Tip 1: Look at a Free Agent’s Overall and Season Ranking

In the next series of posts, I will be discussing what any fantasy basketball manager should do before picking up a free agent. This is the first of five installments.

(1) Look at a free agent’s overall & season ranking

This is pretty obvious, but deserves repeating. Yahoo Fantasy Basketball always lists two rankings by a player’s stats: “o-rank” and “rank”. There are several other rankings (actual, average, monthly, weekly, etc.), but these are the two most prevalent and useful rankings. Together, they provide a good initial measure for determining a player’s general value.

O-rank refers to a player’s overall rank.
Yahoo calculates this by
taking into account both current AND prior seasons. O-rank is set before the season even starts, contingent upon previous fantasy stats and not taking into account potential in the future season. As the season progresses, it’s value is impacted by the current season, but it is unclear by how much. Generally, however, the overall rank is considered a measure of performance in previous seasons, or a player’s “overall” fantasy rank as determined by his career. Clearly, the overall ranking system has its positives and its negatives. Fantasy Basketball Guy tells us how ‘o-rank’ is flawed by the fact that a player can “live off old stats”. He reminds us how TMac had a few amazing seasons and now is consistently bumped-up in the o-rank. Advocates of the ‘o-rank’ might claim that it is a useful measure of a player’s past fantasy consistency and is just as reliable as a Fortune 500 company’s previous annual earnings.

Rank refers to a player’s rank in the current season.
Yahoo calculates this by taking into account only the current season. It is a ranking that gains more applicability as the season grows older and player’s begin to settle into to their averages for the season. For instance, it means a lot more if Yao Ming is the #1 ranked player through 60 games than if he is the #1 ranked player through 5. For this reason, sorting by ‘rank’ can be a valuable tool for late-season acquisitions.

Given the above, there are two things I recommend:

  • First, make sure there isn’t a huge discrepancy between a player’s ‘rank’ and ‘o-rank’.
    If there is, this tells me one of two things (neither of them good)–either the player has vastly underperformed in the current season or his prior season’s were aberrations. To illustrate let’s look at Delonte West (G, Seattle). As of December 27th, Delonte West’s ‘o-rank’ was 102 and his ‘rank’ was 256. Absent extreme circumstances, it is clear West has either severely underperformed this season or his prior season’s were aberrations. I think the former is more true here. Looking at West’s numbers we see he has lost substantial minutes this year due to injuries and the emergence of Earl Watson (G, Seattle). In addition, nearly ALL of his stats are down, except for TO’s (which unfortunately are up). It’s players like this that I avoid despite their strong overall ranking. Sure West was good last year and the year-before-last when he averaged 5 more points and 2 more assists, but this is a new year and it is clear he does not deserve a ranking in the low 100s. This is just one example of how it pays off to do a little bit of homework before picking up a player.
  • Second, pick up players that have a better ‘rank’ than ‘o-rank’.
    This is a pretty standard fantasy tip. What this means is that a player is outpacing his prior career production and is having a breakout season. Obviously this technique is more sound when looking at players that have been in the league for at least 5 years, because young players will always be improving (and have a higher ‘rank’ than ‘o-rank’). A good example of a player that fulfills this criteria is Hedo Turkoglu (GF, Orlando). Obviously Turkoglu will not be a free agent in your league, but he’s worth looking at as a test case. An eight-year vet, Turkoglu’s overall rank is 117 (as of December 27th), but his season rank is 24! Clearly Turkoglu is having the best season of his career, averaging 19 points, 6 boards and 4 assists and has greatly improved his shooting and passing statistics. It’s players like this that are great pick-ups because they represent improving players that may be playing at their peak.

Share your pick-ups in the comments section and let me know why you picked up the specific player!

Other Parts: Part 2/5 | Part 3/5

To hoops,


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