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Fantasy basketball is a fantasy sport inspired by fantasy baseball. Originally played by keeping track of stats by hand, it was popularized during the 1990s after the advent of the Internet. Those who play this game are sometimes referred to as general managers (GMs), who draft actual National Basketball Association (NBA) players and compute their basketball statistics. The online format of the game has been popularized by websites, such as ESPN Fantasy Sports, NBA.com, and Yahoo! Fantasy Sports.
There are many rule variations when playing fantasy basketball. The rules used in a particular league are determined by the rule settings. Some common rule variations are discussed below.
Commonly, fantasy basketball leagues may track as few as three or as many as eleven categories. Three-category leagues usually account for only points, rebounds, and assists. Five-category leagues generally add blocks and steals. Eight-category leagues usually add field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and either three-point field goals made or three-point field goal percentage. Nine-category leagues usually add turnovers. Rarely, other statistics such as fouls are counted. Some leagues also prefer to break down the rebounds category into two categories: offensive and defensive rebounds.
Some leagues allow the league "commissioner" to determine which categories will be tracked. If these categories are chosen poorly, the league may be unfairly weighted for or against certain positions. For example, a league that tracks points, assists, steals, free throw percentage and three-point field goals would be weighted toward guards, who typically have higher numbers in many of those categories, and against power forwards and centers, who typically have higher numbers in the rebound, block and field goal percentage categories, which are not counted.
Number of teams
In public leagues, the number of teams in a league is typically ten or twelve. In private leagues, which are invitation-only and usually utilized by players who want to compete against a group of people they know, the number of teams will vary substantially.
There are two types of drafting used to select players: the snake draft and the auction draft. In a snake draft, the first round is drafted in order. In the second round, the draft order is reversed so that the manager who made the last pick in the first round gets the first pick in the second round. The order is reversed at the end of each round so that the manager with the first overall pick does not maintain this advantage in every round. In an auction draft, each manager has a set budget (commonly $260, an amount borrowed from fantasy baseball) that he or she must use to fill out the team's roster. Players are put up for auction by managers, and the manager willing to pay the most for the player "drafts" that player. The advantage of an auction is that all managers have equal access to all players (not the case in a snake draft). The disadvantages are that it typically takes longer than a snake draft, and can be intimidating for newer or inexperienced managers who may be relying on ranking.
Some leagues have a feature whereby players can communicate through the site. Many sites have "Smack Talk" features which allow players to communicate with one another whenever they want. They can trash-talk their opponents during the game or before the games start.
In rotisserie scoring, the real-life statistics accumulated by the players on a team are aggregated and ranked against the same statistics for the other teams in the league. Fantasy points are earned based on these rankings. For example, in a twelve-team league, the team with the most rebounds over the course of the season to date would be awarded twelve fantasy points. The team with the next-highest number of rebounds would be awarded eleven fantasy points, and so on, with the team with the fewest rebounds being awarded a single fantasy point. For negative categories like fouls or turnovers, the team with the fewest statistics is awarded the most fantasy points. This is done for all categories counted by the particular league. The team with the highest number of fantasy points at the end of the season is the winner.
Rotisserie scoring encourages balance on the team's roster. Winning the rebounds category by one rebound or by one thousand rebounds counts the same, while winning the steals category by one steal and the assists category by one assist is worth twice as many points as winning the single rebounding category by one thousand rebounds. Successful teams must fare well in several categories to win in rotisserie leagues.
In head-to-head scoring, teams compete against a single other team over the course of a week. During that week, the real-life statistics of the players on each team are accumulated, and at the end of the week the team with the most points over the week wins.
There are two styles of head-to-head scoring:
- Most categories is a win—whichever team has the more favorable statistics in the categories chosen (most points, fewest turnovers, highest free throw percentage, etc.) is awarded a point for that category. One can also weight each category, for example: winning scoring earns a player three points, winning rebounds wins two points, winning steals wins one point. The team with the most points wins that game.
- Each category is a win—whichever team has the more favorable statistics in a category (most points, fewest turnovers, highest free throw percentage, etc.) is awarded a "win" for that category. The other team is tagged with a "loss". The results of these weekly match-ups are accumulated to provide a seasonal win-loss record.
Head-to-head leagues often employ a "playoff" system, with seeding based on the seasonal win-loss record. Matchups are determined via a bracket, with the winners of each matchup advancing and the losers being eliminated until a winner is determined.
In head-to-head leagues, schedules can be changed in the time until the first game of that match-up.
In fantasy point scoring, the commissioner determines the number of fantasy points that a particular statistic is worth. For example, the commissioner may determine that a steal is worth two fantasy points, where a rebound is only worth one, and a turnover is worth negative one. Fantasy points are accumulated nightly based on the real-life performance of the players on each team, and the team with the most fantasy points at the end of the season wins.
As when choosing categories, care must be paid in assigning fantasy point values to categories. Failure to achieve balance will result in weighting the league for or against players at certain positions.
Daily fantasy basketball
Like traditional fantasy basketball, in daily fantasy basketball, players draft a team of NBA players who then score fantasy points according to set scoring rules. However, instead of being stuck with the same team through a whole season, daily fantasy sports contests last just one day. Many sites offer data and strategies to build lineups; some of these sites are free, while others charge a fee.