Wednesday, November 19, 2014

FTS fantasy draft

The best proxy for this exercise that we have is the NBA playoffs, when the best teams face each other we can note several things.

1.  Defense has been weighted more heavily than offense in preforming well in the playoffs since Jordan's last ring.  The major outlier in this case was a Lakers team that was #21 in D but was #1 the season prior and was #1 throughout those playoffs- they were just coasting in the regular season and everyone recognizes their defensive dominance in the postseason.  Most champions are good at both D and O, but the biggest gaps come with Great D and passable O- it doesn't happen the other way around.  Detroit was #18 in O and #2 on D (regular season rankings by efficiency per possession), Boston #10 and #1, The Spurs #11 and #1 and #8 and #1.  The largest gap between rankings for teams that were better on offense was the 2nd Heat title with Lebron #2 on O and #9 on D. 

2.  Point Guards are overrated in the playoffs.  This is a straightforward observation that the greatest PGs of the last 25 years have failed to win a championship in their prime.  Kidd and Payton managed to grab one each at age 37 playing 3d or 4th fiddle at best with turnover rates higher than their USG rates during both the regular season and playoffs for both.  Nash zero titles, Stockton zero, CP3 zero, Iverson zero.  The best point guard to win a title over the past 25 years has been the 3rd or 4th best player on his team during the playoffs. If you want to go back further Thomas was arguably the 3rd best player on those Pistons teams (defense and reboudning are very important in the playoffs) and Magic Johnson was 6'8 and could defend centers.  None of the PGs taken in this draft are like Magic (well, Lebron of course).

THIS IS NOT TO CLAIM THAT A GREAT PG COULD NEVER EVER WIN A FINALS.  It is the straight forward observation that they are much less likely to do so than great players at other positions.  Sure Nash might have won one had injury/suspension X not happened, but the primes of those players covered decades and covered a wide range of PG skills, to only have MAYBE 1 title between them all is very telling.  When it comes down to the best teams vs the best team relying on a PG isn't a great bet.

3.  Top shooting guards can initiate your offense as well as PGs can.  During their last 3 championship runs Ginobli has averaged more assists per 36 mins than Parker did twice while having a higher TS%, higher PER, better steal rate, and better rebounding all three times and matched or bettered Parker's scoring per 36 mins all three times.  Wade led his team in assist rate during his solo title run (regular season and playoffs) despite having two PGs on his team (Jason Williams and Gary Payton).  During 4 of his 5 titles Kobe led his team (regular season and playoffs) in assist rate and was #2 for the other at age 21. 


There are going to be a lot of claims that Team X's offense is unstoppable.  Its an exaggeration.  The absolute best shooters in the history of the game miss 10% of their FTs- basically unlimited practice time, a moment to gather your breath, focus and go through your preferred routine and the absolute best (Nash and Price 90.4% career marks) still miss sometimes.  The simple fact that scoring with the basketball is extremely tough works in the defenses favor.

In terms of the strength of my defense- the top 3 defensive teams were the Pacers, Bulls and Spurs.  I have the top two defenders from the Spurs, the top defender on the Bulls and the 2nd best defender on the Pacers.  Oh, and the top defender on the #5 defensive team coming off my bench.  My three wings have amazing foot speed, length and anticipation.  But here is the kicker


Of the top 10 scores in PPG last season only 2 averaged fewer than 7 FTA per game- only perimeter savants like Dirk (on my team) and Curry are able to score lots at high efficiency without taking a ton of FTs, and FTs for almost all quality scorers are the highest value shot they get on a consistent basis.  Well, that stinks for you since Duncan, Leonard, and George, despite being defensive focal points averaged 2.2, 2.4 and 2.7 fouls per 36 mins last year.  These guys play elite, high effort defense without fouling.  Noah averaged only 3.1 per 36 last season- his highest rate in the past 3 years, and MKG 3.5.  Even my offensive players Wade, Dirk and Manu don't foul (2.1, 2.3, 3.2) and the two that have the highest foul rates, Manu and MKG, are my bench players that will likely be eating the fewest mins.

This defense is about as well suited as you can imagine for slowing down opposing teams best players, with the added benefit of basically never turning off ball fouls into FTs because opposing teams will almost never be in the bonus.

Defensive rebounding is also a major strength, even Wade and Ginobli are good defensive rebounders, Kawhi, Noah and Goerge pretty good while Duncan and MKG are elite for their position, Heck Dirk is actually an average defensive rebounder. I can put in lineups like Duncan, Noah, MKG, Kawhi, Manu whose Dreb rates from last season would combine to > 90%.  Obviously my team wont be 90% + but you won't be expecting many 2nd chance opportunities.

Since I have already limited the number of FTs (and good shots in general) and offensive rebounds I should remind you that your teams are going to be missing a bunch of possessions thanks to the #3 and #8 in St% players from last year in Kawhi and PG, and Manu and Wade put up 2.2 and 1.6 steals per 36 mins in the playoffs last year- showing that they can still turn it up in big games.  Remember that they put up these numbers without fouling and playing with inferior team defenders on average.  The combination of George and Leonard is going to force turnovers for any team in this format. 


This team is much better than it first appears.  First we have our transition offense initiated by the best defensive rebounding and steals generating team.  Secondly offensive rebounds will add some cheap points- especially when Noah (12th in Oreb rate last year) has to battle with only one big man when Dirk is working outside.

Second Wade and Manu are still terrific creators as long as they are on the court.  Manu's per 36 min stats from the playoffs last year were 20 pts, 5.8 assists on 59% TS, and Wade put up 18/4 on 56% TS.

Third we have Dirk.  He is totally unguardable but he is one of the best all time at getting off a good shot no matter the defense, and will pull opposing bigs way away from the basket. 

Fourth we have Popovitch.  As I noted in the thread my team averaged slightly more assists per 36 mins than the sum total of New Zealand's team which boasts two PGs.  My big men are terrific passers and my coach has demonstrated the ability to invent and implement schemes that help win titles with cast offs like Green and Mills by using ball movement to generate shots for them. 

Fifth Paul George is spending a lot of time at the #2/#3 option.  He was able to create for himself well in Indiana with limited offensive players like Hibbert and Hill in the starting lineup. 


Every single player has played the role he will hold on this team recently.  Paul George has to take a step back as a ball handler from last year, but his 23% usage from 2 years ago shows he doesn't have to be the #1 offensive dog.  Dirk will score, Manu has excelled in the playoffs in 20-24 mpg coming off the bench, MKG though a starter played 24 mpg last season and as a bench player in relief of Kawhi/George that is probably a pretty good baseline.  Noah and Duncan have been anchoring high end defenses for years with varying responsibilities on offense depending on the teams surrounding them.  Wade is at his best as an offensive initiator who has help defenders behind him.

Experience- I got it, you don't.  If you like championship experience this team has the most from the coach, to the most finals MVPs, to finals appearances, to general playoff experience. 


Several other teams are going to snow job you.  They will tell you that Aldridge is going to shoot 3s despite shooting 22% on 130 career attempts, and tell you he is a good defender despite not being on an above average defense since Brandon Roy retired.  They will say imagine this plus this and that.  I won't be saying imagine.  I will be saying you know what Pop can do as a coach, you know these guys excel in their roles, you know that defense is more important than offense at the highest levels. This team is built specifically to slow down elite players so they can't generate huge numbers of points efficiently. 

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