When I was just a young lad playing fantasy basketball many years ago (No, I’m not Irish, but I like Guiness!), there was only one way to play fantasy basketball: Roto style! Personally, I’m still partial to a roto league over H2H leagues but H2H is so popular now that I will start this little series of strategy posts for H2H leagues. After this, I’ll get around to giving you a strategy post for ESPN style roto leagues with a games cap. That’ll be fun! Then maybe I’ll throw strategy at you for points leagues and, of course, I’ll give you an encore and retool of my annual How to Make a Fantasy Basketball Trade post. Before I get to today’s winning strategies, here’s a quick funny and embarrassing story for you about how NOT to draft a fantasy basketball team: Amongst a bunch of leagues I do, there is this one standard style 9 cat H2H Yahoo! league I’ve been in for the past couple of years. Apparently, at some point over this past summer the league decided to change to a points style scoring system. Emails were sent (and never checked) informing the league of the change. The draft was the night before the season started. Anyway, not needing any real prep seeing as I wrote a whole Draft Guide and all, I jump into the draft room a minute before the draft started and see I got the number 1 pick. Bingo! Jackpot! Lebron James baby, yeah. Um, no. I take Lebron, Anthony Davis goes next, of course. Still oblivious to this being a points league, I take Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol with picks 24 and 25. Now it’s the 4th round and, in between playing with my little kids and talking to my patient wife who has to deal with me doing draft after draft, I figure I better start looking closer to see who is still available. Then I notice the categories don’t have percents. Wait, oh, shit! Light bulb! So I type to the rest of the league, “Is this a points league now?” Sigh. Moral of the story and the most basic strategy for you: Know what type of league your in and do as I say, don’t do as I do! How embarrassing. Ok, off we go. Here are 6 basic fantasy basketball strategies to win your H2H league. Wheeeeeee!
1. Focus on winning 5 categories. You don’t need to win 8-1! Inevitably, you’re going to weaken all of your categories if you spread yourself too thin trying to win everything. It’s not necessary! I prefer to focus on winning the counting stat categories: Points, assists, steals, threes, rebounds and blocks. My goal is to win 5 of these 6 categories. If you happen to also win FG or FT, then you’ve got a great chance of even winning with a cushion each week 6-3 or better. For my taste, the percentages are a crap shoot and, generally, I prefer not to focus on trying to win them. I’m not totally ignoring them but they are secondary. If I’m going to focus on one of the percentage categories, then I prefer to focus on FT. I usually do that by taking both FG and FT into consideration at the draft and auction with an extra emphasis on trying to add at least players with decent FT. That way I’m starting out with at least a strong FT base which gives me a chance to win that category on any given week.
2. Maximize your games played. How do you win the counting stats? Volume! The only way to win the counting stats categories is to play as many games each week as possible. That means not carrying too many injured players and streaming players to gain more games played than your opponent each week. You’d be surprised how many times this sinks fantasy teams. See numbers 4 and 5 below for more on these issues! Randomly numbered !
3. Ignore turnovers. Considering my objective is to maximize my games played each week in order to win the counting stats, it would be counter intuitive to also concentrate on winning turnovers. You can’t have it both ways, son! Simple math says focus on the 6 counting stat categories instead of FG, FT and TOV. I don’t even need a calculator to figure that one out! The beauty of this strategy is that you can still win FG and/or FT on any given week. However, one exception to the ignore FG/FT/TOV rule does exist: I only start to look at these three categories on Saturday and Sunday. By then you’ll have a strong idea of where you stand in the counting stat categories and you’ll also have an almost definite idea of how many players you and your opponent have left. This is where H2H Sunday strategy comes into play. To sit or start players, especially on Sunday. That’s a decision you’ll have to make. Or feel free to ask me on Sunday morning and I’ll be happy to give you my opinion. That’s how much I care! Sniff.
4. Do not carry too many injured guys. Let me be clear. If you are carrying too many injured guys from week to week, you will lose! If you’re consistently losing each week then, most likely, your carrying too many injured guys on your team. If your league doesn’t have an IR, then it becomes very difficult to win counting stat categories with a short bench. This is especially true if your league allows daily transactions. Think about this: If your roster is short two guys due to injury, that’s as many as 6-8 games lost per week! Toss in if your opponent is reading this strategy post and decides to get clever by streaming one bench spot, you can be down as many as 10 or more games. That’s a shit load of points, boards, dimes, etc. lost. You never had a chance. I realize injuries come into play but if your goal is to make the playoffs and you need to win now to make it there then you’ll ultimately have to make some tough decisions on dropping players. First thing I’d look to do is trade a solid injured player if you’re considering dropping him. You can always check out my trade strategy post from last year for ideas. If you’d like!
5. Use one roster spot to stream players: Let’s face it, we can’t all have a team of super stars from player 1 to the end of your bench. If the end of my end bench is a player getting say 20ish minutes per game, why should I be married to him? If you’re not married then take the advice of a married guy: Don’t get married! But seriously folks, I’ll use as an example a guy like DJ Augustin, a back up point guard who is erratic at best. That’s a weakness if you’re carrying him week in and week out hoping for a good game out of him here and there. I prefer to take that spot and stream it for a hot free agent. Use those 4 weekly moves! Or however many you get. Those weekly moves are games in hand for you and a precious resource to victory. At least 2 extra games, sometimes 4 or more if you can stream a guy playing back to back nights. Think that’s not powerful? Or would you prefer to have DJ Augustin for his 3 games? Rhetorical! Turn that weak roster spot into a strength.
6. Pay attention to your weekly opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Every week I like to look at the record of how my opponent has been doing in each category. It’s easy to do, in Yahoo! leagues. Under the “League” tab up top, you click “Team Stats”. There you’ll see two important sub-categories: “Win-Loss” and “Totals”. I like to look at both of these sub-categories to see which categories my opponent is strongest and weakest in. Is he 1-5 in blocks? If so, then I know I don’t necessarily have to really focus on blocks that week. I can stream players proficient in other categories. Is he 7-1 in points? If so and if I want to win points then I know I’m in a dog fight and I’ll look for help by streaming a guy who can get me possibly double digit points on any given night. Know your opponents strengths and weaknesses and you’ll be ahead of the game.
Feel free to share any other strategies you have in the comments. Good luck, peoples. !