Welcome to Fantasy Basketball

Sean Sendall

It’s been roughly 15 years since I started playing fantasy basketball. I was able to convince friends of mine to partake in a league on two different occasions; every other year I was forced to join a public league, for lack of interest from my friends. Yes, I am the only person that I know who has regularly committed to fantasy basketball leagues in the winter.  Call it what you will –I prefer to call it an analyzation of all things basketball combined with a passion for the game, bordering on unhealthy– but the odds are that interest in fantasy basketball will be catalyzed by the advent of daily fantasy leagues.

Here are some basic strategies when considering how to draft a fantasy basketball team:

Most full-season leagues have roster positions on PG, SG, G, SF, PF, F, C, C, Util, Util and three bench spots. With a number of players eligible for multiple positions, this allows for a plethora of combinations each night.  Take note that many players listed as Centers are also listed as PF, which means they can also be slotted into the F spot or either of the utility positions.  Similarly, players listed as SG/SF can play those two positions, the G or F position, or the utility spot.  This puts a premium on players with two or more positional designations.

Remember, the players you would want to build a winning team with are not always the best fantasy options.  As much as I have been a Draymond Green fan since his Michigan State days, he will likely be drafted too high in full-season leagues. Similarly, I have always thought Andre Iguodala was basketball’s version of a five-tool player. Rarely dominating a game in one statistical category, but always garnering numbers across the board. These are two guys you want on your basketball team, but can’t rely upon, regularly, in fantasy basketball.

On the other end of the spectrum, Carmelo Anthony is the last player in the league I would want running my basketball team. In the fantasy world, however, you cannot argue against a 2,000 point scorer who is consistently in the running for the scoring title. Similar sentiments have been expressed about Joe Johnson in recent history, but he isn’t quite the 2,000 point scorer he used to be.

Rule 1 summarized:  Players with multiple position designations will hold more value and flexibility.

Find a stud in each major statistical category.

Barring injury, Carmelo Anthony has been a great first-round fantasy basketball selection. He will consistently keep your team in the running for the total points statistic. Kenneth Faried is a great late-round sleeper pick who pulls in rebounds like the Manimal he is. Despite Ty Lawson being traded and playing time likely going to be split between he and Patrick Beverley, he averaged 9.6 assists per game last year.  This placed him third in the league average and an entire assist per game ahead of the fourth ranked player.

For years, DeMar DeRozan was an under-appreciated asset in the NBA. I used to draft him really late and could always rely on over 1,000 points from him. Guys like Robert Covington or Tony Wroten of Philly could be 1,200 point scorers this season on a bad team.

Rule 2 summarized: Don’t target the well-rounded players, draft for a specific statistical advantage and need.

You will not win every category each week. Accept that during the draft and draft with that in mind.

Quite regularly, I have led most leagues in turnovers. I am okay with this. In fact, I couldn’t care less; I draft to that end. What I ensure that I do win are points, rebounds, assists, and blocks.  From there, the field goal and free throw percentages, and occasionally total three-pointers made depending on the league, are a virtual crap shoot.

Rule 3 summarized:  Know that you will lose each week for one specific category and draft with that in mind.

Rule 3 addendum/casual reminder:  The season-long leagues have a number of slots for big men. Every team in your league will have guys that can rebound, purely because of the four to six positions a big man can fill in these leagues.  Back-up scorers will be easier to find on the waiver wire than back-up rebounders. It’s a simple numbers game.

Top 20 Player Rankings

  1. LeBron James – The rare player who can light it up in every statistical category should still be the top draft pick.
  2. Stephen Curry – Averages more assists than I ever imagined for such a pure shooter, plus his shooting percentages are off-the-charts.
  3. Anthony Davis – Not just a 20+ ppg and 10+ rpg player, but tons of blocks will come with Davis. He may be able to single-handedly win that category for you.
  4. James Harden – The type of player who will win you the points statistic each week and will get you more assists than you expect.
  5. Kevin Durant – Health concerns almost drop him from the top-five, but his offensive numbers speak for themselves.
  6. Chris Paul – Honestly, I wouldn’t build a team around him, he can’t win when it matters. However, CP3 puts up fantasy numbers and gets the slight nod ahead of the next guy because assists and steals are harder to come by than points and rebounds.
  7. DeMarcus Cousins – With 24 ppg and 13 rpg combined with a couple blocks per game, he’s a clear top-ten fantasy player.
  8. Russell Westbrook – Another guy I wouldn’t want to build my team around, but puts up ridiculous numbers in multiple categories. A perfect fantasy player.
  9. Damian Lillard – He gets the top-ten nod now that more of the offense will be on his shoulders without Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge.
  10. John Wall – Sneaks into the top-ten with his numbers and durability last season.
  11. Klay Thompson
  12. Carmelo Anthony
  13. Jimmy Butler
  14. Blake Griffin
  15. Marc Gasol
  16. Kawhi Leonard
  17. Paul Millsap
  18. LaMarcus Aldridge
  19. Nikola Vucevic
  20. Andrew Wiggins

Top Five Sleeper Picks

  1. Rudy Gobert – Should lead the league in blocks by a large margin.
  2. Nikola Mirotic – More of a sleeper last year, but still undervalued in fantasy.
  3. CJ McCollum – For the same reason Lillard is a top-ten fantasy pick. He will see the ball more.
  4. Elfrid Payton – He’s only started to come out of his shell, poised to have a great year.
  5. Dennis Schroder – If he gets starters minutes he will be a top-ten assist man in the NBA.

Top Five Rookies

  1. Jahlil Okafor
  2. Karl-Anthony Towns
  3. Emmanuel Mudiay
  4. Stanley Johnson
  5. D’Angelo Russell

Happy drafting!

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