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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.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Fantasy for Real

 

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Why China is NOT an Olympic Basketball Power?

China’s recent Olympic success continued in 2012 London Games – they finished in the Top 2 in medal standings third time in a row – but they also fielded arguably the worst team in the basketball tournament.
In the previous 5 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, Athens, Sydney, Atlanta and Barcelona they finished no higher than in 8th place.

This begs a question, how can a country with over billion people and a proven track record of preparing athletes in other sports fail so badly at one of the most popular sports in their land?
Why China is not a power in basketball?

From time to time I hear this question and I’ve wondered it myself so I explored it but I think the answer is surprisingly simple and it boils down to the four factors [they are NOT intended to be in order of importance]

  • Height Matters

  • Obviously huge majority of basketball players are tall but even though it’s an universal problem because of “short supply of tall people” it’s not an equal and fair playing field. According to various sources China is on average among the shortest nations in the world and none of the countries in the bottom third has a good basketball team on a world stage (Nigeria qualified for the Olympics but they were also a cannon fodder for other teams). In other words, population of very tall people is very limited everywhere but chinese men have a lower starting point which makes it even harder for them to grow up to typical heights for basketball.

    How does it work and why is very nicely explained at http://investing.calsci.com/statistics.html as a lesson in Statistics for Average and Standard Deviation which makes it even better. Just an example…

    It turns out that men’s height falls onto what’s called a standard distribution, or a gaussian curve, or a bell curve. Out of one hundred men, about 2/3 of them, about 68, are between 5’7″ and 6′. About 2/3 of all American men are 5’10” ± 3″. About 1/3 of them are outside this range, with about half of those on each side. So, about 1/6 are 6’1″ or taller, and about 1/6 are 5’6″ or shorter. If we start looking for men who are much taller than 6′ tall, we find that as their height goes up, they get more and more rare.

    There are just about exactly 100,000,000 adult men in America. Now that we know their average height is 5’10” and the standard deviation is 3″, we can predict how many of these men fall into various height categories.

    While no country can do much about it outside of illegal experiments with human DNA China even worsened this problem…

  • One-child Policy

  • I don’t want to make it a political or moral discussion but China’s attempt to lower population by law also had to affect their national basketball team.

    Why does it matter just take a look at the Team USA where there were only two single children (LeBron James and James Harden), three other players were the oldest kids in the family (Tyson Chandler, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams) while all others probably wouldn’t be born in China because they have older brother[s] (Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala) or sister[s] (Anthony Davis, Kobe Bryant). Just like that a lot of talent would be gone. I would like to make it a broader study but data seems scarce but I doubt it would change the point that you just can’t cheaply force mother nature to deliver the best athletic specimens in the first attempt and because of the height basketball players almost by definition are nature’s outliers anyway.

    I’ve read there are some exceptions to this rule for the tall or very athletic people but this approach basically destroys all the possible advantage China could have thanks to it’s population’s size.
    And it’s not the only obstacle…

  • Race Matters

  • “Black people dominate sports in the United States. 20% of the population and 90% of the final four. We own this shit. Basketball, baseball, football, golf, tennis, and as soon as they make a heated hockey rink we’ll take that shit too.” – Chris Rock

    While it was a joke and Chris Rock obviously exaggerated it is a good observation and facts are really simple. From recent NBA’s Racial and Gender Report Card

    In the NBA, 83 percent of the players were people of color, an increase of one percentage point from last year’s totals. This represents the highest percentage of players of color since the Racial and Gender Report Card began reporting the composition of the NBA teams. The percentage of African-American players increased by one percentage point to 78 percent, equaling the highest since 2001-02. […]
    At 17 percent, this was the lowest percentage of white players since the Racial and Gender Report Card began reporting the composition of the NBA teams.

    Whatever the reasons behind this [which in itself could be an interesting topic] China’s population of black people is miniscule at best so again, a huge chunk of possible top basketball players are not available to them despite massive population. I wonder, how would team USA play with only white players?

    There are countries which manage to play well despite that like Spain or Russia or even Lithuania because of another important factor…

  • Training Matters

Aforementioned countries and some others including USA have a semi-natural evolution-like path from kids to the pros but Chinese officials approached it with the sheer force of numbers [people and training hours] and without any regard to the nuances and while it seems to work well for swimmers or gymnasts it’s not for basketball. How is it a problem in this sport was well covered on factsanddetails.com so I’ll just quote it.

Talent is scouted early. Government scouts roam the country, looking for tall kids that have tall parents. One trainer told Sports Illustrated, “We X-ray their hands, when they’re quite little and from the length of the bones we can predict how tall they will grow to be.” Children that are selected are placed in after school programs. If they show promise they are placed in full-time, live-in sports academies.

But it raises the same uncomfortable question that Yardley’s main character… can’t shake: Why is it that a nation of 1.4 billion people and several hundred million basketball fanatics has never produced a single creative, world-class point guard? In other words: Why are there no Jeremy Lins coming out of China? The answers lie in the murky labyrinth of China’s elite sports system, which Yardley — a former New York Times bureau chief in Beijing — explores during his season with what was once the worst professional team in China.

One 6-foot-1, 14-year-old boy told the Los Angeles Times, “I was picked out of a line up in the second grade. I didn’t even know what basketball was.” Like other promising kids he is required to work out on his days off and vacations. “Even during our day off, we have to jump rope at home and get our parents’ signature to prove it.”

“molten-iron” training, so deeply rooted in the Chinese sports system, provides one clue in the case of the missing point guards. China’s athletic army, much like its mass of factory workers, has been extremely productive, going from five Olympic gold medals in 1988 to 51 in 2008. Yet the rigid training methods, Yardley points out, suppress the very characteristics needed to produce an NBA-quality point guard: creativity, freedom, passion and leadership. One other clue comes when the Brave Dragons’ mediocre point guard confesses to Yardley that he won his position by default when his body didn’t grow as tall as predicted. In a system where players are still recruited solely on the basis of projected height — preferably 6-7 or taller — Jeremy Lin never would have played basketball in the first place.

So to recap, China can’t grow at will tall or black people and they even limited the upside of having massive population by law. On top of that they reportedly train badly those few tall players they have.
Do those 4 points explain why China is NOT an Olympic Basketball Power? Have I missed anything?

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Unanswered Questions

 

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Beijing 2008 Olympic Men Basketball More Statistics

While it’s too difficult to find raw statistics for all players in Olympic Basketball Games in Beijing it’s even harder if you are interested in something more than that. So… All numbers below are per 36 minutes.

GS stands for Game Score where the formula is PTS + 0.4 * FG – 0.7 * FGA – 0.4*(FTA – FT) + 0.7 * ORB + 0.3 * DRB + STL + 0.7 * AST + 0.7 * BLK – 0.4 * PF – TOV while WS stands for Win Score which is calculated PTS + STL + ORB + 0.5*DRB + 0.5*AST + 0.5*BLK – TOV – FGA –0.5*FTA – 0.5*PF.

Table is sorted by a team and then by average minutes played.
For comparison you can also check similar statistics for London Games in 2012.
Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Fringe Stats

 

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Olympic Basketball Beijing 2008 Raw Statistics

As with Olympic Basketball Statistics in London there’s a strange lack of easily available data for tournament-wide analysis. Official Page for US Basketball has a pdf file for each team but they are not import-friendly. Official FIBA Page is again divided into leaders in many categories which make it difficult to see players’ entire stat-line… you can find it on individual pages for the players but good luck doing it 144 times. Even usually reliable sports-reference.com dropped a ball here so I guess it’s up to me now ;-)

I collected boxscores from all games from ESPN and simply added them together for the following results… Table is sorted by a team and then by total minutes played.
You can also check those statistics per 36 minutes or compare to Games in London in 2012
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Fringe Stats

 

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London 2012 More Basketball Statistics for Men

While it’s too difficult to find even raw statistics from Olympic Basketball Games 2012 in London it’s just flat-out ridiculous if you are interested in something more than that. So… All numbers below are per 36 minutes.

WS stands for Win Score which is calculated PTS + STL + ORB + 0.5*DRB + 0.5*AST + 0.5*BLK – TOV – FGA –0.5*FTA – 0.5*PF while GS stands for Game Score where the formula is PTS + 0.4 * FG – 0.7 * FGA – 0.4*(FTA – FT) + 0.7 * ORB + 0.3 * DRB + STL + 0.7 * AST + 0.7 * BLK – 0.4 * PF – TOV.
Table is sorted by a team and then by average minutes played.
You can compare those numbers to statistics from Beijing in 2008.

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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Fringe Stats

 

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Olympic Basketball Men Raw Statistics London 2012

Olympic Men’s Basketball Tournament in London 2012 is in the books for over a month and yet for some strange reason statistics for all players are still difficult to find. Official Page for US Basketball is fine if you look for one particular team or just leaders. The same is true for Official Site of London Games and Official FIBA Page is divided into many categories which make it difficult to see players’ entire stat-line. Even always reliable sports-reference.com dropped a ball here so I guess it’s up to me now ;-)

I collected boxscores for all games from ESPN and simply added them together for the following results…
Table is sorted by a team and then by total minutes played. You can also check those Olympic statistics per minute or compare them to Raw Statistics from Beijing in 2008.
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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Fringe Stats

 

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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 dougstats.com, 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 »

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Fantasy for Real

 

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