Drafting By Numbers

The percentage chance of winning your head to head, fantasy basketball snake draft.

Just how much difference does draft positioning in a snake draft make to your chances of winning? Is it as skewed as people claim it to be? You don’t have to hold your breath because I am going to show you.

What is the most important thing to consider when drafting your fantasy team? Good old fashioned Value! I am positive that during their draft, everyone is trying to find that player in a certain round that will outdo his average draft position but, often the reach is the very thing that brings you undone.

One sure fire bet is that whenever we are drafting, we set our sites on a player and he is drafted a few spots before our pick. Some people panic and reach for a replacement player at the same position and some people can quickly asses the risk and draft based strictly on value or a plan for that particular round. The most important thing to factor into your decision is value! If you pick a player at pick 56, you want to ensure that he will deliver that value or better so as not to place you further behind the curve. By analysing NBA team depth charts and forecast for each team, you can make an educated assumption on who you believe to be the most viable targets to draft.

Another way to combat a horrible position in a draft is through trade and quick waiver additions. When scoping the waiver wire, it involves a lot more time and energy as the season wears on, you can however grab a player off the wire that can become the first string starter on your team. In years past it has been guys like Larry Sanders, Jeremy Lin, Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gobert in the spotlight and on many occasions I have traded these guys right at their peak to cash in on the hype surrounding “the next best thing” tag that has come with the increase in attention and opportunity.

Players coming into their third season are usually the ones to target but, quite often some are surrounded by far too much hype to be mathematically worth reaching for. There’s no point reaching for someone like Andre Drummond when he can have such a negative draw on your team! Sure if your strategy involves punting free throw percentage you can make it work but, take one example on board: I have never personally seen a champion fantasy team that has rostered Dwight Howard. Dwight has posted better counting statistics in his career than Drummond has so far and, Drummond will more than likely cost you a second round pick! Is that value? Not for me, not when you can take a player like Nerlens Noel or DeAndre Jordan a round or two later! that sounds a lot more like a value drafting to me.

Snake Draft Likelihood

As a little teaser, let’s have a look at each pick in your draft and the likelihood that it will equate to actually winning your league. A collection of fantasy basketball draft data was used to equate the percentage that at which position in a snake draft, that team went on to actually win the championship.

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What does this all mean?

At first glance we see the number three pick held the most success last season. One could surmise that pick one was Kevin Durant and would explain the dip in success at that spot. The guts of the numbers really support the notion of the front end of the draft having the better chance of winning.

Using standard average production for players inside the top 150, we can work it out quite quickly. I will use these ranks to show you how I would build a team based purely on value.

Let’s say you were lucky enough to land the number one pick and took Steph Curry or James Harden ( both lead the league with a standard average Score of 1.43 for basic 8 cat). When you combine their output with your next two picks in rounds two and three ( Kyle Lowry 0.4 and Nikola Vucevic 0.39) you have a total of 2.22 on the value scale.

Compare that to the statistical output you get from pick 12 in the draft. Using the 12th, 13th and 36th ranked players you have ( Klay Thompson 0.64, Jimmy Butler 0.6 and Victor Oladipo 0.26) you have a total combined positive score of 1.5. Now you might argue that 0.7 isn’t a great deal of difference but when you look at who those players are, you have one first round draft pick less in value than your opponent selecting at the start of the draft.

There are ways to try and combat this initial uneven points differential but it involves a little blind luck and, the hope that everyone ahead of you in the draft misses someone with exceptional value based on your draft position and scoring settings. Another way to combat this is to punt categories in favour of trying to dominate in just enough to win you your weekly battles.

Value Based Drafting

For this section, I will break down the top 144 ranked players through 12 rounds of a standard snake draft. This is simply a positional rank of what value guys actually returned throughout the last season not a list of where i think should be taken. If you can use this to ascertain the value a certain guy, at a pick in a certain round in your draft, then my work here is done.
Rankings are based on the 14″15 season. Scoring type factoring in 9 categories Points, 3’s, FG, FT%, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks and Turnovers.


1 Anthony Davis NOR PF/C
2 Stephen Curry GSW PG/SG
3 James Harden HOU SG
4 Chris Paul LAC PG
5 Kevin Durant OKC SF
6 Kawhi Leonard SAS SG/SF
7 Russell Westbrook OKC PG
8 Jimmy Butler CHI SG/SF
9 Klay Thompson GSW SG/SF
10 DeMarcus Cousins SAC PF/C
11 Kyrie Irving CLE PG/SG
12 Pau Gasol CHI PF/C


13 LaMarcus Aldridge POR PF/C
14 LeBron James CLE SF/PF
15 Paul Millsap ATL PF
16 Damian Lillard POR PG/SG
17 Al Horford ATL PF/C
18 Serge Ibaka OKC PF/C
19 Marc Gasol MEM C
20 Draymond Green GSW SF/PF
21 Tim Duncan SAS PF/C
22 Nikola Vucevic ORL PF/C
23 Danny Green SAS SG/SF
24 Brook Lopez BKN C


25 Rudy Gay SAC SF
26 Jrue Holiday NOR PG
27 Jeff Teague ATL PG
28 Carmelo Anthony NYK SF/PF
29 Blake Griffin LAC PF
30 John Wall WAS PG
31 Kyle Lowry TOR PG/SG
32 Kevin Love CLE PF/C
33 George Hill IND PG
34 Kyle Korver ATL SG/SF
35 Trevor Ariza HOU SF
36 Hassan Whiteside MIA PF/C


37 Tyson Chandler DAL C
38 Gordon Hayward UTA SG/SF
39 Wesley Matthews POR SG/SF
40 Chris Bosh MIA PF/C
41 Dirk Nowitzki DAL PF
42 Marcin Gortat WAS C
43 Derrick Favors UTA PF/C
44 Darren Collison SAC PG
45 Eric Bledsoe PHO PG/SG
46 Rudy Gobert UTA C
47 Al Jefferson CHA C
48 DeAndre Jordan LAC C


49 Gorgui Dieng MIN PF/C
50 Khris Middleton MIL SG/SF
51 Tobias Harris ORL SF/PF
52 Mike Conley MEM PG
53 Kemba Walker CHA PG
54 DeMarre Carroll ATL SF
55 Brandon Knight PHO PG/SG
56 Nerlens Noel PHI PF/C
57 Greg Monroe DET PF/C
58 Chandler Parsons DAL SF
59 JJ Redick LAC SG/SF
60 Jonas Valanciunas TOR C


61 Victor Oladipo ORL PG/SG
62 Kevin Martin MIN SG
63 Goran Dragic MIA PG/SG
64 Zach Randolph MEM PF
65 Monta Ellis DAL PG/SG
66 Robert Covington PHI SF/PF
67 Ty Lawson DEN PG
68 Terrence Jones HOU PF
69 Nicolas Batum POR SG/SF
70 Markieff Morris PHO PF/C
71 Brandon Jennings DET PG
72 Jared Sullinger BOS PF/C


73 Andrew Bogut GSW C
74 Isaiah Thomas BOS PG/SG
75 JR Smith CLE SG/SF
76 Lou Williams TOR PG/SG
77 Thaddeus Young BKN SF/PF
78 Andre Drummond DET PF/C
79 Tyreke Evans NOR SG/SF
80 Danilo Gallinari DEN SF/PF
81 Wilson Chandler DEN SG/SF
82 PJ Tucker PHO SG/SF
83 DeMar DeRozan TOR SG/SF
84 Bradley Beal WAS SG


85 Enes Kanter OKC PF/C
86 Ricky Rubio MIN PG
87 Matt Barnes LAC SF
88 Jamal Crawford LAC PG/SG
89 Patrick Patterson TOR PF
90 Luol Deng MIA SF
91 Brandan Wright PHO PF/C
92 Kenneth Faried DEN PF
93 Giannis Antetokounmpo MIL SG/SF
94 Joe Johnson BKN SG/SF
95 Dwyane Wade MIA SG
96 Tony Allen MEM SG/SF


97 Anthony Morrow OKC SG/SF
98 Patrick Beverley HOU PG
99 Langston Galloway NYK PG/SG
100 Robin Lopez POR C
101 Kobe Bryant LAL SG/SF
102 Ed Davis LAL PF/C
103 Jeff Green MEM SF/PF
104 Deron Williams BKN PG
105 Anderson Varejao CLE C
106 Reggie Jackson DET PG/SG
107 Ryan Anderson NOR PF
108 CJ Miles IND SG/SF


109 David West IND PF
110 Harrison Barnes GSW SF/PF
111 Taj Gibson CHI PF
112 Joakim Noah CHI C
113 Eric Gordon NOR SG
114 Roy Hibbert IND C
115 Paul Pierce WAS SF/PF
116 Timofey Mozgov CLE C
117 Avery Bradley BOS PG/SG
118 Kelly Olynyk BOS PF/C
119 Tyler Zeller BOS PF/C
120 Mike Dunleavy CHI SG/SF


121 Mo Williams CHA PG/SG
122 Ersan Ilyasova MIL SF/PF
123 Marvin Williams CHA SF/PF
124 Nikola Mirotic CHI SF/PF
125 Amir Johnson TOR PF/C
126 James Johnson TOR SF/PF
127 CJ Watson IND PG
128 Courtney Lee MEM SG
129 Larry Sanders FA PF/C
130 Ben McLemore SAC SG
131 Andrew Wiggins MIN SG/SF
132 Kevin Garnett MIN PF/C


133 Jordan Clarkson LAL PG
134 Alex Len PHO C
135 Wesley Johnson LAL SG/SF/PF
136 Jodie Meeks DET SG
137 Donatas Motiejunas HOU PF
138 Jordan Hill LAL PF/C
139 Andre Iguodala GSW SG/SF
140 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope DET SG
141 Jeremy Lin LAL PG
142 Corey Brewer HOU SG/SF
143 Tiago Splitter SAS PF/C
144 Jabari Parker MIL SF/PF


As a little added extra. I’ll add in the next crop of guys just so you can have a little peek through the looking glass.

145 Amar’e Stoudemire DAL PF/C
146 Marcus Morris PHO PF
147 Devin Harris DAL PG/SG
148 Nikola Pekovic MIN C
149 Andrea Bargnani NYK PF/C
150 Rodney Stuckey IND PG/SG
151 Jarrett Jack BKN PG/SG
152 Marcus Smart BOS PG
153 John Henson MIL PF/C
154 Zaza Pachulia MIL C
155 Jared Dudley MIL SG/SF
156 Brandon Bass BOS PF
157 Channing Frye ORL PF/C
158 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist CHA SF
159 Cole Aldrich NYK C
160 Nick Young LAL SG/SF
161 Tony Parker SAS PG
162 Mario Chalmers MIA PG/SG
163 Cody Zeller CHA PF/C
164 Dwight Howard HOU PF/C
165 Gerald Henderson CHA SG/SF
166 Evan Turner BOS SG/SF
167 Iman Shumpert CLE PG/SG/SF
168 Josh Smith HOU SF/PF
169 OJ Mayo MIL SG
170 Michael Carter-Williams MIL PG/SG
171 Jose Calderon NYK PG
172 Henry Walker MIA SG
173 Alec Burks UTA PG/SG

Notable Exclusions

The Rookies

Of course there are no rookies on this list above. It is quite rare to see a rookie crack the top 100 players for value in their unnatural fantasy season. Some players have made it but the normal scenario plays out with inefficiency and a high turnover rate.

If you’re in a keeper league and absolutely must have a rookie that you covet, you’re going to have to draft him in the fifth round. This by no means is a value pick, it is simply where guys start to target the young players that are sprinkled with hype.

Breaking the Numbers

Have you ever taken the time to work out the average statistical output you’ll need from all of the players combined on your team to have a competitive edge in your league? It’s actually quite an easy task, especially if you are in a keeper league. You can take the total numbers that the top rated teams in your league posted in each category, then divide that by the number of weeks in your season (including playoffs). Here you will have an average weekly target to try and hit. I call this the X by Y by Z theory.

For example, the top ranked team in Rebounds in my 12 team league last year amassed 5315 total boards for the season. The season, including playoffs was played over 22 weeks. If you take that number, divide it by the total weeks played (5315 / 22 = 242) it gives you your target for total rebounds per week.

We employed a 12 man roster so further divide the results by 12 ( 242 / 12 = 20.1). On average most teams will play 3 games per week so further divide the results by 3 and now you have your per player, per game target for rebounds ( 20.1 / 3 = 6.7 ). Looking at these figures, you are going to try and target that between your drafted players, they will all average a combined 6.7 rebounds per game. It can be slightly less but as long as you’re near that figure you will be competitive.

The same formula can be used for any counting statistic in your league, points rebounds, assists and so on. Before each draft I will work these numbers out and look trough the rounds of my draft to see if I can devise a list of players that will give me what I need.

Here is a little table for my 12 team league that I used this season when searching for the best players to draft for my team.

TOTALS- Per Week- Per Player- Per Game

P- 13360 – 607 – 51- 17
R- 5315 – 242 – 20 – 7
A- 3248 – 147 – 12 – 4
S- 974 – 44 – 4 – 1.3
B- 766 – 35 – 3 – 1
3- 1035 – 47 – 4 – 1.3
FG- .4808%
FT- .7973%

Now it is an impossibility to dominate all of these categories. If you could manage to find players to average these statistics a week and draft them all on one team you would have built the perfect beast. Here is where you need to decide exactly what categories you want to go after.

Points, rebounds and assists are the easiest categories to get, steals and blocks however are a lot harder. The problem with blocks is that while you may be strong in that one category, usually you will struggle with free throw percentage. The problem with trying to tackle threes made usually means your field goal percentage will struggle. My usual plan is to punt blocks and try to target percentages (FG and FT), threes made, Assists and Steals, this gives me 5 of 8 categories every week.

In a league where guys know what they are doing, like the Superstars league this year, you will need to draft on the fly. There will be picks taken in unusual places as guys try and get a leg up on the competition. You may see people begin to start punting categories as early as the second round.

Thanks for taking the time to read, I hope this has given you something to think about.

Matt McLean @wwfantasyteam

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