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How to Attack your Draft – Dig In Deep

By Jon Loomer, NBA.com/Fantasy

Three-Part Series: Drafting Basics | Attack Your Draft! | Dig in Deep

And now we’re going to have a little bit of fun. Ok, if you’re not a big stats dork, this may be a little much. But I love stats. Stats are our friends. Understanding numbers is the key to fantasy success. Look past the surface and dig deep.

Heading into an important draft with top notch competition, I go the extra mile to prepare, and you should, too. I spreadsheet like crazy. Once I rate all draftable players, I split them out by position, creating a separate tab for PG, SG, SF, PF and C. Since many players are eligible at multiple positions, there will be overlap. A player who has shooting guard and point guard eligibility will be found in both tabs.

What I do next can get a little complicated, so hang with me. The first thing I do is separate the top fifty players overall from the rest of the pack at the position. What I’m doing here is highlighting the group of players I want to focus my picks on. I want to have at least one top 50 player at each core position (PG, SG, SF, PF, C) if possible. The more, the better. Based on my analysis, there are the following numbers of players eligible at each position who are also in the top 50 overall:

PG – 11
SG – 18
SF – 14
PF – 14
C – 7

The immediate observation is that there are far fewer top centers and point guards than any other position – particularly shooting guard. There are loads and loads of shooting guards.

Let’s adjust this analysis a bit to account for overlap. Some of the PG’s are also SG, so they should count as half a PG and half a SG. Below are the adjusted numbers:

PG – 8.5
SG – 13.5
SF – 10.0
PF – 10.5
C – 6.0

This will give you a much more accurate picture of player availability. Once a player who is PG/SG eligible goes off the board, you lose both a PG and a SG from the draft pool.

Second, I determine how many players in a standard 10-team league I’d be comfortable with starting at each position. These players don’t need to be stars, but they need to have enough production and/or upside to warrant starting in a league this size. I drew a line in the sand after the last person I’d want to start at each position. Following are my results:

PG – 24
SG – 31
SF – 24
PF – 23
C – 19

Centers continue to be scarce, but it’s clear that there are more starter-worthy centers later in the draft as everything begins to even out after the top 50. Shooting guards, again, are quite plentiful.

Once again, we’ll need to account for overlap. Following are the adjusted numbers, understanding that some of the players qualifying at a particular position also qualify at least one other:

PG – 18.5
SG – 22.5
SF – 17.0
PF – 17.0
C – 17.5

Interesting, right? Suddenly, we have about the same availability of starter-quality players at PG, SF, PF and C. The center position is not nearly as scarce when you dip beyond the top 50.

If you don't land Ben Gordon at shooting guard, it's going to be OK.
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

This is all fine and good, but it doesn’t mean anything in a vacuum. If you start two centers, you should be concerned about that position’s scarcity. If you don’t, you can find a decent one late if you don’t get a stud. The same can be said for any position. Shooting guard is a deep position, but it wouldn’t be so deep if you were forced to start two.

Next, let’s apply this study to the roster settings of my league – the default Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner settings. A roster in this league is made up of PG, SG, G, SF, PF, F, FC, C, UTL and five bench spots. Based on this setup, let’s consider how many players we should be drafting at each core position. We will need 1.7 starters each who qualify at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, and center. How did I get that? Let’s consider point guard as an example. Obviously, we need one point guard who qualifies at the PG position. The G position could be either a point guard or a shooting guard, so that is half a point guard, making 1.5. The only other position that a point guard can start at is UTL, which is good for any of the five positions, providing another 0.2 (1.7 total).

Therefore, the positions of point guard, shooting guard, small forward and center are all equally as important to your roster. What about power forward? This position is actually slightly more important than the rest considering a power forward can start at F (0.5), PF (1.0), FC (0.5) and UTL (0.2), equaling a total of 2.2 starters needed who play power forward.

Let’s apply this information to our pool of draftable players. Since there are 10 teams in this league, there will be 90 total players drafted to start (nine starting positions). Based on the numbers determined above, this is approximately how it will break down:

Point Guards – 17
Shooting Guards – 17
Small Forwards – 17
Power Forwards – 22
Centers – 17

According to the data above, your league needs to draft 17 point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and centers to be starters, while drafting 22 power forwards. Let’s compare these numbers to the Top 50 and Starter-Worthy numbers to determine how easy or difficult it will be to 1) draft one or more top 50 players per position, and 2) draft enough starter-worthy players to start at each position.

Position Needed Top 50 Starter Worthy
PG 17 8.5 18.5
SG 17 13.5 22.5
SF 17 10.0 17.0
PF 22 10.5 17.0
C 17 6.0 17.5

Are you following? Let me tell you what this means. It means that the most difficult positions to draft a top 50 player at are point guard and center. There are more than double the number of top shooting guards than centers. This also tells me that you will have no problem filling your starting lineup in a 10-team league with starter-worthy players at all positions except for power forward. This is the problem spot. There are only 17 power forwards to go around for 22 spots. There are going to be some unhappy people.

Ok, now let’s make some truth of this.

1. The shooting guard position for fantasy basketball is the equivalent of tight end for fantasy football. If you don’t draft one in the first round, there will be plenty of value in the second, third, fourth, fifth…. You will get your shooting guards. Don’t worry about it.
2. If you can get your hands on one or two top 50 point guards or centers, you are doing yourself a favor. They are rare, to say the least. Because of that, they are valuable. Why? Because if you have one top 50 center, there are only five others starting at that position in your league. That is an advantage. Everyone will have a top shooting guard. Most if not all teams will have a top small forward and power forward.
3. Draft your power forwards before it’s too late. In a 10-team league, you should be able to fill your starting slots for every other position. If given the choice between picking a power forward or any other position, and they otherwise hold equal value, go with the power forward.

I strongly recommend that you put together a similar spreadsheet. Even if it isn’t as detailed, separate players into groups: star, starter, bench, and not draftable. As players go off the board, cross them off. This practice is the easiest way to track how quickly the quality in each position is dwindling. You’ll thank yourself for doing it.

After the Draft

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, your draft won’t necessarily win your league. The biggest key is to draft quality, dependable players early, and take your risks late. It is incredibly rare for a team to win entirely from the draft, while failing to make significant moves during the season. Your draft simply sets a baseline of talent for your team. Fill positions and categories as necessary with trades and free agent moves. Pay close attention to players who emerge and handle the free agent list with care. You never know when the next Al Jefferson will appear.

I also want to comment quickly on rotisserie leagues. People in these leagues are far too focused on their success or lack thereof in each category when making trades. This should not be your focus. If it is midseason and you are last in Points, it doesn’t mean you should acquire Kobe Bryant. After half a season, it’s possible the damage was already done. You need to pay close attention to just how much each trade will help or hurt you. How many points will you gain by making the deal?

To help you target the most important categories during the season, we’ve provided Jump Analysis as a tool for Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner users. We do the dirty work for you, valuing each category based on the number of points you could gain or lose if you acquired or traded away a top 10 player in each category.

Wrapping it Up!

You can do this. I don’t have any more information available to me than you do. If you are serious about winning your fantasy league, all you need to do is a little work to make it happen. If you’re overwhelmed and need some help, we’re here for you. Stop by NBA.com/Fantasy and check out our articles, expert chats and message forums. With our help, you will dominate your league!

Three-Part Series: Drafting Basics | Attack Your Draft! | Dig in Deep

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