By Nick Whalen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
When you’re entering a fantasy draft for any sport, being adequately prepared is key. For novice and experienced fantasy players alike, familiarizing yourself with your league’s settings is a crucial step in that process.
In the world of fantasy basketball, almost all leagues operate under either a Points or Categorical format. These formats share some overlap, but whereas in categorial leagues the goal is to win — or finish highly within — as many stat categories as possible, Points leagues present a different challenge.
Unlike category leagues, Points leagues disregard altogether how players go about accruing fantasy stats. Like with most fantasy football leagues, each statistical category is assigned a point value, and each player’s points — regardless of how they’re earned — are simply added up to produce a final score over a given period, which is typically one week.
The NBA’s official fantasy points scoring format uses the following values:
Points: 1 point
Rebounds: 1.2 points
Assists: 1.5 points
Steals: 3 points
Blocks: 3 points
Turnovers: -1 point
Tailoring your league to your preference
Those may be the default numbers, but most host sites will allow you to tailor the values to your league’s specific preferences. For instance, if you’d like to increase the impact of blocked shots, you could raise that point value accordingly. In the same vein, you can add or subtract categories, which will have ripple effects in terms of which player archetypes lose or gain value.
If you were to add, say, Made Three-Pointers as another category alongside Points, stars like Stephen Curry and James Harden would become even more sought-after, while lesser-known three-point specialists like Joe Harris or J.J. Redick would also pick up some value.
In categorical leagues, it’s difficult to manage each category — usually, there are eight or nine — and ensure your roster doesn’t have any major deficiencies. A well-rounded team is a near-requirement for title contention, but that’s not necessarily the case in points leagues. One of the benefits to points formats is not having to worry about being dragged down in a single category.
Understanding which players fit which format
If a player is an elite rebounder or shot-blocker but struggles at the free throw line, that deficiency is masked in a way that it would not be in a category league. As such, players like Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, Russell Westbrook, and Ben Simmons typically become more valuable in points formats, as their elite counting stats translate directly to “fantasy points,” as opposed to only affecting certain categories.
Consider the following example: Let’s say on a given night, Andre Drummond scores 0 points, going 0-for-10 from the field and 0-for-10 at the free throw line. However, he grabs 20 rebounds and blocks five shots.
If you were in a categorial league, the rebounds and blocks would be nice, but Drummond’s lack of scoring would add nothing to your Points category, and his poor shooting would negatively impact both your Field Goal Percentage and Free Throw Percentage categories.
Conversely, in a points league, you’d only be concerned about Drummond’s total fantasy output. Sure, it’d be nice if he scored some points to add to his bottom line, but the 20 rebounds and five blocks alone would be worth 39 fantasy points under the aforementioned standard scoring system. Unless your league assigns negative value for field goal/free throw attempts, the fact that Drummond had a horrific night shooting the ball would not affect your team in the same way it would in a categorical league.
With that in mind, it’s important to consider the type of players who gain or lose value in points formats. Counting-stat monsters like the four mentioned above tend to rise in rankings, while players valued for their efficiency — think Malcolm Brogdon or Stephen Curry — lose some value.
Meanwhile, points leagues depreciate the value of players who produce above-average numbers in only one or two categories. Unless those categories are heavily weighted — for example, if your league awards 4 points for each steal — a bench player who averages 1.5 steals per game but offers little else isn’t nearly as valuable as he’d be to a gamer in a categorical league who’s looking to make a climb up the Steals category.
Similarly, single-category specialists, and especially score-first players, tend to have diminished value in points formats. Someone like Terrence Ross would aid a categorical owner in Points and Threes, but his relative lack of rebounds, assists, and defensive numbers mean he’s really only helping points-league gamers build value through one source, and scoring is far and away the easiest stat to find and therefore, it tends to carry the lowest point value.
Player A: 20pts, 5reb, 2ast, 1stl, 0blk = 32 fantasy points
Player B: 8pts, 10reb, 5ast, 2stl, 1blk = 36.5 fantasy points
Preparing for your draft
When it comes to preparing for a points league draft, the bottom line is you’re looking for the best overall fantasy players. Using projections you trust is especially valuable in points leagues, as you can simply plug in your league’s scoring values to generate a list of players ranked by their expected total fantasy output. In a sense, that should make building a roster easier, as long as you make sure to account for filling each required position.
Speaking of which, be sure to familiarize yourself with your league’s roster settings, in addition to its scoring values. Most leagues won’t require you to jump through hoops, but it’s important to know ahead of time if you should be targeting certain positions.
A league that requires two starting centers, for example, makes the position more valuable and raises the importance of locking down productive options at both starting spots. In short, you don’t want to be the gamer who waits too long and is forced to start Dwight Powell and Serge Ibaka each week while more productive options at other positions waste away on your bench. Regardless of format, roster balance is key.
Among the other factors to consider in points leagues — or any league, for that matter — is the weekly schedule breakdown. Every team plays 82 games, but not all weeks are created equally, and there will certainly be times when it makes sense to bench an elite player for an inferior option.
If the Wizards play only two games in a given week, while the Rockets play five, benching Bradley Beal for Eric Gordon is the logical play, even though Beal is the vastly superior player. Here’s a breakdown of the calculation using last season’s averages (rounded to the nearest whole number) and standard points league values:
Beal: 26 PPG, 6 APG, 5 RPG, 2 SPG, 1 BPG = 50 FP/G; 50 FP x 2 games = 100 FP
Gordon: 16 PPG, 2 APG, 2 RPG, 1 SPG, 0 BPG = 24.4 FP/G; 24.4 FG x 5 games = 122 FP