up the following stats AND played all 82 games:
48% FG%, 80% FT%, 1 3PTM/G, 16 PTS/G, 7 REB/G, 4 AST/G, 1 STL/G, 1 BLK/G
What they don't tell you is that 10 players that put up these stats do not exist. In fact, not even 1 player puts up stats like these. The closest was Kevin Durant last year. His stat line read:
47.6% FG%, 90% FT%, 1.6 3PTM/G, 30 PTS/G, 7.6 REB/G, 2.8 AST/G, 1.4 STL/G, 1 BLK/G
LeBron put up:
50% FG%, 74.2% FT%, 1.7 3PTM/G, 29.7 PTS/G, 7.3 REB/G, 8.6 AST/G, 1.6 STL/G, 1 BLK/G
And that's why these guys are rated #1 and #2 on all the cheat sheets. But as you can imagine, after the elite players are off the board, it is harder to accumulate particular stats. There are only so many guys that grab 7 or more boards/game for example. So when you draft early (or in an auction are paying more), you need to go above the benchmarks, so when you're rounding out your roster you can make up for the shortcomings of those players. Just like every other fantasy game, right?
What I am going to do is talk about how I group players for my team. They're called assist + steal guys, rebound + block guys, and fill in guys. My goal here isn't to put together a cheat sheet, or to try and reinvent the wheel. I think there is enough information out there, where you can find rankings, and just adjust to what you are feeling or hearing at other places. Hopefully what I'm writing is a supplement to what you're doing out there on your own.
Assist + Steal Guys
I aim to get 4 players that can give me better than the benchmarks in assists and steals, which is why they are named what they are. These assist + steal guys ideally hit 3s consistently, and have a FT% of above 80% to offset the typically low FT% from the guys that amass the rebounds and blocks. These guys are typically guards, but not always, so be careful with making too many generalities.
Rebound + Block Guys
In addition to the assist + steal guys, I also aim to get 4 players that can give me better than the benchmarks in rebounds and blocks, while scoring in double digits, AND keeping their FG% above 48% (to offset the typically low FG% from the assist+steal guys). What a mouthful huh? Makes sense though right?
Fill In Guys
The other 2 starters and 3 bench guys are the fill in guys. With the 2 starters, I try to find help boost me in categories where I need more help in the counting categories that are easier to find (3 pointers for example).
The three bench players I take are usually guys who I'm taking a flier on. It can be a rookie, or a player who has performed well statistically in limited amounts of minutes. Basically unproven guys I think have some upside, and will get a chance to get significant minutes. When you starting getting your last 3 guys, unless you get lucky, the marginal difference between these players are slim to none at this point in the season. Usually the guys that tend to come out of nowhere are rookies. Steph Curry last year was an example. I would guess he went in the mid to late rounds in most drafts, and he actually performed like an elite fantasy player.
A Quick Note:
I also want to say a note about 3 point shooting. If you ever read Matthew Berry he would talk about the need to get guys that shoot a lot of threes. He wrote about them like it was a scarce position. In my opinion, 3 pointers is a category that is easier to find help with than others. By virtue of getting the assist + steal guys, you are going to get some 3 point shooters embedded with that. Last year, about 70 players averaged more than 1 3 pointer a game (the benchmark for that category). Some of those 70 are guys you can fill in towards the end of the draft as well. I think its important to get guys that make threes at a high rate along the way, but I think you can find guys that contribute to that category more easily than what it is made out to be. I agree in that there are few guys that average 1.5 to 2 3s per game. At the same time, because getting a guy who makes 1 per game (or close to that amount) isn't that hard, I'm not sure why there'd be a lot of urgency for getting the guys who score 1.5 to 2 3s per game. 3s are important, but don't throw everything away to chase 3 point shooters.
Future Post Schedule:
Next Post, I'm going to get more in depth about Assist+ Steal Guys, including who they are, who I'm targeting, and how to go about drafting them. I'd look for that either later tonight, or sometime tomorrow. I am envisioning writing something on Rebound + Block guys in a similar fashion for tomorrow, along with a quick draft overview. I want to get as much of this stuff out of the way, so I we can discuss what's actually happening. I'm just trying to provide some background, so we can get on the same page about things going forward into the season.
Post #1: Overview