Numbers Game: Position Scarcity & Trade Deadlines
Numbers Game: Position Scarcity & Trade Deadlines

This article is part of our Numbers Game series.

Scarcity drives fantasy sports. Anthony Davis' 2.6 blocks per game are valuable because no one else contributes that many blocks in a given night. There is nothing special about 2.6 – Miles Plumlee averages 2.6 points per game, yet he is pretty much worthless in fantasy. Since the average NBA game results in 210.9 points, and only 9.7 blocks, our goals for scoring are a lot higher than for blocks. Blocks are scarce.

We make these calculations automatically, but we demonstrate an intuitive knack for economics and game theory when we react to the difference in value between 2.6 blocks, points, threes or rebounds. Scarcity is a focus of both these overlapping mathematical fields.

Although fantasy basketball owners have a fantastic intuitive of grasp categorical scarcity, positional scarcity is more subtle. That subtlety lends itself to a maladjusted trade market, which means there is a lot of opportunity for savvy managers. Since most fantasy trade deadlines are about a month away, the time to strike is now.

This week, we dive into positional scarcity, and try to find ways to use it in the fantasy marketplace.

Positions are unevenly distributed amongst tiers

There are similar numbers of point guards, shooting guards, etc., in the NBA. This is why the intuitive understanding of "there are tons of points and very few blocks" won't help us. Every team has roughly one starter and two bench players per position per team.

But most fantasy leagues only deal with the top-200 or so

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Rikleen
Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball and was a nominee for the 2016 FSWA Newcomer of the Year Award. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living outside Boston.
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