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Trading on Schedule

January 15, 1998

Last month, I wrote an article on how to pace (or not to pace) your trading over the season. The main point was that the focus of early season trading should be to generate gains in value... and the sooner the better, since those gains can be converted into better performing players.

A number of Smallworld managers wrote to suggest that I had neglected to mention the important impact of scheduling, or swapping players in order to maximize exposure to games played. Frankly, I think many managers overemphasize this tactic, and burn through too many trades with too little value gained. Admittedly, it can produce a zippy, "jack rabbit" start to your season, and maybe even place your team on the worldwide leader board for a short while. But unless that's your primary objective - a few days of fame, and then down in flames - this tactic should be used sparingly.

So, how important is it to pay attention to the schedule? Although I just pooh-poohed this as a basic strategy, I do think it is a very important consideration that, with some careful planning and execution, can add a nice margin to your score. But, most of the time it should be only a secondary consideration. Let me illustrate by way of a few real life examples, taken from my recent experience with my team called Guru.

Case 1: Tony Battie looked pretty cheap at the end of the first week of January, with his price dipping below the $1 million mark. My initial instinct was to buy him right away, until I noticed that he only had one game scheduled in the next five days (Jan. 8-12), while many other teams played three times during that same span. So, I held off until January 13, when Denver began a spurt of 3 games in 4 days, and even 8 games in the next 12 days. Fortunately (and not necessarily coincidentally, since there are plenty of others who waited as well), his price stayed down during the off period. Now my interest in buying Battie is not to hold him for any extended period; I just want to wait for his price to rise, and then take the money and run. Even if it takes a few days to realize the expected price increase, I'll be collecting his point production during the holding period. And with a good run of games for the next two weeks, there should be plenty of buying interest to push his price up. So, in this case, scheduling didn't drive the decision of who to buy, but it was a significant factor in deciding when to do so.

Case 2: Marcus Camby looked like he might have peaked in price on January 14th. I had bought him for $2.7 million two days earlier, and at a current price of $5.3 million, I figured it was time to harvest the gain. I decided to buy Barkley in return, as his 50 SWP output the night before indicated he was obviously feeling healthy. A check of the schedule showed that Camby had a game that night, while Barkley had an off day. To have executed the trade on the morning of the 14th would have sacrificed Camby's points from that night's game, while getting nothing from Barkley. So, I waited until afternoon to do the trade. As it turned out, Camby contributed 32 SWP that night - a nice payoff for delaying the trade for only several hours. Once again, the schedule didn't drive the trade at all - but it was the deciding factor in the timing.

Case 3: Here's one example where scheduling did play a more significant role in the decision of whom to trade, and not just when to trade. Last weekend (Jan 11th), I noticed that the Lakers had only 9 games scheduled over the next 24 days (from Jan 12th until the All Star break.) That's a very low density of games per day. Meanwhile, Atlanta had 15 games scheduled over the same period. The only Laker I had on my roster was Shaq. I wondered - should I trade Shaq and pick up someone on the Hawks? Since Shaq was one of only two centers, I would need a center from the Hawks, so Mutombo was the only viable swap candidate. Shaq had been averaging about 45 SWP per game, and at that pace, he would produce roughly 400 SWP over the 24-day time frame. Dikembe had been averaging about 37 SWP/game, but over 15 games that multiplies out to around 550 SWP. In addition, if I did the trade, I'd have about $3.5 million in extra cash which I could use to upgrade another roster spot. Even if Shaq cranked out 50 SWP/G (450 total) and Mutombo broke even by producing only 30 SWP/G (again, 450), I'd still be ahead as long as the extra $3.5 million bought something productive. So, I did the trade. And, I used the extra dough to upgrade from Bradley to Webber. In this example, had it not been for the scheduling disparity, I would never have done the trade. This type of scheduling disparity is unusual, though. [Follow-up note: In his first game, Mutombo took an elbow in the mouth which required 7 stitches, and he ended up producing -0.5 SWP for the game. Not a good start!]

Bottom line: Except for situations where a significant pickup in games - and Smallworld points - can be gained, it's not a good idea to trade solely to maximize games played. A trade - especially one during the first half of the season - should generate more than one or two "games' worth" of SWP's. But when trading, you should always consider the scheduling ramifications, and optimize the timing of your trades accordingly. A game played is a terrible thing to waste!

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Hoop Pointers is written by Dave Hall (a.k.a. the Guru), an avid fantasy sports player. He is not an employee of any of the fantasy games discussed within this site, and any opinions expressed are solely his own. Questions or comments are welcome, and should be emailed to Guru<davehall@home.com>.