Fantasy Basketball Rankings: Format Differentiation
Just like any game you play in your life, the way you play the game of fantasy basketball depends on the rules. If, for instance, you are playing recreational league basketball equipped with referees, then you will be less inclined to blatantly foul an opponent. However, if you are on the blacktop playing street ball, it is a whole different story. For example, the man you are guarding does a little shake and bake dribble move and goes straight past you. With street ball rules, you can grab the guy and throw him to the ground. Why wouldn’t you? You can’t foul out in street ball. Your sixth foul and your 60th foul have the same consequence: nothing. Take your chances with him taking the ball back up top and giving you a second chance.
Fantasy basketball works in a similar fashion. The rules of the league should determine how you play the game. In my previous article, I ranked players according to rotisserie format. Many people decide to use another popular format: head-to-head scoring. There are plenty of advantages you can get from certain players in head-to-head that you can’t in rotisserie. The way H2H works is that you play a person in 8-10 categories per week. If you score better than your opponent in a given category, then you earn a victory in the category that week. At the end of the week, there will be a final score. Ex: I had more points and rebounds than your team, but your team beat me in all six other categories. At the end of the week, my record is 2-6 and yours is 6-2. Since every category is weighted equally, it can only count as one loss per week. In rotisserie, you want your team to be more well-rounded because you add up all your points in each category to get your score. In H2H, it is more beneficial to just be dominant at most categories. Obviously, this effects fantasy basketball rankings from format to format. I will explain in this article how H2H boosts the value of certain players. These are the players I wanted to touch on:
Dwight Howard - It always seems to me that the new guy of rotisserie fantasy basketball leagues is the one who drafts Dwight Howard. Inexperienced players will look at Dwight’s dominance in field goal percentage, rebounding, and blocks and see a must-own player. At the end of the year, this team will have the least amount of points in free throw percentage and will have a hard time being a top two team. Why? Dwight Howard has taken the most free throw attempts in basketball in four of the last six years. In those seasons, the highest percentage he has finished with is 59.4% You just can’t finish last in a category in rotisserie and still compete. It is literally almost impossible. Plenty of teams will have their lowest score in any category across the board be about a 5. This means you must be near the top of every other category to win the league. Therefore, Dwight Howard is an impediment to your fantasy success in those leagues. However, owning Dwight Howard in H2H formats is a completely different story. As I stated above, dominance is the name of the game in H2H. Assuming you are completely untouchable in six of ten categories in your league, then the worst you will win is 6-4 every week. Dwight gives you a hell of an advantage in three categories (four if rebounding is split into defensive rebounds and offensive rebounds) and is a solid producer in points and steals. Here are some numbers to back up his dominance:
Since Howard’s second NBA season, the lowest he has finished in the NBA in rebounding is second. He averages 12.9 REB/GM for his career.
In the last six years, Howard has led the NBA in total blocks twice. He has never finished lower than sixth. He averages 2.2 BLK/GM for his career.
In the last four years, Dwight has been first, second, second, and second in the league in field goal percentage. In 2009, when he lead the league, his field goal percentage for the year was 61.2%. His career FG% is 57.7%
Beyond the fact that he will single-handedly help you compete in these categories, he is serviceable in points and steals. As mentioned in my previous article, Dwight Howard was one of five players in the NBA to average 1.5 BLK and 1 STL per game last season. Not many centers consistently average a steal per game, but Dwight averages exactly 1 STL per game for his career. Points have been his strong point for many years, but admittedly were a little disappointing this year with the Los Angeles Lakers. Regardless of where Dwight goes next year, Mike D’Antoni will not be included. Therefore, his points should go back up to about 20 per game or more. All in all, because of his dominance, Dwight Howard is a top 15 player in head-to-head format fantasy basketball rankings. He is borderline fantasy kryptonite in rotisserie leagues. Use him to your advantage in H2H, but avoid him at all costs otherwise.
Rajon Rondo - Rondo falls into nearly the same boat as Dwight Howard. Rajon Rondo dominates many categories across the board and is solid in the ones he doesn’t dominate. Like Dwight Howard, his downfall is his free throw shooting. The difference is that Rondo plays the point guard position. Most NBA point guards shoot free throws at a very high clip. Steve Nash, for instance, is the NBA’s all time leader in FT%. Annually he will shoot around or above 90%. Career free throw percentage for Rondo: 62.1% He does not average anywhere near the amount of attempts that Dwight does which makes analyzing him a little more interesting. The most attempts per game Rondo has had in a season is 3.5; nowhere near the 10+ that Dwight averages. These numbers can easily be cancelled out in a rotisserie format by drafting an elite free throw shooter (high volume and great percentage) like Kevin Durant. For this reason, I still had him ranked in to top ten of point guards in my fantasy basketball rankings. In head-to-head he is even more valuable. It is not even worth wasting money or a pick on other players to compensate for free throw percentage in that format. However, unlike Dwight Howard, Rondo has a second weakness. Most point guards in the NBA hit a healthy amount of threes. In accordance with Rondo’s free throw shooting, his long range shooting is atrocious also. Every time he hits a three pointer, the Boston crowd gives him a sarcastic cheer. The only reason people see this as a weakness is again because of the position he plays: point guard. While the two category weakness can be unappealing, the fact that he could lead the league in two categories should help. Anyone who leads the league in a category is absolutely worth targeting in head-to-head. If Rondo leads the NBA in assists, you only need useful point guards around him instead of studs. If he leads the league in steals, then will have no need to own someone like Tony Allen who only steals. He also is the best bet in the NBA besides LeBron James for a triple double on any given night due to his stellar rebounding skills for a guard. All in all, I will always target Rondo in head-to-head leagues because of his value in hard to find categories. You just need to be prepared to specialize your draft around him.
Brandon Jennings - One of the most fun to players to watch in the NBA, Brandon Jennings is the last player I will discuss with differentiating value throughout formats. In fantasy basketball rankings, most people tend to be very high on Brandon Jennings and I am no different. Last year Jennings averaged 17.5 PPG, 2.2 3PM, 3.1 REB, 6.5 AST, and 1.6 STL. Pretty gaudy all around numbers for a guy playing in a slow paced offense. In fact, he is a free agent this year so he should only go to a faster paced destination. So why is he mentioned in this article? It is not because of his FT%: he is a career 81.3% shooter. Unlike the other two free throw rejects, Jennings does his brick laying from the field. In the last two seasons here have been his numbers from the field:
2011: 17.0 FGA at 41.8 FG%
2012: 15.6 FGA at 39.9%
Those are an incredible amount of shots to be putting up at such a low percentage. Field goal percentage is a much easier fix than free throw percentage though. There are plenty of centers who make 55% and above in field goal percentage. While I would say Jennings’ FG% is discouraging, he can easily be an asset if you specialize around him. Take guys like Carlos Boozer and Nene and you will be still be competitive (in rotisserie). In H2H formats, just punt FG%. Take a center like DeMarcus Cousins who is an extremely ineffective shooter for a big man. If you strategically fill around Jennings, he will be a big help in your quest for a fantasy championship.
Fantasy basketball is like a puzzle, and these three guys (Howard, Rondo, Jennings) should just be the centerpiece. Once you know what you are working with, tailor your team around them. They are all assets and I recommend targeting all three in the correct format (H2H).
Let me know what you think of my arguments for format differentiation by commenting on this article or hitting me up on Twitter.
Author: Ricky Sanders, @RSanders85