Last season, one of my most requested articles was a player-by-player consistency analysis. While I can’t get to every request right away, I do try to eventually get around to them, especially if they are great ideas, like a consistency analysis is. So if you are reading this and have a cool idea in your head that you’d like to see me explore, shoot me a message, and I’ll see what I can do. The below analysis is the result of about 150 tabs in Excel, an unholy amount of game logs, and possibly the beginnings of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but I think it’s worth it. It provides us with a solid understanding of which players we can count on each and every night and which players are boom-or-bust options. It also tells us which categories are driving a player’s consistent or inconsistent play.
To determine how consistent a player was, I pulled all of the game logs from the beginning of the season until March 11th, 2020 for the nine-category Top-125 (excluding players who played fewer than 20 games). I decided to cut the population of games off at the beginning of the COVID break so that the results were not tainted by the very unusual and often meaningless games played in the bubble. By looking at only pre-bubble games, we are only looking at games that mattered. After pulling the game logs, I calculated the standard deviation of each player’s performance in each category and then divided that number by the player’s season average in the category. The resulting number tells how closely a player played to their season average in the category. For example, from the beginning of the season until March 11th, LeBron James averaged 25.73 PPG. His standard deviation in the category over that stretch was 6.528. 6.528/25.73 = 0.2537. That’s a low number (lower is better) and was good enough to rank him as the most consistent player in the points category. After calculating the consistency measure, I turned each number into a percentile to make this analysis easier to digest. Finally, I took the average of all of the players’ consistency percentiles to determine which players are the most consistent in category leagues. I performed this analysis for nine-category leagues, eight-category leagues, and points leagues. I also put together rankings for each punting guide. You can find links to the punting guide consistency rankings at the end of the analysis.
It should be noted that a player whose value fluctuates a fair amount from game to game is not necessarily a worse option than a more consistent performer. There are some situations where you would prefer a boom-or-bust option. If you are the underdog in a matchup, a boom-or-bust player may be the better option because if your team and your opponent’s team play to their averages, you lose. Or if you are down three steals and are deciding between two 1.2 SPG players on the wire. In that scenario, I would want the player who has a better shot at getting three swipes, even if he also has a better shot at not recording a steal.
What to do with this information is up to you. It’s very useful for DFS, where you are chasing outlier performances, and not very useful for Roto leagues where you are always playing the long game. For H2H leagues, I personally prefer more consistent players, especially when it comes to my early-round studs. It makes projecting matchups easier, which I place a high value on. However, I’m not going to sacrifice a great early-round fit for my build for the sake of a more consistent team. Two years ago, I won a championship with a punt threes Nikola Jokic/Jimmy Butler team. It was a bit of a wild ride as both players are inconsistent for early-round options, but it worked.
Nine-Category Consistency Rankings
Links to Eight-Category and Points Leagues Consistency Rankings
2019-2020 Top-25 Consistency Rankings
Best doesn’t always mean the most consistent, as we see with Damian Lillard, Hassan Whiteside, and Jimmy Butler. These three managed to be elite fantasy assets while being less consistent than a lot of players who finished ranked below them. Lillard is a little surprising, but most of the low-overall ranking is due to turnovers. In eight-category leagues, he was the 16th-most consistent player in the association. Whiteside was very inconsistent last season, which suggests that he’ll be a very frustrating player to own this season, especially now that he’s in a potential three-way timeshare with Marvin Bagley and Richaun Holmes. Jokic not being consistent is not a surprise to anyone who has owned Big Honey. He usually starts the season as Extra Large Honey, and it leads to early-season struggles. In each of the last three seasons, Jokic has started slowly and then has proceeded to dominate during the second half of the year. Jimmy being relatively boom-or-bust is not a surprise either and lines up with his recent playoff run. He was probably the Heat’s third-best player against the Celtics before turning into a superstar in the finals. In general, top players tend to be the most consistent. Their roles don’t change from game to game like role players’ roles do, and they are usually receiving about the same amount of minutes. Trae Young’s turnover percentile also shows why consistency doesn’t automatically mean good things. The sophomore was extremely consistent in the category. Consistently terrible.
2019-2020 Players #26-50 Consistency Rankings
Luka Doncic being very consistent is not a surprise. You are going to be very consistent when you have the ball in your hands more than any player not named Trae Young. Brandon Ingram grading out as the sixth-most consistent player in nine-category fantasy basketball is a little surprising, however, given that his numbers did take a hit when Zion Williamson returned. Ingram may have been one of the top-three most consistent players in the league before the rookie made his debut. The strong consistency had a lot to do with how often he had the ball last year. Ingram averaged almost as many front-court touches as LeBron in 2019-2020. Russell Westbrook being very consistent may seem strange, but if you take a look at his game log, you’ll realize that his consistency ranking makes a lot of sense. From the second week of December until the COVID break, he did not have many off nights. The Knicks’ disgraceful handling of Mitchell Robinson shows up in the numbers. I think the poor consistency rating says more about the team than Robinson himself. I bet if the center wins Coach Thibodeau’s trust this year, he’ll grade out as fairly consistent since Thibodeau loves to ride his favorite guys.
2019-2020 Players #51-75 Consistency Rankings
Now that we’re in the middle rounds, you’ll start to see a wider range in consistency rankings. Almost all of the players in this range are not the top option on their team, which makes being consistent more difficult. You’ll also notice some players like Norman Powell and O.G. Anunoby showing up. The two Raptors had some dominant stretches last season that propelled them into the middle rounds, but both were also borderline drops at different points. Those two players are good reminders that a high ranking doesn’t always mean consistent. You’ve probably also noticed by now that players tend to be more consistent in the categories that they excel in. That’s not always the case (see T.J. Warren and FG%), but it usually is (see Brook Lopez and blocks, Marcus Smart and steals, and Ricky Rubio and assists).
2019-2020 Players #76-125 Consistency Rankings
At the end of the middle rounds and in the later rounds, there are not many consistent players. The ones in this range that do manage to be consistent are all relatively high-usage players (Dennis Schroder, Collin Sexton, Ja Morant, Montrezl Harrell, etc.). When you are streaming players in this range and need an outlier performance, it’s actually better to target players who have a poor consistency ranking. If a player is ranked 104th and has a poor consistency ranking, that means that the player has had some performances that are much better than his nine-category rank would suggest. Justin Holiday is a good example of this. The swingman had about a dozen first-round games last year due to his ability to blow up from deep and in the defensive categories. Of course, there are other times when you want the safe play, and a more consistent player would be more appropriate.
Links to the Punting Strategies Consistency Rankings
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