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Quantifying needs key to catching up

When someone asks if he/she should accept a particular trade offer, my typical response is: "That depends." It sounds like a cop-out answer, but it's really a rare situation when you can acquire a player so much better than the one you are giving up that other factors don't matter. This is especially true in rotisserie leagues. That's because the point of the game is to rack up the most points in a variety of categories, not to win the most trades. You simply can't view trades in a vacuum if you intend to win your roto leagues. To do it right, you'll have to consider how many games each team has played and do some simple math.

Unless you can score sucker trades where you rip off other owners, your trades will need to fill out specific categories in which you are weak by dealing away categories in which you are strong. Sometimes it's painfully clear what your strengths and weaknesses are, but sometimes your standings can be deceiving because of how many games each team has played.

Let's use an experts league I'm in as an example. In this 10-team, 8-category league my primary strengths and weaknesses are pretty obvious, because I have a 10 in 3s, a 9 in dimes, a 3 in blocks and a 1 in rebounds. You can tell without even looking at my roster that I have a plethora of guards and a serious shortage of big men. Let's look a level deeper, though. How much am I really ahead or behind in these categories, and how much ground can I make up or lose by pulling off a deal?

Games played is the key to determining where you really stand in the standings. In this league, I've had a few injuries, so I'm a little behind the pace for the season. Currently, I'm in fourth place with 50 points while the top team has 65 points. At first glance, the 15-point lead seems like a pretty massive advantage. Check out the games played for the top three teams, though. The team in first place has made 90 more moves than anyone else in the league and has 605 games played. Second place has 58 points and 474 games played, third place has 53 points and 491 games played. I have 50 points and 451 games played.

So clearly, the first-place team has a hollow lead, because he's played 114 more games than anyone else, and a whopping 154 more games than my team. You'll also notice that I have quite a few games to make up on the second- and third-place teams, too. So how can we use games played to determine exactly where we really are in the standings? It's pretty simple, really. Just do some math.

Let's look at the steals category in this league, because it's a little deceptive. Here's how the rankings look:

1st: 550 steals, 474 GP
2nd: 547 steals, 605 GP
3rd: 539 steals, 491 GP
4th (my team): 538 steals, 451 GP
5th: 521 steals, 485 GP
6th: 492 steals, 467 GP

When we divide my steals by my games played, we see I'm averaging 1.193 spg. With that in mind, we can simply multiply my steals per game by the number of games I'm behind the other owners to determine exactly where I am. So in reality, at the current pace, if I'd played 474 games like the first-place team, I'd have 565 steals and a 15-steal advantage on him. In relation to the team with 605 GP, I'd have 721 steals and a 174-steal lead on him. So in reality, I'm basically in first place in steals with a significant lead on all but the second-place team. I know now that I can trade steals without losing ground to anyone but the top team.

If you take the time to do this with each category, you'll know exactly what your specific strengths and weaknesses are across the board and how much ground you can make up or lose by making trades.

There's another calculation you can use to determine exactly what type of player(s) you need to acquire. I'm dead last in rebounds, about 350 behind the seventh-place team, which has a similar number of games played. There are about 35 games left in the season. So, simply, if I acquire a player who averages 10 boards per game, I should be able to catch the team in seventh by the end of the season.

On the flip, I'm in first with 600 3s and that same team is second with 510 3s. Divide my 90 3-pointer lead by the 35 games remaining and you get 2.6 3s per game. Since our games played are about the same, I can deal away 2.6 3s per game before he would catch up to me at the current pace. That means I can trade away a ton of threes, because the other teams are even further behind (I'm up 180 3s on the fourth-place team and have played 53 fewer games, for example).

By doing these simple calculations based on games played, I know that my true strengths are 3s, dimes and steals and that my weaknesses are rebounding and blocks. More importantly, I know exactly how many 3s, dimes and swipes I can afford to deal away and exactly how many boards and blocks I need to get in return.

Looking at my roster, I will aim to offer up players like Deron Williams, Stephen Curry, Joe Johnson, Eric Gordon, John Wall and Jason Richardson. The first four contribute to each of my best categories, while Wall cranks out dimes and steals and J-Rich still knocks down a ton of treys with the Orlando Magic. In return, I'll be targeting the top rebounders and/or shot-blockers like Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Zach Randolph, Blake Griffin and Amar'e Stoudemire.

Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.