September 21, 2019, 10:10 pm
Wow. It’s definitely been a while since I’ve done one of these Head to Head (H2H) strategy pieces. Frankly, I don’t really know where to start. There’s a lot of information out there. You know, Tips and Tricks, Dos and Don’ts and the like. So I wind up asking myself, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? The likely answer to that is “Nothing.”
That said, I’ve been playing fantasy basketball since 2003 and over the years I’ve tuned, re-tuned and fine-tuned my personal strategies for playing H2H. So, I’ve decided to share with you my personal list of reminders before the draft, during the season and of course, the fantasy playoffs.
Know Your League’s Settings
I know this sounds like I’m kicking a dead horse here, as this statement as been repeated over and over. There’s a reason for that. It’s important.
Different settings have a huge impact on your draft. For example, “Daily vs. Weekly” roster change settings. I’ve said this a lot of times before, there is a whole galaxy of difference between these two settings.
In Daily, ALL of your players need to be play-ready and healthy because all of your team’s roster spots (even the bench) get cycled through the week and your bench guys get on the floor, so to speak.
In Weekly changes, you set your starters for the week and go. This makes bench slots closer to real bench slots. You only need active and healthy players equal to the number of starters. You can stash injured guys on your bench, effectively expanding your number of IL slots, to a certain degree.
Does your league have a move limit? If so, what is it? Put that number on a frickin’ Post-It note and stick it above the eye-level of your monitor. Keep track. If you’re aggressive in working the wire, like me, you can burn through these moves by December. Few things are more sour in this world than watching your Finals matchup go down the drain because you’re out of moves and your opponent, who had like 20 moves left, streams his way to edge out your superior-valued team. It’s happened to me before.
ALWAYS Pre-rank in the Platform
This is something I do pre-draft for my leagues, whether it be Roto or H2H. It’s a nightmare to get a brief power or internet fluctuation, only for you to return to the draft room and see that your brief absence caused you to select an injured player whom you weren’t able to exclude. Horrifying.
While I am a strong proponent of pre-ranking, remember to always toggle to the platform’s rankings during the draft, it gives you a view of what/who your room is looking at and expecting.
I used to be a mock draft beast, doing anywhere between 20 to 50 before my league’s actual draft. I sometimes like to run my pre-draft rankings and leave it on auto-pick. If I’m happy with the roster that gets emailed to me, then I know I’ve ranked my guys correctly.
In full disclosure, I’ve had less time to do mock drafts in recent seasons. After a dismal performance last season in fantasy, I vowed to get back on that mock-drafting wagon once again.
They’re good because they help you keep up to date with the pulse of the market. Real-ish ADPs. Who is being reached for, who are the players who tend to fall, who are being ignored, at what rounds to do I need to reach for my high-value targets? All of those answers come in mock drafts.
Draft to Win, Not to Dominate
Punt or build a balanced team? That’s seemingly an age-old question that I often get asked. My short answer, especially in recent seasons, is balanced over punt. Punting helps you become more competitive or even dominant in five to six categories, a goal we strive to achieve for the playoffs.
My logic though, is that going 5-4 every week won’t necessarily get you into the playoffs, especially in a competitive league. You need a handful of 6-3 or even 7-2 results to comfortably qualify. Also, if your league has a bye week for the top-2 seeds, you only get to the top of the mountain if you pile on those wins during the regular season. Bye weeks are priceless. Come the playoffs, anything goes and I’ve seen enough top seeds get knocked off in the first round of the playoffs (without bye weeks) that it’s unimaginable not strive to get those byes when they’re available.
IF you do decide to punt, because it’s also a widely accepted strategy, be sure to punt just one category if possible and that the categories you’ve chosen to compete in are VERY strong.
Playoff Schedules Matter
A lot of people tweak their pre-draft valuations to favor players who are on teams that have the most possible games in the playoffs. It does help. There are simply too many injuries and games missed due to load management that it’s become harder and harder to squeeze out more games for those key weeks.
To a certain extent, it’s a counting game and more games translate to more stats generated. On that note, it’s not an absolute, which brings me to my next reminder…
Don’t Ignore Percentages and Turnovers
They ARE categories too. It’s become far too easy to ignore them, but that’s just asking for trouble. Shooting percentage-based or percentage-focused builds tend to be more injury-resilient. Games played don’t matter as much. If you think about it, winning free throw shooting percentage in a week has exactly the same value and impact as winning, say, blocks.
Efficient players tend to be the more boring ones and get ignored in drafts quite often. So, if you’re focused on that, they will easily fall into your lap when it’s your turn to pick.
Obviously, do not ignore counting cats as well. There are more of them, after all. On that note…
Prioritize Warm Bodies
Over the last 4-5 seasons, injuries have become a plague that’s ravaged the NBA at an alarming rate.
Prioritize durability, or at least juxtapose it with overall value when assessing players. Think of Games Played as an actual category you have to take into account. That’s why it’s also important to peruse value based on totals and not just per-game production alone.
During the season, do heavy research on a player’s injury and take note of timelines. Because in those aforementioned leagues with daily roster changes, an injured player is simply dead weight while he’s on your roster. Do the math and see how long you can stay afloat missing 3-4 games a week due to his injury. If it’s too much, learn to cut bait. His “fantasy playoff value” won’t mean squat if you can’t get there because his missed games hurt you to the point that you fall out of the cutoff.
Balance Potential and Proven Value
More and more, I’ve noticed that highly competitive managers are so lathered up with so much information nowadays that they tend to reach for players based on potential. Just because you think you know Player X will deliver second-round value, it doesn’t mean you have to get him there.
Sometimes it’s good to value pick, especially considering we’re now in a culture of reaching. Players with proven track records fall in drafts because they get bumped down by hype guys and fan-favorites.
Simply put, do not overpay for a player’s potential. Pay retail for proven value, but of course get it cheaper where and when you can.
Moves Per Week
Some leagues have a limit on moves per week. Sometimes you need them, sometimes you don’t. If you do have a “streaming slot” on your roster, consider saving that last move for the week to get a player who has four games the NEXT week. Plan ahead, if you can, and don’t get tunnel vision on the week in focus.
That’s it, folks! My rough, basic, but ever-useful checklist of reminders.