How to win your fantasy basketball league

I don’t have a problem posting my fantasy basketball strategy online. Let’s raise the level of play.

My track record is pretty decent. I usually win 1st or 2nd. The goal of this ‘how to beat win your fantasy basketball league’ post is to be substantially more useful than your typical tips. If you want the basics, you can check out the typical resources available on every site. That’s especially good to know so that you ensure you stay ahead of your opponents and understand the mainstream strategies.

Note, this is meant to be an alive document. I update it with the best tips. Feel free to leave comments.

1. Metric-based decision-making –

Until your judgments of players past stats corresponds to that of a player rater (something that measures a player’s standard deviations away from the mean over a given time period in each category), use a player rater to judge most players.

The tricky question with player raters is that their ratings are, by nature, backwards looking. You need to judge upside. So watch the games if you can, and see who is playing well. See who is getting the minutes. Even on the bad teams. But still use the player rater as the basis for decision making.

This will help you exploit owners who do not properly value all categories. Often, for example, owners will discount a guard who gets blocks and don’t understand the value of 3s. As a result, great fantasy players like Danny Green, with unflashy points, rebounds, and assists, float around waiver in many leagues most of the year. Owners in your league may have misvalue other categories – sometimes, percentage categories for instance – but if you rely on a player rater, you never should.

2. Adjust strategy for format  –

In head to head leagues, games are usually underrated by your opponents. Feel free to stream a spot on your team. Or even two. Just look at who plays the most games in the next few days and pick them up. More games, more stats.

In roto leagues, the player rater is even more important. You want to get those players who don’t have gaudy numbers in the categories other owners typically look at first – points, rebounds, assists often – and get those overall gems. A great example of this type of player is Chris Bosh. He’s great in every category — he’s even shooting threes now — even though his rebound numbers aren’t great for a big man. He almost always goes in a round way later than his end of season value. Or his auction price is always too low.

3. Schedule management –

Work on fantasy for set periods. I like to work on it for ten minutes before bed daily. At one end, you don’t want to overanalyze. Just figure out the recent developments, send out a few trade requests, check the wire, and do #4. At the other end, you don’t want to be an absent owner who misses out on how news can help them. You do want to check daily so, at the least, you can put your claims in for the good pickups.

Don’t try to be in 10 leagues so you can find the hot pickups in one league and use those in your other. Instead focus on being in good leagues where that learning is automatic and doing well in those good leagues.

Instead of living on the internet, refreshing every thirty minutes, or being an NBA writer–what most good fantasy players have to do–I typically rely on alerts to get the best news on players. The key is the sources. I use places like rotoworld, rotowire, and twitter. For example, when in some leagues Kyrie Irving was dropped because many writers declared him out for the season, I knew he was coming back because I got an alert about a quote of his teammate giving away he was coming back and made the pickup first. If he were playing back-to-backs that move would probably single-handedly win me the league (see #6, and especially given his ROS schedule).

4. Conduct analyses –

Run the numbers. Use excel on your fantasy team.

As an example, put all of your weekly stats into an excel spreadsheet. Average them. Then compare your average team against your likely playoff opponents beginning around mid-season. Also compare your weekly team. In this way, you can give the necessary grounding of team needs and strengths to exploit disparities in how much owners value players to improve your team through trades. You can also make smarter pickup decisions.

Similarly, map out the games played on each day of the playoffs for every team if you are playoff bound. Aggressively use that information to trade for players who optimize your games played. Map out your teams’ games played for the playoffs to see if there are any days a player has to sit because too many teams play the same day. You may want to trade that player for a slightly lesser player who you get some extra games out of in the playoffs. But you can’t make such a clutch trade without doing the analysis. So always go the extra mile.

5. Draft beasts and use the waiver –

People undervalue the top players. They are hard to find through active waiver management. Focus on drafting the great players, if at all possible. In the case of auction leagues, this is pretty simple: grab high upside guys and four or so $1-3 guys at the end. Don’t build a balanced team. In the case of snake drafts, focus on high upside guys and if you can trade draft picks, do. Avoid category killers like Dwight Howard like the plague. Play a balanced game; leverage the player rater. Then, select the best off the waiver to create a customized category strategy as the season goes on.

Cheers and happy winning.

Two Guys Arguing About Rashard Lewis: A Finals Preview Chat

Finals Preview

QU4NTITY: So, the Finals start tomorrow. Name every player who’ll start a game this series.

AAKASH: San Antonio: Tony, Patty, Danny, Kawhi, Boris, Timmy, Tiago. Miami: Chalmers, Cole, Allen, James, Wade, Haslem… Wow, this team has no one.

QU4NTITY: Miami needs its “other” dudes to hit open threes and defend, but that’s it.

AAKASH: That’s true. With the Heat, it doesn’t matter much aside from the big three. All their “other” guys go from suck to suck a lot. The other day, on Twitter, Magic said, “role players will decide the series.” My thought? Only if you like San Antonio to win.

I mean what can Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Rashard Lewis, and Norris Cole do? I guess they have to be amazing. But I feel like, at max, maybe two of the four will be “amazing” on most nights.

QU4NTITY: Birdman will do his thing.

AAKASH: Oh yeah! Him! His health is one of the big things I am interested in this series. Did you know he has a .248 WS/48 this playoffs? That’s better than Tim Duncan (.209).

So that makes five decent supporting players: Allen, Lewis, Anderson, Chalmers, and Cole. Eight players can totally win a championship.

QU4NTITY: On the other hand, depth is supposed to be an asset for the Spurs, though some of their guys don’t match up very well against Miami. For them, I say Duncan, Splitter, Green, Diaw, Kawhi, Manu, Parker, and Joseph all start games at some point in the series. I think Splitter starts game one and maybe two if the Spurs win. He’ll be out of the starting lineup by halftime of game three, though. If Tony misses time I think Pop will go with Joseph to start and pull him pretty quickly like he did with Bonner in the OKC series.

AAKASH: The San Antonio lineup is indeed very interesting. As opposed to starting, I think the key with them is, who are the seven to nine guys getting 20-30 minutes? We know they will be solid. In this case, I think the rotation for each position will pan out something like this.

1: Parker, Mills, and some Joseph
2: Green, Belinelli, and some Joseph
3: Kawhii, a mix of Green and Diaw
4: Duncan and Diaw
5: Duncan and Splitter

I don’t like Splitter much in this series, because the Heat can go super small. But when the Heat do play a Haslem or an Anderson, I think he needs to be in and ready to punish. I agree, the more likely outcome is he plays his way out of the starting lineup and the series sooner than later. But that’s tough luck for the Spurs, since they rely on two big men for their D. And the lineup I showed above was awfully light at the bottom.

The real action is up top. And there we differ. If Tony’s hurt, I think Pop should bring in Mills, not Joseph.

QU4NTITY: I keep thinking that Patty Mills is an option the Spurs didn’t have last year (technically they had him on the roster, but he’s clearly put in a lot of work since then), but I always forget that Gary Neal was a big part of their rotation. Is Mills better than Neal?

AAKASH: Patty doesn’t have the guts or three point accuracy in the clutch that Neal has—at least in the NBA; Mills was great as the main guy on offense for his team in the Olympics—but he’s a better “driver” so to speak. He’s also a true point guard and better ball handler. Offensively, it’s a slight advantage for Mills. On D there’s a bigger gulf. Mills is kind of steals-only in that department. Neal was pretty good. Overall it’s more or less even between the two guys.

QU4NTITY: Wait, was Gary Neal really a capable defender? Not that it matters a ton against Cole and Chalmers, but I remember him having a bad reputation on that side.

AAKASH: Bad reputation but not skills. Neal has good defensive win shares—like three times what Mills has. Anyway, isn’t Belinelli the real Neal replacement?

QU4NTITY: Can he get on the court in this series?

AAKASH: Why not? You can hide him on Cole/Chalmers/Battier type dudes and he spaces the floor.

QU4NTITY: Yeah but who does Tony/Patty guard in that situation?

AAKASH: One of the “other guys” from that very list. Unless, of course, it’s a Haslem-Allen lineup. In that case, Bellinelli may have to guard Allen. But I still I think that’s fine. He played for Thibs and Pop. He knows where to be. I hope Pop doesn’t overthink himself, like he did last year pulling Duncan, in not getting Bellinelli on the floor.

QU4NTITY: Marco just can’t play when Bron and Wade are both out there.

AAKASH: Maybe so. Who needs to defend them? Danny Green, Kawhi, and/or Diaw? With only the latter two getting serious time on Bron?

QU4NTITY: On the second point, yes, I don’t think Danny Green can guard LeBron. So if you figure he’s on Wade and Kawhi’s on Bron to start the game, then I guess you hope to put Marco in when LeBron or Wade comes out. Now that I think of it, I don’t really know what Miami’s rotations are like. Like you were saying they feel really thin this year. Maybe they start with Chalmers, Wade, Bron, Haslem, and Bosh, then Haslem comes out for Battier or Lewis. LeBron comes out for… Allen or Cole? And Wade shifts down to SF?

AAKASH: Miami has really weird rotations and lineups. Here are the stats:


Miami Lineups Performance – 2014 Playoffs. Source:

The big lineup you said to start has not fared well, in this postseason or against the Spurs last year. Once you get Battier or Lewis into the mix, I really like Miami lineups. Wade at the SF has fared just great. I like him there. Even at SG size he gets in your face. In this series, Wade can even guard the center spot in an ultra small lineup – he can handle Splitter. That will be supremely useful.

QU4NTITY: Anderson should come in for Bosh when Timmy sits, right? So you’ve got Cole, Allen, Wade, Shane/Shard, and Birdman? And then LeBron subs in for Wade? I guess that works?

AAKASH: Anderson can’t really guard Duncan, but he’s valuable with his all-around hectic defense. I think that Wade-centric lineup is defeinitely interesting. I think we can agree their best lineup is: Chalmers/Cole, Allen, Wade, LeBron, and Bosh. They are unguardable when they go super-small like that.

QU4NTITY: Yeah, probably. Depending how well Parker plays, their best lineup could be PG-less.

AAKASH: Allen, Wade, LeBron, Bosh, Birdman?

QU4NTITY: Ideally one of the hybrid smalls could play instead of a big in that lineup, though with Bosh’s improved range you might be able to use him to space the floor instead of someone like Battier or Lewis. Actually, with Bosh’s range I’m surprised he doesn’t play more alongside Anderson in general this year. I guess against San Antonio the presence of Bosh and Anderson would allow Pop to roll with two conventional bigs on defense—which is what he wants.

AAKASH: They would also destroy on offense. San Antonio doubled the amount of times they went to Timmy in post ups against the Heat in the finals compared to the regular season last year. Timmy battering Bosh plus Splitter Diaw battering Battier/ Lewis is bad news.

QU4NTITY: Splitter’s not battering anyone, so I don’t think you have to worry about that if you’re Miami. I think they really like him for his screening ability and defense. If you’re Miami, you want to force San Antonio to defend you with only one big on the floor. That’s a knock against Bosh-Anderson lineups, but then again maybe the Heat can pull one of San Antonio’s bigs out of the paint with Bosh and involve the other in the pick and roll. That lineup as the potential to make things easier for Miami on the defensive end as well since you’ve “tricked” San Antonio into playing two bigs with limited range.

But I’m not sure. You like Rashard Lewis more than I do. What do you see him doing for them?

AAKASH: That has to be Miami’s angle, pull a big out. Alternatively, the Heat can play two bigs—with Bosh and either Anderson or Haslem—for stretches in the right plays. For example, in a Wade-centric lineup, they can crash the offensive boards to surprise San Antonio.

But you’re right, the big I really like on Miami is Rashard Lewis. He is the piece I think people haven’t really touched on when picking San Antonio in 7 – ESPN’s consensus prediction. Rashard just gives them a great element. He’s a stretchy guy who can defend big men passably.

QU4NTITY: Do you need a passable big man defender against San Antonio? They went with Mike Miller against Splitter down the stretch last year and it worked.

AAKASH: You do, and Rashard can guard whoever the Spurs put on the floor: Diaw, Bonner, Duncan, Splitter, Ayres. He’s not great on that end, but he’s a big plus on the other. Miami can start five guys who shoot the three. That is a second lineup in addition to their super small lineup to stretch the floor.

San Antonio’s entire defense against Miami is five guys with a foot on the paint. Do that if you dare with Rashard on the floor.

QU4NTITY: There’s no way he can guard Timmy. You just said you were worried about him checking Splitter in the post. There’s no way Rashard Lewis is guarding Tim Duncan.

Lewis on Duncan

AAKASH: Isn’t that kind of sad? Timmy is the older player, and by four years at that.

Really, no one can guard Timmy on the Heat, including Bosh. But Timmy gets tired, and the Spurs also do not feed him like they used to—the first half of last year’s game six being the exception.

QU4NTITY: I think it has more to do with their respective skill sets than age. Shard was never guarding Duncan in the first place.

AAKASH: He’ll be on him for stretches. It may not go well.

QU4NTITY: I think Battier gives you more in this series, so long as he can knock down open shots. I wouldn’t be afraid to go with James Jones on Splitter, either.

AAKASH: Interesting. Those guys seem so unathletic. I think I can beat Battier in a race. And Jones doesn’t seem to have Spo’s trust.

QU4NTITY: Unathletic? As opposed to Rashard “I Don’t Understand How I Got This Contract Either” Lewis?!?

AAKASH: Yeah! He’s +92 in these playoffs!

QU4NTITY: Because of his D on David West—who doesn’t exist in this series.

AAKASH: Lineups featuring two bigs—San Antonio’s system is literally based on them! Whenever SA trots them out, I think Rashard will be a swiss army knife.

QU4NTITY: But Splitter doesn’t post or bang at all. It’s all about motion for him—catching the ball on a roll to the hoop. Any sufficiently tall body can defend that if it is positioned correctly. I think Lewis is similar to Matt Bonner for San Antonio—he filled a particular need for one series and is going back to the bench for the finals. Lewis’ D on David West is probably overrated. I mean, Drew Gooden had an bizarrely effective stretch against West in a couple second round games. West has fallen off this season, which makes it even more bizarre that LeBron still can’t guard him at all. Anyway, in this Finals matchup Lewis doesn’t give you anything Battier can’t.

AAKASH: I could see that theoretically. But I’m not convinced. Just looking at Battier, he’s done.

QU4NTITY: Back on the topic of the Heat’s best lineup—you and I also disagree to some extent about Wade’s fit in Miami’s best lineups.

AAKASH: The Heat are going back to the ‘Let Wade and LeBron Drive’ system on offense. In a sense, they’re almost better off playing one of those guys at a time for the first forty minutes since both are at their most effective when they can dominate the ball and be the focal point of the offense. But then in the last eight minutes they seem to learn how to play together all of a sudden, and it’s great. They’re both elite scorers.

QU4NTITY: Right…

AAKASH: The real key that most analysts miss for me, though, is that Wade is back and healthy, providing his 90s style shooting guard spacing from beneath the three point line. He’s remarkable for a 6’3″ player in that he averages a block a game when he’s healthy and engaged. He gives them a huge advantage. He’s the second best player when everyone’s on the court. One of the key reasons I’m picking the Heat.

QU4NTITY: My problem with him is that he kills their spacing. Look at the videos at the top of this article. LeBron has such an easier time getting to the basket when Wade’s defender isn’t there getting in his way—though maybe some of this impression is based on Wade’s gimpy play in last year’s finals. If he’s healthy it’s possible he attacks the seams of the defense a little more effectively and force his defender to stick closer to him.

AAKASH: Yeah, San Antonio backs off Wade and James at the three. That’s true. But, Wade’s improved ability to penetrate anyway will be fun. The Heat stretch out with guys besides Wade. And Wade has other-worldly two point ability.

QU4NTITY: I think running the right plays is huge for the Heat if Wade and James are gonna share the court. I want to see Miami post James on one side of the floor and position Wade on the opposite wing, so there are three passes between him and the ball. The idea being that LeBron can draw help in the post, kick it to Bosh, Rashard, or Battier on the strong side wing and that guy can, in turn, kick it to Chalmers or Cole at the top of the three point arc. If any of those shooters have a shot they should take it, but if not they kick it to Wade on the weakside with the defense already having rotated a few times. Then Wade has a bit of a head start attacking the defense.

AAKASH: Definitely. Let’s check back later to see how much the Heats ran sets like this.

Overall, I like them to win the series, with LeBron’s “god mode” tipping the balance. Heat in seven.

QU4NTITY: It’s hard for me to separate what I want to happen from what I can actually see happening, so with that caveat I’ll go Spurs in seven.

It should be a great finals. Be sure to check back at Triple Double No Assists for the next edition of Two Guys Arguing. You can find us on Twitter if you want to chat.

Where can I get my NBA fix?

Where can I get my NBA Fix?

Like you, we love reading about the NBA. There’s a certain joy in reading smart analysis about the league. Not summaries of the previous nights’ games, like you might see in a Newspaper, but actual analysis. The X’s and O’s that matter. The analytics that let you see the matrix behind the league. The level of depth that announcers and TV analysts only scratch the surface of.

So, we went on a search to find the best online sources for NBA content. After a lengthy search – there’s no shortage of NBA writers – here’s a summary of what we found. This is a living, breathing list for lazy Sunday mornings – so let us know what we missed!

Notes: this doesn’t include team-specific or draft-specific blogs, and it’s ordered in terms of how often we read each website.

Grantland: Bill Simmons is the most widely read and well-known NBA columnist there is. He’s one of the few writers, covering any sport, who manages to be funny and insightful. He also does a fantastic video series with  former NBA player Jalen Rose previewing the season and providing updates at key points throughout the year. Simmons’ NBA mailbag posts are a must read. He’s so good that ESPN gave him the resources to put together his own team for his brainchild website, Grantland.

Zach Lowe is Grantland’s featured NBA writer. His columns combine statistical analysis, breakdowns of a given team’s pet plays or actions, and a big picture perspective on team-building and salary cap maneuvers. The Lowe Post is Zach’s podcast.

Grantland also gets frequent contributions from dozens of other writers, including Kirk Goldsberry and Andrew Sharp, who write regularly about the NBA. The site’s morning shootaround series does a great job capturing the feel of the league’s biggest moments.

Yeah, Bill's made it.

Yeah, Bill’s made it.

Truehoop: Truehoop puts out voluminous video and written analysis of the league. Truehoop TV live (~1 hour) and Truehoop TV (~5 minutes) typically put out 2-5 segments each, each week. We especially like content with Coach David Thorpe. Tom Haberstroh also produces ‘The Big Number,’ a short video series that looks to explain NBA trends by identifying key statistics.

Truehoop TV

They also provide a daily a summary of NBA reporting, usually from Newspapers or other parts of the ESPN network. Many ESPN Insiders and writers from the TrueHoop network (includes many team-specific blogs with varying posting frequencies, e.g. Zach Harper’s blog) including Ethan Strauss and Amin El Hassan also occasionally write free-to-read analysis of different aspects of the NBA for the site. There is a good deal of coverage on sides of the NBA other sites might not always write about, including how to change the NBA for the better.

SBNation: SBNation is a collection of 308 blogs across a dozen or so different sports. Their NBA offerings include fan-centric blogs for each of the NBA’s franchises, as well as less partisan coverage from Tom Ziller—who’s column, The Hook, runs several times during the week. Ziller also curates an email newsletter with a roundup of NBA news and opinion from around the web.

Also in the SBNation fold: Doug Eberhardt frequently examines the little details behind the league’s most basic or sensational plays, and Jon Bois’s NBA Y2K series is… well… it’s something else.

Yahoo Sports: Led by well-known reporter Adrian Wojnarowski and analyst Marc Spears, the gang at Yahoo Sports regularly provide headlines and updates on the NBA. Woj is like a wizard breaking stories, so be sure to follow him on twitter if staying up on the latest signings and trades is your thing.

Ball Don’t Lie is Yahoo’s sometimes zany source of regular analysis from folks like Kelly Dwyer and Dan Devine.

ESPN: We’re not much for paid content (Insiders), but ESPN does post a good deal of NBA analysis that’s free. Often, it’s very news focused, but that’s still useful. This is where we grew our love for NBA writing and we still visit. From Marc Stein to Chris Broussard to their network of bloggers, ESPN has a lot of the best NBA writers on their payroll. As a result, there is a lot of content here, including the great Daily Dime. There are also great reporters like Brian Windhorst focused on the Heat – because we all know ESPN loves the Heat.

Rotoworld: Rotoworld is a hardcore fantasy site. It provides the player updates you see in your fantasy leagues at Yahoo now. It boasts some very smart NBA minds, especially Aaron Bruski. He’s a Kings beat reporter and awfully good fantasy player. If you’re a beginner looking to understand how the top fantasy players evaluate NBA players on a nightly basis, this is the place to go.

Real GM: This is your resource during the offseason and around the trade deadline. Timely updates on even the smallest of NBA transactions are presented at the top of the page, so you won’t miss a thing. Francisco Garcia is mulling his options? Eric Griffin’s playing for the Raptors’ summer league squad? Sign me up.

Hardwood Paroxysm: Jack Maloney, Andrew Lynch, and a gang of other writers constantly post analysis of hot NBA issues. Some of their writers also have prolific twitter presences.

Hang Time: The hang time blog is a mix of news and analysis, with an emphasis on more traditional analysis. Led by Sekou Smith and backed by an impressive group of writers, it has voluminous daily content.

Box Score Geeks: Box score geeks has some of the most consistently analytical work on the NBA from guys like Arturo.

The Type of Analysis you get at Box Score Geeks

Point Forward: Point forward is Sports Illustrated’s blog on the NBA. There’s a great deal of articles, mainly news focused. They occasionally feature in-depth analysis on interesting issue’s in the form of staff roundtables or SI writers focusing in on an interesting angle in the NBA. Zach Lowe cut his teeth here.

Bleacher Report NBA: The Bleacher Report has many prominent writers constantly chatting about the NBA.

Basketball Insiders: Basketball Insiders has regular NBA content and chats from smart minds like Nate Duncan, who has one of our favorite Twitter accounts.

The Hoop Doctors: Hoop Doctors post rumors and analysis, mainly from Dan Favale.

Hoops Hype: Hoops Hype is USA Today’s NBA blog, with varying types of content including slideshows and video.

Pro Basketball Talk: Pro Basketball Talk is NBC’s news and analysis blog dedicated to the NBA.

Eye on Basketball: Eye on Basketball is CBS’ NBA news-focused blog, with learnings incorporated, about the NBA.

Hoops Addict: Hoops Addict is an eight year old NBA blog that posts analysis articles every few days.

NBA Jelly: NBA Jelly occassionaly posts in-depth or headline articles on the NBA.

Inside Hoops: Inside Hoops will post rumors and news about the league.

20 Second Timeout: 20 Second timeout posts every few weeks about thoughts on the NBA’s latest.

Below the Hardwood: Below the Hardwood will occasionally post analyses, especially on players.

Hoopism: Hoopism will occasionally have basketball content from Matt and Jason Bailey.

NBA Lord: NBA Lord will post previews and other articles every few weeks.