You overpaid for LeBron James this season. I know that because I just ran the numbers.
We compete within a fantasy basketball economy. A geeky economy, to be sure, but it's ours all the same.
Every season, we spend a certain amount of capital (be it auction dollars or draft picks) and acquire certain entities in return. These entities, from Kevin Durant to Robin Lopez, bring a certain return on our investment.
The people who spend the least amount of capital for the highest amount of return value win. The owners who get the least amount of return start planning for fantasy baseball by Valentine's Day (I've been there, it's more romantic than you might think).
It's tax season. I realize I need to be sensitive about using the word "audit." But at the end of a fantasy basketball season, I like to perform a roto audit that incorporates the past season's live draft results and final totals on ESPN.com's fantasy basketball Player Rater.
To provide the proper perspective, I threw out players who lost a majority of their season to injury. So no Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant or Al Horford. I know it's fun and possibly therapeutic to rail about how certain injuries screwed up our teams, but they serve little analytical purpose. Fantasy sports has no room for your tears.
To perform this audit, I used Average Draft Dollar values instead of Average Draft Position. I do this because a) auction leagues are where it's at, and b) dollar values give us more focused ideas of valuation. Furthermore, everything I'm about to tell you applies whether you're in an auction league, snake draft, rotisserie, head-to-head, points, categories, etc.
So let's stick to dollars. It shows the market in finer detail.
For instance, last fall we spent an average of $83.10 on Kevin Durant. That was the second-highest amount spent on a player (after LeBron at $86.70). Durant returned 21.85 player rater points on that investment, highest in fantasy for 2013-14.
So, at first glance, Durant was a good investment, right? Well, not quite. Between you and me, $83.10 for Durant is a middle-of-the-road buy.
Think of it this way; Durant averaged $3.85 per player rater point. He was 140th out of 154 using this measurement, the 14th-worst investment in 2013-14 in terms of dollars per player rater point.
Compare that with Spencer Hawes.
Despite a dip in value following his forced relocation to Ohio, Hawes still posted a player rater value of 8.73. That was good for No. 31 on the season. His average auction value was only $1.20. That was No. 128 on the auction value list.
So if you paid $1.20 for 8.73 player rater points, you got a fantastic return on your investment. You only paid 14 cents per player rater point. Using this metric, Hawes was the fourth-best investment in fantasy basketball this season.
This week, I'm going to focus on where we overspent, and next week we'll look at where we found the best value.
Worst investment of 2013-14
Now, this really isn't fair, as Gasol dealt with an injury that forced him to miss nearly 20 games. And you should also factor in that injuries kept Gasol from performing at peak capacity for another 20 games. But the stats still count, and by season's end, he'll have played in nearly 70 percent of possible games played.
And, you should have known he ran a fair chance of getting injured.
What? Gasol played 80 games in 2012-13. You were safe drafting him, right?
Wrong. Gasol is an every-other-season player, as in every other season he misses 10-15 games due to one injury or another. If you followed that pattern, you knew 2013-14 had a good chance of being the "other" season. That's why I didn't have Gasol on any of my teams this season.
Second-worst investment of 2013-14
Here's a player with an even deeper, richer, more terrifyingly comprehensive injury history. Yet you made him the 12th-highest paid player in fantasy this season. We are not oligarchs, fantasy fans. We toil in a capped existence.
Williams' preseason value was overinflated due to his going all, well, 2008 Deron Williams at the end of the 2012-13 season. But an injury history doesn't get wiped clean when a player has a couple of vintage months. Not a player with Williams' kind of mileage.
Third-worst investment of 2013-14
Finally, a player whose paucity of value was totally unrelated to his being chronically dinged.
The worst mistake I made in any draft this season was bidding $23 on Smith. For some reason, at a moment of supreme weakness, I told myself, "Hey, let's ignore every responsible assessment that Josh Smith will never, never cure his sociopathic shot selection, and will be operating in the least amount of offensive spacing this side of a rugby scrum. It's fun to read about this new-look Detroit frontcourt. I want to be part of that fun. After all, they'll have the highly efficient Brandon Jennings running the show. Man, this Kool-Aid is delicious."
Night terrors. That's what watching Josh Smith shoot the basketball will get you. (That and just 1.02 points per shot.) From the field, from the free throw line... it's all just so inhumane and scarring.
All-Overvalued, First Team
PG: Deron Williams ($7.72 per Player Rater point, 12 ADP, 70 Player Rater)
SG: Dwyane Wade ($6.14 per point, 14 ADP, 62 Player Rater)
SF: Josh Smith ($6.46 per point, 23 ADP, 95 Player Rater)
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge ($4.25 per point, 15 ADP, 29 Player Rater)
C: Marc Gasol ($11.58 per point, 11 ADP, 106 Player Rater)
Wade is here for the same reasons Williams and Gasol are here; you overpaid for injury risks. Wade and Williams are probably the most egregious overspends, as any responsible fantasy basketball enthusiast should have known they were facing minute-management situations.
How did Aldridge make this list? Your high-end thriftiness helped. A lack of overpaying for power forwards on the top shelf helped (or hurt). Kevin Love was the only pure post player to land in the top 10 in average auction value (at $57.80).
Ultimately, Aldridge landed here (despite a relatively small $4.25 per point) because he missed some games, while failing to provide elite value in a category outside of points and rebounds.
All-Overvalued, Second Team
PG: Chris Paul ($5.71 per point, 4 ADP, 13 Player Rater)
SG: James Harden ($5.03 per point, 3 ADP, 7 Player Rater)
SF: LeBron James ($5.30 per point, 2 ADP, 3 Player Rater)
PF: Kevin Love ($3.95 per point, 6 ADP, 5 Player Rater)
C: Dwight Howard ($4.66 per point)
I've written several times this season about my fear that Paul has reached a Deron Williams or Dwyane Wade-esque tipping point in his fantasy career.
It's not due to a slippage in overall quality of play (though some signs of erosion are gathering at the edges of Paul's stats). The fear is due to his propensity for nagging injuries and being on a team that can afford to manage his time in preparation for the playoffs.
Paul is on track for around 65 games played, and despite missing all that time, he's still 13th overall on the player rater. This is a remarkable achievement. It's due to his being elite in two categories (assists, steals), but his secret weapon lies in his free throw percentage. For the season, Paul is the 10th-most valuable free throw shooter in fantasy (balancing volume of attempts with percentage). Using proper valuation, I think Paul is more of $40 to $48 player next season.
You paid too much for James Harden. He had a fine season, missed the expected amount of time for a player with his history, but he's about a $45 to $48 player in terms of raw production.
Kevin Love shouldn't be on this list. At slightly under $4.00 per point, Kevin Love is in what I consider to be in a reasonable price range for a "Superproducer," which I define as top-10 players who average over 12 points or greater on the player rater. Durant scraped by at $3.85 per point, as did Curry ($3.75), Paul George ($3.79), Carmelo Anthony ($3.68), and Serge Ibaka ($3.42).
So why is Love on here, despite beating out his ADP and the $4 threshold for overpaid super producers? Because there's no one else to put in at power forward. This is why lists drive me nuts at times.
Am I telling you to not pay LeBron James $85? Yes. But you certainly can -- and will -- if you want to. It all comes down to philosophy.
If you want to go "stars and scrubs" in an auction scenario, and spend $50 to $80 on multiple players, it's your right. You had just better not miss. If you overpaid for LeBron James by $15 to $20, it certainly doesn't mean you can't win your league. It just makes your margin for error a little smaller.
What if you're in a snake draft? What if you had the second pick and picked LeBron? In that scenario, yes, a No. 2 overall pick is a reasonable -- almost mandatory -- expenditure for LeBron James. But the principles of overvaluation still apply. In terms of pure production, you would have been better served grabbing Stephen Curry at that spot.
LaMarcus Aldridge was 15th in overall average draft position this season. He's at No. 31 on the player rater. That's an overspend, just in imaginary draft picks instead of imaginary cash.
All-Overvalued, Third Team
PG: Brandon Jennings ($3.72 per point, 36 ADP, 61 Player Rater)
SG: J.R. Smith ($4.36 per point, 61 ADP, 141 Player Rater)
SF: Andre Iguodala ($3.01 per point, 54 ADP, 124 Player Rater)
PF: Tobias Harris ($2.75 per point, 72 ADP, 146 Player Rater)
C: Al Jefferson ($4.15 per point, 20 ADP, 34 Player Rater)
Jefferson is slightly overrated in fantasy due to two factors; his scoring and fears of positional scarcity. His propensity to go on beast-mode scoring binges for a week or two clouds the fact that he's a not-quite-elite rebounder (13th in fantasy) and is only passable in steals and blocks. He does qualify at center, the position that causes a little bit of overreach in fear that owners will "miss out" on an elite player.
But the truth is that Jefferson was only the 13th-best center-eligible player in fantasy this season, behind the less-heralded Robin Lopez and DeAndre Jordan.
Tobias Harris, heavily hyped in preseason, won't even crack the top 40 at power forward. A lot of this is due to his missing the first month and a half of the season. But part of it is also due to his failure to contribute outside of points and free throw percentage. He's regressed at the 3-point line, hitting only 0.5 per game at a .239 clip. He also regressed in blocks and steals, dropping from 1.4 and 0.9 per game, respectively, to 0.4 and 0.6.