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How to Play Fantasy Basketball

Fantasy Basketball 101: The Basics


Top 200 Players | Point Guards | Shooting Guards | Small Forwards | Power Forwards | Centers | Team Breakdowns

Fantasy basketball is, at a high-level, a very simple game.

  1. Draft a team of NBA players
  2. Watch as their statistics accumulate over time
  3. The team with the best aggregated statistics wins
Of course, if you have any interest in actually winning a league, you might want to dig a little deeper.

Types of Leagues

There are as many configurations as there are leagues, but most fantasy NBA games fall into one of the following groups:
  1. Draft vs. Auction: In a "draft" league, owners simply take turns selecting players. Most leagues tend to use a "snake" draft format - the player who picks first in the first round picks last in the second, etc. In an auction, each team has a budget used to acquire players, and owners fill their teams by "bidding" on individual players.

  2. Rotisserie vs. Fantasy Points: In Rotisserie scoring, player stats are totaled up, then each team gets points according to its rank in a given category. For example, in an eight-team league, the team in first place in assists would get eight points, the second-place team gets seven, and the last-place team gets one. A "points" league assigns fantasy points to different statistics… a basket might be worth one point, a rebound one point, a turnover -1, etc. Rotisserie scoring is the most commonly-used format. Most fantasy NFL games use fantasy point scoring.

  3. Head to Head vs. Cumulative Scoring: In a head-to-head league, you compete against a single team for a set period of time - usually a week. Head-to-head leagues typically use fantasy point scoring systems. Cumulative leagues have scoring based on stats accumulated over the entire season - the team in first place when the season ends wins. The head-to-head format is more common in fantasy football.

  4. Daily vs. Weekly Transactions: This is a particularly important factor to consider in basketball, because game schedules aren't balanced… a given team might play two games one week and five the next. In a weekly transaction league, you could wind up with your five-game guy stuck on the bench while a two-game player enjoys his time off.

The typical default setting for a league hosted on one of the big providers - ESPN.com, Yahoo!, CBS or NBA.com - is a draft-style with rotisserie scoring and daily transactions.

Roster Composition

A typical NBA fantasy roster includes:
  • One Point Guard
  • One Shooting Guard
  • One Guard (Either point or shooting guard)
  • One Small Forward
  • One Power Forward
  • One Forward (Either small or power)
  • Two Centers
  • One or two Utility players, who can play any position
Most leagues also allow some number of bench players. Players on the bench don't count towards your team statistics; they're extras that can be moved into and out of your starting lineup as you like.

Trades and Waivers

Most leagues allow players to be traded between teams. Some might have a "trade approval" or "trade protest" option to prevent trades that are unbalanced or otherwise unfair.

Players that don't get drafted are considered "free agents" and can be picked up by teams during the season, usually on a first-come, first-served basis.

Fantasy Statistics

The statistical categories used in most fantasy basketball leagues are:
  • Points
  • Rebounds
  • Assists
  • Steals
  • Blocks
  • Three-pointers Made
  • Field Goal Percentage
  • Free Throw Percentage
The first six categories are "counting stats" - simply add up each player's total to get your team's score. The last two - field goal and free throw percentage are percentage stats… meaning your score is based on your team's total shooting percentage.

To figure your team's percentage in either category, divide the total number of shots made by the total number of attempts.

Some leagues substitute assist-to-turnover ratio for assists, while others add turnovers, three-point percentage or other categories to the mix.


In standard rotisserie-style leagues, the team with the most points at the end of the season is the winner.
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