I'm playing in a few fantasy basketball leagues, and it's got me thinking about fantasy sports in general. We have had an argument in one of the leagues(which hasn't started yet due to lack of players; if you're interested e-mail me); the argument in the end boiled down to "should fantasy sports, by the categories used, actually reflect the skills of the players". To me, the argument seemed ridiculous; In any sport other than baseball, ALL of your players statistics are heavily influenced by who is on their team, so trying to balance a category to reflect skill is meaningless. Plenty of Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz get drafted highly, not because they are among the best players but because, hey, someone has to play. Fantasy Baseball obviously follows the same rules, as leagues normally count RBIs or runs scored, but it could at least theoretically be entirely team-neutral performance (and, of course, super-boring).

Since fantasy sports don't always reflect real life skill, putting together a fantasy team has a lot more to it than just knowing who is good, and is mostly about understanding the players relationship to the rules of the league. In most fantasy football leagues, you aren't worried about individual categories, as scoring is done by "points": six for a touchdown run, four for a TD pass, 1 for every 10 yards receiving, etc. I don't like this as much because you have no need to balance your team, just find the guy at each position who scores the most points. It also suffers (to me) from a lack of control and predictability, since touchdowns are rare and hard to predict, but compose a large percentage of the scoring.

Fantasy Baseball and Basketball on the other hand are based entirely on categories - you have to try to put together a team that will not only score the most points, but will score them in the right places. I prefer basketball to baseball, for a few reasons. One, a common baseball category (stolen bases) is dominated by very few players, only a couple of whom are useful in other categories as well - in the last couple years the person who picked first or second was able to win the league do to this imbalance. Second is the fact that, since to me baseball is a science, using meaningless categories like RBIs and runs and batting average (ugh) drives me nuts, and forces me to learn a bunch of information I don't really care about.

Fantasy Basketball, on the other hand, is great (maybe I like it because I tend to win). There are a ton of meaningful (or at least useful in-game) statistics; leagues tend to have 8 or 9 different stats, none of which are routinely dominated by one player. Building a team takes a lot of different considerations, as drafting only the best player available can leave your team imbalanced, to get crushed in multiple categories regularly, or short certian key positions (point guard and center being the hardest to fill adequately). And unlike football, there are enough games that you can use past games as a predictor to try to find players worth adding from the free agent pool.



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