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NBA Crisis Management - Keeping Steady Through Tough Situations


This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a campus experience day at a top tier business school, a truly memorable experience that I enjoyed throughout. One of the coolest parts of the experience was being able to take in a mini lecture to get a taste of life at the school, and our topic for that lecture was Crisis Management. One thing the professor said has resonated quite deeply with me since, and it has very deep implications when applied to fantasy basketball.

"The focus in business has shifted away from preventing crisis from happening, but rather, accepting that things do happen and instead focusing on how to manage it in the best way possible."

I'm in 7 money leagues this season (a little crazy, I know). 5 of my teams are cruising along with 1-3 seeds and I haven't really had to manage these teams much - they were strong drafts that haven't ran into any hiccups so far and they've just kind of rolled along. Meanwhile, a painfully high amount of micromanaging has gone into my other two teams, each of which has been going through prolonged crisis periods. The type of crisis applicable to the teams in question fall neatly into what is probably the two most likely buckets that a fantasy basketball crisis can fall into. Taking a look at these buckets and learning how to manage them is a great level-up opportunity for us as fantasy basketball players. Let's start with the first one.

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The Infirmary Crisis

Yep, this is probably the most common bucket, and very obvious to anyone going through it. Injuries happen in basketball, and the quote above could not be more relevant when applied to injuries - it happens, so we have to deal with it. Usually, a well drafted team can easily weather an injury or two and still roll along but once injuries begin to outnumber IL slots, that's when crisis hits, especially in a daily changes league.

Damage Control

The most challenging part about managing an infirmary crisis is walking the line between having literal zeroes in your lineup versus dropping a useful player to mitigate losses in the short term. There are two things to consider here: whether opening up that streaming spot will actually help to minimize lost categories and whether the player being dropped is valuable enough to your team to want to hold on to even if it means giving up category wins in the current week.

The first thing to take into account is how much streaming will even increase your chances of winning the categories that you are losing because of your injuries. There are going to be weeks where there really isn't much you can do. In my infirmary crisis league, I had injuries to Rudy Gay, Jonathan Isaac, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, John Collins and Jeff Teague during the first 4 weeks of the season, with no less than 3-4 guys injured in any given week. In every single week, points and rebounds were pretty much a lost cause - there was almost no way for me to win even with very aggressive streaming without compromising elsewhere. I pretty much went into each week writing off those 2 categories as well as 3s (this is a punt 3s team) when planning out my moves. If streaming doesn't move the needle that much anyways, it's better to just hold your injured players and take your lumps.

For categories that are contestable, you need to make a decision on holding your injured players. The most important factor to consider here is where you sit in the context of the season. Early in the year, I would limit my drop zone for short-mid term injuries to guys with last 2-3 rounds value (for example, 120+ ranking in a 12-team league with 13 players per team) within the context of your punt strategy. Later on in the season, the size of that drop zone will expand/contract based on your playoff positioning. If you're fighting for a playoff spot, it may be correct to increase that drop zone up to the last 5-6 rounds, and if you are pretty safely in playoff positioning with a cushion to spare, you might shrink that zone down to truly borderline guys.

In my situation, Gay, Isaac and Hollis-Jefferson are all 7-8 round values (and obviously Collins and Teague rank even higher) in punt 3s, so I was inclined to hold and play 2-3 players down for each of the first 4 weeks of the seasons. This doesn't mean just sitting back and eating the full share of losses, which leads into the next concept: streaming to mitigate damage rather than streaming to win.

Polarized Skill-Sets Are Your Best Friends

I harp on this concept a lot, and I feel like it is one of the most underrated concepts in fantasy basketball that almost nobody talks about.

For the last 3 weeks during the heart of my infirmary crisis in this league, I was projected to lose between 3-6 and 2-7 every single week quite solidly being down 2-3 players (4-5 injuries, 2 IL slots). I came out the other end with a 4-5, 3-5, 3-5, essentially stealing somewhere between 4-8 categories over a 3 week span. The key to damage control in these kind of situations is relying on players with polarized skill-sets - guys who are elite in one category but sit on wires because they are pretty bad in most others.

You're going to be projected to lose almost every volume category when you are playing essentially down 7-12 games, so leaning on polarized skill-sets is almost like a super punt. Losing other categories harder won't make you take more than the one L you'll get while a specialist can help you steal a category you wouldn't have won and reduce losses overall during the crisis period.

That means guys like PJ Tucker and Thaddeus Young (steals), Zach Collins and Mitchell Robinson (blocks), Spencer Dinwiddie and Wesley Matthews (3s), Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart (assists) etc. are much more attractive streamers to me than someone like Rodney McGruder or Jaylen Brown - guys ranked where they are for being mediocre throughout. That's also why I like to keep guys with polarized skill-sets at the back end of my rosters as they leave your team with a much more competitive build in the scenarios where your better players get injured, rather than leaving you with a team that is just bad across the board.

The key to damage mitigation is figuring out which categories you can try to steal and streaming hard in that direction. Turning a projected 2-7 week into a 4-5 is just as impactful at the end of the day as turning a 4-5 into a 6-3, even if is a lot less sexy.

 

The Variance Crisis

This type of crisis is a lot harder to spot than the infirmary crisis, but managing the fallout of it is just as important. Variance crisis comes from a multi week period of two things you don't have control over: scheduling variance and extreme statistical variance.

Scheduled Losses

Sometimes scheduling will kick you hard in the nuts and there really isn't much you can do about it. There will be weeks where your opponent's studs will all be brandishing 4 game weeks and if that matches up with most of your team running on 2-3 game weeks, you can easily find yourself down a significant number of games and facing an uphill battle. String a number of these weeks together and you're in a full blown variance crisis.

Here's where our old friend stat polarization comes in again. Polarized stat spreads are important again here in order to navigate past the games disadvantage while losing as few categories as possible. Knowing which categories are contestable and which are lost causes is extremely important when facing a string of unbalanced schedule weeks.

When Scrubs Pop Off And Studs Go To Sleep

And then there's the other side of variance crisis - when players, either yours or your opponents, perform well above or below their projected performance. The nature of small sample sizes can lead to some strange stats, and variance is something that will just happen - there is nothing you can do when your opponent's player who averages 1 steal per game pops off for 4 steals, or your player who averages 2 steals a game can't even get 2 for a whole week causing you to lose a category you projected to win comfortably.

Assessing Accurately

Have this happen over a period of 2 to 3 weeks and your situation is going to look pretty dire. In the league where I am going through variance crisis, I have faced both sides of this coin during the first 5 weeks of the season. Week 1 and week 2 saw projected 7-2 and 6-3 weeks devolve into a 4-5 loss and a 5-4 win due to stats just not lining up the right way leading to close losses in categories I should have won. A mid week injury to Jonathan Isaac wiped out a sure win and turned it into a 4-4 tie and week 4 had me down 9 games due to schedule for an almost assured big loss.

The important lesson to keep in mind during a variance crisis is being able to make an accurate assessment of your team despite what the results and standings are. This works both ways, where it's important to analyze weeks where variance works in your favor as well as against you, and assess which categories were won off variance and which were expected and in line with projections. The biggest mistake you can make during a variance crisis is shaking up your team too much when moves weren't really needed.

A variance crisis is just that - a couple weeks of bad variance that will make your team look worse than it is, and it's important to know just how strong or weak your team is and where it stands in the overall hierarchy of your league. Just because your team fell in the standings during a variance crisis doesn't mean it's any weaker than it was prior to it, and you end up hurting your team more in the long run with knee-jerk reactions to a situation you had no control over. For example, fun guy Kawhi Leonard had 2 weeks with only 1 steal, and both of those weeks happened at the worst possible times and directly caused me to lose steals in weeks where I was projected to win. It makes it easy to overlook the 6 and 7 steal weeks he had in the other 2 weeks, which puts his average pretty close to what you would expect on a game to game basis. Yes, the poor steal games lined up in the absolute worst way possible for me, but trading Kawhi away would be an absolute overreaction, and it's just a matter of holding still and knowing that things won't always line up as poorly as they have.

There's no way to prevent variance crisis. If you're in multiple leagues, there will almost always be one league where you'll find yourself dealing with it, so keep a level head, don't make overreaction trades, and focus on managing it.

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Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More