Tinker Time


Whether you’re 2-0, 1-1 or 0-2 so far in your head to head league, or you’re in first or last place in your roto league, it’s time to start assessing your squad’s strengths and weaknesses. I’ve already told you not to panic, (http://downtownball.net/2013/11/stop-dont-panic/) but it’s never too early to start tinkering with your line-up.

This is especially true right now for those of you playing in re-draft leagues.  Tinkering means planning potential trades, scouring the waiver wire and seeing where you stack up in each category relative to your opponents.

Remember when Homer Simpson needed to undergo triple bypass surgery?

The lesson here? Make sure any tinkering is carefully planned first.

In forming your plan, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Rotations and Chemistry

[Dr. Nick Riviera’s commercial]

Dr. Nick: You’ve tried the best. Now try the rest.

With only between 6 and 8 games played so far for most teams, it is quite likely head coaches are still trying different combinations i.e. figuring out their best line-ups. For example, Kawhi Leonard came off the bench vs. the Knicks on the weekend. Does that mean he’s lost value? No siree! He started the very next game. Pop is just tinkering with his line-up like you’re about to do to yours. How is Marcin Gortat fitting in with the Wizards after being traded late in training camp? With JaVale McGee out indefinitely, what will that mean for JJ Hickson’s production and will his uptick in rebounds mean I don’t need to make a trade to address that category? These are the sorts of questions you should be asking yourself.

Reversion to the Mean

Homer: Ok, we need $40,000. How much do we have in the chequebook?

Marge: $70.

Homer: Have we deposited any $40,000 cheques that haven’t cleared yet?

Marge: No.

As my last column told you, most players should either cool off or heat up if their production has not been as expected so far. No one can cash cheques they can’t write. Take this into account when planning. Nothing lasts forever. Don’t expect Miles Plumlee to keep grabbing double digit boards and to keep blocking everything in sight. Believe that Derrick Rose is still capable of dishing out more than 7 assists in a game as you’d expected when drafting him (especially with his current hamstring issue not costing him any time).

Factor in Projections

This one is definitely best consumed in video form:

Hopefully you know better than Dr. Nick what things should look like. Similar to reversion to the mean, if your pre-season projections told you that Serge Ibaka would average 3 blocks per game, then plan as if he will despite the slow start. Will George Hill start averaging 4-5 assists and a steal per game as you expected him to? Chances are he will. Projections should only be adjusted where injury or rotation changes have resulted in a different role (e.g. Russell Westbrook returning sooner than expected, impacting his owners and those of Reggie Jackson).

Do your Analysis

Marge: Can’t you do something for him?

Dr. Hibbert: Well, we can’t fix his heart, but we can tell you exactly how damaged it is.

Homer: What an age we live in.

The next step is to see exactly where you’re at and make some decisions. Analyse your squad’s relative strengths and weaknesses in each of the categories your league counts. I say relative, because even if you think your team could really use an uptick in steals, if you’re middle of the pack so far then there’s probably no need to make a move to address that category.

Obviously this is simpler to do in roto leagues, but head to head players can easily use the totals in the head to head stats pages (available on most sites) to do similar. Don’t worry about your head to head ranking in each category at this stage as that is arbitrary given the small sample size of match-ups. The totals and where you rank vs. the rest of your league will give you a better indication of how you stack up and whether you’re likely to win a certain category most weeks or not.

Be sure to identify your strengths just as much as you do your weaknesses. Strengths are assets that can be used to your advantage. You are always going to sacrifice something when trying to address a need, so being aware of what you can afford to lose is critical. Did I over-invest in blocks by drafting Ibaka, Hibbert and DeAndre Jordan? Well maybe I can trade one of those guys to address my weakness in 3s and still be dominant in blocks. This is where you need to get to.

Plan your Next Moves

Mr. McGreg: Dr. Nick Riviera. Remember me?

Dr. Nick: Why, if it isn’t my old friend, Mr. McGreg. With a leg for an arm and an arm for a leg.

Once you’ve got your list of categories to address, it’s time to start planning. Make sure you do it a little more carefully than Dr. Nick did on Mr McGreg’s surgery. Should I make a trade, or is there help available on the waiver wire? If you’re planning to trade, start a dialogue with other managers in your league. Make it known what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to give up. Explore as many possibilities as you can until you find one that works.

For example, in my roto league I’ve started off slowly in assists and A/T ratio with Rose and George Hill both struggling early. I’ve been discussing a potential trade to acquire Goran Dragic, giving up Chris Bosh as I’m not as weak in blocks as I thought I might be. I’m taking my time though and seeing whether I can’t first address those categories via the free agent pool or waiver wire.  Plus I want to be sure that Dragic is healthy after his 3 game absence with an ankle injury. The point here is not to rush into anything. Rose may turn it around at any point and Hill just had a 7 assist game (7-1 a/t ratio) on Saturday, so maybe I don’t even need to make a change.

Having said that, it’s an option to me. I will keep track and make a decision based on all of my options. Just make sure all options are realistic, unlike expecting Dr.Nick to perform a successful surgery.

When planning, make sure you have a clear strategy. If you’re punting any categories, then keep trying to strengthen those areas you want to win each week. Don’t start trying to address categories you’re weak in because of one match up that did not go your way. Stick to your strategy. If you’re in a roto league, then weigh up a decline of 2 spots in blocks versus a gain of 3 spots in assists. What is the net outcome of my moves?

Execute and Move On

Moe: [Homer is about to have a triple bypass operation] Let’s have a minute of silent prayer for our good friend, Homer Simpson.

Barney: [after a short while] How long has it been?

Moe: Six seconds.

Barney: Do we have to start over?

Moe: Hell, no.

Once you’ve decided on your course of action, execute it without hesitation. Trust in your analysis and make your move. No one knows your team better than you so don’t let your opponents try to talk you out it, even if it seems a little unorthodox. If it means you’re trading down the draft board to address a need, so be it. The draft is over. You are not measured on where your players performed relative to their draft spot. You are judged on your place in the standings. If I need blocks and can give up 3s and I can turn O.J. Mayo (ADP 84) into DeAndre Jordan (ADP 127), I’m making the switch.

After you’ve made your trade or waiver add, move on. Don’t second guess it or panic if the first game from your new acquisition isn’t great. Again, trust your analysis and be patient. Start planning your next move.

Your roster is a constant work in progress. The moment you get complacent is when the manager right behind you in the standings makes a blockbuster trade.

So stay active, keep up to date with all players who could help you, and have fun tinkering. Just don’t let Dr. Nick near your squad!

Follow me on twitter @tomhersz. 

Author of the article

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball