Fantasy Sports are a completely different animal than real life sports. The ultimate statistic players are measured on in real life is winning. However, in fantasy sports it is very possible for a player to be on a losing team and also be one of the most valuable fantasy players in the game. In other words, the biggest loser can also be the biggest winner on the fantasy basketball court.
Since we are all about optimizing your lineup and identifying breakout players we wanted to explore the concept of using a team’s environment as metric for identifying potential break out players. By environment we refer to the depth of talent surrounding the player and the team’s offensive philosophy. Questions used to classify a teams environment are: how many shooters are there on the team and does the team have a dominate scorer or spread the ball around? Adding this new concept of environment, which is essentially being in the right place at the right time, will enhance our predictive abilities around break out players.
The traditional way of evaluating talent is to look at a player’s growth on the court from the previous year and possibly their summer league performance as a leading indicator of future breakout potential. Anthony Randolph is a perfect example. He is highly talented, a perfect physical specimen and he dominated summer league play. Every fantasy expert was ready to crown him the next big breakout star in the NBA. To-date this has not happened and the reason is simple. While the Warriors are a terrible team they are made up of a bunch of shooters who dominate the ball. Golden State is a very tough environment for a big man to break out in simply because big men require their guards to pass them the ball. That is something that is simply not happening out in Golden State.
On the other hand lets take a look Chris Douglas-Roberts and the New Jersey Nets. CDR was a good college player who somehow slipped into the second round. Coming into the season there was not much hype around him breaking out. The Nets are another team that has their fair share of shooters and have two players who dominate the ball. (Devin Harris and Brook Lopez). However, when the injury bug hit almost everyone on the team it opened things up for someone new to elevate their game. CDR stepped right in and flourished. While the team is near healthy now and his numbers will drop somewhat he has broken out and established himself as a player in the league.
Likewise, in Sacramento coming into the season Kevin Marin was clearly (and may still be) the #1 option in the offense. As a result, Tyreke Evans struggled to score with Martin dominating the ball. Then Martin went down to injury and Tyreke is now on pace to win rookie of the year honors. This is just another example of being in the right place at the right time. So then, what characteristics should we look for when searching for the right the place? It seems apparent that teams with a single dominant scorer and little depth make up the perfect recipe for an environment in which a skilled player can break through given injury.
Taking a look at the NBA landscape, the following teams stand out:
Philadelphia – expect AI to step right in an average over 20ppg
Cleveland – if something were to happen to The King…
Milwaukee – hello Brandon Jennings!!!
Chicago – still searching for a clear #1 option
Detroit – anyone? anyone?
Indiana – If Granger goes down…..
Miami – if D.Wade goes down….
Washington – if Gilbert take a hit, hello Nick Young!
San Antonio – if TD where to go down…
Minnesota – see Johnny Flynn; this team has no top option
Sacramento – we mentioned above
New Jersey – we mentioned above; the perfect storm of injuries
There you have it. The key is to keep an active eye on the injury reports. If someone goes down that is putting in much fantasy work there will be a void to fill. On deep teams the void will likely be filled amongst the talented players already getting minutes. However, thin teams with a single dominant player are truly breading grounds for break out players!