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NBA Draft Room 101: Fantasy Basketball Strategies - Keys to Building a Contending Roster

Steph curry NBA dfs lineup picks daily fantasy basketball advice

Ask anybody that plays a fantasy sport what the best part of the season really is, and most of them will say it's the draft itself. Almost all of us know why too. Not unlike when you were a kid and got to be a captain for dodgeball on the playground, picking your own team is fun.

Taking ownership in your own roster creation, for whatever it may be, is incredibly satisfying. Half the reason people participate in so many mock drafts is not for draft preparation. They do it because it's just plain fun.

That said, the draft itself is also a crucial couple of hours. It could literally make or break your entire season. If you're here to get a little guidance as a beginner, or you just want to get some help to fix your own draft strategy, below you'll find some tips to keep in mind for before, during, and after your next fantasy basketball draft.

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Pre-Draft: Know the Rules and Know the Format

Fantasy leagues can have a lot of different settings. Make sure you know exactly what kind of game you’re trying to win here. Know the differences between snake drafts and auctions, default scoring and custom scoring, redraft leagues and keeper leagues, head-to-head and roto, points and categories, etc.

There's a big difference between competing in a points league versus competing in a category league. Your championship roster may look a certain way in one, and very different in the other. In a points league, it's easier to identify the best players. You're basically taking the guys who average more fantasy points per game. Position only matters when it comes to starting lineup requirements.

On the flipside, in category leagues, your focus is on the actual raw numbers each player provides in the specific categories your league uses. A valuable category player who excels in blocks and steals may not get you a lot of fantasy points to be worthy of a pick in a points league.

Something else to know before the draft is your league's starting positions. Does your league force you to start two centers? If so, it may affect how you draft, depending on the number of teams.

Speaking of, the number of teams and number of roster spots will give you an idea of how far down the player list you will want to familiarize yourself with. If your league has 12 teams and each team has 14 roster spots, that's 168 players getting drafted. This means it's not just the exceptional players you're dealing with, but many of the reserves as well.

Another important league setting to keep in mind is whether or not it has any kind of keeper element to it. Will you have the opportunity to hang on to any of your roster in future seasons? If not, then you're only drafting for this season so player age doesn't really matter.

Keeper and dynasty leagues obviously value the younger players much more. This setting will influence the way you draft your team, particularly in the mid to late rounds once your team starts to fill out, giving you a good idea of whether you will be competing this season or building to dominate in the future.

Once you know your league settings inside and out, it's time to dive in to the world of the NBA. Familiarize yourself with updated team depth charts, listen to fantasy basketball podcasts, follow the right Twitter handles, and do some mock drafts. If you have certain players you’re targeting, mock drafts can give you a great idea of how long you might be able to wait to draft them when the time comes.

One more thing: Have an opinion. Give yourself some credit and attempt to make your own player rankings and/or tiers based on what you think, and not just what everyone else is saying. Two secondary stats that you should focus on are minutes and usage. Those both translate to opportunity. A player can’t help you if they aren’t on the floor, and they won’t help much on the floor if they don’t touch the ball. An advanced stat to study is the Per-36 Minutes numbers.


Draft Night

Your preparation is done, and now the fun begins. The first thing to focus on is your draft spot. During the countdown leading up to your draft starting, now is the time to begin forecasting exactly who you may be able to get in the first two rounds, and how those two potential players might form the base of your team build, particularly in a category league.

The middle of the draft is where you'll be targeting players who can fill in those gaps your team might still have, while also starting to take their overall upside into consideration. The later you get in the draft, the more you can consider taking chances on a flyer rather than the safe bet. This is because during the season, the worst one or two players on your roster will become your streaming spots in most weeks anyway, meaning you will likely be replacing them often.

The NBA is still a guard-heavy league right now, and I've found that over the past several years, getting a decent point guard off the waiver wire during the middle of the season has been much easier than finding a decent power forward or center to help with those categories that are typically reliant on the big guys.

Certain spots in the draft may yield certain advantages to you later on, two of which are the second pick or the second-to-last pick (assuming it’s a snake draft). Whenever the wraparound is nearing, and you have two picks coming up that sandwich the back-to-back picks for Team Ramrod, studying their roster build may give you a slight edge in your next choice.

As a category league example, if you see that Team Ramrod looks to be punting blocks, you may be able to hold off on grabbing that blocks specialist you've been targeting until after Team Ramrod's back-to-back picks. This move allows you to grab a different player first, and still likely end up with your specialist on the wraparound.

Another example: it’s later in the draft and your league has max position limits. Team Ramrod already has the maximum allowable centers on their team. The wraparound is coming and you have targeted a center. At this point you know that center will still be available. So, just like the first example, you might as well wait until after the wraparound comes to grab him.

These opportunities don't always show itself but it just might for you, so it’s something to always keep an eye on if you happen to draft in one of those two spots.

Self-awareness can be important during the draft as well. Knowing that you might overvalue your favorite players on your favorite team can help prevent a premature homer pick. More often than not, it is going cost you the championship. A homer pick is a Warriors fan drafting both of the Splash brothers in the first and second rounds, passing up on a second-round fantasy stud like Trae Young or Donovan Mitchell.

Drafting Steph Curry there is still okay. Drafting Klay Thompson there is not. You're going to get your three-pointers but you just lost out on a ton of other value you could have gotten later. Nobody else in your league is taking Thompson that early, so he’s going to be available for you in round three, and round four, and round five. This example might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea. A successful draft includes finding the value in every choice, and your early homer pick is rarely going to be as valuable come playoff time.


Post-Draft : The Work's Not Over Yet

Okay, so your team is filled with all the right guys and it’s time for the season to start. I love draft night just as much as anyone else, but these post-draft days leading up to opening night are just as exciting. You’re drooling over your team, convinced that this is going to be the year these guys take you all the way.

Well, unfortunately, the team you’re currently looking at will most likely not be the team you’re using when trying to clinch a spot in the playoffs in week 19. It's a long season and your roster can change substantially throughout. You'll want to stay on top of things like injury updates, player minutes, and Kyrie Irving drama, to name a few, in order to minimize risk as well as ride the hot hand of a waiver wire player who is spot starting this week.

Be patient but don't be stubborn. Be willing to let go of players who aren’t giving you exactly what you visualized at the start, whether by trade or just waivers.

For category leagues, keep an eye on how well or poorly you are doing in certain categories. If you’re dominating your opponent in assists every week by 100, remember that's the same as beating them by 12 assists, so find a category you might need to improve in and make a move to balance it out. Always look ahead at scheduling, and if you can afford it, make moves early to plan out your matchup for the upcoming week.

There are many ways to be successful in fantasy basketball, and this doesn't cover all of them, but hopefully, you can take all of this and at least apply some of it to your upcoming fantasy season.

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