The majority of fantasy sports fans gravitate towards football (because it’s the biggest American pro sport) and baseball (because of fantasy tradition and an unmatched richness of statistical detail), but there is a growing market for other fantasy sports.
Fantasy basketball is easy to explain – as easy as any fantasy contest – but can be difficult to get “right” – also true of most fantasy sports.
The basic goal of fantasy basketball is to build a personal roster of professional basketball players that compile statistics competitively against other rosters. Points in fantasy basketball are awarded based on real-game performance in the NBA, as is the case for other fantasy sports.
Where fantasy basketball differs from those other games is important for newcomers to fantasy NBA to understand – also important are the way that small variations in league setup and rules formats can affect fantasy play. Below are explanations in plain language on the basic concepts of fantasy basketball.
How Fantasy Basketball Works
The easiest way to understand the basics of fantasy basketball is to look at how leagues are set-up. There are a number of different options in a few different categories available to fantasy basketball owners, with different leagues following different sets of preferences and rules.
For example, the number of teams per fantasy league (when it comes to the NBA) is usually 10, 12, or 14. Smaller leagues exist, as do larger ones, but the majority of fantasy basketball platforms online are set-up to allow leagues of teams in those sizes.
The fewer the teams in the league, the more powerful each team will be, statistically-speaking. That also means that leagues with more teams will have more parity, with the NBA’s best and brightest spread out fairly evenly among the dozen or so teams on the league schedule.
The next feature of a fantasy basketball league to consider is required positions. There is a standard fantasy NBA roster format – it is made up of three guards, three forwards, two centers, and two or more bench spots.
This roster alignment gives owners some wiggle room with injury (a symptom of the modern league paranoia about injuries) and it also expresses the league’s overall roster size, with more guards and shooters than big men and defenders. Roster makeup can vary wildly between leagues, sometimes including spots for “Utility” players that can be of any position, which alters strategy significantly.
Draft format is the next major difference between fantasy NBA leagues. The most common is the traditional snake-style draft used in many fantasy sports, wherein players pick at a different position on the draft board in a pattern that repeats backwards on itself for fairness. The most common alternative to this format would be the fantasy basketball auction league – a more complex way of establishing rosters that involves salary caps and player values determined by fantasy value.
Notes on the Fantasy Basketball Draft
The draft is by far the most critical piece of any fantasy basketball season – this doesn’t mean that a bad draft means a losing season, it just means that the draft sets the stage for the rest of the contest. Draft order is determined randomly, and the standard snake-style is designed to create parity between the different selection positions. For example, the player who picks first won’t have another selection until every other owner has had two.
At the other end of the scale, the owner with the final pick gets to immediately select another player, a situation that can be taken advantage of. Since the modern NBA is all about big men, a late-picker should use one leg of their quick two-fer pick to grab a big (especially a forward who can score in at least three categories) and a supporting piece with contrasting stat contribution.
As is the case in most fantasy sports, the draft is controversial, hilarious, demanding, rewarding, and frustrating all at once. There are many angles to approach a fantasy draft from, and basketball requires slightly different strategy than other fantasy drafts.
How to Score in Fantasy Basketball
In terms of scoring, this is done most commonly in fantasy basketball in what is known as a rotisserie format. Rotisserie (or “roto” for short) simply means adding up a roster’s total stats for a category and comparing that number to his weekly opponent. The player with the better number gets a point, and wins and losses are determined by total points on a weekly and season-long basis.
As for the specific stats used to add up fantasy points in the NBA, these can vary from league to league, and are a customizable options on most fantasy roundball platforms, but there is a standard format used for most leagues. It includes the following eight major statistics:
– 3P Made
– Field Goal %
– Free Throw %
It is uncommon for modern fantasy basketball leagues to use a non-roto format, though some exist using a fantasy point system similar to standard fantasy football, whereby players are rated based on total points scored rather than categorical dominance.
Pros and Cons of Playing Fantasy Basketball
Every pro sport with a fantasy shadow contest (this includes everything from golf to Olympic events) has its own set of pros and cons – things that are appealing about the sport for fantasy owners and things that make the sport more difficult at times.
The biggest knock against the NBA, in terms of fantasy ownership, is also one of the fantasy game’s biggest pros. The NBA has a long regular season, with teams facing off regularly pretty much every day of the week.
This is in stark contrast to fantasy football, where most games are played on Sunday, with a few on other days. This makes for a different brand of fantasy play than what football fans are used to – and it can teach owners in other fantasy sports a lot of lessons about roster management thanks to the quicker pace.
Compared to other popular sports for fantasy contests (mainly football and baseball), the NBA offers a small overall roster size, and the standard setup for fantasy basketball leagues means only 120 or so total players get drafted out of a larger pool of 500 or total eligible players.
The immediate result is a fantasy contest that requires less research. A newcomer to fantasy basketball could cover their first five rounds of picks (the most critical ones) by researching just 50 or 60 players overall. Small rosters make the game a bit easier for fantasy owners.