The fantasy season has already started but don’t think it’s too late to grab a team and create or join a public league. I will be going through a full fantasy strategy discussing how to build your team and what you need to do to win your Fantasy League.
I am not an expert in fantasy by any means but I have had some success in the past winning the old NBA.com Stock Exchange which is still the best fantasy game that I have ever played. I have also placed in the top 3 in the old Espn Pick One Challenge on multiple occasions but since these games are not available I will focus mainly on Roto and Head to Head Category based scoring strategy which is the common format on most sites like Espn and Yahoo.
Points based scoring is also very popular and you can use this article for that as well but please note scoring is clearly more overvalued in points based scoring so this helps more one dimensional scorers. Also 3 pointers are not recorded separately in points scoring and you have to think about turnovers as well. Many of the tips below can also be used for other games such as Yahoo's Daily Fantasy Game where you can win many cash prizes.
As you should know most fantasy category based games focus on 8 major categories, Scoring, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks, FG%, FT% and 3P%. Some of the tips may seem quite obvious but these are tips to build a team from scratch and I also want to encourage new players to give it a try. At the end of the article there will be some useful daily tips on how to change your lineup regularly and who to play on which nights.
*Any stats listed below will be from the 2017-18 season as this season has not yet reached 10 games played.
Top 10 Fantasy Players this Season
- Anthony Davis
- James Harden
- Giannis Anetetokounmpo
- Lebron James
- Steph Curry
- Kevin Durant
- Russell Westbrook
- Nikola Jokic
- Joel Embiid
- Kawhi Leonard
Honourable Mention: Damian Lillard is ballin this year and if it is a points based ranking then he would be in the top 10.
Top 5 Picks Strengths and Weaknessses:
1). Anthony Davis - Strengths:
Pts, Reb, Steals and Blocks
FT% - Excellent for Centre
Capable of Monster Games
Injury Prone – Day to Day
2). James Harden – Strengths:
Scoring, Assists and Steals
3's and FT% at high volume
Capable of Monster Games
Low FG% at high volume
Reb and Ast down (CP3)
3). Giannis Antetokounmpo –
Pts, Reb, Ast, Stls and Blks
Leads team all categories
Should play 90% of games
FT% and 3 Pointers
4). Lebron James – Strengths:
All Around Game
Not injury prone
Below Average FT%
Lack of Monster Games
Less Assists (Ball & Rondo)
5). Steph Curry – Strengths:
Scoring and FG/FT
3 Pointers (By far the best)
Monster Games….even in 3Q
Sits many 4th Quarters
Injury and Rest Concern
Blocks (expected for a PG)
*Steph Curry has started this season on fire and if he keeps it up then he is a top 3 fantasy player.
Build Around Stars that need to play a lot for their team to win.
Try to Build Around Stars that need to play a lot and play well for their team to win and this actually covers most teams except Golden State and Boston. I would stay away from all Boston players with their depth and team style of play and I think all the players in their starting lineup will be inconsistent especially in fantasy stats. Kyrie Irving is a prime example of a superstar player in real life who is nowhere near as valuable in fantasy basketball and is also injury prone so I would not recommend choosing him for your team.
Although Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are amazing fantasy choices and shoot excellent percentages as well, because of the high probability of blowouts and extra rest means I would not draft them in my top 3, but both are worthy of top 6 picks. Don't forget that Klay Thompson will have his fair share of big games and when this happens Curry and Durant are more then happy to feed him and score less. Both KD and Steph have also been slightly injury prone the last couple years and Demarcus Cousins, another top 5 fantasy player from last year will be joining to share the ball and stats. Something has to give.
Look at which players are expected to make a jump this year in production
This could be due to a young player who is expected to improve a lot (Embiid and Simmons), or possibly a player on a new team or a new environment due to a trade (ahem Kevin Love) or players in contract years or pretty good players who are forced to be the team’s clear number one option (e.g. Tobias Harris, Zach Lavine, Caris Levert, Tim Hardaway Jr).
Top 10 Players that will improve from last year:
Anthony Davis (No Cousins = More Minutes, More Space, More Shots, More Rebounds, More Assists)
Joel Embiid (Getting better and wants to be MVP)
Ben Simmons (Will improve his stats, should average a near triple double)
Kemba Walker (Contract Year and No reliable second scorer)
Tobias Harris (Entering Prime, Best Player on His Team and Contract Year)
Devin Booker (Budding Superstar who is trying to improve all around game)
Zach Lavine (Back from Injury, he will be the leading scorer on the Bulls)
Caris LeVert (Young talented player who will be the Nets go to scorer this year)
Nikola Mirotic (See Anthony Davis Above)
Javale McGee (Will Start for LA and get many minutes due to lack of Centres)
*Kevin Love was originally on this list but is currently injured.
Don’t put too much trust in rookies
Outside of the top 5 picks (Ayton, Bagley, Doncic, Jaren Jackson and Trae Young) don’t trust any rookies in your daily lineup unless you have a lot of positions to fill. I would probably only start Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Trae Young in a standard 10 to 12 team league. Rookies usually shoot a very low percentage and can be very up and down. Especially be careful playing rookies in January and February when most rookies hit the rookie wall. It does not look like there will be any sleeper pick like Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma last year so it is best to avoid them altogether.
Watch out for players on bad teams with no stars
Keep an eye on teams that don't have many well known stars. The Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings are the two best examples of teams with no established stars which forces a bunch of lesser know players into bigger roles. On Brooklyn we already discussed Caris Levert who can not only score but is a decent playmaker then can contribute in assists and other box score stats. Jarret Allen is another young player who will get more minutes and can help your team a lot in rebounding, blocks and FG!%.
Sacramento is playing at a fast pace and look very competitive early in the season which is excellent for fantasy. De'Aaron Fox can contribute in many categories and Buddy Hield has turned into a consistent 20 point scorer who shoots good percentages and gives you a lot of 3 pointers. Two other players that many fantasy players will no be familiar with is Willie Cauley Stein and Nemanja Bjelica. Cauley Stein has improved his scoring a lot and can help in rebounds but beware that he is a centre that does not block shots. After backing out of his deal with the 76ers, Bjelica has taken the Kings starting power forward position and has contributed in all categories across the board with good shooting percentages to start the season.
Zach Lavine and Tim Hardaway will be forced into leading scorer roles for the Bulls and Knicks as they don' have many other reliable scorers so if you need scoring later in the draft, these are two great options
Focus on Rebounds, Assists and Blocks
Scoring is not so important and it is much easier to find scorers so do not focus on this category. Focus on Rebounds, Assists and Blocks and if you can win these categories consistently then you will be in good shape. Look for players who average over a steal and block per game. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons have great all around games to fill up these stats and if you can find players who can fill these stats without hurting your 3s and Free Throws then get them (Players like Victor Oladipo, Draymond Green, Jrue Holiday, Eric Bledsoe, Robert Covington, Otto Porter, Josh Richardson, Danny Green, Kent Bazemore and Andre Drummond (especially if he’s making free throws and shooting 3’s!)
Players who Averaged 5+Rebounds and 5+Assists (Mostly Elite Players)
Russell Westbrook Ben Simmons (Both could average 10 of each)
Lebron James Draymond Green
James Harden Chris Paul
Steph Curry Kyle Lowry
Kevin Durant Nikola Jokic
Lonzo Ball Blake Griffin
Players who Averaged 1+ Block and 1+ Steal
Anthony Davis Giannis Antetokounmpo
Andre Drummond Draymond Green
John Wall Paul Millsap
Nikola Vucevic Steven Adams
Robert Covington Kawhi Leonard (Only 9 games)
Jonathan Isaac (This is a surprise in only 19min a game)
** Other role players who are close to 1 steal and 1 block include Jusuf Nurkic, Josh Richardson and Danny Green
Your Centre Should Rebound and Block and Your Power Forward should Rebound and Shoot 3s.
Look for Big Men that can block, rebound and shoot free throws and / or 3 pointers
You must get rebounding out of your big men. We don’t want anything to do with the Lopez brothers amazing 4 rebounds per game average last year (Brook Lopez is down to 2.3 RPG early this year!). I want 9 rebounds plus from all my bigs and power forwards that don’t block are acceptable if they can shoot 3’s (for example Blake Griffin and Nikola Mirotic), but I really want to get shot blocking from my centers. It’s almost impossible to find bigs that can do all 4 of these things but always try to get 3 out of 4 or if your big can’t shoot then he should be an elite rebounder AND shot blocker. Myles Turner is unique in that he is an elite shot blocker but does not rebound well at all, but I would still pick him as a bench player to help me win blocks.
The lists below from last season show which bigs can do a few of these categories well.
Players who Averaged 9+Reb and 1+Blocks
Anthony Davis Giannis Antetokoumpo
Karl Anthony Towns Joel Embiid
Rudy Gobert Andre Drummond
Hassan Whiteside Clint Capela
Dwight Howard Nikola Vucevic
Jusuf Nurkic Steven Adams
DeAndre Jordan *Ben Simmons may do it this year
Last year PF/C to Average 8+Reb and 1 3 Pointer
Karl Anthony Towns
Check Which Stats are Harder to Find
See which stats are more common and easy to get, and which categories are harder to find good production. For example Blocks are much harder to find then points or 3’s. Assists are also hard to find so make sure you have a couple players at least who average over 5 assists per game and preferably at least 1 player over 7/8 assists. That means not waiting too long to get an elite point guard or a passing big like Nikola Jokic or Draymond Green.
Generally speaking points and steals have many players that can help you and it’s easier to find role players that can contribute positively in 3 pointers and rebounds so you can fill up these categories later in the draft.
Guards that can rebound / block and Forwards and Centres that can assist / steal are also very valuable and can help you win these categories if you get significant contributions from their normal positions.
Top 10 Rebounding Guards
Russell Westbrook 10.1 Ben Simmons 8.1
Lonzo Ball 6.9 Dejounte Murray 5.7*
Kyle Lowry 5.6 James Harden 5.4
Chris Paul 5.4 Jimmy Butler 5.3
Victor Oladipo 5.2 Steph Curry 5.1
*Dejounte Murray is injured for the season
Top 10 Passing Forwards / Centers
Lebron James 9.1 Draymond Green 7.3
Nikola Jokic 6.1 Blake Griffin 5.8
Nicolas Batum 5.5 Kevin Durant 5.4
Giannis Antetokounmpo 4.8 Joe Ingles 4.8
Al Horford 4.7 Marc Gasol 4.2
Top 10 Guards in Blocks
Danny Green 1.14 John Wall 1.1
Josh Richardson 0.93 Ben Simmons 0.86
Andre Roberson 0.9 Lonzo Ball 0.83
Jrue Holiday 0.79 Victor Oladipo 0.76
Dwyane Wade 0.7 James Harden 0.69
Pay attention to attempts not just %
For shooting percentages, don’t just look at the actual % as volume is more important. A player shooting 80% from the free throw line but gets there 10 times a game will help your free throw % much more than a role player who shoots 90% but only averages 1 free throw a game. Of course this works both ways so a player with a very low FT% or FG% will not hurt you that much so don’t worry so much about low percentages if the attempts are low. If a role player is really good at blocks for example but is not a good free throw shooter then I would still play him as long as he doesn’t have more than 4 free throw attempts per game. Below are some high volume shooters that can really help you to win or lose these categories.
10 High Volume High FG% Players (Win your Roto or H2H FG%)
Nikola Jokic Lebron James
Karl Anthony Towns Ben Simmons
Anthony Davis Giannis Antetokoumpo
Kevin Durant Dwight Howard
Julius Randle Stephen Curry
10 High Volume High FT% Players (Win your Roto or H2H FT%)
James Harden Kevin Durant
Damien Lillard Stephen Curry
Lou Williams Devin Booker
Kevin Love Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard Demar Derozan
10 High Volume Low FG% Players (These Players will really hurt your FG%)
Dennis Smith Jr. Carmelo Anthony
Tim Hardaway Jr. Eric Gordon
Paul George Lou Williams
Devin Booker Russell Westbrook
Reggie Jackson Damian Lillard
For High Volume low FT%, the main culprit is Dwight Howard who can single-handedly lose this category for you. Other players to watch out for that have less attempts then Howard include Ben Simmons, Deandre Jordan, Clint Capela, Steven Adams and Andre Drummond (although he has improved a lot).
You can judge whether you can afford to have one of these poor free throw shooters on your team based on who else you have picked earlier. Obviously if you have James Harden or Damian Lillard bumping up your FT% then you can take that chance to try and win rebounding while still having a chance to win free throws. Likewise if you select Ben Simmons early then try and compensate by selecting a few (not just one or two) really good free throw shooters. Lou Williams is a great lower pick that can help your free throws a lot if needed.
Have a Balanced Team
Try to have 3 players who are eligible for every position. There is nothing worse than a player getting injured and you realizing his backup is not worth playing but you have to play him because of position eligibility. There will be times during the season when your team will have multiple injuries forcing you to bench a much better player because of position eligibility. So if you can’t decide between two stars or any two players then you can see who is eligible for multiple positions to make your choice. Try to aim for at least 5 players with multi position eligibility including 1 top player.
Try to get an elite forward as they are harder to find later in the draft and this year especially the Power Forward talent pool is much lower than Guards and Centres so don't leave it too late to fill in your Power Forward position. The best strategy is to pick shooting guards that can also play small forward and centres that can play power forward to give you extra flexibility. Players that can play both forward positions are extremely valuable but there are not many of these players outside the top 3 guys (Lebron, Giannis, KD) so players like Kyle Kuzma and Danilo Gallinari (eligible at both SF and PF) could be quite valuable later in the draft.
Top Players with Multiple Position Eligibility (Based on Espn)
G.Antetokounmpo PF/SF Anthony Davis PF/C
James Harden PG/SG Lebron James SF/PF
Kevin Durant SF/PF Ben Simmons PG/SF
Demar Derozan SG Jimmy Butler SG/SF
Lamarcus Aldridge PF/C Kevin Love PF/C
Jrue Holiday PG/SG Draymond Green PF/C
Some Good Role Players with Multi Position Eligibility:
Julius Randle PF/C Luka Doncic SG/PF
Kyle Kuzma SF/PF Andrew Wiggins SG/SF
Will Barton SG/SF D’Angelo Russell PG/SG
Jaylen Brown SG/SF Tim Hardaway Jr. SG/SF
Carmelo Anthony SF/PF Nicolas Batum SG/SF
Rudy Gay SF/PF Danilo Gallinari SF/PF
Derrick Favors PF/C Caris Levert SF/SG
Josh Richardson SG/SF Evan Fournier SG/SF
Serge Ibaka PF/C Domantas Sabonis PF/C
*DoubleCheck the above list depending on what league you are joining. For example in yahoo there are some differences such as Nikola Jokic eligible to be a PF which makes a big difference considering the lack of elite Power Forwards.
Watch out for injury prone players
There are a few different types of injury prone players but many of them can make or break your season. Anthony Davis is the biggest question mark as he could and probably should be the top fantasy player this year but he always seems to get these niggling injuries to all parts of his body. The worst part is many of the injuries occur during the early part of the game so you can’t even sub him before the game starts.
Then there are guys who are seemingly healthy like Kevin Duarnt but actually have missed significant games in the past few years. Players like Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Kevin Love, John Wall always seem to have their season cut short because of an unexpected injury. Then there are players that play too damn hard that they always get small injuries (Looking at you Jimmy Butler, only played 70+games twice in 7 years) and some guys who are just simply too old now (Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol), so best to stay away from these older players.
Top 20 Injury Prone Players Beware
Anthony Davis Kevin Durant
Kyrie Irving Chris Paul
John Wall Jimmy Butler
Kevin Love Blake Griffin
Jrue Holiday Isaiah Thomas
Mike Conley Eric Bledsoe
Danilo Gallinari Reggie Jackson
Rajon Rondo Dirk Nowitzki
Pau Gasol Tyson Chandler
George Hill Derrick Rose
Look for players on waivers after the draft
It is best to do this right after the draft just to make sure you do have the best team available especially position wise. Some decent players usually available on waivers:
Derrick Rose (Points and Assists)
Nemanja Bjelica (Everything)
Justin Holiday (Steals and 3s)
Jae Crowder (Rebounds and 3s)
Cedi Osman (Bit of Everything)
J.J. Barea (Assists)
Bobby Portis (Rebounds and Blocks)
T.J Warren (Pts and 3s)
Danny Green and Josh Hart (Both 3’s steals and blocks),
There will be times during the season when random players get an opportunity and get hot for a while so try to check most box scores and keep updated
Keep an eye out especially for any player injuries and see who is taking their minutes. If a star player is injured then the secondary option will suddenly be forced to do much more and the star should have a backup who will suddenly get big minutes. Sometimes if a starting position is up for grabs and one of the players is injured then the other will look to perform extra well to get the starting job. Especially watch out for players in contract years that need to get good stats to get a new contract.
8 Extra Bonus Tips if you are Changing Lineups Daily:
If you are changing lineups regularly and need to decide which days to take certain players or if you have two similar players and you don’t know which one to play then you can see some suggestions below:
1). Pick players on good teams when they are playing away or playing challenging teams at home. Pick players on bad teams when they are playing at home and only pick them away if they are playing equally bad teams. Two evenly matched teams are ideal to pick unless they are defensive minded teams.
2). Pick players who are playing against the Lakers, Pelicans, Spurs, Blazers, Wolves, Wizards, Kings, Suns, Bulls, Mavs, Cavs, Hawks and Rockets (unless they get Jimmy Butler). For the really bad teams on this list such as Atlanta, Dallas, Cleveland, Chicago and Phoenix, beware playing players on really good teams against them as there is a good chance it will be a blowout, especially if the good team is at home.
3). Try to avoid picking against the Celtics who have the league’s best defense as well as great individual defenders and a great coach that will make it very difficult for individual players to have good games.
4). Other teams to avoid picking against include the Grizzlies, Pacers, Bucks, Nuggets, Heat, Raptors, Jazz, Clippers and Warriors. Teams like the Grizzlies, Pacers, Bucks, Raptors and Heat play a more grind out game with very good defenders so it is best to avoid these teams especially on the road. Good teams like the Jazz and Nuggets have very difficult buildings to play in with the altitude and crowd and there is always a good chance of a blowout. Especially be wary of any player playing the second night of a back to back in Denver as many teams get run out of the building. Picking against the Warriors is not smart for the obvious reason that you could get blown out and only have 3 quarters of bad stats.
5). Keep an eye on the general schedule so any second night of back to backs and any 3 games in 4 days or 5 games in 7 days. Also keep watch for long road trips when the last couple games the players are usually tired and can’t perform to their best.
6). Look at the individual matchup more than the team matchup. So if you are thinking about picking a player against a particular team, then check who will be guarding that player. For example I wouldn’t pick any small forward against the Raptors for the simple reason that Kawhi Leonard a former Defensive Player of the Year will be guarding him. So if the player guarding your player is elite defensively then be careful, even if his team allows a lot of points. Some players I would try to avoid picking against include Rudy Gobert, Robert Covington, Draymond Green, Anthony Davis, Aron Baynes, Jusuf Nurkic, Joel Embiid, Hassan Whiteside, Victor Oladipo and Jimmy Butler. Same goes the other way, a team could be great on defense but maybe 1 out of 5 of the players is not good on defense so you can target that player's position (e.g picking only point guards against Kyrie Irving and the Celtics).
7). Look at who is injured and who is getting their minutes. This point is already touched on earlier but if you are playing a daily game like Yahoo’s Daily Fantasy Game then you must be checking the daily boxscores and injury reports. Website www.rotoworld.com has great updates on injuries and any good or surprising performances. The best strategy for Yahoo’s Daily Fantasy Game is to try and have 2 stars in your daily budget and then fill up the cheaper slots with cheap role players who have been given a chance to play big minutes. If you do this then you must change your team frequently as the role players may only have a couple games in and then they will be back to the bench. The key to winning is to have updated information on which role players are playing well and have quick response to change the players that are hot that particular week. Then make your final pick based on schedule and matchups as outlined above.
8). Don't worry if a star has a bad game. If a great player has a bad game don't get discouraged as usually his next game will be above average. For role players watch out for bad games and slumps as this could be an ongoing situation where a confidence or personal issue is causing the bad performances.
So there you have it! The Ultimate Fantasy Basketball Guide for drafting your team and winning your fantasy league! Check back again soon for more updates as the new season unfolds. Don't forget to follow our Facebook and Instagram to see more tips, updates on our blog and our NBA Player of the Day. (Click on the Facebook and Instagram Icons at the Bottom of this page).