Apologies. I told you last week I'd use today's space to announce my points league fantasy MVP. Russell Westbrook vs. Rudy Gobert. Then I was reminded that all expert superlatives will be announced on Monday. So that announcement is on hold.
And I was going to use my final MVP selection as a fulcrum. The fulcrum to present the debate that's been raging inside my matcha-addled brain all season.
Points vs. Roto.
I get it. The game has changed. Points is king.
So this was the first season I spent a majority of my analytical bandwidth on the points format. I enjoyed it. As someone who preaches the value of capsizing perspective, forsaking my long-beloved steady roto for the thrill of points gave a needed jolt to my fantasy cerebellum.
It took some retraining. Blocking out the precepts that built my two-decade-deep fantasy philosophy. I ditched True Shooting Percentage, PER, offensive Efficiency and categorical scarcity. ESPN's new points league scoring system made my leap from roto easier to navigate. Assists and defense were bumped up. True Shooting Percentage was better-baked into the formula.
Out of all the platforms and sites, ESPN's new points system is the one that comes closest to duplicating many of the joys of roto.
If you have read me for the duration, you know that the core of my analysis is more akin to detective work. Searching out hidden value. Sourcing off-road metrics and stats that fuel that hidden value. And pushing less-ballyhooed players that deliver in those areas.
But hunting for hidden value in the points system lent certain stats new importance. Like Usage Rate. And Steals + Blocks.
Two stats I'd never prioritized clawed their way onto my spreadsheet: 3-Point Attempt Rate (percentage of field goal attempts that are 3-point attempts) and triple doubles.
3-Point Attempt Rate (3PAr) became a new hack into identifying hidden value on the waiver wire. Because there are players out there who may not average a ton of points per game ... but who make every point they score count.
And a lot of those high-3-point players tend to be right on the cusp of more significant, more fantasy-worthy roles. Buddy Hield. Devonte' Graham. Justin Holiday. Coby White. Or mid-round players who end up radically outperforming their ADP, such as Fred VanVleet.
Two stats that used to be anathema to me? Double-doubles and triple doubles. As a long- standing rule, I've stayed away from leagues that counted double-doubles or triple doubles. I don't go for prioritizing volume. But this season, playing for points? Tracking those old-school results calibrated my volume- starved brain. The fact that my favorite team, your Washington Wizards, employs Russell Westbrook? It's richly ironic and highly educational.
I admit it. I've been digging his run. There is something visceral about rooting for Westbrook to clear that triple double. Watching Westbrook at work reminds me of the buzz I get from watching a great boxer like Canelo.
I prize the little subtle things. I like systems. Efficiency. The Spurs. But there is something satisfying about watching someone impose their will on a game ... and a box score.
I used to trash Westbrook. And I readily admit I never fully appreciated that statistical thrill until this season, when I was suddenly presented with following the points system and Russell Westbrook at the same time.
Watching Westbrook night-in night-out? That process has taken me to a place. A faraway spot.
I've reached way, way back and pondered on what drew me to fantasy basketball in the first place. I enjoy putting a spotlight on what's undervalued. It's the Moneyball in me. Telling readers to forget about points scored per game? It still drives my fantasy philosophy.
For two decades, I prided myself on hiding points scored per game in my draft worksheets. I'd tell you to draft for all the other categories. To let the field chase points.
But that POV does not work in points Leagues. Points scored? Points per game? They are king in points Leagues. Unless you've got a defensive unicorn like Rudy Gobert, the surest way to gathering perspective on value in a points league is to track points per game.
For me, chasing a points-scored perspective is the most challenging aspect of playing in a points system. I have always prized the delicate, nuanced, codependent relationship between the classic roto categories. Categorical scarcity. The problem of punting.
When I first started playing fantasy basketball, that dynamic is what made rostering a player like Shaq such an entertaining puzzle. If you took Shaq in the first round, you had to draft an entire team around his lack of free-throw acumen. You either punted free throw percentage or brought in the biggest free-throw boosters you could find.
That dynamic is what made me appreciate players like Brent Barry and Chauncey Billups -- less- heralded players who provided hidden value year-in, year-out.
In points leagues, we don't need to know what players average in particular categories. We are just chasing an aggregate number. We don't study box scores with the focused granularity we used to. Now? We can simply glance at the result ... and move on.
I enjoy the low maintenance rush of DFS. But at risk of sounding crotchety, I worry that the DFSification of fantasy is hollowing out one of fantasy's foundational joys: its ability to enlighten us about what really drives our favorite pastimes.
From the time I was four years old, I have over-romanticized the box score. Because box scores tell me a story. And when I find myself starting to just look at the sum total of a stat line, I start to lose sight of that story.
One fantasy-expert irony: I'm not a super-competitive guy. I've never lived and died with my fake teams. But the older I get, the more I realize that being able to better connect the metrics on a page to a player on the court is what drives my love of fantasy.
I like to win a league as much as anyone. But certainly not more than anyone. My sense of self-worth doesn't rise or fall based on where I am in the standings. But I do like understanding -- really understanding -- the myriad ways the game has changed over the last two decades.
I am in this for the long haul. I like the journey.
And that's why I'll always love fantasy basketball.
It sounds hokey. But it doesn't make it any less true.