For generations, my puny planet has lived in peace with the Globetrotter homeworld. But now, for no reason, they've challenged me to defend my honor on the fantasy basketball court.
October 9, 2009 1:45 PM   Subscribe

I've been invited to join my first fantasy basketball league. The draft's in a couple of weeks, but I have no idea what I'm doing.

I've signed up for a fantasy basketball league with a few friends, and am looking for advice on how to approach this game. I just finished my first fantasy baseball season and finished in an unremarkable second-to-last place, and I'd like to at least improve on that. The trouble is that I haven't followed basketball in maybe ten years.

We're playing in a Yahoo rotisserie league. The stats that are being counted are: FG%, FT%, 3PTM, 3PT%, PTS, OREB, DREB, AST, ST, and BLK.

I'm playing with a few guys who really know the game and even if I can't beat them, I'd like to make a decent showing. What do I do? How do I prep for draft day? How do I know when to trade an under-performer? Heck, how do I IDENTIFY an under-performer?
posted by synecdoche to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've never done fantasy basketball, but the first time I played any fantasy sports, it was fantasy baseball. I barely knew anything about baseball. And I won the league. A lot of luck was involved, certainly, but for the drafts I pretty much just followed Yahoo's rankings. And then I read the analysts just about every day for tips on adds and drops, starts and benches. It took way too much of my time, but basketball should be more manageable than baseball.
posted by kmz at 2:00 PM on October 9, 2009

The strategy for fantasy basketball is similar to fantasy baseball. The chief difference (besides being two different sports) is that you have roughly half as many games to work with (82 in the NBA season vs. 162 in MLB). That means you need to diligent about dumping crappy players and moving injured players ASAP.

I strongly recommend getting this year's Basketball Prospectus ($10) and combining that with whatever data you can get from ESPN fantasy NBA site. The BP isn't be-all end-all, but it can give you the sort of sabermetric data you need to make informed choices during the draft. But check the ESPN injury lists as well.

There are two things that make great roto league teams -- research and experience. Sometimes experience is meaningless -- you could win the first year out because you got Bron-Bron and snagged some meaningless bench player in round 12 that turned into a 20/10 player. But research is never meaningless. I've seen people win fantasy leagues one year without experience. I've never seen anyone win multiple titles without research.

Read, read, read. I wish I could help you more with sources, but I don't play fantasy basketball. But I can tell you that the more you read up and understand how roto leagues work and how to assemble a good roto league team, the more likely you are to not completely embarrass yourself.

Good luck.
posted by dw at 2:05 PM on October 9, 2009

I know very little about baseball and yet I won a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league this year. We had a computer draft and I just used the default rankings to pick all my players. If you are doing a live draft then you might have to print out a sheet of the default rankings and pick from that. My secret that when I looked at players that I was thinking about getting or dropping I only looked at the %owned stat. This tells you how often that player is owned in any league in all of Yahoo Fantasydom. This gives you a pretty good idea of how valuable a player is. You can go to the players tab at the top and rank players according to that.

Then when I was picking my starters, I would just look at the %started stat and pick the guys on my team with the highest %started. That tells you how many leagues had that guy starting for that particular period.

Using these tools I maximized my chances with my minimum knowledge.
posted by jefeweiss at 2:09 PM on October 9, 2009

If you're using a full-featured system like ESPN's, remember to look at rates of ownership, rates of players being in the starting lineups and rates of player acquisition.

If a player is owned by 100 percent of all teams everywhere, and he's in 100 percent of the starting lineups, he's probably pretty good.

At the same time, if a player is not owned by many, and not starting much, but teams are starting to acquire him at a faster rate, he's become interesting (for whatever reason) to people looking for hidden gems.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:13 PM on October 9, 2009

Since you're doing a roto league (not my preferred, but it's probably a matter of taste) you're probably going to want to draft a team that's either strong in the big-player categories (FG%, OREB, DREB, BLK) or the small-player stats (3PT%, 3PTMade, AST, and typically FT%). You can find plenty of PF/C's that are good passers/FT shooters and PG/SGs that rebound well and get blocked shots. Points favor neither bigs nor smalls.

So, my best advice is to compile a list of Bigs that are good FT shooters and passers and PGs/SGs that rebound well and block shots. Make your first 2-3 draft choices getting best players available and finish your draft supporting the categories you already have a leg up on.

By far the best Fantasy Basketball Blog I read (and have for the past four or five years) is Give Me The Rock. They eat/drink/shit/live fantasy hoops. They also have a great blogroll for other resources.

Best of luck!
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:23 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another big factor thats easy to control is checking/shifting your roster on a near daily basis. Yahoo lets you schedule roster changes in advance too, and shows you how far behind your max # of games each position is. So stock your roster with good players who can play multiple positions (PF/C, SG/SF, etc), then look at upcoming game schedules, swap your active roster for the coming week accordingly, and check back each day for injuries, change in play minutes, etc.. It's better to be over your projected max # of games, because some of your players will probably get injured later anyways.
posted by p3t3 at 7:13 PM on October 9, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips so far.

So, when I go into the draft, should I just draft the highest ranked players first? Should I go after a certain position first? Or go after the highest ranked player in the first round and then go big or small after that? I tried to strategize in the baseball draft but it all went out the window so fast that I was shooting in the dark before very long.
posted by synecdoche at 7:14 PM on October 9, 2009

When I was starting out (two years ago), the best fantasy basketball advice I got was start reading Give Me the Rock. I've only ever done head-to-head leagues, so I can't give you much more advice other than don't draft Michael Redd because he'll break your heart every time.
posted by drezdn at 8:14 PM on October 9, 2009

So, when I go into the draft, should I just draft the highest ranked players first?

Be careful doing this with Yahoo's leagues -- their ratings are heavily weighted towards last season, and thus they don't take into account whether a) a player was injured last year and lost service time or b) a player is injured going into this season and will miss significant playing time.

For example, Yao Ming should be rated somewhere in the top third, but he'll miss this season due to a foot injury.

Generally, though, drafting the highest rated player is a good strategy in the early rounds. But make sure you have a strategy for the later rounds to fill in the gaps.
posted by dw at 9:08 AM on October 10, 2009

Also worth keeping in mind: your league doesn't penalize for Turnovers, though many do. When you're looking at pre-season rankings, many will have TOs accounted for, so players that typically have a high rate of TOs (lots of PGs, and infamously, Dwight Howard) should be bumped up a tad in your mind.
posted by Ufez Jones at 3:53 PM on October 10, 2009

Keep up to date on injuries, keep an eye out for players who contribute in a lot of the statistical categories (maybe check out Hollinger's PER stuff on ESPN).

Given this is a roto league, you'll want to always contribute across the board, as opposed to head-to-head, where you can sometimes forego some stats to dominate in others as long as it's favorable in the matchup.

When you trade, always trade for what you need, and weigh whether you're getting more value out of the expected stat bump you'll have with the new players as opposed to what you're missing from the people you're trading.
posted by FarOutFreak at 12:05 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

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