Fantasy Basketball: What Stats to Care About

People have often wondered what stats should they care most about in fantasy basketball. Since you are trying to win each statistic, the general rule of thumb has often been to try to load up on all stats – attempt to have a well rounded team – compliment some rebound/block heavy centers with some assist/3 point/steal heavy point guards.

Recently a popular subversive method is called the throw away method. This is where you purposely disregard one statistic in order to concentrate on others. This year forgoing FT% is very popular because of the rise of Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, and Gerald Wallace (All players with sub 70% FT shooting). I have long advocated for the even more extreme double throw away where you find two statistics that typically go together (FT% and 3PM, or REB and BLK) and disregard them both. This is really meant only as a method in head to head fantasy games – in rotisserie leagues it is hard (though not impossible – I once did it with 3PM and TOs) to be the worst at two categories and still win the league. In a head to head matchup if you are able to go 7-2 or 6-3 each game then you will still have won your league.

The question still remains what statistics should you care about first.

The answer lies in the distribution of each statistic. You want players who will help you get ahead of the other teams not just keep pace with them so you should strive for the players who are leaps and bounds above the average player in each stat, right? Well if the statistic is normally distributed, there will all kinds of players who still have decent numbers – there won’t be a gap of players between great and eh. The statistics that are more bimodally distributed are the important statistic. A bimodal distribution means that there are a few players who have great stats and then if you don’t get them you are screwed. More importantly if you get everyone that’s good at that statistic, no other team will be able to get players who will also score them that stat. This both guarantees you a win in that category and may offer interesting trade bait down the line.

The three statistics that are most normally distributed (aka worst to focus on) are PPG, TOPG, and RPG.

Fantasy Basketball: What Stats to Care About

Fantasy Basketball: What Stats to Care About

Fantasy Basketball: What Stats to Care About

These are histograms of the frequency of the PPG and TOPG of all fantasy viable players last season. What this means is that even if you get Carmelo, Granger, and Monta Ellis in the first three rounds -which will get you 75 pts. The guy who picks up Aaron Brooks (5th Round), Corey Maggette (9th Round), and Stephen Jackson (5th Round) in the later rounds still will come close to you with 60 pts. That’s 80% as good.

If we look at the distributions for APG and BPG, we see a different story:

Fantasy Basketball: What Stats to Care About

Fantasy Basketball: What Stats to Care About

Here there are a couple players ahead of the rest by bunches. Getting CP3, JKidd or Nash, and Rondo in the first three rounds will get you 30 APG while settling for Devin Harris (6th Round), Brandon Jennings (6th Round), and Ray Felton (6th Round) in later rounds will only get you to 18 APG which is only 60% of the assists.

So if you focus on getting the players with the best assists and blocks and not points or rebounds (Never focus on turnovers – I will discuss that in another article), then you will win.

Here are the top ten players just based on those two statistics:

1. Dwight Howard

2. LeBron James

3. Josh Smith

4. Andrew Bogut

5. Chris Paul

6. Steve Nash

7. Deron Williams

8. Jason Kidd

9. Dwayne Wade

10. Marcus Camby

The players you can get for cheap though (Ranking out of viable fantasy options [13*12=156 which is close to 145 which is the number of players I picked as "viable fantasy options." And because I don't like Tony Parker.]):

11. Baron Davis (5th Round)

17. Brendan Haywood (10th Round) (Circumstances are dfferent)

19. Roy Hibbert (9th Round)

21. Samuel Dalembert (8th Round) (Circumstances are different)

22. Devin Harris (6th Round)

26. Tyrus Thomas (9th Round)

Most overrated based on caring specifically on Asts and Blks (Rankings from same list of 145):

137. Antwan Jamison (5th Round)

129. Rashard Lewis (7th Round)

124. Caron Butler (7th Round)

115. Zach Randolph (4th Round)

114. Kevin Love (4th Round)

Keep it in mind when you think your choice of David Lee over Dwayne Wade is such a clever move or Chris Bosh in the third is the steal of the century when Andre Iguodala is still on the board.

Nisse Greenberg is a storyteller, sketch comedian and blogger who majored in Mathematics and minored in Statistics at Macalester. Both of these studies were fascinating to Nisse, but were quite unfa more


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