Fantasy Hoops Draft Strategy: The Basics
By Jon Loomer, NBA.com Fantasy
Before you read this article, youíll need to make a very critical decision in your life. Thatís right, itís life-altering. A defining moment. Answer this question:
ďIs fantasy basketball a casual hobby or a commitment?Ē
Might seem silly to some that I ask this question, but the reason it was asked will make sense shortly. If itís a casual hobby, youíre not all that concerned about draft strategy. Youíre going to take your mag to your draft and pick the best players available. Youíll pay attention to your team, but you wonít spend endless hours trying to better it with the ideal trade or roster pick-up.
Thereís nothing wrong with that. However, some people want more. They want to know what it is that makes fantasy experts so successful that we can call them ďexpertsĒ in the first place.
That is the purpose of this article. It isnít basic. It will be over the heads of some. It will make others chuckle that anyone could take this stuff so seriously. But for the select few out there who want to know the secrets, this article is for you.
Youíve been led to believe that some people simply have more access to information than others. I work for the NBA, so I have an inside scoop on player injuries and playing time. Not really true. Sure, I am inundated with information on a daily basis, and considering my occupation is fantasy basketball (serious!!) itís in front of me more than the average person. Even so, you have access to all of the same information that I have.
It pains me to admit it. You can be an expert, too. You can dominate your leagues. It just takes a little extra work. You see, we all have the same information. Itís all a matter of what you do with it.
The Draft Order Myth
Every year, you and your friends stress over who will be picking first. Guess what? It doesnít matter. No matter whom you pick in the first round, you will get a good player. Barring catastrophic injuries, you will not win or lose because of the player you picked in the first round.
This is even truer this season, particularly if you pick in the first five picks. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas, Shawn Marion or Kevin Garnett. Which player would you rather have? Based on pure value, itís a toss up in my opinion. So whether you get the first pick or the fifth, youíre getting the same quality player.
Forget that. It doesnít matter. Let me ask you a question. Of all of the first place teams in last yearís NBA.com Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner, who was the most commonly owned player?
Iíll let you think on this one for a whileÖ.
The player most owned by first place teams last season was Al Jefferson. ďOhhhhhh!Ē you say. The difference between Kobe Bryant and Amare Stoudemire in the first round is minimal. The difference between this yearís Al Jefferson and Smush Parker is enormous. In fact, Jefferson wasnít even drafted in many leagues last year.
Iím not saying the draft doesnít mean anything. The second player most commonly found on first place teams last season was Kevin Martin. Martin was a big sleeper that was taken in the middle to late rounds of drafts last season. Drafting is important. However, itís just as important to draft the best known quantities and find that big sleeper somewhere Ė whether late in your draft or on your waiver wire.
It doesnít mean that you canít win without one of these players. You were simply at an advantage if you ended up with one of them. Kudos to you. You also need to remember that you canít have a below average draft with the exception of Martin and Jefferson and expect to win. The fact that these owners picked up these players in the first place tells me they are diligent fantasy owners. More than likely, they already had a solid nucleus. Adding one of these pieces simply piles on.
So the next time your buddy starts crying about having the last pick, tell him to quit complaining. All heís doing is making excuses for an eventual loss, trying desperately to cover up the fact that he has poor fantasy hoops skills.
Not every league is the same, so you need to consider your specific league settings when preparing for your draft. When providing our own assessments and rankings, we have to make some basic assumptions. Those basic assumptions donít include your 12-category league that consists of Field Goal Attempts, Offensive Rebounds and Technical Fouls. Use our rankings as a guide, but I encourage you to make adjustments based on your own opinions and your league settings.
Know the starting roster. The standard NBA.com Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner league has a starting roster of PG, SG, G, SF, PF, F, FC, C, UTL. Is this what you have? Or maybe your roster is guard heavy. Or forward heavy. Or you start two centers. These considerations are all very important when you are making your adjustments.
What are your categories? The standard Rotisserie and Head-to-Head league includes FG%, FT%, Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks and 3-Pointers. Be very careful. Some others include turnovers. If thatís the case, youíll need to devalue point guards and increase the value of players like Shawn Marion. Marion is king in a league like this. If youíre in a points-based league with different scoring weights but the same categories, I encourage you to go to NBA.com/Fantasy and re-run our projections with your scoring weights.
Position eligibility is more important than you may think. Know it. Make sure that before you select a player to be your center that he actually has center eligibility in your league. Not only do we allow people to customize eligibility on NBA.com, but if you play on a different site you are likely to use different eligibility there as well. The thing about the NBA compared to baseball and football is that eligibility is a very inexact science. The teams announce the starting lineups each game, but they only announce Guard, Guard, Forward, Forward and Center. Who was point guard? Who played shooting guard? Itís all a judgment call.
This is also important when understanding the position scarcity in your league. If you have generous eligibility rules, finding a productive center might not be as difficult as you think. Or maybe you have excessively strict rules that wonít allow your player to gain new eligibility until he starts 20 games at a position. It also helps to know when a player gains new eligibility. If you only need five starts, a player otherwise considered a power forward may just gain that valued center eligibility in a hurry. Whatever the situation, do your homework beforehand and make the proper adjustments going forward.