Auction drafting: my favorite time of the year. You can keep your Sweetest Day and your Arbor Day. Give me liberty, or give me auction draft day, or death. It’s the only time where friends and strangers alike converge in one place and sweat it out uncomfortably all afternoon. Actually, it’s one of two such days. There is also the occasion in every man’s life where he takes a public steam with a gaggle of old men and the sauna door gets stuck. That hasn’t happened to you? Well, it happens to every man at some point, so go ahead and look forward to it happening in the future. Auction day produces the good sweat; the sweet sweat. At least it should be sweet. It can be if you are prepared and arrive with a game plan. It’s easy as long as you know how to do it. Oh, is that all? Here’s a fistful of strategy to think about for your auction drafts. And remember, if it takes you more than five minutes to spot the sucker in the room … you’re the sucker.

1. Know the maximum you’re willing to pay for the players you want.
Even if you find most fantasy basketball’s auction draft values to be mostly gobbledygook, it is still wise that you formulate a guide of your own with maximum values for each player. It’s difficult to remember the ultimate worth of a player’s contributions when you can’t see the big picture in front of you. Everyone wants Durant on their team, but not everyone will want to pay $90 for him. I suggest not being in the group that overpays for anyone other than elite players, as you can find cost-effective deals for most players except the elite ones. That’s why they call them elite.

2. Draw out other bidders by nominating the sleepers you’re luke warm on.
If you’re playing in a league that remains unfamiliar with the “nominate players you don’t want” auction standard, don’t bother reading the rest of this post. You’ll roll your league without reading any advice I have here. Every year, auction drafters are learning and evolving and you must evolve right along with them. The battle of wits has begun! And clearly, you cannot choose the goblet in front of you. The good old days of nominating red herrings to draw out bidding on players you don’t want are over. Now, everyone just sits on their funds and someone ends up getting Tristan Thompson for $5. So you clearly cannot choose the goblet in front of me either. I suggest nominating sleepers that you’re hoping to get for $5, but would be fine losing if they went for more. Most drafters start out timidly, nervous that they’re going to be forced straight into the LeBron or Kobe pool. While you’re waiting for the big guns, build your team from the bottom before a lot of drafters are paying attention. Either you’ll get your targeted sleepers cheap or someone else just spent $10 on Wesley Johnson. Never go in against a Sicilian when Wes is on the line.

3. With your first 5-7 players, account for every penny.
We just discussed having a maximum you’ll pay for your top guys (When? Just now. Now? No. Before that.) For every player you buy, be sure to keep track of how over or under you are from your projections. If you were willing to bid up to $44 for Josh Smith, but got him for $39, be sure to keep track that you are +$5 and understand that you have that much extra to push toward another player. So if Gallinari is on the block for $23 and your maximum is $24, but you’ve got a reserve of $5, it’s okay to go up to $29 without actually moving off your budget. In the short term this flies against strategy no.1, but in the long run, it’s just a way to ensure you get the most out of your entire cap.

4. Wait to bid on players you want.
There’s a psychological art to auction drafts. eBay has made billions converting emotions into profit. If there’s a two-way bidding war over, say, Kevin Garnett that you are not involved in but would like to be – a) um, why? and b) wait until the two bidders are within $5 of the maximum you’d be willing to pay for him.  If two bidders identify only each other as their competition and suddenly a third bidder swoops in, a lot of the air is let out of that bidding war and you take immediate control over the momentum of that bid. This won’t always work, especially if you’re not willing to overpay and one of the other two guys is, but if you do it enough over the course of a draft, you’ll get a few players you otherwise wouldn’t have.

5. Early on, never have the lowest funds in a group unless you’re getting every player you want.
If you’re targeting Granger, Bosh and Iguodala in your draft above all others and they happen to be the first up for auction, don’t sit on your hands (or whatever you use to bid). Go for it. But anything short of that, make sure you have more money remaining in your cap than anyone else because you’ll need it. You may need it for the 15th player up for auction or the 30th or each of the last five, but you’ll need more money than the next guy. Most drafters don’t have the big picture in focus and forget who is still available to be auctioned.

6. Don’t pay for upside.
Especially in leagues of 12 teams or fewer, there will be plenty of upside to grab throughout the year. Plenty. Pay for the players you know are going to be accumulating stats for your team, not the ones you hope will. $5 for Kyrie Irving is fine. $20 for him is $15 wasted dollars.

  1. Tony says:

    7. Dave Hester everyone this year “Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup”

    I’ve only participated one time in a live auction, last year, and will be doing my 2nd one this year. I noticed a few things: Usually alot of popular big names will go out at first, adam is right nominate guys you dont want. BUT most people do know this tactic, especially long time auctioners…. I think the key is looking for the lull in the draft. You’ll see periods where people are going crazy spending big dollars, then guys get kinda stingy and sit, you can find a bargain or two then. Be flexible in what players you want. If there’s a player you want, buy him, dont be afraid to spend the cash. I know i left money on the table last year, nothing worse than that!

  2. GP says:

    A Princess Bride reference? You, sir, have a new fan. I challenge you to drop at least 2 more before the start of the season, or else I’ll be storming the castle.

  3. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Tony: Too true. Good point.

    @GP: Challenge … ACCEPTED! I’ll write them with my left hand, otherwise the references would be completed too quickly.

  4. Mike Scobey says:

    Just finished a 15 team auction, Pg, SG, G, SF, PF, F, C, C, Util, Util, Util and 5 Bench players. I only have 3 Centers, hope I can pick up McRoberts who is on Waivers. In the auction 3 teams had money left over. I wanted two stars so I got L. James and Westbrook. Going for 3 stars would of left me with very little for other players. The biggest mistake in auctions is either going for to many stars or none at all

  5. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Mike Scobey: Agreed. Best to pick a small handful and aim for two. Sidenote: Is Kwame Brown available? Could be (should be) starting for the Warriors. A lot of fantasy owners write him off.

  6. Tony says:

    @Mike Scobey: good points, like i said as well, nothing worse than leaving cash on the table, i dont mind it if Im buying everyone i want, etc but i got stuck with a guy for $1 and then left like $15 on the table, i just think of a 30-40 guy i bought that I could have bought a $55 guy…. spend that money!

  7. Rob says:

    Just did an auction, curious on your feedback.

    $70 – Chris Paul
    $27 – Zach Randolph
    $26 – Kevin Martin
    $24 – Joakim Noah
    $16 – Elton Brand
    $15 – Luol Deng
    $06 – Kyrie Irving
    $06 – Luis Scola
    $03 – Toney Douglas
    $02 – Shawn Marion
    $02 – Ed Davis
    $02 – Derrick Williams
    $01 – George Hill

  8. trevor says:

    Do you know of anywhere with solid dollar value assignments to players. I’ve got decent rankings but haven’t thought a lick about auction and my auction is tomorrow.

  9. Jen says:

    Yes, if people can publish their top 3 fantasy auction value sites (for basketball), that’d be very cool.

  10. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Rob: Not sure the depth of your league, but it looks to be about a 10-team league. I’d like it if you had one more reliable SF. Douglas for $3 and Scola for $6 are almost certainly your best values, and considering you paid essentially $13 for a chance for at least one of your young bunch (Irving, Douglas, Davis and Williams) to produce well is huge. What are the chances that NONE of those four pan out this season? Good work.

    @trevor: @Jen: ESPN and Rotowire both threw their hat in the ring with auction values (Rotowire requires a subscription I believe). The tricky part of this is that every auction is different and works on a fluid market-based scale. I could tell you what I THINK a player’s maximum worth is, but if the rest of your league doesn’t jive with that, you might get stuck missing out on all the players you want. It’s better to rank or tier your draftable players and maintain a clear overview of where your team is, who’s left on the board and how much others are paying out.

  11. Benny says:

    In an ideal, perfect-world auction, what three players would you hope to walk away with (10 team league)?

  12. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Benny: Like, if money were no object? Or realistically?

  13. Ledg says:

    Realistically, and also what are some sleeper/value picks u hope to buy? I know all the sites out there have their sleeper picks but was wondering what your thoughts on them would be in an auction draft

  14. Benny says:

    Realistically the three guys you’d bid on and win to start your auction team.

  15. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Benny: @Ledg: I usually prefer to pay out big for two top 10-12 guys, then splurge on a top 40 guy, lay low, then aim for low-cost, high quality picks.

    A great (and realistic) trio might be Durant/Howard and then maybe Kevin Martin. Your turnovers would really be your only weak spot here, as Dwight’s free throws would be offset by two of the best free throw shooters in the league. Martin’s lack of rebounds and FG% is offset by the other two and everybody is scoring.

    I’m big on guys like Jared Dudley, Kwame Brown, Toney Douglas, Josh McRoberts, Devin Harris, and JJ Hickson. I doubt these guys are going to auction at high costs, but they have great positioning on their teams and are safe (keyword: SAFE) bets to give you back more value than you paid for.

  16. Benny says:

    Awesome, really good info man. I like the Durant/Howard/Martin strategy alot. What % of your total budget should i expect to use on those three?

  17. Ledg says:

    Don’t you think it’s better to pay like $35-$40 on a melo then $70 odd dollars for a KD? Also, you produced an excel sheet screenshot of the ceiling amounts you’d pay each player last year. No chance of that happening again this year?

  18. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Ledg: Yes, I’d rather pay $70 for two ‘Melos than one Durant, but I’ve found that rarely to be an option. Re: auction value sheet. If I had more time, I’d create another values doc, but with just 11 days until the start of the season (and realistically, 2-3 days until most drafts) I just won’t be able to get it out in time for it to be useful.

  19. Ledg says:

    Another question Adam, what ceiling prices would u put on the following players: D12, Love, LBJ, Dwade and CP3. Theyre the players I’ve ranked 1 in each position.

  20. trevor says:

    What do you think of this haul in a 20 team auction league? Its pretty standard but no turnovers. We had 200 bones to spend

    PG: Devin harris ($32)
    SG:Jason Terry ($13)
    G: ROdney Stuckey ($19)
    SF: Kevin DUrant ($82)
    F:Joel Anthony ($3)
    PF:Carl Landry($4)
    C:Emeka Okafor ($20)
    C:Greg Oden ($4)
    Util: Andre Miller ($16)
    BN:OJ Mayo ($5)
    BN:Terrance Williams ($1)
    BN: Gary neal ($2)

    I feel there was definitely some room for improvement based on later values such as Melo going for $46, who I would have preferred over Durant at $82This is a roto league so I focudes more on categories. I’m a little worried about rebound, and steals may be tough to come by as well, but the rest of the categories seem like they could be mine to own.

  21. trevor says:

    I have one more question regarding my team. What would you think of using a large portion of my $100 waiver budget ($41-51) on Randy Foye dropping Gary neal

    Another waiver question is what size bid would you put down on Shawne Williams (dropping Terrance Williams). I am thinking that shawne will sign in Jersey and get around 30 minutes per game between the 2 spot and 3 spot, and will go 1,1,1 stl, blks, 3’s.

  22. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Ledg: It’s hard to say without knowing the details of your league. How many teams? Total budget? How many players on each team?

    @trevor: Yeah, you need another quality big man. The Landry/Okafor twofer isn’t strong. If Oden plays (IF!) that might take care of a lot of your iassues, but honestly, at this point, his name gives me the same reaction as if the slot were blank.

    @trevor: I don’t like either of those moves at a $50 price. The moves themselves aren’t bad, but there are a lot of bigger question marks with bigger potential payoffs for you to burn money on later in the season.

  23. Ledg says:

    I’m in a 12 team H2H category league with 13 players on each team.

  24. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Ledg: Determining a ceiling price for specific players is tough because an auction is so fluid. I’d set aside about 70 percent of your total budget toward your best three players. Then go bargain hunting for your remaining 10 players. A lot of fantasy owners don’t like this tactic because they don’t believe bargains will arise. But look back to any other season. There are at least a dozen players who weren’t drafted in the top 100 that provided top 70 value. Every year.

    Generally, I sort of break my team down like this:

    Budget = $100 (for simplicity’s sake)

    No. 1 pick ($35)
    No. 2 pick ($20)
    No. 3 pick ($15)

    No. 4 pick ($10)
    No. 5 pick ($5)
    No. 6 pick ($5)
    No. 7 pick ($2)
    No. 8 pick ($2)
    No. 9 pick ($2)
    No. 10 pick ($1)
    No. 11 pick ($1)
    No. 12 pick ($1)
    No. 13 pick ($1)

  25. Ledg says:

    Adam, I don’t disagree with you when you say that there ends up being a dozen or so players that later provide good value but it’s getting your hands on those players that can be a problem. Especially when everyone in the league is just as dedicated as you to finding these gems. Either way, thanks for that layout of your distribution of funds. Will help a lot.

  26. Shane says:

    Sterling work Adam. This is my first auction draft and your insight is clear and to the point. I’ll be bookmarking you and checking in throughout the season…

  27. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Shane: Thanks Shane. I look forward to having you.

  28. Chad says:

    Adam! I’ll trade you a nice mutton-lettuce-tomato sandwhich for your advice! I just took part in my first mock-auction in preparation for the real thing in a few days. My idea was to get a few mid-priced dual-position swingmen who would produce across the board, then fill in the gaps.

    With $200 to spend, I wound up with:

    Tyreke Evans
    Joe Johnson
    Andre Igudola
    Chris Kaman
    Tyson Chandler
    Andrew Bogut
    Greg Monroe
    Serge Ibaka
    Kyle Lowry
    Jose Calderon
    Jason Terry
    Danillo Galinari
    James Harden

    I like the team, but compared to what other people put together it looked WEAK! Most everyone else in the draft had at least 2 top-20 players — one guy had Durant AND Lebron, another had Paul AND Rose AND Rondo. Should I expect such hellacious spending in a real draft? Can I compete with a team like the one above?

  29. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Chad: Yeah, if you had a top 20 guy on this list, I’d say the team was fine. But you’re really missing a centerpiece and if teams are going to have two or three top 20 guys, you won’t be able to compete. Your strategy is solid, but you’ve got to make sure you get your hands on at least one stud. There’s untapped value late in most auctions. Don’t worry about spending no less than $5 on your late round finds, worry about finding the best guys for $1 and use the extra dough on the beginning of your draft.

  30. Ledg says:

    Hey Adam, just had my draft but not all that happy with it. Tried punting FG% but think I have neglected other categories also. I’m in a 12 team, 8-cat H2H league. Was wondering which categories you think I should target? I’m guessing guards but there really aren’t many out there. This is the team and what I spent. Give me your thoughts. Cheers

    PG – John Wall $40
    SG – Monta Ellis $38
    SF – Danny Granger $23
    PF – Kevin Love $60
    C – Roy Hibbert $13
    G – Jerryd Bayliss $2
    F – Gerald Wallace $17
    Util – Hedo Turkoglu $2
    Util – Samuel Dalembert $1
    Util – Rip Hamilton $1
    Bch – Carlos Delfino $1
    Bch – Tyrus Thomas $1
    Bch – Jordan Hill $1

  31. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Ledg: Yeah, your FG% is likely to be on the low end, but you’ve got a handful of quality guys who do a little of everything (Gay, Granger, Love, Crash, Delfino). I might drop Hill and Hamilton and take a flier on a couple strategic backups (similar to your Bayless pick). Maybe Shumpert. Maybe Arenas. Udrih, Beaubois, Sessions, etc.)

  32. Joe says:

    Any thoughts?

    I feel like I overpaid for Jennings but got some value back in Gordon.

    PG Brandon Jennings 15
    SG Eric Gordon 31
    SF Wesley Matthews 12
    PF LaMarcus Aldridge 43
    C Roy Hibbert 8
    G Rajon Rondo 31
    F DeMarcus Cousins 10
    UTIL Tyreke Evans 29
    UTIL Tim Duncan 7
    UTIL Nicolas Batum 3
    BE Andrea Bargnani 7
    BE Shawn Marion 3
    BE Gordon Hayward 1

  33. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Joe: Nah. Jennings is about right. Actually, you got a lot of good bargains here (Cousins for $10, Hibbert for $8, Bargnani for $7). How deep is the league? My biggest concern is your lack of top 20 guys. You have a nice LMA, Gordon, Rondo, Evans quartet, but it feels like the team is missing its largest piece.

  34. Joe says:

    Adam, Its a 10 player league. The problem was that there was a lot of over bidding on top guys and I tried to be more circumspect in my bidding.

  35. Adam

    Adam says:

    @Joe: I hear you. I’ve been in leagues with bidders going bananas. At that point, it becomes a war of attrition between the other guys’ big cannons surrounded by whatever his intelligence could muster in the later rounds and your even-steven squad. As long as you keep those guys from catching good deals in the end, LeBron James and Kevin Durant aren’t enough to beat an entire league.

Comments are closed.