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On Socrates and Your Fantasy Draft

Living in Portland, Oregon – and, previously, in some other places full of hippies (ex- or otherwise) – I've come across a number of parents who consider it chief among their parental responsibilities to protect their children from the horrors of popular culture.

On one level, I get it. There's little that's redeeming about the TV news, or about whatever it is that Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann and all the other Angry Shouting People do.

On the other level, it gets me a little exasperated. One reason is on account of what Marshall McLuhan means when he says that "the medium is the message." Because this is a roto blog, I won't get into it at any length, but McLuhan's basic point is this: that it's not the content of a medium, but the medium itself, that shapes us. No medium (book, film, radio) is good or bad in itself, he argues; it's just, they each shape us differently. If we're unaware of how we're being shaped, that's a much bigger problem than the potential effects of the swear words or hot ladies we might come across on the internets.

The second – and what I'll call "critical" – reason I get miffed is that, if my parents had rejected pop culture out of hand like some of these parents I see around me, then I'd have never gotten to see that masterpiece of cinema known as Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. And if I hadn't gotten to see said masterpiece, I'd have not been introduced to Socrates – a.k.a. Baby Daddy of the Western Tradition – until I went to the incredibly important, very expensive Ivy League school at which I pursued my studies. And if I hadn't been introduced to Socrates (by way of Bill and Ted's), I'd have never heard that tenet of his which has stuck with me to the present day – i.e. "The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing."

"The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing": this sentiment has played an important role in my early days as a so-called Fantasy Basketball Expert. Whatever doubts I expressed about my expertise in this earlier blog post (in re my contribution to the NBA Mock Draft we did around here), feel free to go ahead and triple them.

And yet, the reason for my change in feeling is not because I've somehow gotten dumber in the meantime (or, at least, I don't think I have), but actually because of how much I've learned about fantasy prep since then.

In that post about the mock draft, you'll notice that Other Resident Expert Justin Phan takes like a thousand exceptions to my analysis of the draft. And even if Justin's bedside manner could use some work, his criticisms are 100|PERCENT| legit. I was wrong about Maurice Williams and Jameer Nelson; I was wrong about Rudy Gay (although I did admit as much); and mostly, I was wrong in my approach to the draft.

The main lesson I've learned about prepping for an NBA Draft/Fantasy League? Make a frigging spreadsheet! It doesn't take forever and it's not that hard to do. I'm probably the last person on earth to figure this out. Still, for those of you luddites who fear the technologies, it's actually not that hard. Basically, what you do is:

1. Load all of last year's stats into a spreadsheet. RotoWire's own Draft Kit is the best place to find them. If you're not a RotoWire member, though, you can scrape the data from Basketball Reference.

2. Find the average (AVG) and standard deviations (STDs|STAR|) for every category in the league for which you're prepping.

|STAR|A most fortunate acronym.

3. Do this for all the players in your spreadsheet: (Player AVG of CAT - League AVG of CAT) / STD of CAT. This will find how many STDs each player is from the mean of each CAT. Warning: you have to approach FG|PERCENT| and FT|PERCENT| a bit differently, also weighting each of them by attempts as compared to league average.

4. Find the AVG of the results for each player. Those are their overall values.

5. Figure out how big your "player universe" will be. Say you're playing in a 12 team league with 13 players on each roster. Your player universe is 12 x 13 = 156.

6. Take the top 156 (or however many) players from the first spreadsheet and deposit them into a second one.

7. Do numbers 2 - 4 again, but just with players in your player universe.

8. Voila! You've handicapped your draft!

Of course, there's a lot more that goes into it than that. You've got to consider changes in playing time, player development or regression, injuries, etc. Still, this'll help you a lot. And like I say, probably everybody already knew this and I'm an idiot.

At the very least, you can say this for me: I certainly know that I know nothing. Which, according to Socrates, that's True Wisdom.

Thanks to Justin Phan for helping me figure this junk out.