Category Archives: Fantasy for Real – fantasy basketball, player rankings, analytic tools

This post is from top-notch opponents in my long-time fantasy NBA league… – fantasy basketball, player rankings and analytic tools.

I would like to recommend a new service for fantasy basketball junkies. fb-ninja player rankings offers free player rankings for 8 and 9-cat rotisserie fantasy basketball leagues.

Recenty they have introduced a unique feature in more advanced analysis field. It’s called “Directions”.
You need to sign up, go to “my leagues” and import your teams first.
This tool will analyze performance of your team in the season and apply recent trends in player production in order to simulate final standings in your league.
This may sound strange at first glance. But:
– if you have you ever wondered how your decissions translate into end result of your team, or
– how recently hot players can impact your final ranking, or
– where your team will rank if your players keep playing as they did in a defined period of time…
this service will deliver that data right to your screen.
Absolutely free. Well – everything they do will not cost you a dime.
In the coming days fb-ninja fantasy basketball analityc site team will further expand its’ service by adding another unique feature called “Let’s make a deal”.
If you have ever used any trade analyzer – this thing will blow you off your feet. It will not only analyze a trade – it will DESIGN one just for you!
So if you are a fantasy basketball fan – check them out, get you free account and try out their amazing tools.

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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Fantasy for Real


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Collection of 6788 Fantasy Basketball Leagues

As you may know from this blog I love digging into topics from the big picture point of view.
As an experienced fantasy basketball player I wanted to explore multiple questions in that area but I hit a wall of complete lack of data. Why?

Because on one side, even if you played in 30-50 leagues in your fantasy career it’s not only a small sample size but it’s also biased – you were in every one of them. So that’s not a good start for big picture analysis.
On the other side, simple search on Yahoo and ESPN revealed there were at least half of million fantasy basketball leagues last year alone. So they were sitting on that kind of data and as far as public is concerned they did almost nothing with it in terms of analysis. For some reason that bothered me very much.

I tried to contact those major providers to ask whenever they did something with it or even just to suggest what they could do but not surprisingly that didn’t work so in February of 2013 I took matters into my own hands.

I immediately stumbled into a problem – most leagues were private so as an outsider I had no access to them. Nothing I could do about that but I knew there were also some publicly visible ones… but how to find them?
Unfortunately during the season there wasn’t a comprehensive list of all public fantasy leagues… at best there were only lists of various Top100 but by definition those were extreme outliers so I wasn’t interested.

So I stopped thinking about the efficient solution and focused on a way which would bring me the most leagues possible – searching using brute force of scripts. As I was the most familiar with Yahoo leagues and taking into consideration their hourly and daily connection limits I searched automatically by ID for publicly visible Yahoo leagues’ settings. One by one starting at #1. Due to aforementioned limits and availability of free time it took me over a month to get to 30.000th ID… and I had to stop because I needed more data than just the league settings. But after such search I had a nice long list of all publicly visible basketball leagues so it was way easier to gather information about the drafts and final standings.

That’s how I collected data from 6788 Fantasy Basketball Leagues from 2012/13 NBA season.
And the first lesson here was… only around 22.6% of all leagues were public!
Overall this project wasn’t pretty or efficient but I accomplished what I hoped for. Mostly. It turned out that some of the leagues existed only on paper so either they didn’t draft at all or they didn’t start after the draft but the most annoying cases where with leagues which… stopped being public! Who does change that option 4 months into the season? I don’t know but thankfully all those examples above where the exceptions which wasted only a small minority of the data collected.

What’s more, while 30 000 leagues checked and over 6000 collected sound like a lot for one person to have… in a grand scheme of things it was basically a tip of an iceberg because judging by IDs Yahoo alone had over 200 000 basketball leagues last year. Maybe I’ll start earlier next year to expand this project but we’ll see, maybe it won’t be even necessary.

What do I plan to do with all those leagues?
I’d like to start with some obvious topics and questions like…

What are the most popular settings in fantasy basketball?
Does seeding even matter in head-to-head fantasy basketball?
Do actual results confirm or deny a theory of unfair snake draft?
Comparing the effect of playoffs in head-to-head leagues to roto leagues.
Is it true that punting in roto leagues is not a winning strategy?
What were the average amount of stats needed to win each category in roto leagues?

and probably many more… I’m guessing that during research I’ll stumble into more topics to explore and hopefully at least one reader will add at least one interesting question to answer.


Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Fantasy for Real


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Fantasy NBA Snake Draft – Predictability of each Pick

It took me way more time than I expected but ironically it could have been a very short post.
Frankly, the main point you can sum up in one sentence:
fantasy NBA stars are valuable in snake draft not only because they offer the most stats and an unfair advantage but also they are… the most predictable group of players“.

In a longer version I’ll throw-in a couple of nuggets, I’ll explain how I’ve came up with this conclusion [be advised! This post contains some math ;-)] and how does it translate into different scoring systems.

Let’s start with the easier one, fantasy points and a typical 12-team 10-slots per team league. Again as an example I’ll use Yahoo’s Default Points Scoring [FGA (-0.45), FGM (1.0), FTA (-0.75), FTM (1.0), 3-pt Made (3.0), Point Scored (0.5), Rebound (1.5), Assist (2.0), Steal (3.0), Turnover (-2.0), Blocked Shot (3.0)].

I collected players’ statistics from, for every season in the last 10 years I sorted them from best to worst according to aforementioned formula [average per game not total].
Then I checked what players from every draft slot in Top120 did during next season and finally calculated average and standard deviation for a change in rating for each pick.

OK, if it sounds too complicated, here’s an example, according to Yahoo’s Default Points Scoring…
in 2009/10 3-rd best player was Jason Kidd who finished 20-th in 2010/11.
in 2008/09 3-rd best player was Dwyane Wade who finished 5-th in 2009/10.
in 2007/08 3-rd best player was Marcus Camby who finished 27-th in 2008/09.
in 2006/07 3-rd best player was Gilbert Arenas who finished 61-st in 2007/08.
in 2005/06 3-rd best player was Kevin Garnett who finished 1-st in 2006/07.

So for pick #3 in the last 5 years we have data points of -17 [because 20-3], -2, -24, -58, +2. Got it? In short it means “how would you do at each draft slot if you pick only by ranking from previous season?”.

I’ll spare you a whole table because it’s too long but I did the same thing as above for each pick from Top 120 for the last 10 years [you can find results in this file].

For a better view, here’s a graph for standard deviation of such change in ranking:
Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Fantasy for Real


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Fantasy NBA Why Snake Draft is Unfair in Basketball

Whenever you’ve just started playing fantasy NBA or consider some offseason alternatives like fantasy all-time draft one of the first questions you need to ponder is: “how are we going to redistribute players between teams”? And one of the most common answers to this question is “Snake Draft”.

It’s a draft where the positions flip flop every round. For example, if someone drafts first during the very first round, they’ll draft last the following round, then they’ll draft first again in the next round, and so on. This type of draft is the most fair.

This concept is easy to grasp, it was always easy to organize and it just sounds so fair. Well, there’s only one problem with it: in fantasy NBA snake draft is unfair! And it’s not even close to being fair!

How do I know this? Not only it’s essentially the same problem as with competitive balance in the NBA but more importantly we can easily calculate why and how is it unfair.

I’ll use Yahoo’s Default Points Scoring [FGA (-0.45), FGM (1.0), FTA (-0.75), FTM (1.0), 3-pt Made (3.0), Point Scored (0.5), Rebound (1.5), Assist (2.0), Steal (3.0), Turnover (-2.0), Blocked Shot (3.0)] as an example but it really doesn’t matter, you can repeat this exercise for every possible settings with the same results.

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Fantasy for Real


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Fantasy Basketball All-Time Draft – Possible Rules

Whenever you want to compare the greatest players in the history or you just want to play fantasy basketball without any current games in the NBA [like during lockout…], all-time fantasy draft is a way to go.

Let me start this topic by addressing two main concerns about this game…
[if you don’t have any or you are ready to roll do yourself a favour and scroll down one page].

“Isn’t it too predictable since we know everything about the past?”.

I agree it could be a concern but there are four strong counter-arguments:

1) Even if we assume we know everything about retired players, there always will be a gray area because of the differences between eras.
For example, would Bill Russell belong to all-time greats if he played against today’s athletes?
Would fringe NBA player from the 90s dominate in the late 50s? How many stars would be out of the league in a different era when their best skills were considered less valuable? Etc.

2) Even though we have easily available statistics from the past it’s not obvious how to interpret them.
Simple example: Dennis Rodman. Was he one of the all-time greats or merely lucky and good role-player?
How changes in the NBA rules over time would affect players’ past accomplishments?
Would Steve Nash have a great and long career [with two MVP awards] if he was drafted in the 1990 or is he a product of changes in hand-check rules? How many rebounds per game would Wilt Chamberlain have in today’s NBA with different approach to the game’s pace and defence? Etc.

3) You don’t know what other managers will do in such draft.
That’s a key element of uncertainty in this game. Even if you choose only 100 players eligible to be drafted it creates enormous possibilities for creative roster management. Keep in mind that if you have obvious strategy, opponents can quickly see through it and react accordingly.

4) With a simple tweaks you can greatly improve uncertainty [more specifics on that below].

“How can you possibly do it more than once?
Isn’t it by definition very repetitive exercise?”

That’s a possibility… but only if you play over and over by the same rules.
One simple change in them can significantly alter your draft strategy! For example, you can add a rule “you have to draft someone from [enter different decade or team] at least 2/3/4/etc times”. That change alone creates many unique draft scenarios. What’s more, you can also limit available pool of players, for example by excluding obvious choices like Jordan or MVPs, or All-Stars, or players in their prime or players under 6-5… you get the idea. Possibilities are limitless.

I have no idea whenever those changes would allow you to have fun but that really depends on your preferences and it’s not because game’s rules are too obvious and too limited.

With all that in mind here are possible rules for fantasy basketball All-Time Draft

Head-to-head imaginary games.

How can it work: you draft a team and then debate with other GMs why it would be the best one and/or why it would win all it’s matchups. You can create as many rounds as you wish. After that judges [which could mean “other GMs in this league”] vote which case seems the most convincing. It’s probably the most common version played of all-time draft and examples can be found on RealGM, multiple times actually and other places.

IMHO key features: It generates a LOT of discussions, arguments and additional research. I mean A LOT!
It’s also the only option for people who don’t like using statistics as an argument or as a deciding factor.
IMHO key bugs: You need a LOT of time to do it. Your debating skills may be more important than your team. Almost every unconventional idea is either doomed or at a clear disadvantage because of a voting process.

Classic rotisserie scoring, 1 season.

How can it work: You draft one season of any players in the history and after rosters are completed you sum all their statistics by standard rotisserie scoring to determine the winner.
One possible tweak is to draft players and then draft his seasons between those who drafted the same player.

IMHO key features: Simplicity. Probably the best option for fantasy beginners or just to warm up.
Creates many questions you wouldn’t even consider otherwise [how would Olajuwon defend Olajuwon?].
Also if everyone can have their own Jordan’s season isn’t it ultimately fair?
IMHO key bugs: strange feeling of having the same players on many teams.
Usually very limited number of players used. Mess if you want to consider defense.

Rotisserie scoring, 1 season, every player only once in the league.

How can it work: You draft one season of any players in the history but once player is drafted his whole career is off the board and his other season can’t be drafted. In the end you sum all their statistics by standard rotisserie scoring to determine the winner.

IMHO key features: The most similar system to the standard non-keeper fantasy draft.
Very easy to calculate and probably requires the least amount of time.
IMHO key bugs: first few picks in this draft are way better than those at the end of first round so either you have cut players at the top out of the pool or you have to balance this by additional changes in the draft order.

Rotisserie or fantasy points scoring, careers and random season.

How can it work: You draft player’s career and then you have randomly assigned one of his seasons.
In the end you sum all players’ stats by standard rotisserie or fantasy points scoring to determine the winner.

IMHO key features: creates an unique perspective and choices regarding players’ careers.
For example, do you prefer short career where greatness is mixed in with some duds or merely good career but very consistent one? Do you prefer a risk of having one very bad season or 50% chance of average one?
Additionally thanks to a layer of randomness it’s probably the best option if you don’t like rotisserie scoring and prefer simple fantasy points system.
IMHO key bugs: active players have an advantage over retired ones because they haven’t played those end of the road seasons yet. But obviously you can limit how many of them can be drafted by one team.

Rotisserie or Head-to-head, 1 season, random games.

How can it work: You draft one season of any player in the history and after the draft you randomly choose single games from given season [it can be 10 games, it can be 41, it mostly depends on “how much randomness do you want to apply and how much time do you want to spend on it”]. In the end you sum all players’ statistics by standard rotisserie or head-to-head scoring to determine the winner.

IMHO key features: Probably the best way to play head-to-head matchups.
The most efficient way to account for injuries and to generate uncertainty.
IMHO key bugs: it can’t be a full all-time draft because we have easily available data only since 1986.
Also it’s probably the most time-consuming option.

Do you have any other idea how such all-time draft can be done?

If the answer is yes, please let me know in the comments.

If you would like to participate in such draft I recommend RealGM forum [for option with descriptions] and
I could gladly organize any other game on this blog so let me know if you are interested ;-)


Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Fantasy for Real


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7 Reasons Why You Should Start Playing Fantasy

Fantasy sports participation has grown over 60% the past four years as over 32 million people now actively playing in the U.S. and Canada. Do you want to know why millions of people play this game every year?

You can easily find a guide about how to start playing fantasy sports but most sites offer an endorsement of this type: “because it’s easy and fun”. Lying on the bed provides the same pros so I really don’t think it’s a good way to explain it or encourage anybody to create his own fantasy team.
Also it’s a deceiving one: it’s very easy to learn the basic rules but you will need hundreds if not thousands of hours to master what you should do with them at any time to enjoy maximal possible benefit.

This post is my attempt to explain in detail WHY you should start playing fantasy.

I’ll use fantasy basketball as an example but it really applies to every fantasy sport. You just have to like it.

[Additionally I think it’s a fitting introduction to a new category on this blog – “Fantasy for Real” where I’ll take such trivial subject as fantasy very seriously. That’s because there are many sites with advanced statistics and in-depth big-picture analysis for the NBA and many different internet addresses with fantasy basketball projections and topics yet IMHO there are very few, if any, places which combine those two angles].

For a Challenge and to Compete with other people, preferably your friends

Competition is the core of every non-professional sport-related activity.
If you want to test or measure your level of anything you really need to compare it to somebody’s results.

In case of fantasy sports you don’t use your speed, agility, strength or any other physical attributes but…
Your knowledge. Your understanding of the game of basketball. Your strategic thinking. Your assessment of current situation in any given NBA team. Your opinion on what will happen in the near future.

Have you ever thought to yourself “hey, I understand basketball very well“? Or “I know about this sport more than any of my friends“? Or anything like that?

You can’t find a better test for such statements than fantasy basketball.
Video games are better every year but they either lack human element [it’s way easier to convince computer opponent to make a trade than a fellow human] either they become the game of beating the system’s algorithms not other player’s skills [I find that problem pretty much with every competition with others based on computer simulation]. Fantasy sports is the best way to put your NBA knowledge into action because…

It’s Your Best Chance to put a General Manager hat on

Have you ever second-guessed decision by GM of your favourite or any other team in the NBA?
Have you ever questioned GMs sanity?
Have you ever had a thought “I could do better than those [enter own negative comment here]”?

If your answer is “yes” to any of above questions it means you are ready to play fantasy ball

There are only 30 available decision-making positions in the NBA but there’s an unlimited number of available opportunities to become fantasy general manager where you decide team’s roster.
Where You decide who plays and you decide when it’s time to change any player.
That’s why you should try it.

Additional bonus is that if you do make a mistake, it won’t cost millions of dollars. Speaking of which…

To better understand nuances about NBA rules

Obviously you don’t need fantasy basketball for that… but it does add an enormous incentive.

Without fantasy basketball you usually don’t care how NBA trades work or why GMs do certain things this way not another… but if you have a personal fantasy team and you try to predict where player from your team can land, you really need to know how the sausage is made in the NBA.

And trades are just one example but it relates to draft, contracts, coaching decisions, playing time, matchups and any other little things. And that’s not the end of this list…

To improve your overall big-picture knowledge about the NBA

Little things are one thing, big ones are a different animal.
Obviously you don’t need fantasy basketball for that… but again it does add an enormous incentive.

Without fantasy you usually don’t care how NBA redistributes it’s salaries or how they set their financial goals.
Or why their set of rules named CBA is so freaking long. But if your player becomes free agent you suddenly have a strong urge to know where he can sign and what salary cap has to do with it.

What’s more, by expanding your interest to the whole league you will start to detect patterns like those regarding injuries or productivity of bench players. For example, I’m pretty sure you will learn that those guys at the end of bench aren’t necessarily useless.. Hell, in some cases they are more interesting than starters.


Even if you are not interested in any of the above consequences and you prefer to maintain the status of casual fan there are still three reasons left why you should play fantasy sports like basketball:

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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Fantasy for Real


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