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.

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.