Monday , Dec , 08 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

The Superstar Inefficiency


The Superstar Inefficiency

Kobe Bryant. Kevin Garnett. Steve Nash. Four rings; four MVP trophies; three respected elder statesmen of the game. Today, you are going to trade them. Yes, trade them. You heard me. Rejoice! They will not be dragging your team down much longer.

Success in fantasy hoops is like success in any market system—all you need to do is find inefficiencies in the market, and exploit them. Figure out what is overvalued, and sell it; determine what is undervalued, and buy it. For example, the rabid Lakers fan in your league will happily give you Chris Bosh for Andrew Bynum. Seriously! He’ll do it. Also, when he thinks he’s alone, he puts on a Sasha Vujacic hairnet and punches furniture while fighting back tears. Honestly, plant a camera in his room. You think I am joking, but I am not.

Anyway, I want to introduce you to the Superstar Inefficiency. Some superstars are as irreplaceable in the fantasy world as they are in the real world: LeBron, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade. If you trade them, you are almost certainly an idiot. But then there are superstars whose fantasy production actually can be replaced. By some non-superstars. Who aren’t as highly valued by their owners because, well, they’re not superstars. INEFFICIENCY ALERT.

Let’s start with Kevin Garnett. Now that he’s won a championship, his real-world stock is as high as it’s ever been, and his Celtics seem determined to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. In fantasy this season, he was a late-first-round/early-second-round pick. But look at his per-game numbers this year:

fg%

ft%

3pt

pts

reb

ast

st

bl

to

0.51

0.815

0

16.4

9.4

2.4

1.2

1.4

1.8

The percentages, the points, the rebounds, the defensive stats—these are all upper-tier numbers for a PF. But not dominating ones. Have a look at, say, Washington’s perennially undervalued Antawn Jamison:

fg

ft

3pt

pts

reb

ast

st

bl

to

0.493

0.788

1.2

20.7

9.6

2.1

1.3

0.4

1.2

Jamison represents a moderate downgrade in blocks and a small one in percentages. He also offers upgrades in scoring, three-pointers, and turnovers, and even rebounds slightly better than Garnett.

So should you trade Garnett for Jamison straight-up? Absolutely not. Instead, use the Garnett-for-Jamison equivalence to upgrade another player: Garnett plus Rasheed Wallace for Jamison plus Al Jefferson, for example. This is an absurdly easy sale to make. KG and Rasheed! They’re winners! Except in the fantasy world. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

Um, moving on. Steve Nash makes even better trade bait—over the past four seasons, he’s averaged over eleven assists/game. That is completely fucking bonkers. Even with the emergence of Chris Paul and Deron Williams as all-star fantasy point guards, Nash was a late second-round pick going into this season. But have a look at his numbers so far:

fg%

ft%

3pt

pts

reb

ast

st

bl

to

0.503

0.915

1.5

15.2

2.9

8.2

0.6

0.2

3.6

And now compare them with those of Toronto’s Jose Calderon:

fg%

ft%

3pt

pts

reb

ast

st

bl

to

0.463

1.000

1.6

12.8

3.1

9.6

0.8

0.1

2

The decline in assists for Nash is no fluke; it’s a function of the departure of Mike D’Antoni and his high-octane defense-lite system. Phoenix has about four possessions per game less than last year, which means fewer assists per Nash. Meanwhile, Calderon was a beast last year while splitting time with T.J. Ford, and look at him this year. He has a 4.8 assist/turnover ratio, for Christ’s sake. LOOK AT IT. JESUS. I have to go dump a bucket of ice water on my head.

Okay, back. Anyway, Calderon is a downgrade on field-goal percentage and scoring, and he probably won’t maintain a 100% free-throw rate, because that would make everyone’s head explode. But he beats Nash on assists, wallops him on turnovers, and gets a steal or two more per week. If you drop Nash for Calderon, you can also transform someone like Gerald Wallace for Vince Carter. Nash + Crash < Vinsanity +, um, Calderonicity.

Finally, consider the Mamba.

fg

ft

3pt

pts

reb

ast

st

bl

to

0.468

0.866

0.7

24.7

5.3

4.4

1.6

0.5

2.5

I save Kobe for last because in many, many leagues this year, Kobe was picked first overall. Over LeBron, over CP3. I also save him for last because tweaking Kobe fans is frankly as good as it gets. Now, Kobe is a superb player—one of the defining athletes of his generation—and after conquering the psychotic Western Conference last year, his Lakers look like they’ll do it again. But look at his stats. These are not the stats of a first overall pick, unless for some reason your league defines “assists” as “allegations of sexual assault.” Tweak!

Seriously, Kobe is not a defensible #1 pick. For example, a Kobe-for-LeBron trade, in the fantasy world, would be like trading an Acura for a Bentley. A Bentley helicopter. A Bentley helicopter with laser-guided missiles made out of gold. Also there is a chef in the helicopter, and he is making lobster and cookies. Delicious, delicious cookies.

No, a better Kobe equivalent right now would be Tough Juice.

fg

ft

3pt

pts

reb

ast

st

bl

to

0.474

0.835

1

21.9

6.8

4.3

1.8

0.2

2.8

That’s right. Caron Butler versus Kobe. Less scoring, more rebounding; more accuracy from the field, less from the line; more steals, fewer blocks; more three-pointers, more turnovers. In other words, here is a trade that sounds to many fantasy owners like it makes sense: Kobe and Pau Gasol for Caron Butler and Dwight Howard. In reality, this is a steal.

(I mean, in fantasy reality. Not in real reality. In real reality, Caron Butler would get frustrated with Dwight Howard’s Shaq-esque free-throw percentage and eventually punch him in the face, leading to tension. Whereas Kobe and Pau’s shared affinity for Fellini movies and summering on Lake Como has forged an unassailable on-court chemistry, which is why the Lakers are 17-2.)

In conclusion, Kobe has a visible bald spot.