Introducing Intertemporal Arbitrage to Rookie Fantasy NBA Keeper Leaguers

Ken ParkContributor IISeptember 23, 2010

Brook Lopez's value is much higher in keeper leagues than single-season leagues
Brook Lopez's value is much higher in keeper leagues than single-season leaguesJim McIsaac/Getty Images

The biggest handicap for first-time keeper leaguers is that the Yahoo Big Boards, ESPN Player Raters, and all other fantasy NBA rankings are compiled with just a single season in mind. So, even in keeper leagues, a declining, 32-year-old Dirk Nowitzki will be drafted well ahead of Brook Lopez who has a whole career of Tim Duncan-like productivity ahead of him. And who can blame you? 

Often ranked in the top five, it would feel wrong to let a Nowitski slip too far, but let him slip you should.

Intertemporal arbitrage isn't about taking inordinate risk early or blindly taking younger players. You should never take Derrick Favors over Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, or Chris Bosh. Especially since a guy like Favors is likely to be available to you later in the draft and Dwight Howard-type production is extremely hard to replace.

But within the same tier of talent, taking the young, rising Tyreke Evans over the aging, declining Jason Kidd allows your team to flourish in the short-term without having to sacrifice long-term production.

From a keeper league perspective, single-season rankings tend to create skewed valuations. Use this to your advantage on draft day. Pick up guys who will not only produce this season, but who also have long careers ahead of them.

You don't have to trade off short-run gains at the expense of your team's long-run health if you wisely engage in intertemporal arbitrage.

To show you what I mean by this, last night, I entered a mock draft of 14 teams (I drafted ninth) and just killed it. I grabbed six keepers in the first six rounds who will allow me to not only compete now, but dominate this hypothetical league's future. 

Round 1

Drafting at nine, the guy I really wanted (Steph Curry) was long gone. I passed on Danny Granger (his inner Camby—injuries—in recent seasons was a concern), Dwight Howard (let someone else deal with his horrible FT percentage), Gasol (old), and David Lee (no shot blocking).

Instead, I opted for the 22-year-old Brook Lopez. His rebounding could be better, but a big man with fantastic percentages, scoring, and shot-blocking ability was too good to pass up. Plus, I foresee no character issues, no Gilbert gun-slinging, no Malice at the Palace—which is important to consider.

Just as in the real NBA, character matters in keeper leagues.

Round 2

I needed a point guard and a lot of the good ones were flying off the board. But I didn't mind because most of them were old. Like on the verge of becoming fossilized.

Jason Kidd? Pass.

Steve Nash? Tempting, but pass. 

Chauncey Billups? Oh, HAIL NO. No Mr. Big Shot. No Billups.

Remember, I wanted a franchise point guard. A guard that was going to produce for me immediately, but also be a solid producer for me over the next 10 years. And so I opted for...drum roll please...Derrick Rose!

In most single-season rankings, Derrick Rose is ranked in the 50s and with good reason. His lack of steals and threes is kind of a bummer. But anyone who's been following Rose in the offseason knows he's been a man possessed trying to improve.

I think his "MJ competitiveness" is actually underrated. I have a feeling he wants to rip Miami's heart out. Plus, for a point guard, his efficiency is fantastic. And finally, in a 14-team league, I was legitimately worried that someone would take him in the third round.

Round 3

The guy I really wanted in this round was Al Horford. He's super efficient, makes few mistakes (low turnovers), rebounds, and blocks shots. But some douche bag took him two spots before me.

Guys who were available when I drafted included Tim Duncan (too old), Rudy Gay (overrated—Jeff Green and many others get you similar stats), Troy Murphy (too much long-term uncertainty), David West (solid but not exceptional), and Tyreke Evans (tempting, actually really tempting). 

But instead, I opted for...drum roll...Darren Collison!

Another promising point guard with great percentages, assists, and steals (to make up for DRose.) I definitely see the argument for Tyreke here, but it was close and at the end of the day, after owning misfits like Gilbert Arenas and Ron Artest, I opted for the guy who knows what a speed limit is.

Besides, DRose and Collison are a dynamic point guard duo who should wreak havoc in this imaginary keeper league for years to come.

Round 4

Needed a big man. Guys like Nene Hilario and Marc Gasol were flying off the board. I could have gone for Kevin Love, but if you read my analysis of Love, you know that for big men, his field goal percentage and shot blocking are just abysmal.

And so I opted for Joakim Noah! 

His per-36 minute rebounding and shot blocking numbers are off the charts. And I'm not too worried about Boozer stealing Noah's cookies. I am happy to pair Brook and Joakim together. Guys who went right after Joakim were Camby, Bynum, and Zach Randolph. I dodged a bullet. I am thankful.

Round 5

I don't know how this happened. But this is the perfect example of how Yahoo and ESPN are the downfall of keeper league franchises before they even start.At this point, I see John Wall still on the board and I'm praying to the fantasy gods that he falls to me.

"Dear Fantasy Gods," I whispered, "if you let JWall drop to me, I will never ever make fun of Shake and Bake for tanking in Week 3 or #1 Stunna for trading Chris Paul for Josh Smith, Rudy Gay, and LaMarcus Aldridge ever ever ever again." (They are in my keeper league and yes these events did occur.)

It happened. I got John Wall. Shake and Bake and #1 Stunna—you are free from kshiz smack talk for at least a solid year.

Round 6

I had no doubts that I was going to be able to get my man, Blake Griffin, in this round. With all the ludicrous rankings out there, no way most GMs were going to take him this early. I even debated taking someone else, like Roy Hibbert, and take my chances in the next round. But if there's anything that I have learned over time, it's that hubris can be a b*tch. And so I drafted Blake Griffin. I'm glad I did—he went in Round 7.

kshiz's Make-Believe Keeper Squad

Derrick Rose (Age 21)
Darren Collison (Age 23)
John Wall (Age 20)
Blake Griffin (Age 21)
Joakim Noah (Age 25)
Brook Lopez (Age 22)

So first-time keeper leaguers remember—if there are opportunities to grab blossoming young talents who will produce both now and later, then take those chances and run with them. Because for long-time keeper leaguers like me, owning this stacked keeper six is but a dream, whereas for you, it can still become a reality. Good luck!


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