Fantasy Hoops Meets Statistical Analysis

Posted in Basic Info with tags , , , , , , on July 22, 2008 by Bruce Allen

This blog is intended for those of you who play a “salary cap” fantasy basketball game, such as the awesome game at CDMSports.  Fantasy wonks who draft and trade players and who pay no attention to weekly schedules  and salary cap issues will find this site less useful.

This is an exercise in what econ majors used to call “linear programming”.  Linear programming involves mixing a set of constrained inputs–typically, labor, equipment, utilities, transporation costs, raw materials, etc.–to come up with the most efficient mix that maximizes profits.

Salary cap hoops involves schedule (games per week), player productivity, trading limits and salary.  The trick is to come up with the best roster each week, one that maximizes fantasy point production, stays under the salary cap, and minimizes the number of player trades.

The one ingredient in this mix that is hard to define is player productivity.  It is a simple task to divide a players average fantasy points per game by his salary to arrive at a measure of “cost efficiency”.  Every season, an inexpensive player or two has a breakout year, and everyone wants him on their team every week.  Last year it was Al Jefferson of the Celtics/Wolves.  The previous year it was Monta Ellis of the Warriors.  Problem is, using just this measure results in a roster of low-scoring players that uses up only half of your available cap.

The way around this is to square the point production, and divide it by salary.  This gives you, in effect, “points per point per dollar”, what I choose to call the player’s Fantasy Power Index, or FPI.

As any fantasy player knows, games per week is a critical variable.  As much as possible, one wants to stock the roster with players who are playing a minimum of 4 games during the week.  Once or twice a season you’ll find a team with 5 games in a week, but this is sufficiently rare as to not matter too much.  There is also a fatigue factor there, which tends to wash away any advantage in games played.

Obviously, one wants the Kobes and Lebrons on your roster virtually every week they play 4 games; this is a no-brainer.  It is impossible to have these players exclusively, because doing so would put you miles above your salary cap.  The FPI is the tool I use to fill in the less expensive players so as to include as many studs as possible, remain within my cap, and give me the maximum number of fantasy points every week.

Between now and the start of the season, I am going to update my spreadsheet by incorporating the transactions that have occurred.  For example, last year the only forward the Sixers had who was worth a crap was Iguodala.  Now they’ve added Elton Brand, a certifiable fantasy stud.  With TJ Ford, the Pacers now have a reliable point guard–bye bye Jamaal.

I’ll also be plugging the 2008-09 schedule into my chart, and updating player salaries.  I actually have a real job, which means I can’t watch lots of games, figure out which players play well against which teams, or which players play well on the road.  Injuries, too, are a problem, in that a lot of them seem to occur on Sundays and Mondays after I’ve already made my picks for the week.  (I’m looking for a site that gives up-to-date information on injuries.  If you know of one, please share.)  What I do have is a great method for analyzing which players to use every week.  I’ll be giving a daily update on the top 10 FPI producers every day.

Three months until tipoff.  I can’t wait.

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