Roughly 10% of pretend NBA general managers lost their superstar first round pick last week, as Derrick Rose ruined another knee and possibly his career. For the Bulls, and Rose, the injury is a tragedy; we may never see the former MVP the same again. The good news, though, is that Rose’s demise doesn’t necessarily ruin your shot at pretend glory (or real money).
I drafted Rose first this season, 10th overall; I almost always take the best PG available with my first pick. I was pretty happy with this pick, best case scenario — Rose avoids injury and quickly reverts to MVP caliber play. Naturally, however, he played all of 3 weeks before shredding his meniscus — the worst case scenario. Rose owners now face weekly match up problems because of his absence.
Nevertheless, I’m oddly at ease with Rose’s fate, at least from a fantasy perspective. First of all, he wasn’t playing very well — he didn’t even last long enough to knock the rust off. Frankly, I’d rather lose him now and move on instead of dealing with a star who is constantly tweaking his knees. Chances are, owners can find numbers similar to what Rose was posting on waivers anyway.
Ultimately ex-Rosers will fall into one of two categories: the injury immune — those winning despite Rose; and the injury averse — those losing because of him. Members of the latter group may want consider scrapping their current plan and starting anew, these are managers who had a weak draft and are more dependent on their superstars as a result. But before rebuilding anything, let’s breakdown the concept of injury immunity, and apply it to the rebuild.
Derrick Rose had been the lowest ranked player on my roster all season, yet my record stands at 20-6 through week 4. I’m still quite confident in my team without Rose.
Some keys for developing an injury immune roster:
- Make the most of every draft pick, especially in the later rounds. By the end of the draft, I’m looking exclusively for upside: any undervalued, high ceiling player that could be a lotto ticket. Obviously each selection involves risk, low cost – high upside players are an effective way to capitalize on opportunities while simultaneously minimizing opportunity costs. Compare the late round picks of 2 teams in my league, as an example.
Team A: 10) Manu Ginobili, 11) Gerald Wallace, 12) Avery Bradley, 13) Jared Dudley
Team B:10) Spencer Hawes, 11) Jarrett Jack, 12) Moe Harkless, 13) Isaiah Thomas
Team A is injury averse; this retirement community of a fantasy team lacks upside and would struggle if they lost a star. Guys like Manu will provide reliable, but less lucrative production, which is fine until your first pick goes down. Team B, on the other hand, is injury immune; the loss of a stud hurts less because they hit pay dirt with Hoss and Isaiah.
- Build a balanced lineup that’s competitive in every category, a balanced roster effectively hedges injury risks. Managers often overlook the importance of balance, and get too caught up in punting some categories and locking up others. My goal is not to overpower my opponents, but to capitalize on their weaknesses; and to do this you’ve got to excel in every category.
- Compiling a well-balanced fantasy team can be accomplished in a number of ways. While some managers seek stat sheet stuffers at every position, I prefer specialized assets. I like a roster full of two types of specialists: reb/blk guys and ast/stl/3 guys. (Scoring is also a requirement for all my players.) This strategy will render a team of mostly PG’s and PF’s.
Balance through specialization: an example
I lead my league in total assists and blocks this season (3-0 in both), these are the categories I dominate. Last week 10 of my 27 blocks (37%) came from Roy Hibbert — with this kind of output I can focus the rest of my bigs’ talent on boards, points, and fg%. Likewise, 67 of my 179 (37%) assists came from only John Wall and Jeff Teague. I prefer to lock up passing and defensive stats first, as they occur at a lower volume and are harder to acquire later in the season.
I rank 4th in my league in total rebounding and 3’s (3-0 in both), I’m good enough here that I should win most weeks. Having already locked up blocks, I filled out my front court with rebounding and scoring specialists:Boogie Cousins, Greg Monroe, Spencer Hoss, and Jordan Hill. Hibbert’s defensive prowess is the key here. I also applied this approach to steals and 3 point specialists at guard.
Despite punting and being dead last in FG% (1-2), I still managed to take this category last week. I had a large cushion in nearly every category and was able to sit my less efficient players without sacrificing needed production. A luxury exclusive to well-balanced rosters.
- Lastly, remember that fantasy basketball is a numbers game. Derrick Rose doesn’t need replacement, only his production does. Honestly, finding that level of production probably isn’t so difficult; good news if your team is injury immune.
On the other hand if your team was struggling with Rose, you’re likely balls deep in panic mode now. Fortunately, it’s still a young season and there’s time to rebuild. Applying the aforementioned principles, this is how I would approach a rebuild.
- Determine your team’s strengths and weaknesses, if you’re strong enough to dominate a category build on that. Punt your weakest category and target the winnable ones.
- Target players who: 1) produce in multiple (targeted) categories, and/or 2) offer an uncommon advantage in a certain category. Target categories for type 1 include threes, points, and boards, whereas type 2 targets are steals and blocks (and sometimes threes).
For example, my waiver wire looks like this:
- Top FA by rebounds: Taj Gibson, John Henson, Caron Butler, Markieff Morris, Psycho T, and Andre Blatche
- Top FA by threes: Gerald Green, Caron Butler, Randy Foye, Patrick Beverley, and James Anderson
Caron Butler: 40fg%, 82ft%, 2.1 3ptm, 14.5pts, 5.9rbds, 1.1 stls
Gerald Green: 49%fg, 76%ft, 2.6 3ptm, 15.2pts, 3rbds, 0.6stls
James Anderson: 44%fg, 72%ft, 1.7 3ptm, 10.4pts, 3.8rbds, 2.1asts, 1.2 stls, 0.5blks
Patrick Beverley: 42%fg, 85%ft, 1.9 3ptm, 10pts, 3.8rbds, 1.2 stls
Andre Blatche: 48%fg, 64%ft, 0.1 3ptm, 9.9pts, 5.8rbds, 1.1stls
Markieff Morris: 50%fg, 77%ft, 0.4 3ptm, 11.9pts, 5.8rbds, 1.3stls
John Henson: 55%fg, 62%ft, 0 3ptm, 10.8pts, 6.1rbds, 1.2asts, 0.8stls, 1.9blks
Grouped together correctly, a few of these players could make a significant impact on any team’s total output in a few target categories. Coordinating waiver moves properly allows under-performing teams to quickly improve on the margin; in this example 3’s, rebounds, and steals are good targets for substantial improvement. Obviously don’t do anything too drastic, but pursue your targets aggressively and don’t be afraid to cut losses elsewhere. For managers who planned on leaning heavily on Rose, a roster overhaul focusing on balance, specialization, and upside is a good way to salvage the season.