Fantasy basketball – Jonas Valanciunas, Darius Garland among the best hidden gems in fantasy
It may surprise you to learn that I was a poor math student when I was in high school.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it. And when my brain doesn’t want to do something, my brain throws that something overboard.
At the same time, I had found a winning hack for well-received science projects: inventing my own baseball metrics. I realized that I could sit back and happily spend an evening auditioning different statistical formulas and equations … as long as they were sports related.
But if math was all about a textbook, I was debilitatingly disinterested. And so, to keep my GPA at a nice level, I abdicated my AP status in math.
The irony is that today, in most rooms, I am considered the best at math. (But to be precise, it’s more that I’m the fastest at math.)
Because from the age of 15, my mathematical brain focused mainly on the areas I liked: sports statistics (and music / sound, but that’s another story even more purposely esoteric.) as I made this change, my mathematical brain flourished.
Which brings us to today. What about the area in which my mathematical brain performs the fastest unconscious calculations?
Find the hidden value in fantasy basketball.
Hidden value n. : the difference between the perceived market value of a player compared to his real value.
We are at the stage of the season where quantifying hidden value is an achievable task. Because at about 30 matches, we have enough sample size to reliably compare the difference between a player’s ADP and their current position on the Player Rater.
Outperforming Darius Garland is a case in point.
Garland’s ADP is around 85. He is 27th on the Player Rater. So when you try to quantify Garland’s hidden value, you can create a baseline with the 58-slot gap between its perceived value (85 ADP) and its actual value (27 PR).
As a shorthand in my head, I’m going to cut that down further by converting those 58 draft slots into rounds (for a 10-team league.) And luckily my crowded prefrontal cortex knows where my bread is buttered. So while I find it hard to instantly remember The Current Ms. Cregan’s middle name … I will remember that Darius Garland carries around six basic Hidden Value sets.
(It’s “Anne”, by the way. I’m 85% sure it’s “Anne”.)
But then I’ll adjust that baseline further as Garland’s overall production is bordering on elite. Because he is now one of the Rater’s top 30 players. Garland’s high round value therefore carries more weight. Going from 85 ADP to 27 PR means more than going from 125 ADP to 67 PR.
(I used to generate a Jimmy Johnson style drawing board, where I would sit and calculate the relative value of each location. Then I had kids.)
So in my head I add a hidden value round for each round in the rater’s top 40. So right now I’m ranking Garland with seven rounds of hidden value.
Another quick method to get a snapshot of hidden value? Look at how well a player is registered. Garland is only listed in about 91% of leagues. A top 30 player sitting on the wire in one of the 10 leagues? This represents Garland’s hidden value. He says in less competitive leagues Garland is essentially a streamer.
In my head, Garland and Miles Bridges are currently tied for Fantasyland’s most hidden value.
And even after taking into account several other key Cregan differentiators, they remain at a dead end.
Let’s talk about these differentiators because they are inaccurate sciences. I move away from historical sources of bias.
Time generates a bias.
Start by comparing a player’s ADP to their Player Rater rating. If a player drafted at 40 has 20 on the Player Rater? They were carrying around two cartridges of hidden value.
What do I mean “wore?” This 20-slot difference is the same today as it was on draft night … isn’t it?
Because as an actor continues to outperform or underperform its ADP, the market’s perception of that actor changes over time. And the hidden value begins to decrease.
What if I gave you Bradley Beal for the bridges on Veterans Day? No fuss. A first round for a ninth round? You would have made this deal in the blink of an eye.
If I offered it today? You would take a few more beats. Bridges offer third round value. Beal plays as a fifth round.
But because Beal is an All-Star with 30 PPG on the rise? Admit it: you’d be a little more tempted to roll the dice. Because nothing – nothing – manipulates perceived fantastic value more than a historically high average of points per game.
I am about to point out some players with great hidden value. But first, I’ll detail the other differentiating biases that generate hidden value.
And no. I’m not going to turn around and tell you to trade for Rudy Gobert. Gobert provides an end of first round value against an end of third round ADP. He was drafted relatively high to start, so his hidden value is a lot less at this point in the season.
But what about Jonas Valanciunas?
He is in fact in front of Gobert on the Player Rater. He averages more points per gameâ¦ but still sits below 20 PPG, the cosmic threshold to be labeled as a âgoalscorerâ or âfirst optionâ. (Gobert too.)
I propose that Valanciunas has more hidden value than Gobert. Much more.
Valanciunas provides a practical example of multiple bias dynamics that generate additional hidden value.
How do I know that it carries a hidden value? Easy. Valanciunas – at the time of this writing, the 10th best fantasy basketball player – is only listed in 96.7% of leagues! The 10th best fantasy player is only five percent more than Zion Williamson … who might not be playing a single minute this season.
So primary bias: low PPG. Secondary bias: the eighth round ADP of Valanciunas.
Even in more competitive leagues, with more experienced managers, Valanciunas’ business value will remain depressed due to this end-of-turn ADP. Because history tells experienced managers that an end-of-round player exceeding his ADP by more than five rounds must be a candidate to sell high.
This is especially true with a veteran known as Valanciunas. It’s easier to imagine a player on their first contract suddenly taking the plunge. But with a nine-year veteran? This size of a jump becoming their new normal is harder to imagine.
And because experienced managers are programmed to sell outperforming ADP players high? This increases the hidden value. (I find the pressure to sell high is often more about smart looks than smart play.)
Okay. So not gaudy notation. Weak ADP. What increases the hidden value of Valanciunas? Play in New Orleans.
Smaller market teams tend to be less visible in the media landscape. Thus, this lower profile increases the hidden value. Conversely, players on teams that end up being the subject of intensive discussions every night lose their hidden value.
(Another reason why teams in small West Coast markets generate more hidden value: Playing late games means their games aren’t as widely reported. That meant more than 20 years ago, before the media social, but the disparity still exists.)
Every Milwaukee Buck not named Giannis Antetokounmpo is a prime example of this dynamic. Khris Middleton was a perennial lock to surpass his ADP. Then Milwaukee won it all. And the playoffs and extended championshipsâ¦ also reduced the hidden value. The heroism of the playoffs kills hidden value.
And today? Middleton underperforms about four rounds.
(But shh … it’s kind of a secret.)
Middleton is secretly underachieving as his value per game is relatively high. In the per game ratings, Middleton is doing very well. He only underperforms his ADP by one turn.
Which brings me to the last reason Valanciunas is undervalued: total production versus production per game.
Middleton has only played 21 games this season. Valanciunas has played 29. In terms of total production, Valanciunas outshines Middleton by seven to eight rounds. But the gap narrows when we compare using the per match rating.
IMO, the total deviation from perceived value per game is tied for the third largest hidden value factor.
It doesn’t matter if two players offer relatively similar fantastic value per game if there is a disparity in the games played. If player A plays 80 games and player B only 60 games? This 20-game gap means Player A has delivered three to four more valuable rounds throughout the season.
Total dynamics versus per set is tied for third with efficiency-based production versus volume-based production.
We are conditioned to reward players who score. Scoring is fun. It is the statistic that determines the outcome of the games. (My vote would be Real Plus / Minus for that matter.) What if they can’t score? Shot blockers are fun. 3-point specialists were once more fun, but now everyone is a 3-point specialist.
Bouncing is no fun. Neither is a high percentage of free throws. And these are the two biggest categories of overproduction of Valanciunas. And he finally added a 3-point shot … at the exact point in NBA history where everyone added a 3-point shot.
Do you know which stats are rare this season? Production of free throws and rebounds. So, Valanciunas ‘efficiency in delivering what I call âoff-roadâ value provides the final boost to Valanciunas’ hidden value.
When it comes to hidden value, Valanciunas has just about all the dynamics working in its favor. So-so PPG. Weak ADP. Veteran. Small market team that is probably related to the lottery. Total value greater than value per part. And categorical value “all-terrain”.
This all explains why Jonas Valanciunas might be the most underrated top 10 player in fantasy basketball history.
And now here’s what you’ve come for: a quick list of a few other players that I’ve identified as having high hidden value.
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Gary Trent Jr.
Wendell carter jr
Robert williams iii