A few words of advice for fantasy basketball players preparing for that all-important rite of the fall:
DO: Draft Players from up-tempo teamsThe reason is simple… playing at a faster pace means more possessions… and more possessions means more opportunities to rack up numbers - points, assists, rebounds, steals, the whole nine yards. And that makes marginal players into fantasy superstars. The Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets and (surprisingly) Milwaukee Bucks were the fastest-paced teams in the league in 2011-12.
DON'T: Rely on veterans and title contendersFor teams with NBA Title aspirations, the regular season is just an appetizer - the playoffs are the main course. Coaches like San Antonio's Gregg Popovic and Boston's Doc Rivers will be very cautious about burning out their key guys - which means players like Kevin Garnett, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Paul Pierce might average fewer minutes and get more days off than younger players on worse teams.
DO: Be aware of position scarcityThere were only two players (Chris Paul and Deron Williams) that averaged double-figures in assists in 2008-09, and just four more that averaged over eight dimes per game (Steve Nash, Jose Calderon, Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo). So if you're looking to load up on assists, best to draft one of the top point guards early.
Similarly, there are very few elite fantasy centers in the NBA, and most leagues require that you play two, so center is a position to target early.
DON'T: Forget that points and rebounds are just two of eight categoriesNBA fans are quick to throw around numbers like "20-and-10" - or talk about double-doubles. Here's the thing: points and rebounds are just two out of eight categories in a standard fantasy NBA league. You could win both categories and still finish dead last. Try to draft well-rounded players who will contribute in multiple categories. And don't rule out players who don't score much but make significant contributions elsewhere.
DO: Look for stats from unlikely sourcesIn general, you get assists from point guards, rebounds from power forwards and blocks from centers. But over-simplifications like that can cause you to miss out on hidden values. For example: Indiana's Troy Murphy was third in the league in three point shooting percentage in 2008-09. He's a center. Andre Iguodala - a small forward - and Boris Diaw - a power forward - averaged 5.3 and 4.1 assists per game, respectively. Dwyane Wade averaged more blocks than centers Nene Hilario, Andrea Bargnani, Erick Dampier or Joel Przybilla. Contributions like those make a big difference when stats are tallied.
DON'T: Draft rookiesWell, don't draft MOST rookies. There's a reason the second-year players usually dominate the Rookie/Sophomore game All-Star weekend. The NBA season is notoriously tough on first-year players, who need to adjust to the 82-game season, a new set of rules, and the fact that they simply aren't the strongest/fastest/quickest players on the court like they were in college. In 2008-09, you could make the case that Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Brook Lopez and Russell Westbrook were the only rookies worth owning in most fantasy formats. The second-overall pick, Miami's Michael Beasley, was a major disappointment.
DO: Understand percentagesTwo of the eight standard categories in NBA leagues - Field Goal Percentage and Free Throw Percentage - are tallied as percentages, not totals. That means you can't say, "I'll draft one guy who shoots 90 percent from the line and another who shoots 60 percent - that'll average out to 75 percent." The number of attempts makes all the difference. (For more, read Fantasy Basketball 101: Understanding Percentage Stats.
DON'T: Confuse hot and cold streaks with more significant changes in player valueEvery player goes through hot and cold streaks… and usually, they're just that: streaks. Temporary periods of better or worse-than-normal performance. When one of your players is hot, enjoy it. When one is cold, don't freak out too much - remember that these things tend to even out over time.
DO: Look for explanations behind the numbersLet's say a player usually averages 15 points per game, and suddenly that number drops to eight. It could be that his shot isn't falling - a simple cold streak. Or, it could be that his minutes have been reduced because some hot rookie is forcing his way into the lineup. Or that he's got a nagging injury that prevents him from attacking the basket, so he's not getting as many free throw attempts as usual. Or that his coach has asked him to concentrate on defense, and as a result, he's too gassed from chasing the opponent's best scorer to contribute much on the offensive end. It's important to know these things when making decisions on who to play and who to bench and who to trade.
For more specific advice on your draft or managing your fantasy team, post a message in our fantasy basketball forum.