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How To Find Value In Fantasy Basketball Auction Drafts

Often I've been asked by fantasy players if they've gotten a good value for a certain player in an auction draft, but without the person giving me an entire breakdown of their draft, I have to give my decision on if I like the pick based off of the player's perceived value. Writers often look at the player based on how they value him and not on how the actual draft valued him. This is a flawed way of looking at this question on everyone's parts.

Looking at the question from this perspective, I decided to do auction drafts based on the sole purpose of getting value on every single pick.  When I did this, I felt very similar to a character from the 20-year-old movie Rounders, Joey Knish, who said “I’m not playing for the thrill of f***ing victory here, I owe rent, alimony, child support, I play for money, my kids eat, I got stones not to chase card actions of f***ing pipe dreams of winning." To bring this back around to auction drafting just based off of value, you're not focused on saving money and getting the wins.

Here's how my recent drafts turned out.

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Auction Draft Value: The Strategy

When I went started this experiment, I went in planning to get every player below their listed value unless that listed value was one dollar, since you have to bid a dollar to get a player. The hypothesis was that I wouldn't get the top-end players because they'd end up going for more than their listed value, but my team would end up having a higher overall rank because I'd be able to outbid them in the middle and late rounds. I only drafted in 12 man category leagues so that the rules would be the same in every draft. I also tried to not punt too many categories. When I did this, I used ESPN rankings and auction values to give me a constant and to give me a reference point between the various leagues I did. The way I judged the results was which team had the higher average rank for each player.

I used average rank as a baseline stat in determining the final value of the team, since in a standard snake draft, the format means that every two rounds should feature each team ending up with the same value. For example, in a 12-team snake draft, the team picking first has the first and 24th pick, while the team picking second has the second and 23rd. Those both end up with an average of 12.5. With this logic in mind, a perfectly balanced auction draft would yield every player with the same average draft rank at the end of the draft.

There are many positives I gleaned from this exercise. For the most part, this value drafting gave me a team that would be competitive in fantasy leagues. The average rank for the nine drafts was 3.55, which means that the team that was drafted had the third-best average rank for the players on each team. In the most leagues, the top 3 are in the money and if that is the barometer for how successful a team did in fantasy than five of the nine teams had an average player rank in the top three. If the money group is expanded to the top four then seven of the nine leagues would go into the season as one of the favorites.

When expanding it out to all the leagues that were drafted the results become even more interesting. Out of all 108 teams that were drafted, my value drafted teams had an average player rank of 75.15 and the other teams drafted had an average player rank of 82.84. This means that consistently the value drafted teams had better rosters top to bottom. The downside was that the value drafted teams had an average team rank that would have ranked 58th overall out of the 108 teams drafted.


Auction Draft Strategy: The Players

When drafting in this way, you can't be afraid to become the “Island of Misfit Toys”. When I say that, I mean that some names that aren't fun to talk about can be valuable. Case in point, I drafted Denver Nuggets shooting guard/small forward Will Barton in seven of my nine leagues. He has positional flexibility in four different slots, so you don't have to marry him to any place in your roster and he helps you multiple categories. For Barton, it's three-pointers, points, and assists, and only hurts in only one category, field goal percentage. ESPN ranked Barton as the 54th best player going into the season and he was getting drafted for six dollars or less.

There are a couple of other players that also fit the title of “Misfit Toys” that I also drafted often that helped fill out my rosters in my value drafts. Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside was one of these players. I drafted Whiteside in six of my nine auction drafts. Whiteside helps in field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks and considering Whiteside is a center he only really hurts in free throws, since we can assume most centers don't make three-pointers or get many assists. I was also winning Whiteside for five dollars or less on average, and with him ranked 73rd by ESPN, this added to my value.

Denver Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris also gave me really nice value as well. I won Harris in five of my auction drafts at two dollars or less and he is ranked 56th in ESPN rankings. Harris really helped out, giving me a boost in field goal percentage, free throws, three-pointers, and steals. In a categories league Harris also only hurt me in just rebounds and blocks and that is where Whiteside's strengths come in and level out my squads.



The outcomes weren't all positive for the value drafted teams. The value drafted teams only went into the season as the favorite once. To expand it to the top-two teams in a league, the value drafted teams were only in that top-two twice. Also, only one of the value drafted teams were in the top 10 of the 108 teams drafted and only two drafted were in the top 20. While drafting in the value style, I only won a top-12 player four times, and never more than once in a single draft.

This way of drafting isn't for everyone and it also isn't perfect. The positives are that you should be competitive and that the big injuries won't destroy you because of the even dispersal of assets over your entire team. Your likelihood to leave the draft with the best team is low. In some drafts, I didn't win a player until I was over 30 minutes into the draft, so this strategy can be extremely tedious, especially since fantasy sports is supposed to be fun. All in all, it's a good strategy to try in an auction draft, but if you end up only drafting for value you'll likely be hamstringing your chances of winning it all.

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