In today's column, I explore three topics which were suggested to me on Twitter by Rotoworld readers. First up is a schedule grid with each team's remaining games week-by-week, as well as tallies for fantasy playoff schedules.
That will be followed by full player rankings for 8-cat and 9-cat leagues (including punt-FT% ranks), and a brief discussion of some advanced statistics for assists. The beating heart of this column is the spreadsheet I link to at various points, and I encourage you to check it out!
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $150,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Thursday's NBA games. It's just $25 to join and first prize is $20,000. Starts at 8pm ET on Thursday. Here's the FanDuel link.
Note: Follow this link for the full grid, including games-played for select fantasy playoff schedules. It's a Google Drive file which I'll update every Sunday, so you may want to save the link for future reference. (Depending upon where you are in the world, the link may be blocked. If it is, send me a direct message on Twitter with your email address and I'll send you the file.)
The total games remaining for teams from Week 13 (starting Jan. 19) through the end of the season ranges from a high of 44 (the Warriors and Celtics) to a low of 38 (the Magic). Here is a breakdown of the other 27 teams:
Teams with 43 games: Timberwolves
Teams with 42 games: Nuggets, Grizzlies, Heat, Bucks, Pelicans, Thunder, 76ers, Kings, Raptors
Teams with 41 games: Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Pistons, Rockets, Clippers, Lakers, Knicks, Blazers, Jazz, Wizards
Teams with 40 games: Bulls, Pacers, Suns, Spurs
Teams with 39 games: none
The Magic easily have the worst remaining schedule, as you can see, with only three four-game weeks over the final 3+ months of the season. Two of those four-game slates fall in prime fantasy playoff territory, Weeks 20 & 21, which at least softens the blow for owners of Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, etc. If you own two Magic players, however, you might consider trading one of them to balance out your remaining games-played.
Here are the best and worst teams for various playoff schedules (if I don't list your specific playoff window, you can always figure it out with the Google Drive file).
Weeks 19-22: The best teams are the Celtics, Warriors and Grizzlies, who each play 16 games during this span. The Mavericks and Magic bring up the rear with 13 games each, with every other team falling into the 14-15 game range.
Weeks 20-23: The spread between the best and worst teams gets wider during this four-week stretch, ranging from 16 games (Celtics, Warriors and Knicks) down to a low of 12 games (Mavericks and Cavaliers). Most teams play 15 times, there are seven teams that play 14 times, and four teams are limited to 13 games (Bulls, Pelicans, Suns and Magic).
Weeks 21-23: This playoff window is more about which teams you want to avoid. There are 10 teams with a high of 12 games played, and a dozen more teams with 11 games played. That leaves eight teams on the short end of the schedule: the Nuggets, Hawks, Pelicans and Mavericks (10 games each), as well as the Bulls, Suns, Magic and Cavaliers (nine games).
Weeks 22-24: The vast majority of the league plays 10 or 11 times during this three-week stretch, with only nine outliers worth mentioning. The Hornets, Spurs and Lakers are the best teams to target with 12 games each. The Clippers, Nuggets, Mavericks and Bulls are limited to nine games, while the Magic and Cavaliers are even worse with only eight games.
Next up is a full breakdown of the top-200 players through January 13. I had a few requests for an updated list that includes each player's mean stats, so I've provided rankings for both 8-cat and 9-cat leagues, as well as rankings if you're punting FT% in either of those formats. Rather than posting the entire list here, I'll once again refer you to the spreadsheet. Note: this ranks each player's value to date. It is not a projection of future value.
A few quick notes...James Harden has slowly asserted himself as the top player in 8-cat leagues, barely edging out Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry, and he's helped immensely by his league-best free throw shooting -- he's making 90.0 percent of his FTs, a stellar number which is heavily weighted by 8.8 attempts per game. If you paired Harden with awful FT-shooting guards Rajon Rondo and Michael Carter-Williams, you would (in a vacuum) still be slightly above average in weighted FT%.
Anthony Davis surges into the top spot in 9-cat leagues, thanks to his sparse turnovers (1.4 in 36 minutes per game), which gives him the edge over Curry (No. 2) and Harden (No. 3). They are followed by Chris Paul and Damian Lillard, the latter of whom has established himself as a truly elite fantasy PG this season. The 24-year-old is averaging career-highs in points (22.2), FG percentage (45.8%), 3-pointers (2.8), FT percentage (86.7%), rebounds (4.8) and steals (1.4), while falling just shy of his rookie mark in assists (6.3).
Anyone engaged in a punt-FT% strategy should check out those specific rankings for 8-cat and 9-cat leagues, where guys like DeAndre Jordan (No. 13), Dwight Howard (No. 19), Andre Drummond (No. 25) and Rajon Rondo (No. 40) fly up the rankings. Here is the spreadsheet.
Advanced Assist Stats
I touched briefly on advanced assist numbers in a previous column, and a random question on Twitter inspired me to dive back into NBA.com's treasure trove of data.
I used the top-100 players in assists as my baseline population, regardless of games played or minutes per game. NBA.com provides an interesting stat called 'assist opportunities', which they define as, "Potential Assists - Passes by a player to a teammate in which the teammate attempts a shot, and if made, would be an assist."
I divided that number by the actual number of points each player has created via their assists this season, to arrive at 'Points Created per Assist Opportunity' (I'll call it PCAO for short). This number seems attributable to two factors -- the quality of the opportunity created by the initial pass, and the ability of the passer's teammates to convert shots. For example, the 76ers are last in the NBA in field goal percentage (41.1%), so you'd expect Michael Carter-Williams to rank very low by this metric. Sure enough, he ranks 97th out of 100, averaging 1.02 points created for each of his 'assist opportunities.' Similarly, the Pacers are 28th in FG% this season, and we find Donald Sloan (99th) and C.J. Watson (96th) in the basement. Timberwolves' rookie Zach LaVine comes in last by a fairly wide margin.
Gal Mekel is technically first in PCAO, but his four-game sample size renders that somewhat meaningless. Al Horford is second with a sturdy 1.52 PCAO, joining DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin and Tim Duncan as the only big men in the top-20. Again, this suggests both that their teammates can knock down shots and that they're delivering crisp and effective passes, particularly out of double teams (it's worth noting that this metric doesn't penalize players like Boogie for turnovers).
Another interesting measure of passing and assists is the number of passes each player makes for every one of the 'assist opportunities' they create. Common sense suggests that teams favoring ball-movement would have more players toward the top of this list, and that's exactly what we find -- the Spurs and the Spurs-East (Hawks) account for five of the top seven players. Tim Duncan is No. 2 with 8.25 passes for every assist opportunity, followed by Al Horford, Boris Diaw, Cory Joseph and Paul Millsap.
Draymond Green tops the list, making 8.34 passes for every potential assist, but when he does get those opportunities they tend to count -- he ranks with a stellar 1.45 PCAO, a credit to both his play-making and his teammates' shot-making.
NBA.com also keeps track of 'FT-assists', crediting players with 0.5 assists for every free throw made as a direct result of their passes. They also tally up 'secondary assists', also known as 'hockey assists', and by tallying up these two unofficial stats (FT-assists and secondary assists) we can gauge which players are having a significant 'unseen' impact on their team's offense.
This category is thoroughly dominated by point guards, who occupy each of the top 18 spots, with Chris Paul leading them all with a combined 3.9 FT-assists and secondary assists per game. John Wall (3.2) is a distant second, followed by Kyrie Irving (2.7), Mike Conley (2.7) and Jeff Teague (2.7). Manu Ginobili (1.9) snaps the PG streak at No. 19, and the top-50 also includes LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Gordon Hayward, Nicolas Batum, Victor Oladipo, Al Horford and Andre Iguodala.
I'm personally excited for the day when fantasy leagues will include such advanced metrics, capturing hitherto ignored facets of each player's game to provide a more holistic view of overall values. If concepts such as PCAO and secondary assists pique your interest, there's more to be gleaned from the full file!
I'll be back next week with another edition of the 'Numbers Game.' Feel free to email me or send me a message on Twitter if you have any questions or ideas. Good luck this week!