Fantasy Basketball For Beginners: Tips and Strategies on Building a Winning Team

You have been a hoops fan for quite some time now and because of a natural propensity for numbers and statistics, you may have considered playing fantasy basketball. The only apprehension is, well, you have never done it before.

That fear is understandable.

It’s like the first time I played StarCraft (seriously) and everybody was building Corsairs and Arbiters while I’m stuck with my Zerglings. Sigh, fun times.The point is there is no fun in losing and it basically sucks any pleasure out of a game.

I don’t want anyone to experience what StarCraft had let me gone through that’s why I groomed a healthy amount of tips to sufficiently do the job. Remember, it’s not rocket science. Consider fantasy hoops like gym class, or recess or something.

Fantasy Basketball For Beginners: As far as stat-sheet stuffers go, Anthony Davis (left) and LeBron James (right) are two of the absolute best. Photo via: USA Today


Tip #1: Mock Drafts Galore

Mock drafts is to fantasy basketball for beginners as the (American) pie is to Jim Levenstein. To rephrase: Practice makes perfect.

While nobody is perfect, per se, you get the gist.

Before you get comfortable with the real thing, soak everything in by taking part in as many mock drafts as you can. Fantasy basketball allows you to do that because it doesn’t take too long to draft 15 players, most of which are almost automatic especially in the earlier rounds.

ESPN might be a good choice if you’re looking for smoother, shorter drafts because of the “Pass” button. Of course, you should also try Yahoo just in case.

Tip #2: Choose Snake Over Auction

Generally, there are two kinds of drafts– auction and snake. Fantasy veterans may prefer auction but for newbies, snake drafts are highly-recommended.

The Snake is a standard draft that is entirely based on the number hierarchy from which you choose. For example, if you’re tapped to pick No.1 overall, you’re going to be the last in the next round and so on. That means, if you’re drafting No.1, you’re picking N0. 20 next, then 21, then 40, 41… etc.

In an auction format, inexperience might tempt you to bid 90 out of your fixed 200 bucks on LeBron James. At that rate, you’re going to get stuck with Bismack Biyombo as your fifth guy. Who the hell wins with Biyombo?

The lesson: Act your (fantasy) age and stick with the basics first. Balance, not being top-heavy, is the key to a winning team.

Tip #3: Target Players That Contribute In Rare and Multiple Categories

Early in the basketball season, there are exactly 126 players that average double-figures in scoring and 68 that grab at least 6 RPG. That’s not what you would call rare, right?

In comparison, there are only 27 players averaging 5 assists and over, 29 with at least 1.5 SPG, and 23 with at least 1.5 BPG. And as history indicates, the last two categories will only plummet as the season comes along.

If you can come up with at least two players that contribute across the board, especially the rare ones, then you are in good shape.

Tip #4: Point Guards and Power Forwards

This is probably the simplest and arguably the most workable strategy in fantasy basketball regardless of experience.

Basically, the plan is to draft players that can score, pass, steal the ball, and hit 3-pointers (commonly point guards) and pivots who can score, rebound, and block shots (commonly power forwards). Putting quality wing men around them (shooting guards and small forwards) that can generate steals and 3s, and centers that can bolster your blocking and rebounding numbers, and you’re in for quite a ride.

Two-time All-Star Al Horford is one of this year’s fantasy sleepers. Photo via: Yahoo Sports

This is not a structured framework by any means, but simply think of it this way: Guards and small forwards should excel in scoring, assisting, stealing, 3’s made, and FT%. Power forwards and centers should dominate scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, and FG%.

Tip #5: Wear Pajamas

By pajamas, I meant sleepers.

You seldom make mistakes in the first few rounds so the real preparation kicks in the middle to late rounds. This is where you mold championship grandeur or thoroughly fall apart at the seams.

What exactly are fantasy sleepers? They are players that swell with potential because of these factors: playing time, talent, or both.

For example, many fantasyheads are probably waiving off Al Horford— a two-time All-Star– because he’s coming off a lost season due to torn pecs. That injury cost him all but 29 games last season! But now back in his starting center gig, Horford is slowly climbing the fantasy ranks (No.30 in the Player Rater), way above his Average Draft Position of 37. And there’s no freaking way Pero Antic will be holding him off for playing time!

If you’re going to nab someone in rounds 4-5, there’s no better sleeper option than the former Florida Gator. You can even predict he’ll produce like a late second-rounder given his dynamic– yet largely underrated– fantasy numbers.

See also: Knight, Brandon; Harris, Tobias; Jackson, Reggie