Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

The text came in: “We doing the basketball league again this year?”

While fantasy basketball is greater even than sliced bread, it can get a bit stale… uh, like the much vaunted bread. It was October, many years ago, and my league of high school buddies, with a few buddies of buddies having replaced original buddies that had dropped out (you know how it goes), was feeling way less awesome than a fantasy basketball league should. The half that paid close attention rose to the top every year. It was time, yet again, to wonder if the auto-drafters that only made a handful of moves and never responded to trade proposals would sign up again so we could at least fill out the league… yawn.

This year’s unofficial season-opening text came in: “Zizic is tearin’ it up, even after the trade to Darussafaka. *You chumps are toast next year.”

*actual trash-talk was likely dirtier and more clever.

But this was in January. And we truly cared about Ante Zizic’s line in a Turkish league. This was much better.

How did we get there? How do you light a fire under your league-mates hot enough to send them on an adrenaline-fueled, non-literal, Jerian Grant-over-that-dude-from-G-Tech-ian trip to the rack?

Hi, my name is Tad, and I’m a new writer here. I’m a bball geek and a statistical nerd. My goal is to provide you with as many advantages as possible so that you can win your league(s) and love fantasy basketball more than ever, even if you don’t. I’m going to run the numbers for you and show you where you can get an edge in drafts, trades, and acquisitions. Let’s start with a relatively simple example. Using last year’s ESPN 8-Category Player Rater data, adjusted for a free throw punt team, you might only be mildly surprised to learn that LeBron James was the 2nd most valuable player on a per game basis. But, can you believe that, per game, Dwight Howard would have been more valuable to your team than Isaiah Thomas or Kyrie Irving? And, you probably could’ve gotten LeBron and Dwight for Isaiah at just about any point last season once Mr. Irrelevant took it to MVP-candidate levels. Hopefully, I’ll also inspire you to run some numbers of your own so that you can customize player values to your specific leagues and teams. But this week, as the season draws near, I first want to get you and your league more excited and invested than you’ve been in a while.

So, back to lighting that fire. My friends and I experimented with new wrinkles, figuring out our favorite ways to feed our fantasy addiction. You may have switched between Roto and Head-to-Head, maybe 8-Cat and 9-Cat by now, but there’s so much more out there. Here are some of my favorite ideas to break the monotony and get your league more engaged, most of which allow for additional ways to influence the results with strategy:

Slow Drafts
While slow sounds less exciting, having an offline draft over email or text over the period of a few weeks does a few things for you. It extends the joy of a draft. It gives you more time to reassess your team’s strengths and shortcomings mid-draft. It allows significantly more time for trash-talking.

Auction Drafts
Tired of not being able to get the Greek Freak because you randomly drew the 8th pick? Wish that, instead of having to overpay in trades to get Westbrook, Durant, and Harden together once again, you could just draft them all? Switch to an auction draft! Personally, I’m not a fan of how snake drafts result in each team having roughly three of the top 30 players, five of the top 50, etc. An auction adds so many more ways to use your knowledge on how to structure a team to your advantage. And no more waiting 10 minutes for your next pick. You’ll be hanging on every player nomination and completely stressed for the entire draft! The great kind of focused stress, though, where you can have a drink and a bag of chips all ready to go, then four hours and not enough Warriors on your team later, they’re untouched.

Keeper Leagues
Allows managers to keep a few players for the next season, which should cut down on the number of fantasy managers ignoring their team once they’re out of contention. Instead, they can be sellers at the trade deadline, giving up a veteran on his last hurrah for the most recent ACL-tearing stud or high-upside, yet buried-on-the-bench rookie to stash for next year. And, if you make it so that kept players stick in the round in which they were drafted or at their auction price, successful teams can be rewarded for shrewd drafting for many years.

Dynasty Leagues
My favorite, by far. Here’s where that Zizic stuff comes in. If you’ve got fantasy managers that are in it for the long haul, I can’t recommend it highly enough. You keep the majority of your team from year to year. The more roster spots the better. And, in our league, like the NBA, we allow future draft pick trading. That, coupled with teams aiming for different championship windows, allows for what feels like infinitely more win/win trade possibilities.

Anyways, here’s an example of what ensues: Once you realize your core just isn’t enough to take down the championship, you decide to trade off your established players for picks and upside to perform a full-scale rebuild. You begin to obsessively scout and stash rookies. Anyone with a glimpse of upside: Boban’s TOTALLY gonna average 23 and 19 when he gets 36 minutes a night someday soon! Plus, Westbrook HAS to have rubbed off a LITTLE on Cam Payne… right? Looking everywhere for any advantage, you find yourself poring over Adam Morrison Summer League highlight packages, making sure your decision to stash The Stache a decade removed from relevance will lead you to multiple championships… especially when paired with that Euro-stash that’s now POTENTIALLY LESS THAN TWO YEARS away from coming over! It runs on hope. Seriously, it’s the best.

And finally, I give you a group of outside-the-box ideas for inspiration. The… let’s call them:
Leagues as Bold as the Combined Beard Game of James Harden and Nikola Mirotic
Have a league of managers that have each player’s stats memorized inside and out and want a new challenge? A league-mate of mine suggested we use players’ actual NBA salaries with a team salary cap. Everyone’s fantasy value was thrown into chaos with this new variable. We recently slow-drafted, and Steph didn’t get drafted! Neither did LeBron or Lillard! Chaos, I say!

Last year, I came up with an idea for a six-team league in which each manager could only employ players from our assigned NBA division. Since that would’ve been pretty lopsided, we quickly decided to take it a step further and auction off each NBA team, five to each owner, to create our own divisions. It was refreshing to have the challenge of figuring out which teams provided what value. The Warriors immediately went for the max bid, as expected, but that owner finished last, because he was down to the bottom of the barrel for the rest of his teams after blowing his whole budget. But the point is, we didn’t know how it would work out. We had to look at players and teams through fresh lenses and make our own determination of value rather than simply sharing our site’s pre-rankings.

One last league I’ll mention that I’ll never forget was actually a baseball league. We picked every negative scoring category and ONLY the negative. The nights you’d get the extremely elusive balk? Bliss. My mind races when I imagine a league where the only categories are turnovers, fouls, and techs! Boogie at #1?

Fantasy Basketball is incredible. If it ever stops feeling that way, change the game.

I’d love to hear your creative league ideas that were a blast, too. Join Niko and James in inspiring the fantasy community!

…so inspiring.

 

  1. SDub88 says:
    (link)

    Do you have any specific recommendations for points leagues? We’ve used that format for one of my leagues for a few years now and it has worked out well (I’m also in a 9-Cat league) but if you have any insight on how to make points leagues better I’d like to hear it.

    Thanks!

    • Tad

      Tad says:
      (link)

      @SDub88: Thanks for the question. I haven’t actually played in a bball points league, but I’m familiar (played in football and baseball points leagues). I assume it’s H2H. I feel like that would have to be the more exciting way. My first thought is always to see about going to an auction draft (if you’re currently snaking). It injects a lot of excitement if you can get everyone on board. Just feels like it’s an additional game to play. You could always fiddle with the settings, changing the weights of the statistics you use. Maybe you agree on a way that makes it even more realistic, and that makes everyone reassess player values. And I know I said it in the article, but allowing like 3 to 5… to 20 keeper spots really adds a new dimension that most people love.

      • SDub88 says:
        (link)

        @Tad:

        Thanks. We do H2H and the current format tries to emphasize all categories somewhat equally so as to not favor big men too much. these are our scoring settings (technical fouls being a point is more of a joke thing lol):

        Field Goals Attempted (FGA) -0.5
        Field Goals Made (FGM) 1.0
        Free Throws Attempted (FTA) -0.75
        Free Throws Made (FTM) 1.0
        3-point Shots Made (3PTM) 2.0
        Points Scored (PTS) 0.75
        Offensive Rebounds (OREB) 1.5
        Defensive Rebounds (DREB) 1.2
        Assists (AST) 2.0
        Steals (ST) 3.0
        Blocked Shots (BLK) 3.0
        Turnovers (TO) -2.0
        Technical Fouls (TECH) 1
        Double-Doubles (DD) 2
        Triple-Doubles (TD) 6

        roster positions are:
        PG, SG, G, SF, PF, F, C, Util, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, BN, IL

        Keep it at 8 starters so tough decisions need to be made on who to start/sit and also so balance out # of games played per week. Also have a 4 transaction limit per week.

        You have any other thoughts now that you’ve seen these settings? I’m always looking to tweak it.

        • SDub88 says:
          (link)

          @SDub88:

          and really the guys that are hurt the most with the scoring settings are one-dimensional inefficient scorers who can’t shoot threes, which I think accurately reflects the way the league is heading, anyways…

          • Tad

            Tad says:
            (link)

            @SDub88: I think that sounds pretty great. Sounds like it’s evolved to what your league likes over time, which is a good sign.

  2. J.O.T. says:
    (link)

    Looking forward to seeing some equations- I could use a bit more math and a lot less “that guy’s highlight reel was awesome” scouting.

    • Tad

      Tad says:
      (link)

      @J.O.T.: It’s a balance, for sure. I could use a little more actually watching the games, myself. Hope you enjoy what I come up with.

  3. E says:
    (link)

    Welcome Tad!

    Curious what your thoughts are in this format, 12 team h2h, 9 cat, below roster spots. Would you change anything about your normal draft strategy?

    PG
    SG
    SF
    PF
    C
    UTIL
    UTIL
    UTIL
    BN
    BN
    BN
    BN

    • Tad

      Tad says:
      (link)

      @E: My first thought is that it’s a shallow legue, compared to the commenter league defaults, at least. In that case, I think I’d go with about 5 “safe” picks (high floor guys you can count on – no major injury risks or guys that really hurt you in a category), and not necessarily your first 5 picks, and all upside after that. My thinking is that you’ll be able to pick up boring, safe players to fill in if you ever need to, but hopefully you’ll be hitting on a few of your high upside picks. Think about players that could potentially get into the top 30 or 40, that are farther down most lists. Even if you only hit on 2 of them out of 7, that’s really all you need. And, with so few starting spots, definitely try to trade 2 for 1 or 3 for 2 whenever you can to consolidate your value into your 8 starting spots. Some high upside players that could make a big jump from where they’re ranked: Embiid, Schroder, D Russell, Hardaway, Noel, Favors, Jamal Murry (depending on the site).

      • E says:
        (link)

        @Tad: Right on, man. Thanks for your thoughts. I won this league last year by punting FT% but I don’t think the other guys will let me get away with that in the draft again this year, and it’s hard to do.

        I just found out I have the 3rd pick this year, who would you hope is there at that spot?

        • Tad

          Tad says:
          (link)

          @E: I love FT% punting, too, but I get not being able to pull it off again. I looked at being able to maybe TO punt instead, but with you having to wait until 22 and 27, there aren’t many options left to really take advantage. I think I love about 6 players equally enough at the top, but maybe take out Russ and Harden in 9-cat, leaving Giannis, Towns, KD, and Steph (in no particular order). Since all the studs that can hit FTs AND get blocks could well be gone by your 2nd pick, I’d probably lean toward those three bigs.

  4. Aa says:
    (link)

    This is hilarious. Have you had to create a “Stepien Rule” yet for that future-draft-picks-trading league?

    Great ideas, thanks for the post.

    • Tad

      Tad says:
      (link)

      @Aa: Thanks a lot, and great question. Our trade-happy league loves moving picks around so much, that we probably need it, but we’d never restrict our fun like that. I’ve traded away my first round pick for four consecutive years, I believe, and even acquired two of those back!

  5. The Real E says:
    (link)

    Great article; I would never have thought of some of those formats. I too love me some slow-draft stress.

    • Tad

      Tad says:
      (link)

      @The Real E: Thanks a lot. Checking your email ever 30 seconds for a week is way more fun than I’d have guessed.

  6. waffles says:
    (link)

    hey tad. interesting stuff

    Thinking about my leagues settings. Do you prefer h2h most cats or h2h each cat? Also, for a 10 teamer, Im wondering if a starting lineup of PG PG SG SG SF SF PF PF C C U U would be fun w adding more strategic importance of positional eligibility compared to alternative lineup configs. Do you have an opinion? Thx

  7. Tad

    Tad says:
    (link)

    Thanks, Waffles! I prefer eliminating randomness and luck as much as I can, so I like each cat better (and roto even more). I think you should get more credit for winning 8-1 than 5-4, but I can understand going with most cats to level the playing field for managers that aren’t quite as into it.
    Regarding the position set up you mention, that’s almost identical the way I normally play, so I love it. If you do that on yahoo, it’s not too challenging to fill the lineup, since most players are eligible at 2 or 3 positions. But if you’re on ESPN, you’re looking at 1 or 2 for most guys, and then I run into wing issues. I like that as a challenge compared to less strict configurations. However, it has been suggested in my leagues that we try all Util slots to mirro the “positionless” NBA, and I’m kinda intrigued by that, too. Anyway, if you do switch to the positions you mention, I guess you’d want to capitalize on position scarcity, so make sure you grab some good bigs early.

    • waffles says:
      (link)

      @Tad: thanks, this is really interesting. i like the position less approach because there’s no guidelines and its up to owners to field a starting team that will help in enough categories to win. however at the end of the day position eligibility is a fun thing to have to account for so i think i’m going to go with a relatively standard

      PG
      SG
      SF
      PF
      C
      U
      U
      U

      i’m thinking 8 bench spots to create an 8:8 starter:bench ratio, I don’t like it when that ratio is too high because there are rarely decisions to make on who to start.

      in a 10 teamer this creates a league size of 160 players (+10 IR) to bring it to 170. what is average # of owned players? is 170 high or low?

      • Tad

        Tad says:
        (link)

        @waffles: Sounds like a good plan. I love deep benches, too. It allows you to speculate on high-upside guys. It’s been a while since I played in a standard league, so I’m not positive what’s most common these days. But, the Razzball commenter leagues are 156-deep (up to 180 with IL). I imagine 130 is pretty common for 10-team leagues, so I think you’re probably bordering on deeper than average, which I think rewards skillful players.

Comments are closed.