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Fantasy Basketball Strategy Session: Head-To-Head Playoffs

How many hours do you think you've spent on your fantasy team(s)? If that's a number over 10, then what's another 20 minutes to help put you over the top for a title? Yeah, the players are ones that will ultimately have the last say on whether you win or lose your matchup, but as much as your girlfriend/wife might say, "it's fantasy basketball, you're not even doing anything," it's still your team to manage. The bottom line is that setting your lineup that is not something that should be taken lightly, especially in the playoffs. You're playing the best teams in your league now and you can't just set your lineup and expect a 7-1 against the league's whipping boy. It's with that idea in mind that I thought I'd write up some things I do to help myself win my matchups. These are some overall tips and things that weekly or daily owners should consider to give them an edge.

Let's get to it after the jump:

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Do the math

If you're intimidated by that saying, don't forget that you're playing fantasy basketball. As much as we like to think fantasy basketball is coolest hobby in the world, it's based on numbers. Therefore, if you can plan on how those numbers might turn out at the end of your scoring period, you'd put yourself at a huge advantage.
Many of you might be fantasy football converts and while there are some similarities for football and basketball, they're quite different. Fantasy football owners will spend extra time on focusing about the particular matchup and how that good/bad matchup can influence the player's average. Basketball is different. Generally speaking, over the course of one scoring period most of your reliable players will be somewhat close to their averages. Which averages do you use to help calculate? I, a fantasy psycho, like to take the mean of the March averages with the season averages to give the this value some weight involving short-term and long-term value from this season. If you wanted to take just one number, I'd probably just go with the March number (which can be found on each player page on ESPN) to project how they might do for the upcoming week.
For example, if a player averages 25 PPG and he has four games for the upcoming scoring period, then he should contribute about 100 points for the week. This is by far the most tedious part of the process since you'd have to do it six or seven categories (props to those that dare to try it on percentages). I'd also suggest to take into account some really bad/good matchups and just make some minor tweaks to the projections (which sounds like an idea for another column for another day).

Do the math (lazy version)

As compelling and persuasive as that above argument might be, I'd be pretty foolish to think that all of you guys would bust out the TI-84 for your fantasy basketball homework. By the way, it's 10 percent off for every day late. Anyhoo, There's an easier way to get help gauge your chance of success for each category based on how you and your opponent have done in the past four or five scoring periods. If your totals for all of those scoring periods dominate his numbers, then you should have nothing to worry about for that category. What's more, if you found that you're killing him in five categories, then you should know which five you should focus on in your matchup (more on that later). Although, you might want to make sure that your opponent isn't totally loaded for the scoring period and has all of his big rebounders on a five-game week. That's why this is the lazy version, so you might want to crunch some numbers.

Use the players that help you win and not the ones that make your team better

I touched on this on earlier, so let's just quote it:

The other main factor is that sometimes value is trumped by a team need or strategy. For instance, let's say you are going to face a team that is stacked in assists for the first week of the playoffs. While it might be nice to add a player like Ramon Sessions, a guy like Klay Thompson should help you more. If you don't think Sessions will put you over the top in dimes, then he isn't as attractive as an add. If you lose assists by three or 100, it's still a loss.

Man, how the values of Sessions and Klay have changed since I wrote that. Back to the subject matter, the same can be said for your streamers. If you know that you're going to be in a dogfight for rebounds, then you should be gearing your adds to the guys that will help you win that category. Just because another player has more "value" and more minutes, doesn't mean he's the guy you should be adding.

Don't get cute

A lot of weekly owners will be in a few jams this week with so many teams playing five games in the coming weeks. If there's a guy that's coming in red hot and has a five game week, it's still a huge gamble to start him over a stud that only has three games. We've all seen guys flourish for a week then fall flat on their faces (see Turner, Evan).
That said, if there's a huge reward for rolling the dice on a guy over a player that isn't someone you're particularly fond of, then you can certainly consider it. Owners that are going up against juggernauts might have to gamble a little more. Risk vs. reward.

It's better safe than sorry

Every day we see players get hurt and we see the dreaded game-time decision. It would have been interesting to chart the increase in game-time decisions that resulted in DNPs or the late scratches, but it does seem like there are more this season perhaps due to the condensed schedule. Owners have to be aware there's a decent chance that one or more of your players will either miss the upcoming game on a Monday or Tuesday; he could also miss a second game of a back-to-back. Here's that risk-reward thing again.

Pick your battles

In other words, if you can dominate in a 5-3, don't go for try for the 8-0. This was eluded to earlier, so let's just clarify. A 5-3 in the playoffs serves the same purpose as an 8-0. If you in your heart of hearts feel you can win five categories, that should be your plan of action. Of course you'd have to make pretty darn sure you can win those five since you're leaving yourself a small margin of error. Just remember, don't get cute. You shouldn't be benching Steve Nash so you can get more rebounds and blocks with DeAndre Jordan.

If your opponent is savvy like you, try to mislead him (or her)

This one is for weekly leagues. If your opponent is thinking you're going rebounding-heavy this week, then chances are he (or she) will make a corresponding move. If you are able to make your opponent plan for something that won't happen, then it could help you out. Let's set up an example:
Let's say you set your lineup so that it looks like there's no chance your opponent has no chance at rebounding (like say you bench Nash for DeAndre Jordan or something). There's a chance that your opponent might as well punt the category. Once this is set up, you can change your lineup back to having Nash in there at the very last minute (so he can't react to your new move). Now you have a better shot to win rebounding and other categories since your opponent let his/her guard down.

Beware of the Arena Pop

Coach Pop will be the death of us die-hard fantasy owners one day. Steve Alexander at Rotoworld did an outstanding job covering this subject in his Waiver Wired, so I'm not going to try and reinvent the wheel here. Check it out here and make sure you read the entire article, too.

Know when your lineup will be short on players (daily)

In case you missed my article about streaming from a few weeks ago, check it out here. It’s really important to know when your lineup will need to stream guys. If you know you’re going to be short on Thursday (and you certainly will be), then try to grab a guy that will play on Thursday when you’re going to make some adds on Tuesday (assuming you’re full on Wednesday). This is also important for owners with acquisitions limits. Let’s say you have five moves for the week, you should take the time to figure out which days you might want to add a guy to use all of your moves. If you can think about the five very best players you can add throughout the week it will help you out. In other words, if you know you're going to be short on a Saturday (with say seven games), it might be better to add-drop two guys since there will be a better selection than a Thursday (where there might be four games).

Know where you are on the waiver wire

If your league will have a lot of people streaming, then chances are there will be some quality players being let loose throughout the week, especially from you. ESPN allows you to pick up the player you just dropped off waivers and use your first waiver priority (Yahoo! does not). That means if you have a player you really don’t want to drop and you’re there with the top waiver, you can cut him, make some add-drops, then use your waiver to pick him back up without having to worry about your opponents from snatching him up. Similarly, if you know you have to drop someone at some point, it might behoove you to wait a day so there’s a chance another guy uses his waiver priority.

Not where the hell is he... when the hell is he?

Sorry, had to quote Back to the Future there. Sometimes it can pay to wait a day to drop a guy. If a player that you are ambivalent on cutting on a Tuesday (and we’ll say he comes off waivers on a Friday), then he has a game on Friday, your opponents will almost certainly use their waivers to pick him up. If you could wait it out until Wednesday (and not miss out on adding an important stream guy), then you can pick him back up off waivers on Saturday (assuming he doesn’t have a game that day) with much less competition. Then you can pull a "Gallagher until he plays again…..

Use the "Gallagher" (daily)

I wrote an article on this a while ago. Check it out here (it is the second half of the column after the jump).

Go for broke if you have to (daily)

If you’re sitting there on a Sunday and you know you’re in close to dire straits, then you might have to cut someone you don’t want. While it might suck balls to go into the next round without an asset, you might have to cut him to help ensure you can make it that far. If you think cutting someone that’s not a complete stud for an extra game, then you might have to do it. At worst you’ll make one of the competitors use his/her waiver priority.

Well that's it for now, so thanks for reading!