When you’ve been playing fantasy basketball for a while, you start to form ideas about what makes a good player, or a great player, and what you look for in a draft, or an auction. And then when you start to get involved in daily fantasy basketball, the way you see fantasy performance starts to change. There’s the obvious stuff, sure, like the fact that only counting stats matter, but in truth, it goes much deeper than that.
Conventional wisdom will tell you, in either format, that having a big man as the stud in your lineup is going to give you more consistency that relying on a guard, or any kind of wing player. But, even if that was your mindset going in, right now, in your yearly leagues, Russell Westbrook is the MVP (assuming, of course, that the Thunder make the playoffs).
Over the course of a season, or a month, or a week, or whatever, Westbrook does enough amazing things in enough categories that he is definitely helping you win. And on most nights, the same is true. But here is the difference: when Westbrook goes for 14-6-5 with no steals and no blocks, in your yearly league, it doesn’t matter. The averages still get you wins. When that happens and he is in your daily lineup, you lose. Period. You spent altogether too much to have that happen and still compete.
And you say, sure, but that was one game! If you put him in your lineup every night, you’re in good shape right now! And that’s true, but remember, Westbrook is the MVP. He is having a MONSTER season. James Harden, another MVP candidate, has two games with fewer than 35 fantasy points in his last ten, despite the $10,500 price tag. These are the best two fantasy options in the league at either guard position right now. And three times this month, having one of them in your lineup would have cost you the game.
One logical way to think about this issue is to think about it simply in terms of price. That is, when you spend that much on a single player, you are knowingly taking on that risk – the rest of your lineup likely isn’t strong enough to carry you if that guy falls through. You would only do that for the upside, and you only reach for that kind of upside when you have to – like in a big GPP tournament. In a 50/50 or some kind of smaller tournament, you might stick more to moderately priced players, not because you think those guys are better than the Westbrooks and Hardens of the world, but because everyone else on your roster would end up being better.
That’s the easy, first level way to analyze the problem. To take it a step further means trying to determine on which players it would actually be most effective to spend that percentage of your salary. Point guards or shooing guards? (Point guards). Small Forward or Power Forward? (Power Forward, and LeBron). Spend big on a Center, or save?
Here is can seem a little tricky. If you take the fantasy points scored every night for each of the top players in the league and chart it out over the course of the season, you can start to measure the levels of variance in their games. You can see how consistent is the scoring that makes up their averages? 40-40 averages the same as 30-50, but it certainly doesn’t mean the same to your daily fantasy team. What you want are the most consistent of the group of highest average scorers.
And when you do that analysis, you find that Durant and LeBron are both in the top ten, obviously (bigs or smalls? You tell me). And then you’ve got those smalls: Harden, Curry, Westbrook and Paul, alongside Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Pau Gasol, and Vucevic. Four on four – nothing really decided here. But then you take a look at #s 11-20: Aldridge, Griffin, Jordan, Marc Gasol, Randolph, Chandler and Duncan. Yes, Lillard, and Wall both also crack the top-20 (the other is Jimmy Butler), but you are starting to see a trend here, and it is a trend towards size.
And while guards are exciting, they might have that 80-fantasy-point night in them, and they are fun to watch, the value of the big man is obvious when you think about it. Dunks and put-backs are higher percentage than threes, rebounding can be more a product of scheme and placement than anything else in some circumstances, and is certainly more reliable than getting assists, (where a lot of things need to come together) and blocks are much more predictable than steals.
When a big is putting all of that together in his game, he not only becomes the safer bet in a GPP where you are searching for upside, he starts to gain steam for consideration in your smaller leagues as well. Why do you go for the cheaper, mid-range options, anyway? Answer: consistency. If you’re getting that consistency from one guy, why make yourself have to be right twice? Just pick the sure thing, and reach for glory with a cheaper option and hope he hits. Because you already have the base you need on which to build a tourney win.