Building your fantasy basketball team

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Matt and I love the NBA, but, truth be told, fantasy football is more our game than fantasy hoops. That's why we made a call to the bullpen and enlisted the help of Nels Wadycki, proprietor of Give Me the Rock, one of the finest fantasy basketball blogs around. Wadycki was kind enough to take a break from pwning Bill Simmons to give you a few pointers on building your fantasy hoops team. His words after the jump...

By Nels Wadycki -- Give Me the Rock

Two of the three major types of fantasy basketball go by the names Rotisserie (Roto) and Head-to-Head (H2H) (the other is Points leagues, but those are still in the minority). Even fantasy novices likely know the difference between how Rotisserie and Head-to-Head leagues are scored, but they probably don't know what impact the format has on drafting strategy.

First off, though, in case you don't know which kind of league you're in: You'll know it's H2H if there is a schedule of matchups somewhere on your league page. You can also check the league settings page, and it'll tell you.

In this man's opinion, Roto is the easier of the two to draft for, because you are competing with everyone else in the league in every category, so you need players who can contribute to as many categories as possible, and you need to make sure you get players who can keep you competitive in each category.

Sounds tough at first, but if pressed for time during the draft, you can just pick the best available player and avoid shooting yourself in the foot (or at least, you'll just be nicking a toe).

With H2H, taking the best available player is only a good idea for the first two to three rounds. After that, the chances shoot up almost exponentially (at least if the exponent is two) that you'll pick a player who won't help your team win. That's right. When you're picking players for H2H, you can get guys who won't help your team win. How does that happen?

In the most common nine-category format of H2H, you only need to win five of the nine categories to have a winning record each week. If your team can handle that and win an extra category or two against the weaker teams in the league, the odds are in your favor that you'll get to the H2H playoffs where a 5-4 win means you advance. And that's all that matters in H2H.

So, how do you draft to make sure you get those five categories week for 20+ weeks? The current prevailing wisdom dictates that you draft either a Big Ball or Small Ball team. The Small Ball strategy consists of loading up on Points Guard types who will dominate categories like Points, Assists, Steals, Three-pointers Made, and FT%. That right there is enough to get your five of nine categories. And that's the whole idea.

If you like the big guys, you'll want to go with the opposite of small-ball and load up your roster with guys who will win Points, Rebounds, Blocks, FG%, and TOs (because they don't really handle the ball).

There are, of course, exceptions: LeBron James' major strengths are Points, Assists, Steals, and Rebounds; Rasheed Wallace makes a significant number of three-pointers, even for a Center; Tony Parker is a Point Guard who doesn't make a lot of threes and has a pretty low FT% (especially for a PG); Mehmet Okur makes threes and shoots an incredibly high FT% for a big man. You can work with and around these exceptions in two ways: 1) Draft a Center like Okur or Sheed for your Small Ball team - they're about as close a fit as you can get for Small Ball in the Center category; 2) Know which guys don't contribute to the categories that usually come with their position and avoid having them on your team.

So, now that you know the options: should you decide on your strategy before you start the draft? I would argue: most certainly not. If you only look at the first two picks this year (Chris Paul and Amare Stoudemire), then you can probably pick a strategy beforehand. If you have the first pick, then it's Paul and Small Ball, but if you're second, you take Amare and go Big. But what if you have the 6th or 7th pick in a 12-team league. You don't know who's going to be the best player left at that point. And what if you're at the end of the first round, anywhere from 10th pick on up. You're thinking maybe Allen Iverson or Baron Davis, but then, somehow Elton Brand or Dirk Nowtizki slips, and suddenly it seems like a better idea to take one of those guys and build a Big Ball team. Of course, if you get a multi-category contributor like Shawn Marion or Caron Butler, you can keep your options open and once again take the best available player in the 2nd round.

When I just said "once again take the best available player", that means in the first round all you have to do is take the best player on the board. If you get a small baller or a big baller, then you can look to get another one of those guys in second (and from there on out). If, as I said, you get a more ambigious contributor, then go ahead and wait for the second round to set the style of your team.

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Looking for a big board and position rankings? Give Me the Rock has it covered.

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2 Comments

What a weak article, i was expecting something more...I hope no one pays you to write this.

Ricky responds: Dude, click that link at the bottom. It's a google doc with player rankings for over 200 guys and position rankings. I don't know what else you want.

good advice. i'll pass this along to my friends.

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Matt Wood is a web editor for suntimes.com and editor of CenterstageChicago.com. He is also a contributor for satirical sports publication The Heckler. Have a fantasy question? E-mail him.

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This page contains a single entry by Ricky O'Donnell published on October 20, 2008 1:28 AM.

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