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5 Fantasy Basketball Tips I Wish I Knew Before My First Draft

Dave Sun makes his FantraxHQ debut with some fantasy basketball tips for those who may be new to the game.

I still remember the feeling. That anticipation that keeps you up at night, and distracts you during the day. Fantasies and daydreams of drafting the ultimate fantasy basketball line up and… as MJ once put it, just “dominating’ your opponents. All season long, right?

Sadly, things didn’t work out so well for me in that first draft experience. I drafted Hall of Fame players. I drafted players with high collector card value. I drafted players for the jerseys I owned and the posters I loved until I had a team full of names that I was so proud of. Needless to say, my fantasy team that season sucked. Big time.

In this article, we’ll take a look at five fantasy basketball tips and fundamentals that would have saved me seven months of pain and shame, and should help you nail your 2019-20 fantasy basketball draft.

What?! You didn’t host last year’s fantasy basketball league on Fantrax? Inconceivable!! Check out all the features of Fantrax Fantasy Basketball Commissioner and we’re pretty sure you’ll come around to our way of thinking.

Fantasy Basketball Tips To Nail Your Draft… Every time!

1. Know Your rules. Check Your Rankings.

It’s not rocket science, but it may surprise you how many fantasy basketball team owners neglect this basic step. Is your league 8 categories or 9? Is it a head-to-head league or points league? And what about those Roto leagues? A player’s ranking and therefore his value to your team can vary greatly depending on your league rules. Last season you could find Russell Westbrook ranked #1 or thereabouts in points leagues or leagues that don’t count field goal percentage or turnovers. But in standard 9 category leagues his value and rank might not have even made the first round. So, know your rules, check your specific league rankings (these are found or imported directly into your Fantrax league home), and pick accordingly!

2. Draft The Best Player Available (but don’t forget positions!)

This is another no-brainer, and it’s definitely a characteristic you’ll notice when you analyze most championship fantasy basketball teams. They’re strong at every position. Most leagues require you set a starting line up with players at each of the traditional basketball positions; Point Guard (PG), Shooting Guard (SG), Small Forward (SF) Power Forward (PF) and Centre (C). Then you will set an active number of utility players (these can be defined differently on different platforms, so again… see tip 1. above!).

It pays to take a look at your leagues draft rankings, and be aware of what could be a shortage or oversupply of positional availability. Are there plenty of good PGs available (later) in the middle rounds? If so, try and target quality big men early in the draft. Or, if you draft top guards with your early picks, be aware of which bigs are available in the rounds that follow, and don’t leave your run too late when it comes to filling your position slots with higher value picks. In most cases, you will find it hard to compete for your league’s fantasy playoffs if your average ranking at each position isn’t high enough. This goes for your bench too!

3. Be Aware Of Offseason Trades And Roster Movements.

Keeping this tip in mind can give you a sneaky advantage over your competition. Fantasy basketball value and success is affected by one characteristic and statistic that you won’t find as a category in many (if any) leagues. “Opportunity” is the characteristic, and “usage” is the stat. I’m referring to the amount of time a player gets the ball in his hands that results in the production of one or more fantasy stats (we’ll look at usage in more detail in a future article). Last season, Tobias Harris presented a great case for why this matters. Harris moved from the Pistons to the Clippers, both teams that provided him with high usage and plenty of opportunity as one of the top 3 scoring options on those teams.

Later, when Harris was traded to the 76ers, he became the fourth or fifth option with the ball in his hands and his fantasy value dropped (Harris finished the season seventh in usage at Philly). Look out for players who have moved on to new teams where they will have more opportunity and/or greater usage, or for players whos’ opportunity/usage will increase because a higher usage go-to player on their team has left. This isn’t always positionally based though. Sometimes, a pure scorer gets more usage, opportunity and more minutes on his team because he’s the next best option, after all at the end of the game it’s the team with the most points that wins. Sheer playing time results in “more” fantasy value, particularly when it comes to the counting stats; points, assists, rebounds, threes, steals and blocks.

4. Consider Injury Risk

In the high impact environment of NBA basketball, injury can be a risk to any player at any time. However, some players have a history of being “injury prone.” If a player is consistently missing games every season due to repetitive injury or the inevitable ravages of time and age, then that is going to hurt your team. Try to avoid drafting these players in the early rounds. DeMarcus Cousins was a good case in point, last season. Punters who drafted “Boogie” at his pre-injury value of round one or two, (hopefully nobody) would have been disappointed. If you picked him after round 6 then in most leagues you got a reasonable return. The lesson to be learned here is when a player is reported to be returning from injury, he could have some “upside” if you can predict his value and draft him late enough. What’s “upside”? I’m glad you asked…

5. Draft For Upside In Later Rounds.

Well, actually the most successful team owners are looking to draft upside at every round. Upside is the value that a player may return to you that is higher than their draft position. If I draft Kawhi Leonard at pick 12 and he finishes the season fifth in my league rankings, we could say he had a fantasy upside of seven positions or one round. In the back half of last season, Javale McGee could be picked up off the waiver wire and finished the season ranked in the top 10 after the All-Star break (depending on your league’s categories, of course). That’s an 11-round upside in a standard 12-team league! Mostly you’re looking to draft high upside players from around round 7-8 onwards as this can make a huge difference to your team’s overall fantasy value if these picks perform 1-3 rounds each higher than their draft position. We’ll dig deeper into this in a later article.

But Always… Have Fun!

So, there you have it. Never forget these five fundamentals and you’ll position your team to succeed, and position your self to go to sleep happy all season long!

Got some more fantasy basketball tips? Tweet me @absolutesun or share your questions, or ideas for future articles, below in the comments.

Also, check out our early 2019-20 Fantasy Basketball Rankings!

Dave is a weekend fantasy pro, passionate about the NBA and convinced that you don’t have to sacrifice your day job and life responsibilities to compete in your fantasy league.

Fantrax was one of the fastest-growing fantasy sites of 2018 and we’re not slowing down in 2019! With multi-team trades, designated commissioner/league managers, and drag/drop easy click methods, Fantrax is sure to excite the serious fantasy sports fan – sign up now for a free year at

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