Ryan Knaus

The Numbers Game

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Youth Will Be Served

Thursday, February 8, 2018

This column is always devoted to fantasy values and the variables that impact them. We've looked at which players are most consistent night-to-night, why advanced stats are important for fantasy, how teams match up vs. positions, which statistics are easiest or hardest to find on the waiver wire, and much more. Today we'll examine player ages, specifically how younger guys trend up as the season progresses.


Teams playing young guys more down the stretch is a truism. But can the anecdotal evidence be quantified? Are the 'youth movements' of lottery-bound teams counteracted by other teams leaning on veterans in playoff races? Do scattered DNP-CDs for veterans have a perceivable effect when you look at the big picture? After examining data from the past decade, the short answers are yes, no, and yes.


The following chart shows how the average age of the top-150 fantasy players (9-cat) has fluctuated at various stages of the season -- the first month, pre-All-Star break, post All-Star break, and the final month. The results speak for themselves. Note: The underlying data I used for this comes from the inimitable


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Every single season for the past decade, the average age of the top-150 fantasy players has lowered after the All-Star break, sometimes minimally (2013-14) and sometimes dramatically (2016-17). The swings are even more pronounced when you look at the first month of the season vs. the final month of the season -- last season, the average age dipped by nearly 11 months, and during the shortened lockout season of 2010-11 that spiked to nearly 15 months. Yet again, we see hard evidence that veterans are all the rage early on, but young guys come out to play in March and April.


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The risk of veteran's roles diminishing is exaggerated on bad teams, of course, which should give you pause if you currently have someone like Marc Gasol or Brook Lopez on your roster. Lopez, for example, was so frustrated with his fourth-quarter benchings and reduced playing time that he had to hide his face with a towel on the bench recently. With the Lakers 6.0 games out of the playoff picture, wouldn't it be better for everyone (excluding BroLo's fantasy owners) if he's eventually shut down?


This list includes most of the oldest players from 10 teams with the worst records in the NBA. I'm looking at the five worst teams from each conference: the Hawks, Magic, Bulls, Nets, Knicks, Mavericks, Kings, Suns, Grizzlies and Lakers. In alphabetical order:



Arron Afflalo 32
Brandan Wright 30
Brook Lopez 29
Chandler Parsons 29
Corey Brewer 31
Courtney Lee 32
D.J. Augustin 30
DeMarre Carroll 31
Devin Harris 34
Dirk Nowitzki 39
Ersan Ilyasova 31
Garrett Temple 31
George Hill 31
J.J. Barea 33
Jameer Nelson 36
Jared Dudley 32
Jarrett Jack 34
Joakim Noah 33
Justin Holiday 28
Kosta Koufos 29
Luol Deng 32
Marc Gasol 33
Marco Belinelli 31
Mario Chalmers 31
Marreese Speights 30
Omer Asik 31
Robin Lopez 29
Salah Mejri 31
Timofey Mozgov 31
Tony Allen 36
Tyreke Evans 28
Tyson Chandler 35
Vince Carter 41
Wes Matthews 31
Zach Randolph 36


Plenty of these guys are already irrelevant outside of the absolute deepest leagues, or already facing reduced roles, but it's worth remembering if you own someone like Courtney Lee or DeMarre Carroll. The other shoe should drop eventually. The one exception I'd make is Dirk Nowitzki. He's managed to stay healthy all season with zero DNPs, the Mavs have done a great job managing his minutes, and it sounds like he really wants to play in all 82 games. I'm not eager to own him, of course, but wouldn't be as paranoid about him as almost everyone else on this list. The irony isn't lost on me, since he's also the oldest person listed, but there's a legacy factor that also shields him -- if he wants to play, I can't see Dallas shutting him down just to develop Dwight Powell or Maxi Kleber. (Rotoworld reader Phil Bautista points out that Vince Carter is actually the oldest player on the list, which...yep. I think my mind rejects the idea that he's still active.)


If you’re looking for specific young players to target late this season, that’s a topic that arises in nearly every column posted on Rotoworld! For instance, Jonas Nader’s most recent ‘Pickups of the Day’ talks about Josh Jackson, Khem Birch, Mario Hezonja and Josh Hart, among others. Mike Gallagher and Tommy Beer go over the Kristaps Porzingis injury fallout and the Willy Hernangomez trade, Steve Alexander’s recent Dose touches on Tomas Satoransky, Fred VanVleet and much more, Dan Dobish digs into Bobby Portis’ must-own status without Nikola Mirotic, Ethan Norof highlights on Reggie Bullock as a 3-point specialist…you get the idea.


Another takeaway is that you should be mindful of this inevitable shift from veterans to youth early in the season...even on draft day. Loading your team entirely with second-half breakout potential may not work if you get buried in the standings early, but if you're saddled with too many veterans the odds of a late-season meltdown are much greater. This is even more obvious in points leagues, where balancing categories is irrelevant -- it's all about raw, sustained production, especially when the fantasy playoffs roll around. And if you do find yourself with too many veterans in the early stages of the season, be proactive in trading to get younger -- it was a lot easier to get value for Tyreke Evans or Marc Gasol in December.


Finally, here are the ages that the first chart was based on:



Note that the cumulative age for top-150 players hovers around 27 years...a bit older early in the season, a bit younger later. Individual fantasy teams have tons of variance, but if your squad's average age is below 25 or above 29 on draft day, you're setting yourself up for some rough stretches. As usual, email me or send me a message on Twitter with any insights or questions. Good luck this week!

Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.
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