NBA

A Winner’s Guide to Fantasy Basketball

Gabe Botero | September 18th, 2019 

Fantasy basketball season is almost upon us and if you’re like anyone playing in the leagues that I’ve won in the past (humble flex, I’m cool with bragging about the one thing I’m good at),  you want to know how I chose some of the players that I did. Did I go for big names? Did I pick players who no one knows? How many of X position players did I choose? The questions go on and on and on so let’s dive right in. These are my guidelines for picking the best roster you can possibly pick in any of your leagues.

Draft your franchise player.

This is exactly like it sounds. If you were the owner of a team and you could have your pick of any player in the league that would benefit the entirety of the team the most, pick said player. You look at the top players in the league. My favorite picks are the MVP candidates of the previous years (Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, or Paul George). Other good options are Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns. Notice that most of these players are not centers? There’s a reason that people view them as the best and it’s because they help everywhere on the court.

Then pick a center and proceed to pick a lot.

I would pick three centers with your first five picks. While everyone else is picking up their favorite point guards, pick up some centers. Let me ask you some questions. What shot has a higher success rate: a dunk/layup or a three-point jump shot? Which player typically has more dunks or layups in a game: centers or point guards? The closer you get to the basket; the higher percentage shot your player will have which means they get points that help you win.

It’s a no brainer. I draft Rudy Gobert every single year and his performance consistency goes up throughout the season. Top centers for me in no particular order are Gobert, Towns, Nikola JokicNikola Vucevic, Marc Gasol, Myles Turner, Joel Embiid, Al Horford. Starting centers usually get you the most points, so pay attention to the rotations. If a center that you picked is not doing to well the coach may shift them to coming off the bench which opens the door to another center that may be on the waivers that you can pick up.

Look for the single threat options on some of the lower-tier teams.

You’ll want to look for teams that have only one option on offense or defense. It’s hard sometimes to gauge defensive presence so if you’re new to fantasy basketball focus on looking for leaders of teams that you would expect to be in the lottery this year. A favorite of mine in times past was Kemba Walker. He was literally the only consistent offensive option on the Charlotte Hornets and each of my teams benefitted from having him on my team.

Since he’s moved on to Boston, I’ll have to look for another source of points. There are plenty of options though. This year I think I might target some Chicago Bulls players, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, and a certain Lithuanian center recently located to Memphis. Another good option to have is Steven Adams, especially now that he’s going to be able to get every rebound for the Oklahoma City Thunder. A lot of their key rotational players have been traded or signed with another team leaving a lot of room for him to really grow his game.

Don’t be baited by shooters.

If they can be hot, then they can be cold. Remember when Klay Thompson went through that terrible shooting slump last year? If you don’t, I do because I had him on my team. But of course, as soon as I trade him, he finds his rhythm again. Just my luck. Understanding that shooters will shoot as much as they can is both good and bad for your team. Russell Westbrook shot as much as he could and it was brick after brick for a while, he never got out of his slump.

Brook Lopez said that his coach has given him a carte blanche when it comes to shooting so be wary of picking him as well. Focus on Bojan Bogdanovic or Bogdan Bogdanovic if you are so desperate for a shooter. Both are very efficient and recently Bogdan has been an inferno of offensive firepower at the FIBA World Championships. But as I said above, that could all change in an instant.

Read the injury report.

Minutes matter and this could affect later on if they get enough time on the court to get you some points. During the season, players get injured. It happens. Sometimes it’s a couple of days but sometimes it’s a couple of weeks. It could be an injury that keeps coming back. Read the report. See what the doctors have to say. If the player has a history of injuries, this may be a big red flag.

Older players tend to have less playing times, except LeBron.

This could also limit their chances to get points for you. The older they are the more load management they will have to deal with. As players get further into their seasons, they will undoubtedly play fewer minutes and take your points away from you. With this comes typically comes with more injuries. Use your thinking cap. Some are worth it! I’m looking at you, LeBron James. Mr. Taco Tuesday himself is considered to one of the greatest to play the game because he takes exceptional care of his body which results in him being able to play an unfathomable amount minutes considering how many years he’s been in the league. He’s usually gone by the time you look at older players so make your decision early.

Think about new offseason additions and will this take away from the amount that they can earn.

I have spent way too many waking hours thinking about how Westbrook and Harden will play together in this upcoming season. Statistically, I have a feeling that both of their point accumulation options will lessen. They are also pretty stubborn so anticipate one of them, if not both, not sharing the ball. I also think about the Jazz. Typically Donovan Mitchell is a great pickup for your team because he was a force to be reckoned with. But to help them get into the finals this year, the team added both Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic which might take his opportunity to score and lessen it. Only time will tell. He’ll still be able to get point via rebounds and assists and steals so not all hope is lost.

The reports that the analysts give will almost always be more positive than negative.

Use your own judgment on the reports. It’s impossible to predict the future though we all try. Injuries could happen, suspensions could happen, and poor performance could even be a recurring theme with the players they might “analyze” into having an absolutely fantastic year. In some cases, you may not even get an outlook into the player’s upcoming season so take five minutes an think about that player and how they could potentially hurt or help your team.

Efficiency matters!

Most leagues deduct points for turnovers and missed shots. A player amid a shooting slump can sometimes get you negative points! This has both saved me from losing both also caused me to lose a couple of games in the past years. Another reason that you want a lot of centers as they tend to lead the league in efficiency rating.

The following players are guys whom I have opinions on based on the years passed that I have played fantasy basketball. I’m not good at seeing the future so take this with a grain of salt. Players that have been bad in the past may end up being great this year and vice versa.

Players that have never served me well: Hassan Whiteside, Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, George Hill, Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Chris Paul, Lonzo Ball, Jaylen Brown.

Big sleepers: Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Julius Randle, J.J. Redick, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Jonas Valanciunas, Derrick Favors.

Any fantasy sport is fun to play but remember: it’s all about winning. If you follow these simple guidelines you should be able to at least place in your league but let’s be honest, no one can really predict how things go in the crazy world of the NBA.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

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