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Thoughts, news and notes from the sports staff of The Saratogian newspaper, located in historic Saratoga Springs, New York. The gang in the corner office on Lake Avenue give you the post-game wrap-ups, news and notes from the games we cover and opinions about the sports we read about every day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stathead Matt's greatest Fantasy Basketball setup plus Week 7 Picks

If you came here just looking for my Week 7 picks, they can be found at the bottom of the post.

There are some fans out there who are still on the fence about playing fantasy basketball, and that is understandable. It lacks the popularity of fantasy football and they intricate statistics of fantasy baseball. Many do not find the appeal. Allow me to present the appeal to you: realism. Thanks to the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, we can build a fantasy sports league that can more closely resemble the strategy of a real general manager than we can for any other sport. Just use the CBA as a guide and incorporate the fantasy tools at your disposal to create the league. Here is how it plays out.

Basic Settings: The league has 10 teams, consisting of 12 players. 9 can start in one day while 3 players will sit on the bench. There are 2 slots for injured players. Therefore only the top 120-140 players in the NBA will be used, or about the top 1/3 of the league. This allows for decent players to still be available on the wire, while getting us pretty close to a real NBA roster (15 players, about 10 of which play in a game.)

Scoring: One word: categories. In this league there are 10 scoring categories: PTS, STL, REB, FG%, 3P%, BLK, AST, FT% and TO. Winning a category requires having the highest number in each category with the exception of TO where you want the lesser number. Since there are 10 categories there is the obvious risk of a tie. You want to make sure your team is set up so that it can compete in each of these categories, or can absolutely dominate in more than half of them...otherwise you will lose a lot. In non-category fantasy basketball, one could theoretically fill their team with shoot-first scorers. That would be fine for the fantasy team, but would never work in real life. However...

Ties: In the case of a tie, the tiebreaker will be the PTS category. Basically, basketball breaks down to who scores the most points, and ties are for Europeans and fancy dinner parties.

Draft: This is where it gets good and the strategy comes in. There is a salary cap of $200 or about $16.67 per player. Each team will take turns nominating a player to be bid on. One of the reasons I made the rosters 12 players instead of 15 is to cut down on draft time, but 120 players will be bid upon. This will be slow at first with the superstar players, Durant, Kobe, Miami, and go pretty quickly in the end when most teams have run out of money. There are many draft strategies. One is spend on the big time players and try to grab a bunch of nobodies at the end, (The Heat Method), and the other is that of cap management and saving until the end to grab whoever you want, (The Spurs Method). Either way, you only have as much to spend as you have cap space, which leads me to...

Cap Space: There is an initial soft cap set at $200 for each team. For every dollar you go over the cap, up to $30, you will be penalized in cap space the following season. If you spend $210 in salary this season, the following season you will have a hard cap of $190 meaning you will not be allowed to go over that amount. This will go as high as $230 to $170. If you win the league though, you will not be penalized for going over the cap during your championship season and will have a $200 soft cap the following year like everyone else. If you win without going over the cap, you will be granted a $215 cap for the following season that is not penalized until the owner goes above the $215 limit. Therefore, this season my league's winner from last season, Justin, has $215 in cap space. He will hit the luxury tax only at the $216 mark. His soft cap limit still stands at $230 and does not jump up to $245 because he started at $215. Second place gets the same benefits only close to halved. Either a $208 non-taxable cap or no penalty on up to $15 they went over the cap the previous season.

Keeper Contracts: At the end of an unsigned player’s first season with your team, you are allowed to sign them to a contract of your choosing. You can keep as many as you want so long as you stay under the cap. The contract may be for as long as you want, but it will be $8, or half the value of the average player, more than you paid for them the year before, continuously. If you drafted a player for $10 and sign him at the end of the season to a 4-year deal, the next year he will be $18, then $26, then $34, and finally $42 in his final season of the contract. After their keeper contract ends, the player automatically becomes a free agent to be bid on in the next season’s auction draft. Even if a player is traded to a new team, their contract is still in play like in real salary cap shenanigans. The player will always opt for the free agent market after their contract ends (the auction draft). These contracts can cripple a team that has signed expensive players only to fall out of their cap bracket, because you have to pay your contracts. Someone who signed Gilbert Arenas to a multi-year deal has him on the books throughout the length of the deal, even if he isn’t playing. Even if you have less than 12 players signed and are at the cap limit, you cannot pick up any more. So what do you do when you are pressed by a bad contract...

Releasing players: You cannot drop a player under contract, but you can release them. A bad contract is your mess, and it will cost you to clean it up. You can release a player under contract for half the amount that is owed to the player that year and each year he was signed for. If the $10 player from before has bad knees and is logging 12 minutes a game in year 3, he can be bought out and released for $17 in year 3 and $21 in year 4. Sure it still hurts the team’s cap, but not as much as before. The released player goes back into the waiver pool and can be picked up and purchased by anyone. Wait, how would waiver even work in this system...

Waiver wire: Since your team is locked into a cap for the season after the draft, with only trades being able to change your cap space, waiver wire pickups become tricky. We don’t want a team’s salary moving from frequent waiver wire moves, so there is only one option. Whomever you pick up off the waiver wire takes on the exact salary as the player you dropped back into the waiver wire. So a non-keeper being dropped to the wire at $20 is replaced by a player from the wire at $20. This is both good and bad. If you find a sleeper in the wire and drop a cheap player to get him, then you got that sleeper for very little and can sign him for cheap after the season, but if you drop a more expensive player then the sleeper will cost you more as a keeper, or may not even be worth keeping at that price. Remember, you cannot drop a player under contract. The beauty of this league is that you can manage yourself into a corner like Isaiah Thomas or cruise your way through happy waters like a pre-Grizzlies Jerry West.

Trades: As mentioned, you can change your team salary during the season through trades and releases. These work with similar intentions as real NBA trades. Trade talent for cap relief. Salary dump for a big free agency class. Go for expiring contracts so you’ll have enough to keep your superstar long-term.

Vetos: There are no vetos. You have your reasons to trade. Just keep it under the cap. That is your guideline. This is a game of strategy more than anything else and everyone needs a plan. What looks crazy to some can still work into the plan. Has anyone ever vetoed David Kahn or Chris Wallace? Bad trades happen in the NBA, and if you get screwed over it is your own fault.

(What if I do GM myself into a hole? It would be no fun having a lousy team trying to get back into this thing.) Solution.

Rookie draft: Before the auction draft we will have a rookie draft. There is no lottery. The team that finished last picks first and so on. The rookies drafted are immediately signed for $1. After their first year you can choose to sign them to a rookie contract, a 3-year deal that starts at $8 the following season and progresses as normal or drop them back into free agency. The rookie will immediately go back into the free agent pool after the rookie contract expires. This way awful teams can rebuild through the draft.

I think I covered all the bases here. This is the setup for the most realistic GM experience I can come up with. I think this will be a huge leap from last season and will be more fun and engaging and will involve much more strategy.

Hopefully you made it all the way through the manifesto. Let me know if in the comments if you have any thoughts or questions on the league set up, such as why I chose to hold onto this nugget until so close to the opening of the regular season.

Week 7 Picks

(2-3) Cincinnati Bengals at
(4-2) Atlanta Falcons -3.5

(3-3) Washington Redskins at
(4-2) Chicago Bears -2.5

(4-2) Philadelphia Eagles at
(4-2) Tennessee Titans -3.5

(3-3) Jacksonville Jaguars at
(3-2) Kansas City Chiefs -5.5

(4-1) Pittsburgh Steelers at
(3-2) Miami Dolphins +3.5

(1-5) Cleveland Browns at
(4-2) New Orleans Saints -13.5

(3-3) St. Louis Rams at
(3-2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers -2.5

(1-5) San Francisco 49ers at
(0-5) Carolina Panthers +3.5

(0-5) Buffalo Bills at
(4-2) Baltimore Ravens -13.5

(3-2) Arizona Cardinals at
(3-2) Seattle Seahawks -5.5

(4-1) New England Patriots at
(2-4) San Diego Chargers -2.5

(2-4) Oakland Raiders at
(2-4) Denver Broncos -6.5

(2-3) Minnesota Vikings at
(3-3) Green Bay Packers -2.5

(4-2) New York Giants at
(1-4) Dallas Cowboys -3.5


Anonymous NBA Tickets said...

The rookie will immediately go back into the free agent pool after the rookie contract expires. This way awful teams can rebuild through the draft.

October 24, 2010 at 4:18 AM 

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