I’ve played fantasy basketball on Yahoo for the last six years. Fantasy basketball leagues are fun because there are so many players to choose from, the season isn’t excruciatingly long like baseball, and the NBA is still one of the most exciting sports to watch.
I only play the public league auto-drafts because there’s a lot of strategy in setting up an automatic draft and I don’t always have three or four hours to set aside for a live draft When I first started playing I didn’t always finish the season so hot, but as the years went on I picked up a few tricks of the trade. I now regularly finish in the top three or four of my leagues in Yahoo. Here are some tricks of how to set up a good auto-draft and what players to acquire in the middle of the season.
1. Forget your heart; go with stats. Sometimes you want to get that hot rookie from your favorite college and put him on your team. You stack him near the top of your order to guarantee a spot. But what good is it to draft someone like JJ Redick when he’s going to get limited minutes behind three other shooting guards?
Put those who get a lot of minutes and dominate in at least one or two categories near the top. That’s why Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett are regularly on winning teams and acquire lots of fantasy points. You get positive points with field goal percentage, points per game, rebounds per game, assists, steals, blocks, etc. Picking up someone like Shawn Marion can help your team tremendously because he gets 37 minutes a game, regularly hits his free throws, and puts something in each of the major categories. He hits threes, puts in 18 ppg/9rpg and can get a steal or two, all year long. Dirk Nowitzki falls into that category, too, of dominate players who don’t miss many games.
2. Injured stars are worthless. Paul Pierce is one of the greatest players in the league today. He’s a big, mobile force that can hit from long range and creates mismatches for opposing guards, allowing him to either shoot over them or drive and get the foul. Normally, he would be a top 10 pick, but last year he only played half a season. 25 points a game is nothing when you can only count on it half the time. The same goes with Allen Iverson. He missed nearly 20 games last year and has only missed less than ten games in a season once in the past six years. For all his heart, drive, and inspiration, he’s a crapshoot when it comes to fantasy stats. 42% shooting percentage and one three-pointer a game which isn’t so hot for a shooter.
Shaq should also be on the watch list for injured stars. When he’s playing, he’s hot! But he only played 40 games last season, and 53 the season before that. Is he really worth putting in your top 10 to get a scorer and rebounder? Get Mehmet Okur instead.
3. Rookie gems thrive on crappy teams. Coming out of the draft as the number six pick, Brandon Roy was a pretty dominate player in college. He was drafted by the Timberwolves but was instantly traded to the Trailblazers, a lowly NBA team. Since the Trailblazers were short on everything except for a power forward, Roy easily worked his way into the rotation and picked up a lot of minutes as a shooting guard.
Their next best shooting guard was some unknown named Martell Webster. Roy managed to average 16 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds per game, playing 35 minutes per game. Three players drafted above him saw less than 10 minutes per game. The other two- Adam Morrison and Andrea Bargnani- saw lots of minutes on struggling teams. Bargnani managed to make his team better and the Raptors even made it to the playoffs.
Those are the rookies you want to get in the later rounds of the draft. The hot prospects don’t always shine if they end up on teams where their position is already dominated. During pre-draft workouts, Roy wasn’t even considered to be a “look out!” player, but he landed on the right team for him.
4. Don’t forget the role players! In head-to-head match-ups, Yahoo pits your team versus another owner’s team for a week. Your score depends on how well your team does in the major categories. For example, if you have the most rebounds that week, you get a point. If you have the most three-pointers made, you get a point. Even if your team only made one more than the other guy’s you get a point.
The role players come in handy when it is mid-season and your team may be dominating a few categories but struggling in others because of injuries or you just got unlucky in the draft. My team last year was in 7th for a long time because of injuries and one category I was getting regularly trounced upon was three-point shooting. I was dead last in the category until I saw that Jason Kapono was available. I had lost Michael Redd to injuries and he really wasn’t helping my other categories except in 3’s. Kapono was hitting two or three a game and racked up minutes because of Dwayne Wade’s injuries. He was a perfect fit, along with a couple of other role players that subbed in on my starters’ off days and I upped to 4th in 3-pointers made by the end of the season.
Hopefully these hints will help you in the fall when Yahoo basketball starts up again. Happy drafting!