Tip 4: Determine Why a Player is a Free Agent

This is the fourth installment of How to Pickup a Free Agent, which discusses what any competitive fantasy basketball manager should do before picking up a free agent.

Here are the previous three:
(1) Look at a free agent’s overall & season ranking
(2) Determine if the free agent is trending up or down
(3) Pick up free agent’s that will add value to your team

(4) Figure out why the player is a free agent

There are 156 unavailable, signed players in my H2H league (12 teams * 13 players/team). In contrast, there are over 350 available free agents (15 pages of 25 players each).

For the most part, a free agent is available because a league has determined that the player’s future predicted output (“fantasy statistics”) is not greater than the future predicted output of existing signed players. In this sense Fantasy Basketball “markets” are efficient. If a free agent’s future predicted fantasy stats are greater than that of an existing signed player, an add/drop transaction takes place.

Therefore, there is probably a good, if not decent, reason why a player is currently a free agent in your league. Let’s discuss some of the possible reasons (many of which are obvious).

Reasons why a player might be a free agent

  1. A player does not accumulate enough fantasy statistics
  2. A player is injured and his short-run, medium-run, or long-run fantasy scoring potential has been hindered
  3. A player’s future potential is severely affected by loss of minutes (return of a starter), a trade (moved to a new system), team problems (doesn’t get along with other players), league problems (suspension), or even personal/legal problems
  4. A player’s overachievements in certain categories are outweighed by glaring weaknesses
  5. A player is perceived to be on a down turn (see tip 2/5)

Now that we have an understanding as to why a player is typically a free agent, I have some tips for manager’s that seek to improve their eye-of-skepticism when looking at potential pickups.

How to evaluate a free agent

  1. Read all of the available news surrounding a player
    This involves at minimum reading the little post-it note that Yahoo places next to players. This will provide you with a cursory look at a player’s recent performance, injury updates and sometimes gives you recommendations as well.
    But, for more competitive managers, I recommend reading blogs, sports news sites and browsing fantasy basketball forums to gain a better idea of what might be going on with a particular player. An extremely valuable tip I once received was to consult team-specific sites, blogs, etc. for information on players, as these sites tend to cover individual players on the team better than generalist sites.
    Becoming an “expert” on a player doesn’t take more than 5 minutes and it alerts you to the valuable information on the player’s injury status, his recent minutes, his off-the-court problems, etc.
  2. Look at the free agent’s performance in his (i) last game, (ii) last week and (iii) last month
    See a downward trend? This should warn a manager to do additional research to determine if the player falls into one of the categories listed above. For example, a player may have lost his starting position when his teammate returned from injury.
  3. Determine the free agent’s weakness(es)
    Nearly every player would be a worthwhile acquisition if you could take only that player’s positive characteristics and leave his weaknesses behind. In general, big-men (F’s, PF’s and C’s) tend to have high FG%’s, Rebounds and Blocks, with low Three’s, FT%’s and Assists. On the other hand, guards (SF, SG, G, PGs) typically outperform in Three’s, FT%’s and Steals and are weak in Rebounding, Blocks and FG%. Although the acquisition of a certain free agent may be helpful in some categories, a manager should always make sure the player does not bring extreme weaknesses in other areas. What use is a player who was brought on to bring in Threes if he is a severely poor shooter (FG%, FT%) and turns the ball over excessively?

In conclusion, I can’t emphasize enough the amount of homework a competitive manager needs to do before he or she should make an acquisition. Whether it be scouting the player on Yahoo, a fantasy blog, etc., a manager should always be aware of the recent developments of a player he or she is thinking about picking up.

To hoops,


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