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.