Saturday, October 28, 2006

FANTASY NBA: Drafting a Team That Could Almost Nearly Win Your League - Part One

By Dustin Hockensmith

So you're starting your fantasy basketball draft, and you're not real sure which direction to go with your team. Beyond the first round, there is a lot of room for projection and personal taste, and there are a number of different approaches for building your squad. I won't try to talk you out of your strategy or tell you who to pick, but I will rather give you some tips that have made me a moderately successful Fantasy NBA General Manager.

The first part of this exercise focuses on the early stages of your draft, including your plan, your opponents and your league's rules. Often overlooked, these are parts of your strategy that you must understand as well as, if not better than, the other members of your league to get off to a good start and keep the upper hand.

Your Opponents
You likely can't do anything about how or where your opponents draft, but what you can do is not let them affect your draft strategy. We all have moments during the draft when our players of choice are snatched up one pick before ours. That's inevitable, but what we can do is understand how the other players draft and what positions on their roster they need to fill.

Say, for instance, you pick eighth in the fourth round and fifth in the fifth round, and you need both a point guard and a center. Look at the two opponents who stand in your way and see which is the least likely to be taken after you pick. If both have centers on their roster, you're safer to leave a more desirable center and select a point guard. It's not quite as straightforward if there are 10 picks before your next, but you're still better off when you calculate the odds.

Your Draft Order
Knowing which pick you have as soon as that information becomes available is an easy way to get a jumpstart on your strategy. Since the first round is pretty cut and dry, you can anticipate which player you will get and which needs you will then have. Look ahead to the second, third and fourth rounds and try to find a group of three to five players that you would ideally select in those situations. What this does is establish a good, tentative framework for your team and show the options you will likely have for each of your top four picks.

How to Rank Your Players
To me, it's a waste of time to create your own set of rankings from scratch. You know who you like and who you don't like, and you know who is not listed on the rankings that you'd like to draft anyway. There are plenty of time consuming things that you can do to prepare yourself for the draft, don't get caught up in the trivial work of documenting them.

My solution instead would be to print out the rankings you like (I also find ESPN's live draft results helpful since they gauge which players' stocks have risen), highlight or star the players you like and cross out the players you will not draft. It is also very important to find the rookies who are not listed in the rankings and list them in your pre-draft rankings so they're easy to find. The bottom line: know the general vicinity of where your desired players are, and make sure you can find all of the underrated rookies that interest you.

Knowing the League Rules
Just as important as drafting good players is drafting the RIGHT players. If you know your league scoring system and know what your starting roster looks like, then you can keep the playing field level or take an advantage over some of your opponents. You also must know who is eligible for which position(s), so you can get a feel for exactly how scarce quality players are at each position.

Many leagues have standard formatting for rosters and scoring systems, so knowing them well is all that you can do. But some leagues are set up in these regards by humans, which almost always gives you an opportunity to capitalize on a flaw. In a rotisserie situation, it may be an exotic category that no one else anticipates, or in a points-based league maybe blocks are weighted too heavily. Find if or where these opportunities exist and get an edge on your opponents before the season even begins.

Part two will be released soon and include: how to make your early-round selections, how to value rookies and how to adapt to the draft and change your strategies as you go. Stay tuned to Weighed Bloggs leading up to and throughout the season for all of your sports and fantasy sports needs.

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