How many cats to tank is a very complicated question and you don’t necessarily have to answer it before your draft starts. In roto leagues it’s hard to tank more than one cat and still be able to compete to win (some people will argue that you should not tank in roto, period), but in H2H you have more flexibility and at the same time greater chance to make a mistake. There is no formula, there is no general rule; just bear in mind that you have to be able to compete for victory every week and that on some weeks opposing players will explode/play more games and you will lose cats you are targeting, so make sure to target enough of them to stay competitive even in situations like those. For every tanked cat you have to excel in at least one and strengthen a few others, so don’t tank for the sake of doing it — tank only when it really helps your team be competitive in other cats.
If you have an opportunity to build good all-round team don’t pass it up; it’s always better to go into a matchup fighting for all 9 cats then to surrender some of them without a fight. In standard 9-cat leagues you can tank anywhere between 0 and 3 cats so you have lots of flexibility to adapt to whatever happens in your draft.
Three cats that get tanked most often, at least in my experience, are turnovers, FG% and FT%. This means that by not tanking any of these cats you can have a head start over your competition while most of other teams willingly or unwillingly tank at least one of them.
Turnovers are the only negative cat, so many people don’t like to use them because they reduce values of best players and make those values murkier. There are 3 reasons why I play turnover leagues almost exclusively:
1) They balance the importance of different positions. Guards are generally better than bigs at 4 cats: assists, steals, threes and FT%, while bigs are better at blocks, rebounds, FG% and turnovers. Remove turnovers and you create an imbalance that favors guards.
2) When a GM is struck by an injury to an important player, turnovers are only cat where he actually benefits from it, so it provides at least some kind of relief. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing and in the case of short-term or medium-term injuries it can help teams stay competitive and still make the playoffs.
3) They make for a more complex game that offers different strategies and approaches to team building, which is good argument for some of us, but not for everyone
It’s true that 6 out of top 7 ranked players are in the significantly above-average area of 2.3+ turnovers per game (38 players total, 27 of which are in the top 100), but taking one of these players doesn’t mean you can’t still be good overall. If you are lucky enough to get one of those 6 guys, you are probably picking late in the 2nd round where you can find a good player with low TOs. 18 of the top 30 players are in a group that’s around average (between 1.3 and 2.3 TO/gm), which means that you can start building good TO/gm team from the top. 73 out of top 100 players are in the average and below-average groups so considering potential rewards, it pays to avoid high TO/gm players when there is alternative of similar value, especially in the middle rounds. You have to keep in mind that you are targeting breakout players in late rounds, who are likely to contribute more turnovers then their draft position would suggest (most often due to increased playing time), so you have to prepare a low-turnover team in the high and middle rounds if you plan on winning the category consistently.
Percentages are popular categories to tank for several reasons:
a) They are not as easy to keep track of as cumulative stats. Player who shoots great FG% can be of very little help due to low number of shot attempts while player whose FG% is not too bad, can drag your team down if he shoots a lot and finally targeted values are not clearly defined.
b) Some of the high picks really suck in one of the percentages.
c) A vast majority of the low picks sucks in at least one of the percentages.
Solutions to these problems:
a) This all can be fixed with a good draft sheet that calculates your team’s overall percentages and shot attempts. That way you can easily check impact of any potential addition on your team’s overall effectiveness. For our 200 player set, the averages are 46.64 FG% and 78.41 FT%. It is very easy to approximate average for any league size: utilize basketballmonster.com for this purpose, and then use it as a guide during the draft.
b) This is a valid reason to tank a percentage. In high rounds, you should go best player available, so if it takes too much value and effort to compensate for their low percentage, then you are better off tanking it.
c) This is unavoidable, so you should prepare for it in high and middle rounds, while at the same time trying to target players with low shot attempts in low rounds.
Only 38 of the top 200 players were above average in both percentages last year, so it’s easy to see the value of a player who shoots above-average percentages on significant number of attempts. Out of top 18 players 12 are in that group, so you should try to secure your percentage anchors as soon as possible.
So what are the benefits of not tanking percentages? Same as with turnovers — you get a head start over teams that are tanking them, and since these cats are popular for tanking they can bring you nice number of wins or points. At the same time, a balanced team is not affected by injury to the star player too much and can stay competitive long enough to get injured player(s) back without falling behind by a wide margin.
Aleksandar Jovanovic is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Aleksandar in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of KalElen.
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