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Fantasy Basketball Auction Draft Strategy: Stars and Scrubs

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Perhaps more than any other professional league in the world, the NBA is based around superstars. These are players you know are going to show up each and every night and produce solid all-around games. That holds even truer for fantasy basketball.  There is no need to look any further than the final per game rankings to know stars are a necessity in fantasy basketball. The top eight players from last year were Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard. Those eight players were all consensus first round (or in Lillard's case, early second round) picks in standard drafts last year.

Furthermore, if you look at a standard draft roster at the end of the year, you will see a ton of turnover at the bottom of your team. Often rounds nine and on are full of flyers and potential guys that simply do not work out, by spending up to start your draft you get top flight players while also not losing much at the back end.  Consider that players such as Jaylen Brown, Donovan Mitchell and Taurean Prince all went undrafted (meaning they should be cheap in your auctions) in many leagues last year and ended up as top 50 fantasy players.

This all leads to a common strategy in fantasy basketball auctions: the "stars and scrubs" approach. In this strategy, you invest the bulk of your money into acquiring two or three of those near-guaranteed studs at the top of the draft, then fill out the rest of your roster with cheap flyers, eschewing mid-ranked players altogether.

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Auction League Draft Strategy

Pay for consistency and health at the top of your drafts

This is especially true in roto leagues where simply playing a majority of games can provide a huge edge over injured players. No player exemplifies this more than Towns, who in three pro seasons has yet to miss a game.  He may not have the upside of a Davis or Durant, but simply being available every game is huge, and makes him perhaps the top target in your auctions.

On the other side of the coin, it is important to not overspend on stars that have been injury risks in the past. Kawhi Leonard and Joel Embiid are the two prime examples of this. Consider that Embiid has missed two full seasons and in the two seasons since has played 31 and 63 games respectively. Although 19 games missed does not seem like a ton, consider that drops his 23.1%, thus effectively dropping his totals on the year to closer to around 17 points, 9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. It is hard to predict injuries, but if you are paying up for stars, it is vital that they are consistently on the floor to help boost the value on the cheap players on the team.

Be sure your studs are multi-category producers

The other thing that stars generally provide is a good combination of stats as opposed to some of the scrub players who are more specialized. Although a player such as Andre Drummond may be elite in field goal percentage and rebounds, he is also a minus in free throw percentage, assists, and turnovers. When looking at studs to buy, be sure to target the likes of a Harden, Khris Middleton, or Victor Oladipo who contribute across the board while also not being a huge hindrance in any one category.

Where to target scrubs

The stars portion of the draft is fairly self-explanatory as you want to get the true cream of the crop, where you can differentiate yourself is selecting under-the-radar players for next to nothing who compliment your studs to perfection.

Perhaps the most important thing to look at when picking your scrubs is to find players who are a lock to receive a boost in minutes from the previous year. The three big things to look at here are the departure of a player in front of them in the rotation, an injury, or a team who is likely to tank and thus give big minutes to some of their younger players.

A good example of a player departing and opening up time is LeBron James in Cleveland. He takes with him 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists and a monster 31.6% usage rate. Although he is nowhere near him in terms of talent, Cedi Osman is the front runner to fill that position and get a majority of minutes. For a player you might get for the minimum bid, Osman averaged 12.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 three-pointers made and 1.2 steals per 36 minutes last year. Numbers very similar to Al Horford last year.

As mentioned, it is also key to target teams who may not have a ton to play for this year and thus will give their younger (and cheaper in auctions) a shot to produce.  Atlanta, Phoenix, Chicago, and Sacramento all stand out as teams that have multiple young players who are likely to get big minutes this season.

Single category studs who are otherwise scrubs

A final thing to target with your scrubs are players who can excel in on area or another. For example, we mentioned Andre Drummond before who is likely to be top 10 in terms of rebounds and field goal percentage while not providing much in other categories.  Instead of spending money on a middling player like that, simply look at a cheap player such as Elfrid Payton. The new Pelicans point guard is not a great all-around performer but could be top 15 in assists, while also contributing good field goal percentage, steals and rebounds for a guard, all for a bargain basement price.

Assuming you have a few top end stars that produce across the bar simply finding a few specialists late could easily vault you into the top of your league. Remember, fantasy basketball is a league of stars, paying for the top studs over an 82 game season is going to pay off far more than in other fantasy sports.

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