Category Archives: Fantasy Basketball Tips

5 Reasons You Should Not Draft Lebron James

Should you select Lebron James for your fantasy basketball lineup?

Is Lebron James worth drafting for your fantasy-basketball roster?  The game’s biggest all-around statistical star has plenty to offer for the right team, but a number of factors suggest that snagging James might not be your best bet.  Here a few things to consider before committing your fantasy fate to the shoulders of King James:

1. Paying Extra for Reputation

As great as Lebron James’ numbers are, they’re generally not worth quite as much as someone in your league will be willing to pay to obtain.  Lebron’s name recognition and casual-fan appeal mean that he’s likely to be overbid on in many leagues.

If you’ve done your homework, then you’ll know how to spend your budget wiser, as great buys always appear.  So for Lebron, there’s no need to take the bait.  Let the fanboys do the chasing and overspending.  Meanwhile, you’ll get better bang for your buck elsewhere.

2. The Day of Rest

A glance at Lebron James’ year-by-year stats shows that, despite losing only about half of a season to various injuries over the years, James still never plays in all 82 games.  As he ages, Heat coach Eric Spoelstra has found occasions to rest James, often near the end of a season when playoff spots have been decided.

When one realizes that the staggered nature of a typical teams NBA schedule means that some teams can play two or even three more games than others in a given calendar week, it can create a situation where Lebron might not even take the court late in your fantasy season, just when you need him most.

As happened late in the 2013-14 season, you might find yourself in a situation where you play Lebron in a given week – perhaps even a playoff week in your league — then discover too late that he’s not going to play.  “DNP – Coach’s Decision”.  Heck of a way to lose a league, should it occur, and it’s a small but non-zero risk you’ll have to endure if you have Lebron on your team.

3. Not Much More Statistical Upside

While Lebron possesses that magical extra gear that allows him to drive a team down a stretch run while putting up numbers that are better than his already impressive standards, will that improvement be enough to overcome the greater percentage improvements being put up by players elsewhere?

Here’s one of the hidden truths of Lebron James in the fantasy-basketball realm: Teams that own him are often destined for middle-of-the-pack finishes.  That’s because he’s generally consistent over time, and that the teams that due well in fantasy hoops are those which take a chance on lesser players, then enjoy the fruits of those players bursting out in a major way.

For instance, let’s look at Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas.  When Thomas moved into the starting lineup in 2013-14, he went from 13.9 to 20.7 PPG, 4.0 to 6.4 APG, 2.0 to 3.0 RBG and so on.  By and large Thomas is the same player; he just gets more minutes… and deservedly so.  But fantasy owners wise enough to snag Thomas enjoyed what is about a 40%, across-the-board uptick compared to Thomas’s 2012-13 numbers.

Nowhere in this nor any adjacent universe can Lebron James improve his already gaudy numbers by another 40% — and remember, if you’ve got James in an auction leagues, he’s already a big chunk of your budget.  Welcome to the middle of the pack.

4. No Way to Cover an Extended Injury, Should One Occur

Injuries are the ban of any fantasy-hoops GM’s existence, rather remarkably reflecting real-life in that regard.  While Lebron James has never truly suffered a season-ending injury, his increasing age (below) means that the odds of such an injury alos increase slowly over time.

And if that happens, and if you’ve got Lebron on your team – you’re done.  Write off your investment and move on to the next season.  Lebron typically costs such a high percentage of any owner’s budget that he can’t be replaced if a serious injury occur.

There’s also the fact that if you’re done for the season, you’ll be less likely to spend much time on your weekly lineups and you won’t get very much enjoyment out of the rest of your team’s lackluster performance.  Take Lebron’s big numbers off virtually any fantasy team that owns him, and there’s not much left.

5. Happy 30th Soon, and Here’s Your Rocker

Despite Lebron’s fantasy physical skill and conditioning, 30 is 30.  Lebron turns that magical number in December, amid the 2014-15 season, and that’s usually the point at which age-related decline becomes noticeable in any NBA player’s stats.  It doesn’t mean that players can’t put up awesome seasons in their 30’s, or that such declines are automatic or uniform, but that’s the smart-money bet.

Take Kobe Bryant, for instance.  His gaudiest year came at age 27, and it was at age 30 that his numbers began a slow decline that was there even before the devastating injury in late 2013.  From age 30 to 34, Kobe’s points dropped about 5%, the steals by about 15%, the rebounds, close to 20%.  In his prime, Kobe shot about 35% from three-point range; in recent years, it’s been more like 32%.

That overall statistical bleed happens to all NBA-ers when they reach their 30’s, and Lebron James is poised upon that precipice.  Barring injury, he’s still going to put up great numbers for several more years, but it’s likely that statistical bleed will set in soon.

Conclusion

As awesome as Lebron James’ fantasy performance would be your team, the costs of obtaining James for your lineup, combined with his increasing age and the catastrophic effect that a James injury would have, mean there are just as many reasons to look elsewhere.  There’s an old saying about having “all your eggs in one basketball,” and in fantasy-basketball terms, having King James on your roster means exactly that.

 

5 Reasons You Should Draft Lebron James

Should you draft Lebron James for your fantasy basketball team?

So you’ve got the chance to put Lebron James on your fantasy basketball team. Is it worth the risk? Lebron’s almost always going to be snapped up within the first two or three spots in a draft-only league, so the argument there is whether to use the #1 pick on the NBA’s biggest star. In auction leagues it’s a trickier question, since Lebron alone is likely to chew up more than 40% of your available budget, meaning you’ll be surrounding him with a lineup of complimentary, non-superstar players. So is it a good risk? Here’s five reasons why picking Lebron might still be a great bet:

1. Positional Dominance

Lebron James’ overall stats outmatch by a wide margin virtually all the other players you’ll be able to use at small forward. What this dos is create a wide spread of performance within that position.

James himself tends to be overpriced in auction drafts, but there’s a hidden counter-effect to consider: If you’ve already got James, it’s a little bit easier and cheaper to find a replacement-level player at another position – say, point guard – who isn’t quite at quite as much a statistical deficit when compared against the biggest stars at that position.

What that means is that it’s often okay to overpay a little bit for James, and make it up at a different position where the second-tier players are available cheap. Many excellent fantasy-league managers put their teams near the top of a league year after year by exploiting such positional tradeoffs. But it doesn’t work unless you’re willing to take the risk on a superstar such as Lebron James.

2. Multiple-Position Eligibility

While his numbers vie with those of Kevin Durant for the best all-around performance in fantasy basketball, Lebron is usually eligible at power forward, in addition to his regular role at small forward.

That can open up interesting trade and waiver-wire possibilities as the season drags on, helping to justify Lebron’s always-premium price. But say you’re in a tight positional race or head-to-head matchup with another player, and you’ve got an extra small forward on your roster who puts up points, it’s a great chance to move James to PF. Positional diversity is an important concept in any team-based fantasy sport, but when that diversity is provided by a multi-category star like Lebron, it’s a big, big plus.

3. He’s Physically Fit, and Relatively Healthy for 29

It seems like Lebron’s been around forever, but he still won’t turn 30 until December 30th, 2014. In 11 pro seasons, he’s also only had one injury that’s caused him to miss double-digit games, and that was in 2011-12, when he suffered the worst of his recurring ankle sprains.
Yes, it’s an ankle, and it’s likely to be a lingering nuisance throughout the rest of Lebron’s years, but he’s shown the ability to play through the problem.

Lebron’s season-by-season stats show that he may even be taking steps to protect his ankles, saving his best leaping for big moments on offense. On D, his blocks plunged dramatically to 0.3 blocks per game in 2013-14, off markedly from seasonal figures that range from 0.6 to 1.2 BPG in each of Lebron’s other 10 seasons.

There’s no sign that there’s a physical cause for the dropoff, so the likeliest reason is that he’s altered his defensive approach, not leaving himself airborne and susceptible to injury on block attempts. If that’s the case, less blocks is actually good news for fans of Lebron.

4. He Still Has An Extra Gear

As you’ll see when we talk about his multi-category performances (next), Lebron can pick up when it seems it’s impossible to do so, and he’s demonstrated that trait throughout his career. There have been occasions when he’s tried to carry too much of the load, to both his and his team’s detriment, but as his career has progressed he’s found a way to channel that extra gear into extra-special performance.

The factor that goes along with that extra gear is that in order to show it, Lebron usually needs something to play for, such as home advantage during the playoffs. If there’s room to coast, Lebron can do that as well. Best bet: If Lebron and Co. are in second place, he’s worth more than if the Heat are already on top.

5. He’s a Multi-Category Monster

As overpriced as Lebron James usually is, there’s no one – absolutely no one – who can put up big numbers across multiple categories in the way that he does, night in and night out. While he’s the obvious #1 pick in draft-style leagues, as he has been for several years, he’s still a great value in auction formats, particularly for a GM who’s skilled at building a team of lesser stars to take advantage of small category edges.

Yet it all starts with Lebron. As of the halfway point of the 2013-14 season, as a Bleacher Report piece noted, Lebron was on pace to be the first ever NBA star to score 25 points a game, shoot 58% (!), grab 6.5 rebounds per game, and add in six dimes per game as well.

So what happened in the second half of the season? He got better. James finished with a scoring average of 27.1, slipped just slightly in FGP to 56.7%, grabbed 6.9 rebounds per and handed out 6.4 assists. He also made 1.5 threes per game and finished with 1.57 steals per game; both of those categories saw him post second-half upticks as well.

And all of that as a small forward, where he’s in the top two or three in every category.
That’s the biggest plus. No matter how high the bar seemed to be set, Lebron found a way to raise it. Yes, he costs three arms and two legs. And he still might be worth it.

Conclusion

Lebron James remains one of those once-in-a-generation performers whose game shows no sign of dissipating any time soon. While it’s hard to make progress in percentage terms with a player who costs so much, Lebron outclasses the average league performance in so many ways, so many categories, that he’s often worth the added risk.