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Basketball: Fantasy League [The 'How To' Guide]

February 1, 2014
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Let’s talk fantasy, not the late night type, but the next best thing for us basketball geeks. Being the basketball enthusiast I am, I have always wanted to find a space/surrounding where I’d be able to flex my basketball knowledge. This is how I came across fantasy leagues. There’s no other battle ground where those who follow one team and those that follow the whole league are separated. So as the 2013-2014 NBA season began, I created one fantasy league “Godball” and joined another “TwitterZA” in the hopes of showing off how well I knew the game vs. the rest of SA.

It became clear right after the draft that a number of the participants simply didn’t understand how exactly a basketball fantasy league works. so I am write this article to give those who are part of leagues already and those who have been considering doing so a better understanding of how to compete.

Firstly, you need to be very mindful of the TYPE of league you get yourself into. There are a number of settings that come with each league. These are set by the participant who created the league who is referred to as the commissioner.

To begin with, your team needs to have players; there are two ways of getting them in your team. The most common and basic way is a draft. The same way as in the NBA, participants are randomly assigned numbers that represent the pick they have which forms the draft order. For example: a league with 12 participants may have the participants pick a number out of a hat between 1 and 12. This will then represent the order in which one will pick a player to insert into their team.

When picking players it’s important to have a database. Yes, you need to have a database of participants multiplied by roster spots e.g. 12 x 13 = 156. This will be the pool from which you choose to pick from and cross off as others are very likely to pick some of those players too. The important thing when creating your pool is to not pick players by just the team you support, but by their individual abilities to fill up the stat sheet. Many participants make the error of picking players in their favourite team. This is a bad error and for a very simple reason, there’s only one basketball to share in a single team and unless your team’s ppg (points per game) and other stats are extraordinarily high, it simply isn’t smart. The best way to pick players is see who leads the league in each stat category and go on from there. Of course other factors come into play, like who gets the most touches in a team, injuries, chemistry and a number of other factors which one only knows by following the game religiously (as you should).

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The other way to pick players is an auction. This is usually only done by fantasy league “veterans” as it is very involved and can get complex. The just of it though is each team is assigned a budget. They use this budget to bid for a player that they want and whoever is the highest bidder gets the player. Since teams are each assigned the same budget, one has to be mindful of the fact that they still need to fill a 13 spot roster. Here a number of bidding tactics come into play. Participants are known to get into bidding wars over a player only to be left with a small fraction of their budget to fill out the rest of the roster. For example, if you spend of 50% of your budget on Kevin Durant you are likely to have a hard time getting some quality around him.

Secondly, one needs to know how points are obtained in the league. Hopefully you know this before you picked your team. There are two ways in which a team can gain points, namely “Rotisserie” and “Fantasy Points”. There more commonly used type is the Rotisserie system.

In the Rotisserie points system, each player’s stat category on a team is totaled and compared to that of the other teams. The team that has the highest in that category will get the maximum points for that category which is equal to the number of teams. The second highest will then receive one less point than the number of teams i.e. 11 and etc. leaving the team with the least points in that category with a single point. For example, the team that accumulates the most steals in a 12 participant league, will receive 12 points and that with the second highest will receive 11 points etc.

The lesser used “Fantasy Points” system puts value on every stat (action) achieved per player on a team. For example each and every rebound each player has would be added to the team’s total. And for negative stat categories like turnovers, teams would then be deducted a point.

All of the above mentioned should then factor in to how you pick a player and later on in dealing with trades/waivers etc. Also be careful of players who are very good at one thing and not so much anything else. A good example of this would be Ricky Rubio. He can give you a great deal of assists and even chips in at steals, BUT his shooting percentage will hurt you. Then again, there are leagues where you can afford to trade-off one stat category for maybe two others. Things get very dicey.

Okay, so you have your team, you are getting points, how do you know when you’ve won? This is where the scoring types come into play. The points accumulation types, Rotisserie/Fantasy and scoring types namely Cumulative scoring and Head-to-Head, usually go with one another. In the Cumulative scoring system the team on top of the league at the end of the season, by virtue of having the most points, is the winner. The Head-to-Head system is a bit more labour intensive. A weekly schedule is drawn up where league teams will go against each other with the one that has the most points after the week’s games winning that week. The team with the most wins (not necessarily points) at the end of the season then wins the league.

Lastly, the commissioner will decide on how regularly teams can shuffle their starting line-ups. In basketball, choosing between allowing for daily or weekly substitutions is very important. Think about it in the matter of how different each game week is in the NBA schedule. The one week a player’s team could have two games and in the next five. This makes it very important to prepare your line-ups well in advance if you’re in a weekly league or you may end up losing points by not having a player gaining points because you forgot to put them in that weeks starting line-up.

Now there is a lot more to basketball fantasy leagues than just this, but I hope this inspires you to go out there and test you basketball IQ. This is ultimate sport for the couch potatoes. And for the few who may be wondering, at the time of writing this piece I was leading both the leagues I am a part of.


Written By: Lebohang Ramollo (@RA_Mollo)

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