Tip 2: Determine if a Free Agent is Trending Up/Down

Here I continue discussing what any fantasy basketball manager should do before picking up a free agent. This is the second of five installments.

(2) Determine if the free agent is trending up or down
One of the most important things an owner can do before picking up a free agent is research. In post 1 of 5, I discussed how looking at a player’s overall rank and season rank can give a manager valuable insights into the player. Here I discuss a similar practice– determining how “hot” a player has been in recent games. For those who do not know how, here is how to pull up a player’s previous statistics:

  1. Click on the player’s name.
  2. Click on “Game Log” under “Player Profile”.

Once you’ve pulled up a player’s “Game Log”, there are many things to take note of, 2 of which I will highlight below.

1- See if a player’s stats have been improving or declining the last 5 or so games
How many games you choose to look back to is really up to you. There isn’t a hard and fast way of figuring out a player’s trend without looking at each individual game and comparing them against each other. In particular, I like to look at how the player is performing in the categories for which I seek him. For instance, if I’m looking to pick up a big man (C, PF, F), and I am in dire need of rebounds and blocks, it makes perfect sense to look at a free agent’s performance in these categories–particularly in the past few games.

Let’s say I was looking at whether or not to pick up Jamario Moon (SF, Toronto), an average fantasy player with a season rank of 103, averaging 8 points, 6 boards and 1.5 blocks a game. By looking at Moon’s most recent action, I can determine if he’s on a hot streak (and whether he’s a good free agent pickup). Let’s see how he has performed the last 5 games in certain categories:

Jamario Moon (last 5 games)
@PHO–0 blocks, 2 rebounds
@SEA–0 blocks, 2 rebounds
@POR–2 blocks, 4 rebounds
@LAC–3 blocks, 5 rebounds
@BOS–1 block, 3 rebounds

Suffice to say, I am not pleased with Moon’s most recent games. In the five-game stretch listed above, he’s only averaging a block (half a block less than his average) and 2.7 boards a game (over 3 blocks less than his average)! To me, this is a drastic underachievement for a player like Moon who has performed well this season and in the past. But this highlights just how important it is to track a player’s performance over the last 5 or so games to get a general impression of what he might be producing for your team in the future. This is especially important for managers who are making short-term pickups in head-to-head leagues.

2- Look at how many minutes a potential pickup has played in recent games
This is one of the better indications of a player’s future potential because it indicates what to expect from a player. If a player is averaging 30 minutes per game and all-of-a-sudden drops to 20 minutes per game, I would be hard pressed to expect that player to produce as he once did earlier in the season. On the other hand, if that same player’s minutes skyrocketed to 38 minutes a game, I might actually expect a bigger contribution in the future from the player.

I’d be derelict in my duty, however, if I did not warn a manager to watch the news surrounding a player who’s minutes have substantially changed. If a player has been nursing a sore ankle, it’s to be expected that his minutes will decline. Also, if a player has jumped into the starting lineup because of an injury to a starter in his position, this also should be noted, because if the regular starter returns, the player you picked up may see a decline in minutes, and more importantly, stats.

It isn’t surprising that our example from above, Jamario Moon has seen significant declines in playing time as of late. In fact, the last 7 games he hasn’t even reached his season average of 28 minutes per game. The last 5 games Moon has logged 13, 11, 22, 24 and 20 minutes respectively. It’s player’s like this, that have seen a significant decline in playing time that should not be picked up.

Summary
Although a player’s worth can easily be gauged by a ranking metric, I strongly recommend a manager do at least this level of research and analyze a player’s most recent performances. Often times, a manager will find out something about a player that he or she did not realize beforehand.

Other: Part 1/5

To hoops,
Farid

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