Welcome to an exciting season playing on the NBA Stock Exchange! This is a fantasy game unlike any other, so as you approach the season you have to do it with an entirely different mindset. This is one of the few games in which John Salmons could be a more valuable pick than Kobe Bryant. You ready to hear more?

Well, in standard head-to-head or rotisserie leagues, the only purpose is to acquire better statistics than the other people in your league. Sleepers and breakout players still have value, but only as a means of adding quality statistics on the cheap.

In the NBASE format, though, there are two major purposes instead of just one. You still need to acquire great stats, as these are still the way to win the game. However, in parallel, you also have to try to maximize your earnings. Just like in a real stock market, where stock prices increase for undervalued stocks as more people buy them, in the NBASE game the monetary value of a player increases as more owners buy them. As such, a sleeper or breakout player in NBASE not only helps contribute to the team’s standings, but also gains a quantified amount of monetary value as more people buy them. In this way a cheap productive player with upside like Salmons could be more valuable than a budget-killing star like Bryant. As the players in your portfolio gain in value, you gain the money to upgrade your holdings such that as the season progresses you can trade some of your breakout guys at peak value and invest in even more productive studs.

I played this game for a full season last year, and learned a lot of lessons about how to get over on the market. So, let’s reflect back on some of those lessons as we prepare to start a new season next week.

Team Building

I tried out many team building strategies over the course of last season, and ultimately I settled on “build money early/build points late” as my favorite. I still think that this is the best way to go, but I did learn some valuable lessons about how to implement it that should prove valuable this season.
  1. Build for the short-term, not the long-term
    When I look back to my earliest articles from last season, I note that I was already keeping my eye on Elton Brand and his possible return from Achilles injury as a potential long-term investment at the start of the season. That was fine, because Brand began at $1 and his value rose several dollars in the first couple of weeks, but I should not have held onto him once his price leveled off. The NBASE game should be played on a day-to-day or even a week-to-week timescale, not month-to-month. For this season, that means no Monta Ellis or Gilbert Arenas picks to stash away until they return in a couple of months.
  2. Stay away from the really high-priced players
    When your starting budget is $300, you really can’t afford to invest anywhere near $100 into one player. Last year I made the mistake early on of trying to build from the top-down, keeping super high-priced players such as LeBron James on my roster as givens then splitting my remaining money on prospects. The thing is, there were always lower-priced players that produced on the order of James at less than half of the price tag. Also, the lower priced players tended to have much more room to gain profit than the highest-priced players. So for this year, avoid all of the $90 dollar players no matter how good their names look, and instead invest in the $30 to $50 studs (see Value picks below for some good options).
  3. Do not fall way behind in games
    In order to carry my super-high priced players last season, I only started between three and five players on most nights in the first couple of months of the year. Perhaps this could have worked better in the long-run if I was consistently building my financial bottom-line, but because I was holding onto really high-priced guys whose values did not move much my profits stagnated for about a month in the middle of the season. This left me more than 100 games behind schedule by January, without a big budget to show for it. That is a killer combination, as it takes a lot more money to play catch-up in games played than it would to just start a balanced line-up from the start. To catch up, you have to constantly buy/sell every day (racking up the transaction fees) and also you lose the opportunity to buy/sell based on value. You have to start players that you know will lose money because you can’t afford to lose the production, which in the end takes a heavy toll on your bottom-line.
  4. Try to carry a full roster plus a bench of quality players
    Once your budget increases to the point that you can afford it, carrying a full roster allows you to field a strong line-up on a daily basis without being so vulnerable to the buy/sell rollercoaster or having players get locked because you bought and started them the same day. Many of the owners that ended up with a really high budget last season employed this strategy to get there.

Prospecting

Prospecting last year was all about identifying the hot players, buying low and selling high. Riding the value roller coaster consistently was the key to ending the season with a high enough budget to compete.
  1. Ideal: Buy players at least a day before needed
    Buying early gives the owner the flexibility to avoid players getting locked, which helps maximize production without sacrificing the budget.
  2. Second resort: Be up at the exact minute that the market opens to do buy/sell transactions before prices change
    If an owner has to start a player on the night before they intend to sell them, it is key to be up and ready to get that player off the roster the next morning as soon as the market opens. The volatile players can see their prices increase or drop several dollars in the first few minutes of the open market, so sleeping in is a good way to lose all of your profit margin.
  3. Identify the mega-movers and keep careful track of their schedules
    Over the course of last season, there were always some players whose price increased or decreased much more than any others. These were generally mid-priced guys who were playing consistently at a very high level, such as Tim Duncan, Deron Williams, Stephen Jackson, or Hedo Turkoglu. These were players that you needed to have on your roster to be successful, but at the same time you had to know to sell them before lulls in the schedule because their prices could rise or fall by $8 in any given day.

Beating the Market

The key to beating the market was to take advantage of the schedule. Outside of injury, no other factor was more important to a player’s day-to-day price than his upcoming schedule.
  1. Back-to-backs are key
    Players that had back-to-back games generally saw the largest price increases on any given day. The trick is to buy these players at least a day before the first game of their back-to-back, then sell them before the second game. That way you get to take advantage of the full price spike on the first day without getting caught in the sell-off that usually occurrs afterwards.
  2. Know when lulls in the schedule approach, and sell player before it gets there
    Over the course of a season, all players and teams at some point have lulls in the schedule where they only play two games in a week or one game in a five-day period. During these lulls their prices will generally fall through the floor, and if their owners have not sold them beforehand they will either have to sell at a loss or tie up their roster for several days with a player who is not producing. This is a lose-lose situation, so the astute owner should sell this type of player before the lulls ever arrived.
  3. Take advantage of the sparse days
    Every week there is at least one day (Thursday) with fewer than four games, and often there will be more than one such day in the week. On days when few quality producers are available, producers and value players tend to see large price increases. To take advantage the owner has to buy at least a day before the sparse day, and to maximize profit the player should generally have been sold right before their game that night.

Value stocks

Throughout the season, there will always be under-priced players that produce well beyond their value. The trick is to identify which are price values (i.e. low cost, that are about to rise) and which are production values (i.e. cheap production whose price might not move much). As the season progresses, many of the value stocks will be determined by injury: either a star returning from injury, or an unknown back-up stepping in for an injured starter. But to open the year, you have to use your own judgment to come up with a list of value stocks. Here are some of mine:

Allen Iverson ($49.64)

Tim Duncan ($49.63)

Carlos Boozer ($44.86)

Jose Calderon ($44.78)

Vince Carter ($38.73)

Al Jefferson ($37.97)

Joe Johnson ($33.82)

Stephen Jackson ($31.72)

Hedo Turkoglu ($29.66)

T.J. Ford ($25.94)

Over the course of last season, I dedicated a weekly part of my column to reasonably priced players that had performed as well as the top-10 highest priced players over the previous week. Most of the players on this value stock list were almost weekly members of that group, that consistently produced with the big boys for half of the cost. You could do much worse than to start your squad with several members of this list.

Bottom line

I hope that you guys have as much fun exploring the NBA Stock Exchange as I did last season, and I look forward to going through it all over again with you this year. The stock market in real life may be falling apart, but the NBA Stock Exchange is experiencing a boom and should give all of us golden parachutes if we play it right over the next few months. Good luck.


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