Fantasy Hoops Auction Strategies

Fantasy basketball leaguers participate in anywhere from 6-team to 16-team draft leagues, some of which are keeper leagues as well as those participating in play-by-mail leagues, Internet leagues and assorted pick-your-player contests. Now, rotisserie baseball leagues have spawned the auction-style leagues where rosters are stocked by bidding on players within a restricted salary cap. The trouble here lies in the fact that, unlike rotisserie baseball, the original fantasy basketball rulebooks failed to lay down guidelines for such an auction. As a result, leagues that prefer the auction format have to make up their own rules that are as diverse as the number of leagues themselves. Therefore, it is practically impossible to lay down specific bidding guidelines let alone player values.

Let's start by setting up a simple generic 10-team league requiring two centers, four forwards and four guards. Scoring rules favor no particular position and each team has 100 units to spend at the auction with minimum bids set at one unit. That would make the average salary at ten units per player. You can also set up an optional reserve phase where teams take turns stocking their rosters for 5-10 extra rounds in the traditional serpentine fashion. During the season, free agents can be obtained either in reverse order of standings or via a free agent budget (FAB). Each owner starts with a total of 50 units to bid on free agents during the season. The winning bid then becomes that player's contract (important for keeper leagues) and another player (in some leagues required to be active at the time) is then placed on waivers for the upcoming week.

Optional rules include:

h Doubling, tripling (or whatever) the salary cap and FAB budget.

h Setting up rosters without regard to position requirements although weekly lineups would require set positions.

h Reserve draft (five to 20 rounds) to stock rosters.

h Allowing carry-over players at an increase of five units to their contract. Pre-draft freeze lists could be two, three or unlimited players.

The first owner starts the bidding by calling up any player eligible to be drafted at any price he wishes (at least one unit). The bidding goes around the room in order to the left and ends when the last owner passes. The next owner sitting to the left then brings up a player and so on. Once you pass, you are out and cannot bid on that player again. You cannot call up or bid on a player if you have the full compliment on your roster at that particular position (i.e. you cannot bid on a center if you already have two).

Bidding strategies vary according to the particular league's auction rules but here are some general guidelines:

h Budget your own units ahead of time, that is, figure how many units you can spend at each needed roster spot and try to stick to it. Write each value down and then write the player next to the corresponding sum as you acquire them. This way you will always know at a glance where you stand financially and almost guarantees you spending all of your units thus saving the aggravation of taking unused funds home with you. You can even do this for each team in the league if you think you can keep up.

h In carry-over leagues (those with freeze lists), figure each owner's unit situation ahead of time to see how your situation compares with everybody else's. If you have the most units to spend per player, then you control the bidding.

h Allocate most of your units for star players in a new draft. Then look for centers first and then point guards. Shooting guards and small forwards (unless star players) are usually one-dimensional and can be obtained cheaply at the end of the draft. For established leagues with protected players, of course, you must address your particular needs. Don't worry about one unit bargains at the end of the draft-- there will be plenty of them (unless you play in a league with 14 or more teams).

h Try to target a block of similar players at the same position instead of grabbing them blindly one name after another. For example, it is obvious that the best guard in basketball is Michael Jordan. He belongs in a group by himself. But the next 3-5 guards, even though ranked in order on your draft sheet, are probably similar. Consider this the next block of talent at the position and try to get one of those players if that happens to be your particular need. If you miss out on Jordan and the following group, then target a player from the next group and so on. This block of talent drafting strategy also comes in handy for leagues that do not utilize unit values per se. The values help identify the different blocks of talent at a glance and should not be ignored.

h Do not take published unit values as gospel. Like projections themselves, unit values are be used as a guide only. Sometimes you'll have to bid more for a player if a certain position is thin on talent or in the case of draft day inflation. In cost effective situations such as bidding on sleepers, overstocked positions, injury-risk players and to counter draft day deflation, a lower bid would be in order. Generally speaking, bid the star players up to their perceived worth (superstars will go even higher) and try to get the lesser players cheaper than the listed values. Any player listed for five units or less should be a one unit pickup or reserve choice. The state of fantasy basketball today is so competitive that it is almost mandatory to get a superstar player or two by overbidding for their services. If Patrick Ewing is listed at 30 units, it might take 35-50 units in some leagues to get him, especially if your league is known for wild bidding. Leagues with conservative owners are usually more controlled and reasonable with their bids.

h If a position you need is running thin then jump in and get somebody but don't overbid for marginal players. Again, there will be plenty to choose from at the end (unless there are more than 12 teams participating).

h Try to nominate a player that you do not want or do not need that will go for big units. Run the bidding up as far as you're comfortable with but be careful not to stay in too long and get stuck. For example, if you've got two solid forwards locked up early, bring up the rest of the big named forwards and bid them up to get the other owners to spend their money.

h If draft day inflation kicks in (most owners having a lot of money going in because they protected many cheap players from the year before), get your players as early as you can to avoid the inevitable bidding wars at the end of the draft. The same holds true if a couple of owners are not spending their units early on.

h If pre-draft budgets are deflated (little money going in) or if everyone seems to be spending their units foolishly, then be patient and grab the bargains later as long as you foresee that decent talent will still be available late. However, do not pass up a bargain or a quality talent early if possible. Use your judgment. In a brand new draft with novice bidders, you might want to sit back for the first 30-60 minutes or so while everybody spends their units foolishly. Then casually pick up great bargains in the second half of the draft.

h If you feel confident about a certain budgetary plan you have developed but notice one or two others with the same idea then temporarily abandon that plan and see what develops. The ability to think quickly and change strategy at the drop of a hat will help you in the long run.

h Do not drink and draft.

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