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# Real value of Player Rater numbers

As we're all aware -- much as we might like to ignore it -- fantasy basketball is a cold game of numbers. The players on your team accumulate statistical data, and when that data all gets mashed together, you get to see how it looks in comparison to the data accumulated by other teams. Looking at it this way allows you to make roster decisions that can help your team, even if they make no sense in the context of real basketball. Blake Griffin, for example, is better than Nicolas Batum at basketball, but if you have Batum in a fantasy league, and someone offers you Blake Griffin for him straight up, you're probably shrugging and saying you just can't do it.

Ultimately, we probably do end up making these decisions with whatever strange combination of head and heart feels most right to us in the moment; that's OK, and it's what makes fantasy basketball more fun than pure math (unless you really like math, in which case, you're probably reading something other than this column). With this conundrum in mind, though, this week I wanted to point out one of the weaknesses of the Player Rater (a weakness, hopefully, that you can use to your advantage).

A ranking system is helpful because it neatly arranges players in order of their value according to a common set of criteria, and because of this, it tells us things we might not be able to see with just our eyes (i.e. Nicolas Batum looks like he's pretty good at basketball, but you might not intuitively imagine that he's a top-10 fantasy player just from watching him play). Unfortunately, looking at a list like the Player Rater, it's easy to forget that the distance between one player and the next in the rankings is not always uniform.

We have a great example of this right at the top of the list. Kevin Durant's total Player Rater value, if we rank players based on per-game stats rather than total stats, is 18.12. We arrive at that number by looking at how many standard deviations better than the average he is in each category, and adding those values together. 18.12 is a ridiculous number. You can tell it's a ridiculous number because the difference between 18.12 and Kobe Bryant's second-place 13.78 is roughly equivalent to the difference between Kobe and David Lee's 14th-place 9.26. This is all a complicated way of saying that Kevin Durant is way, way more valuable than everyone else. In a vacuum, having Kevin Durant and David Lee (first and 14th on the Player Rater, respectively), would be more valuable than having Kobe Bryant and LeBron James (second and third, respectively). Of course, you always have to account for the particularities of the players you already have on your roster, but remembering that the difference between first and second might not be the same as the difference between second and third is an important (if overly simple) principle in assessing value in fantasy leagues.

Based on this line of reason, the major takeaway here is that it is usually worth overspending to get a great player (one of the ways in which fantasy basketball is, happily, a lot like real basketball). You have a limited number of roster spots on your team, and a plethora of players with whom you might consider filling those spots. Ideally, you want to plug the best possible players into as many of those spots as possible and fill in the spaces around them. Let's say the person who owns LeBron James in your league is a little worried that James seems to be content scoring fewer points this season and has also slipped in steals and free throw percentage at the same time. All of a sudden, an elite player is available. How much can you offer up for LeBron without destroying your own team? The answer might be more than you think.