Welcome to the glorious world of fantasy basketball. Whether you’re a fantasy first-timer or a grizzled veteran, reading through all of the content in the NBA.com Draft Center was a first good move as you prepare for your fantasy drafts. If you want to play fantasy, research statistics or need strategy advice and information, we got it all.

If you’re a first-timer, introductions are in order. Fantasy First-Timer, meet Fantasy Basketball. Although there are several different types of fantasy games available, all have a common thread. As a fantasy GM, you “own” NBA players and accumulate points based on their real-life performances. Beyond that, there are several variations of fantasy basketball, so let’s jump into the fantasy pool and take a swim.

Most often called League Manager or Commissioner, this is the most common and popular fantasy game played today. The general idea is that a group of people get together to form a league, draft their teams and manage their rosters throughout the season as if they are an actual sports league. Daily maintenance is necessary to succeed in this game, as users must make sure to keep their rosters active – benching injured players and reacting to the hold and cold hands. Although the draft is important, participants can also improve their rosters by trading with other teams within their league or by picking up free agents (players who were not drafted and are not currently on a fantasy team).

League Manager vs. Commissioner
There are two types of draft-and-trade games. Although the lingo is often used interchangeably among the two, there is a difference. A League Manager game provides participants with set rules and settings and allows limited ability to adjust those settings to the league’s specifications. If you want to control scoring rules, waiver rules, transaction restrictions or league size, your best bet is joining a Commissioner league. The name fits the format: The originator of the league has full power and control to set the rules by which the league must follow.

League Size and Player Pool
The typical fantasy league has between 10 and 12 teams, although you will see anywhere from four to 30. The more teams participating, the smaller the player pool – which makes the game much more challenging. Another way to increase the challenge while keeping a smaller league size is to limit the player pool to Eastern Conference or Western Conference players. That way, you may only draft or acquire players from one of these conferences.

The Draft
There are several different types of fantasy drafts available: Live, Offline, E-mail, Single and Multi-List. Regardless of draft type, the common theme is that all teams pick a set number of players (often 12-15), and each player can be owned by only one team. As mentioned previously, those not drafted will become free agents. With a live draft, all participants congregate online simultaneously to draft their teams. If all participants can be located in the same physical location, an offline draft can be performed. In this case, the league commissioner will need to enter the draft results following the conclusion of the draft. For both of these draft types, there is a time limit to select a player – often 90 seconds. Of course, it would be up to the league members to enforce a time limit in offline drafts.

An e-mail draft is similar to a live draft in that it is performed “live” and online, but it occurs during a much longer period of time. Whereas a live draft will last approximately one and a half to two hours, an e-mail draft can take a week or longer. When a team is on the clock, it is sent an e-mail to alert them that their turn is up. That individual then signs into the league to pick their player. The deadline for an e-mail draft is often 24 hours. This draft type is most beneficial to those wanting to draft live, but not being able to coordinate schedules to meet at the same time.

For single and multi-list drafts, the user pre-ranks the players prior to the draft in order of preference and the draft then occurs automatically at a set time based on those rankings. Multi-list drafts allow the user to determine when they’d like to draft particular positions, whereas the single-list draft picks in order of your one list of rankings. The problem with these draft types is that you cannot react to the picks made by other teams and change your strategy mid-draft. In live drafts, you may notice a run on Point Guards, as one after another goes off of the board. Whereas you may have ranked a Power Forward higher, it may be best at this point to take a top Point Guard while they are still available. In a live draft, you can make this adjustment, whereas you cannot in a list draft.

The most common order is a snake draft, where the user with the last pick in the first round receives the first pick in the second round; likewise, the user with the first pick in the first round will receive the last pick in the second round.

The draft is possibly the most exciting part of the fantasy season. A strong is an important part to a team’s success so make sure you’re on top of your game at draft time.

Scoring Format
The three most common scoring formats are Rotisserie, Head-to-Head and Points-Based. Which is best for you?

Rotisserie leagues rank each of the teams in the league from first to last in a number of statistical categories. Points are then awarded according to the order of finish in each category, and are totaled to determine an overall score and place. So, the team with the most Blocks in a 10-team league will receive 10 points, the team with the second most will receive nine points, etc. This is the most common type of format used and is the best fit for those interested in a deeper statistical fantasy experience. Strategy abounds as each GM looks to balance their roster, avoiding weaknesses in any categories.

Points-based leagues simply use a number of statistical categories with a point value assigned to each to determine each team's score. The least common of the three scoring formats, Points-Based may be the easiest for newbies to play given your ultimate goal is to score as many points possible, regardless of the method. Whereas in Rotisserie you need to do well in each category, there is no penalty in Points-Based for having a team that doesn’t, for example, rebound.

Head-to-Head leagues award wins and losses per weekly match-ups to each team based on a points-based or rotisserie style scoring system. Head-to-Head leagues are best known for their playoff format, which allows a designated number of teams to advance to the fantasy post-season at a time prior to the end of the NBA regular season. If you’re looking for a format that promotes weekly trash-talk with your competitors, this is the format for you. The one drawback of Head-to-Head is the luck factor: Your wins and losses are significantly impacted by the performance of your opposition for that week. You may have the second best performance in your league for a given week, but if you face off against the team with the best performance, you will still pick up a loss.

Scoring Categories
Which categories should you use? You’ll often hear of the “Standard Eight Category Leagues” that are built around Field Goal Percentage, Free Throw Percentage, Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks and Three-Pointers. In addition, many leagues add in Turnovers. Although these are the standard and most common categories used, there is nothing preventing you from using other less conventional categories for your league.

Roster Positions
There is no right or wrong way to set up your league’s rosters. Some will simply mirror the NBA and have a starting lineup of Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Small Forward, Power Forward and Center with a bench of four or five. Others provide more flexibility, combining positions. The standard roster for a Commissioner league on NBA.com is as follows:

Point Guard
Shooting Guard
Small Forward
Power Forward

Any player eligible to play Point Guard or Shooting Guard can play at the Guard position; same goes for Power Forwards and Small Forwards at Forward. In addition, a Power Forward or Center can play at the Forward/Center position. You are allowed to use any player at the one Utility position. As you can see, there are five bench slots. Those players on your bench will not accumulate fantasy points. Therefore, it is important that you track the hot players so that you constantly have the best combination of players in your starting lineup.

Keeper Leagues
A growing phenomenon in the fantasy world is the year-to-year continuous league. This means that when the 2006-07 NBA season comes to a close, your job as a fantasy GM will continue into future seasons. Prior to the start of the following season, you will be required to announce your “keepers” for the upcoming season. These are the players (often limited to four) whom you will be carrying over from one season to the next. Keeper leagues, luckily for you, can be created on NBA.com’s Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner…all for free.

Other Games
There are plenty of other games out there. One of the other games most commonly found is a Salary Cap game, and NBA.com has it’s own in the form of the Salary Cap Challenge. Each participant manages a $35 Million budget and must purchase six players to fill their roster. No draft involved. Their values are determined by factors such as performance and demand and fluctuate throughout the season. A major difference between Salary Cap and Draft-and-Trade is that a player isn’t limited to one team’s roster within a league. Anyone can own that player. You can own any player you want so long as you stay within the allocated budget.

We also offer NBA.com Pick One Challenge, which is the easiest of the games to master and play. Simply pick one player for every day of the season, and earn fantasy points for that player’s performance (points + rebounds + assists). The twist is that you can only use the same player once, so you have to pay close attention to the schedule as well as peaks and valleys of player performance.

Just Play!
If you are new to fantasy basketball, there is a game for you. Use this as a guide. Once you get a hang of it, I strongly encourage you to become a commissioner of a league and play with the settings. Ultimately, you can create the best possible league based on the interests of the participants. Jump in, good luck, and have fun!

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