The 1-4-5 manifesto: A Beginner’s Guide to Roster Strategy

The Steal of 2013? Spencer Hawes.

The steal of 2013? Spencer Hawes, hands down.

Lessons learned:

When I first started playing 9 category h2h fantasy basketball, I drafted players based on whatever default rankings were available and player name recognition from ESPN or 2k or something.  I didn’t focus on or punt any categories, I figured a team full of players I’d deemed ‘good’ would find success.

The results, however, were disastrous.

By Christmas I had to completely rebuild my roster.  After playing around with the waiver wire for a while I developed a team that dominated in rebounding.  Waiver adds included: a rookie Greg Monroe, rebound/steal guru Chuck Hayes, and JJ Hickson and Andre Blatche, both of whom benefited from injured teammates. Before long rebounding was a weekly lock; fg% followed suit shortly afterward. By the end of the year I climbed from 12th to 7th, finishing a single point short of the playoffs. The moral of the story is that your roster needs a master plan, a blueprint.

1-4-5 Theory:

I’ve been using 1-4-5 theory with relative success since that season. The main idea here is that the optimal 9 category fantasy team is constructed out of as many point guards, power forwards, and centers as possible.  This theory presupposes that guys who play the 1, 4, and 5 positions tend to produce in a complimentary manner which ultimately proves more fruitful than other player combinations.

To understand why this works, consider the dynamics of 9 category scoring. [Assume a standard 9 cat league involves: fg% // ft% // 3 pointers // points // rebounds // assists // steals // blocks // and turnovers; daily lineups; and total production based scoring (rather than per game average based scoring).] Notice that there are two efficiency based categories and seven based on total production.  Efficiency stats are subject to more uncertainty and greater variability than other categories, coaching and team chemistry for instance, making them harder to depend on. Focus on the other seven first.

Many people tend to want to acquire scoring first; and hell, who doesn’t like jacking up tons of threes.  Points, though, are the cheapest category in the game — it’s a lot easier to find a scorer on waivers than someone who can pile up blocks, for example. As a result swingmen are often overvalued, especially early on in drafts. Serviceable “value” swingmen should be available in the later rounds or on the waiver wire.

That notwithstanding, scoring is a category you can and want to win every week. Never punt scoring; simply consider it a secondary, complimentary skill. Frankly, players who don’t score regularly have no place on most fantasy rosters. The most desperate managers could even consider streaming a weekly 3pt and scoring specialist.

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The Jaguars decided to punt scoring this year. Shockingly, this strategy hasn’t paid off yet.


Assists and blocks, on the other hand, are the most valuable stats; they’re the hardest to improve post-draft. Point guards are your source for assists, and a good PG brings steals, ft%, and sometimes threes to the table as well. This is the kind of complimentary production that wins championships. Obviously big men offer blocks, and ideally rebounds and fg% too. Load up on elite passers and shot blockers in the first half of the draft, this is the heart of your team.

As you build your roster, choose to focus on collecting players who excel at either fg% or ft%. Also, remember that a struggling PG can always be dropped, but a productive PG will be incredibly difficult to find as the season progresses. Ultimately, I tend to horde starting PG’s for this reason; consequently I normally focus on ft% rather than fg%.

Another thing is to fill your roster with plenty of upside, I prefer to have one of the youngest rosters every year. A break out candidate is a better bet than a reliable old vet any day, even if the gamble doesn’t pan out. Grab a bench player from each position to rotate in and maximize gross production.  Unlike football, I don’t recommend stashing injured players on your bench.

Obviously, players who can stuff stat sheets every night are your first targets at every position. Guys like Lebron, George, Durant, and so on are first and second round exceptions to this strategy. I incorporated Lebron into this system last year, it went ok — I won a title.

Oh and by the way, turnovers have burned me enough in the past that now I usually just punt them.

If you’ve already drafted:

If you already drafted a hodgepodge of random NBA players and your team is quickly tanking, simply flip this strategy around.  Scour the waiver wire for guys who dominate the cheapest categories (points, boards, and threes) and engineer your team around them.  Don’t be afraid to aggressively move players that excel in categories you’re going to punt.

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