We’re about to broach one of the more contentious and divisive issues in fantasy hoops. With the playoffs just underway in most formats, it’s an issue that is more than likely rearing its head in one or more of your leagues. I’m talking about streaming: the act of making daily add/drops in order to maximize the sheer volume of players a fantasy hoops team can start in a given week. In head-to-head leagues it can cause more angry message board posts than the most lopsided of trades. As somebody who engages in streaming whenever and wherever it will give a strategic edge, I’ve already encountered protest in two leagues. It’s something you come to expect. I get it every year, and the arguments are always the same: that it’s “cheap”, that it’s somehow not fair, that it isn’t in the spirit of the game, that using “scrub” players is distasteful and that it is in some way a desecration of everything the league has been and stood for to this point.
Baloney. Not only can you stream, you should do it. I’ll give you some pointers.
Let’s take a moment and discuss the ethical status of streaming first: there is none. There is nothing wrong with streaming. First, it’s perfectly permissible within the rules. You can look them up. Nowhere will you find a clause specifically prohibiting adding and dropping players to gain a strategic edge. Second, this is a legitimate fantasy sports strategy: it takes basketball knowledge, it takes skill, it takes diligence, it takes timing, it takes the ability to project performances, it takes finesse and there are real risks built into the league (FG%, FT% and TOs). Third, this is a competition. It’s supposed to be cutthroat. So not only can you stream, as a participant in a communal contest it is incumbent upon you to maintain the competitive integrity of the league. We all frown upon those owners who give up on their teams weeks or months before the end of the season because it ruins that competitive balance. If you lose by 10 points and a couple of add/drops would have put you over the edge, you’re not much better.
Now, if you and your friends (or just the Commish) make the personal choice that streaming is somehow dishonest or offensive to the spirit of the game, then by all means put an end to it. Before the season starts. When the Commish sets up the league he can set a maximum number of roster moves, he can set up a scoring system that uses more ratios instead of pure counting stats, he can set a max number of games that can be used per position or he can simply set up a rotisserie league instead of a head-to-head league. By all means, do these things… do them before the league starts. If you set up or join a league that has settings conducive to streaming, it’s on you. We streamers don’t want to hear any crying about it after that.
With that said, let’s look at some of the finer points of streaming and anti-streaming strategy…
How to Make Streaming Work for You!
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”
As the season winds down, you’ll want to keep a few of your roster spots fluid. In order to succeed you’ll need at least one to three players you feel comfortable dropping outright, if not more. Sometimes this means making a two-for-one trade before the deadline. You’ll also want to stock your Watch List with players that fit your team strengths, guys who will give you a boost in the five plus categories you need to win in a nine-category league.
Streaming is generally designed to make you dominate the counting categories (threes, points, boards, assists, steals and blocks). However, you will also want to pick one of the shooting percentages, either free throws or field goals, that you can at least stay competitive in. Perhaps you only add/drop guys who shot better than 47% FGs on the season or 79% FTs on the season — you never want to boot more categories than you have to, and if you’re doing this right against a non-streamer you will lose turnovers.
Next, look at the season totals and see what categories your matchup figures to be close in. If your opponent on average hits 50 three-pointers a week and you only get about 15, then it’s unlikely that even aggressive streaming can make up that difference. But if he only puts up about 30 more rebounds a week than you, then that difference is very surmountable. So look at the season totals and look at the weeks you faced this opponent in the regular season, decide what categories are within your grasp, and gun for them. Every morning when you wake up or get to work add the players who have games the next day who can help, and don’t worry about dropping the weaker players on your roster. You can stream from your Watch List or you can simply sort by least week’s or last month’s averages.
Don’t forget to play the matchups. This year, if you see a guy who plays against Phoenix, Memphis, Golden State, Denver, Seattle, Sacramento, New York or Indiana, scoop him up. Odds are he will produce an above-average performance. These teams give up a ton of points and they get up and down the floor, maximizing total possessions.
On Thursdays, go nuts. There are only a couple of games on Thursday, and the chances are your opponent will only have two to four players going. That’s when you pounce on him with your regular studs and a complement of five scrubs you added the day before. Thursday is the best day of the week to take a huge lead in the counting categories, even if it means using a cadre of players you would never consider to have traditional fantasy value — if a guy gets just five points, three boards and a block on 50% FGs, it could be worth it.
Remember to stay flexible. Keep an eye on how the matchup is going, and respond with your add/drops accordingly. Streaming is all about being fluid and capitalizing on your opponents rigidity. Be like water, my friend.
Of course, for some the need for streaming begins weeks before the playoffs. Sometimes you have a crappy draft or a rash of injuries and streaming is necessary just to make the playoffs. Next year plan accordingly, and be prepared for even more scorn and ridicule. Don’t let the negative Nancys and their moral crusading deter you though, let it motivate you. In one league I’ve been streaming for two months just to lock up that sixth and final seed (by one game, no less), and it felt sweeter than any of the first-place finishes I managed because of all the negative feedback I got.
Stop Those Streamers in Their Tracks!
No matter what arguments you make for streaming, there will be those who find it distasteful. For those crybabies out there, there are a number of things you can do. The easiest by far is to play in a league where streaming is effectively prohibited by the rules. As I mentioned, the Commish can set a maximum number of roster moves, he can set up a scoring system that uses more ratios instead of pure counting stats, he can set a max number of games that can be used per position or he can simply set up a rotisserie league instead of a head-to-head league. So join such a league, or create your own.
If it’s too late for that, anticipate the streamer. Look at the players he might need to add, and scoop them up before he does. And keep doing that, because the more you do, the more players on waivers will pile up, making them unusable for your streaming opponent. Or, better yet, beat him at his own game. If a guy starts streaming you on Monday, jump into the fray. It’s not that much work to keep up for just a week. Prove you’re the better fantasy hoops player by making more intelligent, informed and topical add/drops than he does. If you can’t out-stream him, maybe you don’t deserve to win.
This doesn’t mean you have to go as nuts as he does, because if you truly have a better team then it won’t take as much to simply maintain supremacy in the categories you traditionally win — especially if he cedes TOs and one or both of the percentages. That’s the next step, pay very close attention to those three categories. When facing a streamer you should always, always make sure you win TOs and at least one percentage. Streamers are notoriously weak in FG% and FT% because the scrubs they’re adding will tend to be very unpredictable in their shooting, so try to be solid in both.
There you have it. Streaming and anti-streaming in all its glory. You know what your opponent is going to do, you know what you can do. Have at it. Either take some measures to counteract the streaming, beat him at his own game, don’t play in competitive fantasy hoops leagues or learn from the experience and ensure that you play in a league where the settings discourage streaming next year — just don’t cry about it now.