Fantasy junkies relish the idiosyncrasies of each sport. Football, with its limited number of games and time commitment, as well as its pervasiveness into our culture, pleases the masses and provides Monday morning water cooler fodder. Fantasy baseball is on the other end of the spectrum: with 162 games, completely different stats for pitchers and hitters, and the knuckleball of closers thrown in, it's the most complicated fantasy sport with the most statistical analysis and books published about it.
Fantasy hoops is a compromise. If you enjoy the "I'll stop dipping fried food in ranch dressing after midnight if I just win this game" internal monologue that fantasy football elicits, join a head-to-head hoops league. If you love the marathon of a baseball season, play in a hoops roto league. But when one becomes a fantasy hoops junkie, he or she begins to relish the idiosyncrasies of scoring systems, and it becomes more and more fun to tweak rules to add to the challenge. Perhaps the primary way of doing so is by adding turnovers as a category.
Turnovers are frustrating, but also relatively predictable. For the most part, players with the ball in their hands give it up. This means point guards, slashers, scorers and even big men with bad hands who are constantly fed in the post are the primary culprits. Problem is, those are all the guys we want on our fantasy teams! So the key is finding those within the sample size of fantasy-worthy players who provide the stats and production with minimal turnovers.
Top 100 for Turnover Leagues
Josh Whitling's rankings for leagues which utilize turnovers. ADP in standard leagues (through Oct. 5) is indicated in parentheseses.
1. Chris Paul, Hornets (2)
2. LeBron James, Cavaliers (1)
3. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks (8)
4. Kevin Durant, Thunder (3)
5. Kobe Bryant, Lakers (4)
6. Danny Granger, Pacers (6)
7. Dwyane Wade, Heat (5)
8. Chris Bosh, Raptors (10)
9. Al Jefferson, Timberwolves (11)
10. Pau Gasol, Lakers (12)
11. Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers (15)
12. Deron Williams, Jazz (9)
13. Chauncey Billups, Nuggets (18)
14. Amar'e Stoudemire, Suns (13)
15. Steve Nash, Suns (16)
16. Dwight Howard, Magic (7)
17. Kevin Garnett, Celtics (20)
18. Tim Duncan, Spurs (19)
19. David West, Hornets (23)
20. Joe Johnson, Hawks (21)
21. Jose Calderon, Raptors (26)
22. Andre Iguodala, 76ers (17)
23. Jason Kidd, Mavericks (24)
24. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets (14)
25. Vince Carter, Magic (35)
26. Troy Murphy, Pacers (29)
27. David Lee, Knicks (31)
28. Paul Pierce, Celtics (22)
29. Antawn Jamison, Wizards (43)
30. Rajon Rondo, Celtics (27)
31. Devin Harris, Nets (25)
32. Brook Lopez, Nets (36)
33. Derrick Rose, Bulls (32)
34. Gerald Wallace, Bobcats (37)
35. Caron Butler, Wizards (38)
36. Rashard Lewis, Magic (39)
37. Nene, Nuggets (44)
38. Kevin Martin, Kings (34)
39. Carlos Boozer, Jazz (33)
40. Andris Biedrins, Warriors (48)
41. LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers (56)
42. Mehmet Okur, Jazz (52)
43. Josh Smith, Hawks (40)
44. Monta Ellis, Warriors (42)
45. Ray Allen, Celtics (54)
46. Marcus Camby, Clippers (51)
47. Eric Gordon, Clippers (59)
48. Gilbert Arenas, Wizards (28)
49. Elton Brand, 76ers (30)
50. Mo Williams, Cavaliers (55)
51. Tyrus Thomas, Bulls (65)
52. Baron Davis, Clippers (41)
53. Andrea Bargnani, Raptors (69)
54. Jason Terry, Mavericks (74)
55. Rudy Gay, Grizzlies (57)
56. Jason Richardson, Suns (75)
57. Emeka Okafor, Hornets (64)
58. John Salmons, Bulls (76)
59. Tony Parker, Spurs (45)
60. Jameer Nelson, Magic (58)
61. Michael Redd, Bucks (60)
62. Stephen Jackson, Warriors (46)
63. Ben Gordon, Pistons (47)
64. Shawn Marion, Mavericks (73)
65. Jeff Green, Thunder (66)
66. O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies (53)
67. Thaddeus Young, 76ers (77)
68. Hedo Turkoglu, Raptors (61)
69. Russell Westbrook, Thunder (50)
70. Andre Miller, Trail Blazers (67)
71. Manu Ginobili, Spurs (80)
72. Ron Artest, Lakers (62)
73. Al Horford, Hawks (78)
74. Charlie Villanueva, Pistons (70)
75. Andrew Bynum, Lakers (68)
76. Mario Chalmers, Heat (84)
77. Josh Howard, Mavericks (86)
78. Paul Millsap, Jazz (89)
79. Mike Bibby, Hawks (93)
80. Kevin Love, Timberwolves (82)
81. Francisco Garcia*, Kings (88)
82. Al Harrington, Knicks (49)
83. Zach Randolph, Grizzlies (63)
84. Rasheed Wallace, Celtics (100)
85. Mike Conley, Grizzlies (97)
86. Luis Scola, Rockets (85)
87. Anthony Randolph, Warriors (90)
88. D.J. Augustin, Bobcats (99)
89. Richard Jefferson, Spurs (95)
90. Nate Robinson, Knicks (108)
91. Boris Diaw, Bobcats (72)
92. Wilson Chandler, Knicks (120)
93. Joakim Noah, Bulls (112)
94. Luol Deng, Bulls (126)
95. Trevor Ariza, Rockets (91)
96. T.J. Ford, Pacers (102)
97. J.R. Smith, Nuggets (83)
98. Lou Williams, 76ers (114)
99. Derek Fisher, Lakers (104)
100. Leandro Barbosa, Suns (140)
* EDITOR'S NOTE: Garcia has been ruled out for at least four months due to a forearm injury.
The focus of this column is on which players' values increase and decrease from the standard eight-category leagues many play. To the right are my top-100 draft rankings for turnover leagues -- not where I think they'll finish on the Player Rater, but where I would draft them -- and below are my sleepers and busts. First, a look at some numbers:
Determining an expectable turnover rate helps establish value, so let's say 2.5 turnovers per game for a starting point guard, 2.0 for a starting perimeter player and 1.7 for a starting big man. Let's see how turnovers relate to other categories:
Points: Of the 20 guys who scored 20 or more points per game last season, only Dirk Nowitzki, Antawn Jamison and Brandon Roy were below two turnovers per game. You'll notice all three of these guys are ranked considerably ahead of his ADP on this list, with Dirk worth the third overall pick, since picks 3 through 7 are a toss up and he's the only superstar with very few turnovers. Honorable mention goes to Jason Terry, Vince Carter, Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, all 18-plus point scorers with solid turnover rates. When looking to fill your points category (which is typically the last you're looking to fill), target these type of scorers, not ones like Zach Randolph and Al Harrington.
Rebounds, blocks and 3s: It's easy to pile up rebounds while shying away from turnovers. Of the 16 players who averaged more than nine boards per game last season, 10 of them averaged fewer than two turnovers per game. This is where Dwight Howard becomes a burden, and nearly impossible to build a championship team around in a nine-category roto league, since he's the only big man who kills you in turnovers (especially with Yao Ming injured). Go for guys like Marcus Camby or Emeka Okafor, instead of Elton Brand or Carlos Boozer, when establishing your rebounding cornerstones. Same with blocks and 3s: those who provide in these areas without turning the ball over at an extreme rate aren't too rare, so build up these categories with sure-handed glue players.
Assists and steals: It's hardest to find these categories, especially assists, without high turnovers, although it's easy to identify who does it well since assist-to-turnover and steal-to-turnover ratios are sortable stats on ESPN.com. When grabbing your final point guards, fill out your roster with those like Derek Fisher, Luke Ridnour and Mike Bibby, who provide the ever-scarce assists without the turnovers. As for steals, if you rely primarily upon guards to accrue steals, you'll likely pile up more turnovers, so make sure to have a studly wing player, like Trevor Ariza, Ronnie Brewer, Thaddeus Young or Kenyon Martin, who doesn't give it up.
Percentages: Another facet of turnovers is that it adds another negative-impact category on top of the percentages. A general rule of thumb I follow in roto turnover leagues is to avoid players who are double-negatives -- those who have a significant negative impact in more than one category. Here are a list of players who were at least one negative standard deviation on the 2008-2009 Player Rater in the percentages who also averaged 2.5 or more turnovers per game:
I'm not saying don't draft these players, just don't reach for them and be sure to compensate for their shortcomings accordingly.
Jose Calderon, Raptors: The 2.1 turnovers per game with his assists is crazy, plus his supporting cast is more complementary than last season and he's still developing as an NBA point guard. If I get him with my third-round pick, I'm a happy man.
Eric Gordon, Clippers: I've spent the past several years playing against those employing the point guards and power forwards strategy, so I've become accustomed to finding value at shooting guard and small forward. Gordon boasts high points for his turnovers, and that was as a rookie. His stats should improve across the board and he should become more sure-handed in his sophomore campaign. He provides ample 3s and steals, 0.4 blocks per game which are hard to fake over the course of 78 games, and excellent percentages and turnovers. So what if he's not a point guard and doesn't get many assists? Sign him up for my team, and I'll find dimes elsewhere.
Joe Johnson, Hawks: His turnovers should dip with Jamal Crawford in the mix as another playmaker to go along with JJ and Mike Bibby. The rest of his stats might decrease with Crawford around, but that's no secret and is reflected in his perceived value this year. In turnover leagues, there is a tangible benefit to offset the potential step backward.
Caron Butler, Wizards: Butler was sixth in the league with 3.1 turnovers per game last season, and 13th in turnovers per 48 as he shouldered a burdensome load in Washington with most of his teammates missing significant chunks of the season. Now with a presumably healthy Gilbert Arenas, Randy Foye as sixth man handling the ball more, the adept passing of Mike Miller at the 2, and Flip Saunders coaching (he's said Gilbert will handle the ball 80 percent of the time), Butler's flubs should plummet. The rest of his production is the real question, but give his value a bump if you were already playing in turnover leagues.
Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers: As mentioned, he was one of three 20 points-per-game scorers with fewer than two turnovers per game, and handled the ball more with catch-and-shoot Steve Blake than he will with Andre Miller around. His dimes will go down, but the rest of his stats should go up while trending toward an even more impressive turnover rate. Don't feel sheepish taking him at the end of the first round in turnover formats. Oh, and you remember how I hate those double- and triple-negative folks? Well Roy is a triple-positive. In roto formats, he's the perfect player to build around.
Richard Jefferson, Spurs: Jefferson's aggregate stats will go down across the board, but his efficiency should skyrocket transitioning from first wheel to fourth wheel. He suddenly becomes a decent "glue" option in nine-category roto formats.
Chris Bosh, Raptors: With Hedo Turkoglu around as an added playmaker, the increasing rapport between Jose Calderon and Bosh, and his overall focus on improving and adding strength this offseason bodes well for Bosh in turnover leagues. There will be much less need for him to create off the dribble, and he'll assault people on pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops and with his improved post game.
Thaddeus Young, 76ers: His turnovers might increase a bit with Andre Miller gone and the lack of a pure point guard, but this impressive, long swingman is a few years away from 1.5-plus in steals and 3s, with one block, all with fewer than two turnovers per game. Target high-upside, low-turnover guys like Young with your late-round picks.
Nate Robinson, Knicks: He's playing for a contract, and any player who helps in five categories (points, 3s, free throw percentage, steals, assists), including three that typically come along with high turnovers from guards (points, steals, assists), is someone I'm targeting in a turnover league.
Stephen Curry, Warriors; Tyreke Evans, Kings; Jonny Flynn, Timberwolves: Be wary of rookie guards with the ball in their hands a lot, as the transition to the NBA game is a big one, and Curry, Evans and Flynn turned the ball over a lot in college. All three of these players will have fantasy value this season, but not without the turnovers that come along with being a first-year NBA guard. Keep this in mind when drafting rookies and framing their overall value in turnover formats.
Boris Diaw, Bobcats: Sure, Diaw regained the glory from his breakout season, but turned the ball over an insane amount for a forward. I already think he's overvalued going into drafts, since I certainly don't see him improving upon his impressive marks from last season, and when you throw turnovers in, I'll let somebody else take a risk on Diaw, who is the type of player whose productivity is hugely determined by his surrounding cast.
Monta Ellis, Warriors: Ellis has never played a full season as the team's point guard, and will presumably handle the ball the bulk of the time for the up-tempo Warriors. He is already turnover prone, and with the increased playmaking responsibilities, his turnovers should go up. As is often the case with those whose turnovers will likely increase due to altered circumstances, the rest of his numbers should also go up, so don't shy away from Ellis entirely, just temper your expectations knowing that he'll turn it over.
Devin Harris, Nets: The loss of Vince Carter is a huge hit to the Nets and their options for playmakers, and Harris already turned the ball over 3.1 times per game in '08-09, good for seventh-most in the league. Nobody on the roster can really create his own shot or distribute effectively, so Harris will have the ball in his hand for nearly every possession, and his already-harmful turnover totals will border on crippling.
Andre Iguodala, 76ers: Andre Miller's departure will ultimately be great for Iguodala, but he's another case of increased playmaking responsibilities equaling increased turnovers. This is especially tough for Iguodala, whose turnover totals will go from bad to worse. I'm still glad he's on my keeper team, which does include turnovers, and think he's in line for a huge year, but his value takes a significant hit when you add that ninth category.
Aaron Brooks, Rockets: Brooks will be asked to do way too much on this team built for Yao without a Yao. He went from helpful in this area last season to a red flag this season, and is yet another player whose increased responsibilities will hurt him in the turnover category.
Trevor Ariza, Rockets: Transitioning from the Lakers, where he chilled on the outside and drained open 3s while defenses focused on Kobe Bryant and friends, to a Yao-less Rockets team is going to be a test in creating offense for Ariza. Like many on this list, his overall stats will increase, but so will his turnovers, so don't see him being a helper in that category anymore like he was last season.
Spencer Hawes, Kings: I love Hawes' game, and expect him to take a step forward, but he averaged 3.4 turnovers per 48 minutes, the same rate as Kobe. He doesn't come along with the benefits Bryant does, especially since he's harmful in free throw percentage. Let somebody else draft my hometown boy, who is a sleeper in standard formats.
Lou Williams, 76ers: Williams was 17th in the league in turnovers per 48 minutes last season, when he wasn't the primary ball handler he's expected to be this season. Somebody else will likely think he's a genius sleeper and reach too far for him anyway, but in turnover leagues there's no way you can draft him higher than his current ADP based on standard leagues, as he could flirt with the league lead in turnovers.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.