Fantasy: Cat Punting Basics

In the first part of the cat punting series, we had a short introduction to what it means to punt categories in NBA fantasy. Here I will go more in-depth and provide a real-(fantasy)-world example, using a team called Bosh Spice, to illustrate how this strategy is implemented.

Why am I not using my own team? The reason is three-fold.

  1. Bosh Spice is one of the best cat punters I have seen. He often rivals me in terms of his obsession with squeezing the most from his weak categories in order to drip-feed his strong ones.

  2. This particular example illustrates the process of developing an efficiently unbalanced (yes, unbalanced), dominant team. You will see that Bosh Spice does not yet have the categorical dominance that he will need if he wants to win the league. Hopefully, he will mold his team into a beautiful model for cat punting—he has done it many times before—and we will follow him as he does this. My team does not provide a great example when it comes to witnessing the gestation of a cat punting juggernaut.

  3. Most importantly, I cannot use my own team as an example simply because I am not cat punting this season. In a later post we’ll look at my team, but for the time being, all I will say is that the league is too weak to bother with cat punting. When I punt categories I do so because I have to, not because I want to. In a weak league where a number of managers are either impatient, don’t understand true fantasy value, or else are too accustomed to the laziness allowed in football fantasy, a veteran manager can often build very strong categories across-the-board*, which is what I have done.

A few caveats and things to note are in order before taking a look at Bosh Spice’s squad.

  1. This league has 11 categories. I personally think it’s unnecessary to deviate from the standard 9 cats, but that is what we have. The additional cats are FGM and OREB.

  2. I have not included the constituent parts of the percentage cats. So while they do not reflect true value, they still serve us well enough for this exercise.

  3. We are early in the season and I think I can speak for Bosh Spice when I say that this squad is nowhere near complete. There are still too many borderline categories that need to be strengthened, otherwise the weak categories will outnumber the strong ones, which is very bad. That said, Bosh Spice still sits at 5th place in a league of 14. This is due to the general weakness of the league and possibly favorable scheduling. But I would be happy to bet that this manager gets a spot in the top 3 come playoff time. In any case, it is still instructive to demonstrate that cat punting is a process and it can be a struggle to find the right fits especially early in the season.

Let’s start with his strong categories.

Player
Rank
FG%
OREB
REB
ST
BLK
Josh Smith
78 0.4510 2.3 8.4 1.5 2.1
Dwight Howard
272 0.5860 3.5 11.7 1.1 2.7
Jeff Teague
61 0.4390 0.6 2.4 1.8 0.3
Tyson Chandler
29 0.7090 4.3 10.0 0.7 0.8
J.J. Hickson
136 0.5330 3.9 10.1 0.6 0.6
Marcin Gortat
56 0.5340 2 7.8 0.7 2.0
Luke Ridnour
89 0.4570 0.4 2.8 1.3 0.2
Al-Farouq Aminu
133 0.4870 1.7 6.9 1.4 0.6
Jeremy Lin
107 0.3810 0.6 4.2 1.8 0.3
Tristan Thompson
196 0.4580 3.4 7.5 0.9 0.7
Nene Hilario
260 0.4800 1 5.1 1.0 0.1
Tony Allen
152 0.3940 0.7 3.4 2.0 0.6
Brendan Haywood
233 0.5160 2.7 6.6 0.2 0.9
Taj Gibson
202 0.4170 1.4 4.5 0.5 1.3

A few things are apparent here.

Dwight Howard block
Even with his glaring statistical weaknesses, Dwight Howard can be a dominant fantasy player if used correctly.
  1. Yahoo! rankings don’t mean shit. Dwight Howard is helping this squad dominate 4 cats, contributes solidly to another 3, as we’ll soon see. Yet Yahoo! wants us to believe that, as the 272nd ranked player he shouldn’t make any team in a 182 player league (14 teams x 13 players). Likewise, Brendan Haywood, Tristan Thompson and Taj Gibson all serve a purpose (although to be fair, Bosh Spice is surely hoping that Taj will break out of his funk, otherwise he really doesn’t really belong on this team).

  2. Utter domination in certain cats allow some wiggle room within the cat so that other cats can be picked up. Perfect case in point is the inclusion of Jeremy Lin and Tony Allen—two very weak shooters who nevertheless are needed in order to carry steals. That can work when Dwight and Tyson are carrying big-man cats so effectively.

  3. It is very difficult to strengthen big man and small man cats. This is not a topic for Cat Punting 101, but it will be revisited as it is the final piece of the puzzle when cat punting. That is, you must capture a small man cat with a big man dominant team or a big man cat with a small man dominant team in order to gain that elusive majority of strong cats. Bosh Spice has captured only 5 categories at the moment. He will need at least one more, and probably two to stay comfortable in an eleven cat league.

I think it is instructive to observe the punted cats. Notice how completely out-of-reach these categories are from ever being in contention. I have highlighted those players who perform wellor even decently in the respective category. You’ll see just how punted these four categories are. It would take a miracle to make these contenders on a week-in and week-out basis.

Player
Rank
FGM
FT%
3PTM
PTS
Josh Smith
78 7.3 0.516 0.5 17.0
Dwight Howard
272 6.7 0.477 0.0 18.4
Jeff Teague
61 5.5 0.853 1.0 13.6
Tyson Chandler
29 4.8 0.722 0.0 12.8
J.J. Hickson
136 4.7 0.596 0.0 11.2
Marcin Gortat
56 4.6 0.684 0.0 11.0
Luke Ridnour
89 4.4 0.773 0.8 11.5
Al-Farouq Aminu
133 4.1 0.656 0.1 9.4
Jeremy Lin
107 3.8 0.800 0.7 9.9
Tristan Thompson
196 3.7 0.582 0.0 8.9
Nene Hilario
260 3.4 0.667 0.0 10.6
Tony Allen
152 2.9 0.737 0.0 7.6
Brendan Haywood
233 2.6 0.500 0.0 5.8
Taj Gibson
202 2.3 0.794 0.0 5.9

 

Below are the two candidate cats that can be strengthened to put this team over-the-top and gain that coveted majority of cats. Here I have highlighted the liabilities, those roster spots which are preventing any positive traction in these cats.

Player
Rank
AST
TO
Josh Smith
78 3.6 3.1
Dwight Howard
272 1.9 3.3
Jeff Teague
61 6.8 2.8
Tyson Chandler
29 0.6 1.1
J.J. Hickson
136 0.9 1.6
Marcin Gortat
56 1.2 1.5
Luke Ridnour
89 4.6 1.7
Al-Farouq Aminu
133 1.9 2.3
Jeremy Lin
107 6.1 2.7
Tristan Thompson
196 1.0 1.4
Nene Hilario
260 1.7 1.4
Tony Allen
152 0.5 1.1
Brendan Haywood
233 0.6 1.2
Taj Gibson
202 0.8 1.3

 

Here it becomes apparent which players are hurting your cause. Bosh Spice has numerous guys who only contribute to one of his strengths: Luke Ridnour, Jeremy Lin, Al-Farouq Aminu and Tony Allen (assuming Taj Gibson simply has a funk to break out of).

Looking at it from this perspective, a cat punting manager must ask himself which of these guys is preventing me from getting that extra category which will gain me that majority? Then action must be taken accordingly.

For the time being, it is only necessary to understand what cat punting is, and what a cat punting team looks like as it begins to take shape. We will not go into any trade, position or free-agent analysis at the moment. Instead, we’ll track this team as the season progresses and the necessary actions are taken. I will also offer further insight as to what would be my course of action were I the manager of this squad.

Until next time.

* This is in contrast to traditional across-the-board strategies done in competitive leagues, where there is not enough maneuverability to have very strong categories across-the-board, only average ones across-the-board.

Comments

  1. Scott says

    Would you agree that the point in time in which you shape your team’s strengths and weaknesses is important ? Punting categories from the get-go is a risk in that it could lead to many tightly contested matchups, keeping your team hovering around .500 and in the middle of your league’s pack. The more common approach is drafting without agenda and attempting to get best available players while striving to be ‘above average’ across all categories. This can propel your squad up the leaderboard quicker, IF you have a friendly combination of draft position, fantasy knowledge, dumb opponents and luck. A ‘middle-ground’ strategy for an experienced manager might be re-evaluating your squad after half or three-quarters of the regular season (ideally in playoff standing – top 6), identifying the cats you want to punt / excel in, and attempt trades to achieve that. Again though you encounter risk by putting your squad’s fate in the hands of other managers, which is never fun. Thats the beauty of fantasy sports, so many factors to consider. Great read, hoopla

    • says

      You hit the nail on the head, Scott.

      A couple comments:

      First, I wouldn’t “draft without an agenda.” I would simply draft for the best value and without any consideration for category targeting (I’m pretty sure this is what you meant). This not only means I can be patient, “re-evaluate” and see how guys pan out but also provides the best opportunity to possess some great trade bait (i.e. when punting categories a superstar may not suit your needs at all, except as trade bait.) And working trades is a big part of how I execute this, especially since valuations are all out-of-whack.

      Second, I do think that half to three quarters of the season is too long to wait before making moves. Not only is that cutting it very close if you are a middle-of-the-road team, but it also doesn’t give you enough time to work within the trade deadline, and trading is what this strategy is all about (at least for me). It depends on the league, but normally managers are very reluctant to make trades so it takes about 10 offers to get one through–even if all ten trade offers legitimately would’ve helped both teams. I have found that most managers tend to feel that someone who is offering a trade knows something they don’t and they are inevitably going to be ripped off.

      So I like to start offering early and often. I tend to chomp at the bit to make moves from day 1, but I have to force myself to wait at least 3-4 weeks.

      I will cover trading and drafting soon.

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