Using Fantasy Football Strategy to Draft Your Fantasy Basketball Team: Small Forwards
Over the last few weeks I've been discussing how we could possibly use fantasy football strategy to draft our fantasy basketball squads this year. The fantasy strategy I am referring to is referred to as Value Based Drafting (VBD).
Each position's value will be determined based on the strategy of VBD just as it is in the fantasy football universe. In place of valuing a player on points alone, the principles of VBD value how much a player outscores others at his position.
If you're not all too familiar with fantasy basketball, however, it's not about simply outscoring your opponent -- it's about winning more statistical categories than your opponent. Those categories, in a standard nine-category league, consist of the following: points, rebounds, assists, steals, turnovers, blocks, three-point makes, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.
So, value is determined by how much better a player performs in those nine categories than do his positional peers. In fantasy football, running backs hold the most value, while wide receivers, quarterbacks, and tight ends follow in that order.
How do I come up with comparisons? I first look at how each position (by its position-eligible players, not in a strict sense) is currently being drafted, with the help of Yahoo's average draft position, or ADP, rankings. I then look at each player's value in comparison to the rest of the positional pack.
When it comes to point guards, we figured out that they are being drafted like running backs in fantasy football but we should be drafting them more like quarterbacks because they handle the ball so much and can provide some really good value as the draft rolls on.
As it pertains to shooting guards, they aren't being drafted much like any particular fantasy football position, but they are being picked akin to fantasy football tight ends. As well they should be. There are only a select few elite options, including those who are also point guard or small forward-eligible in standard formats.
Today, I'm here to talk about small forwards. What fantasy football position are they being selected alike most? What do the numbers say they should be drafted like based on their value?
Trends By Round
(Picks based on Yahoo ADP as of 9/8/2015)
Is that a radical heart rate or an average draft position chart? Small forwards are being drafted in a very unique way. Five small forward-eligible players (four of which are primarily small forwards) are going in the first round. This includes James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Carmelo Anthony.
From there, we see a drop from five to three small forward-eligible players going in the second round, with merely one of those (Paul George) being a small forward by trade. Round 3 holds just one eligible player, but one who really plays all over the floor -- Draymond Green.
Back up the ladder we go in Round 5 where 7 small forward-eligible players are being selected. That is the most in any one round, and among those seven are Kobe Bryant, Kyle Korver, Tobias Harris and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
After the peak in the fifth round, there's a gigantic drop-off to Chandler Parsons in the seventh. In Round 8 through 12, no fewer than two and no more than 5 eligible players are coming off the board. There's a small amount of consistency there before the last round where six small forwards are being selected.
So, we can see that there's a decent amount of fantasy hoopers who are waiting (whether it's for their starter or a bench player) to fill a small forward spot in the last round. They're not getting great players there, but some are promising versatile wings like Otto Porter and Al-Farouq Aminu.
According to data from MyFantasyLeague.com, this drafting pattern most closely mimics that of NFL wide receivers in 2015 fantasy football drafts. Compared to our chart above, however, they do have their differences. Those differences can largely be attributed to starting at least two wide receivers in a standard league, with the possibility of a flex, while starting just one small forward with a flex forward position in fantasy roundball.
Once you get past the roster setup and the differences that come as a result, there are a lot of similarities to be found in the draft patterns. In the first two rounds, eight wide receivers were being selected. Eight small forward-eligible players are also going in the first two rounds.
The Round 5 spike isn't the same, but there are 13 small forwards going in Rounds 5 through 7. In fantasy football, 14 wide receivers went in those same rounds.
There's also a similar trend at the back end of drafts. In the 11th and 12th rounds, wide receivers and small forwards have a common four and five selections in those rounds. It is also a generality that you take fliers like young, talented wide receivers late. DeVante Parker, Devin Funchess and Breshad Perriman all went between picks 115 and 125. So after seeing names like Porter and Aminu in the last round, you can see the similarities.
With those similarities, are we -- according to VBD principles -- drafting small forwards correctly?
Just as I've previously done with the other two positions, I am using BasketballMonster.com (BM) and their playerper game values (this is a system of assigning a value to each fantasy basketball category, where the standard-league average is represented by 0.0) in order to produce tangible fantasy values for each eligible player at the position.
After reviewing BM's values in relation to the average draft positions above I've come to the conclusion that we should treat small forwards like wide receivers.
For starters, there is an elite group of small forwards much like the elite group of wide receivers we see in the NFL today (for both real and fantasy purposes). Harden and LeBron, both currently first round selections, are the Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant of the NBA fantasy world. Harden and James finished last year with BM values of .86 and .40, respectively.
Now, Kevin Durant has a BM value good enough for second among small forward-eligible players, but he was hurt a lot this past year. For comparison, see Julio Jones. Jones missed a large part of 2013 due to injury but he sure did bounce back in 2014. Durant, after dealing with a foot injury for the duration of the 2014 season, is poised to do the same in 2015. He finished ahead of James and behind Harden alone in terms of BM value (.74) so if healthy he's ready to provide easy first round production at his draft day price.
Much like wide receivers in fantasy football, small forwards also can provide first round value in the second round. Jimmy Butler (.53) and Klay Thompson (.48) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, among small forwards in terms of BM value and are both going in the second round. That's not including a returning Paul George who could produce big as a current second round selection.
There's then a little drop-off in expectations after the top eight. That group includes Carmelo, who is also expected to bounce back from injury and a horrific season in New York. In terms of draft position, you could draw the line after Paul George. For fantasy football that line comes after the number eight wide receiver, Randall Cobb.
The next group of 7 players have BM values below .3, starting with Draymond Green down to Wesley Matthews with a BM value of .16. After that, there are five more small forward-eligible players who earned BM values of at least 0.
The last group of players can go one way or the other in providing value, depending upon their team's situations as the season progresses and how they fit into their respective systems. The same can be sad for wide receivers with upside who are coming into new situations or have new offensive coordinators.
A guy like Brandon Marshall comes to mind for the 2015 fantasy football season. He was selected, on average, with pick 61.5 in fantasy drafts this year. As we can see so far this season (23 catches, 272 yards and 3 touchdowns) it can pay off. On the other hand, a guy like Davante Adams (9 catches for 92 yards) hasn't paid off.
This is how you should treat guys who are being drafted from DeMarre Carroll on. Some will be consistent producers while others won't provide any positive value even if they're drafted in the sixth or seventh round.
When drafting, target the elite eight guys but especially lock down one very good if not elite player for your starting lineup. After that, target those with upside later in drafts and hope to get some value in return for your pick.
Be sure not to fall off the very short cliff though, or you'll regret being stuck with a small forward with negative fantasy value in your starting lineup.