How to fix fantasy basketball

Fantasy football has exploded in popularity and is in large part to thank for the explosion in the popularity of the NFL. But what about fantasy basketball? If fantasy football is Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie “Twins,” then fantasy hoops is Danny DeVito. There a way to fix it?

I think so. As a fan of both sports, I think fantasy hoops struggles for several reasons:

Problem #1: Roto or category scoring systems are convoluted and difficult to understand/manage.
Most fantasy basketball leagues utilize one of two formats. A roto format awards points based on a team’s rank in each of several categories. The team with the most roto points at the end of the season wins the leagues. Another format is category scoring, where each team plays head to head with another team in several categories, so one team might win in points, rebounds and assists, but lose in FG%, turnovers and blocks. Blah blah blah.

Solution: Go to a head-to-head fantasy points system.
My recommendation is to use the NBA’s Efficiency statistic to calculate fantasy points for each player. Here is how Efficiency is calculated:

EFF = ((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) – ((Field Goals Att. – Field Goals Made) + (Free Throws Att. – Free Throws Made) + Turnovers))

That may look complicated, but really it just adds up a player’s points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, while subtracting his turnovers, missed free throws and missed field goals. I like this statistic because it covers all the major stats while rewarding an efficient shooter more than a volume shooter. For example, a player that scores 20 points on 15 shots is probably going to have a higher Efficiency than a player that scores 20 points on 20 shots, because of the negative effect of missed field goals. Most importantly, a fantasy owner can look at a box score and have a pretty good idea about how his player performed that night.

Problem #2: There are too many games.
With NBA games going on throughout the week, owners have to pay more attention to their teams, and this narrows the appeal to only those people with enough time or desire to check/set their rosters on a daily basis.

Solution: Set rosters once-a-week.
Every Monday (or any other day of the week), fantasy owners set their roster for the week and it is frozen when the first game tips-off. This would only require that the most laid-back owners manage their teams once a week. Many leagues have already adopted this schedule.

Problem #3: One player might have four games, while another has two or three games in a given week. Who do you start?
While some fantasy owners may appreciate the strategy involved with maximizing their team’s schedule, this is beyond the scope of casual fans.

Solution: Instead of total fantasy points, use the AVERAGE EFFICIENCY for the week.
If LeBron scores 40 fp in his game on Monday, 35 fp on Thursday and 30 fp on Sunday, his average would be 35 fp per game. His average would be added to the averages to all of the other players in the starting lineup to come up with a total (average) fantasy points for the week. This would allow fantasy owners to start their best players every week and not worry about the number of games they play week-to-week. It would also keep the games interesting heading into the weekend. A team that’s trailing could pull out a win with an epic performance from its star player or even win with a horrible performance by an opposing player.

During the 2009-10 season I acted as commissioner of a league with these settings and everything went pretty well. I’m considering starting the league back up, so drop me a line using the email icon in the right sidebar if you’d be interested in joining.

13 Responses to “How to fix fantasy basketball”

  • Ben Schmidt:

    I’d give it a try. Experienced fake footballer and NBA fan.

  • Marcus:

    Are there any websites out there that do the Average Efficiency scoring? I’ve never found one that does, but it sure would be nice to have one.

  • MJ:

    My friends and I have been doing a points-only basketball league the past two years and it’s worked well and been really fun…

    Field Goals Made (FGM) 1
    Free Throws Made (FTM) .5
    3-point Shots Made (3PTM) 1.5
    Points Scored (PTS) 1
    Offensive Rebounds (OREB) 2
    Defensive Rebounds (DREB) 1.5
    Assists (AST) 1.5
    Steals (ST) 2
    Blocked Shots (BLK) 2
    Turnovers (TO) -1.5

    We never could understand field goal % being counted in fantasy…the superstar nature of basketball and only 5 guys on the court at one time means that on some teams, the superstars are expected to shoot alot more, and the coaches readily accept their low % because they are still putting up large point totals, so to punish them for essentially doing what they’re supposed to be doing we feel is wrong…same for turnovers…the top 20 guys in the league in turnovers are all the #1 or 2 guy on their team, they possess the ball much more and thus stand to turn the ball over much more, so to place a turnover on an equal footing as all other stats we also feel is wrong

    basically “categories” in basketball simply doesn’t work…a steal or block is more difficult and rare than a rebound, and should be rewarded accordingly…these are the top 10 finishers in order from last year’s league

    James, Howard, Griffin, Durant, Rose, Stoudemire, Bryant, Love, Wade, Westbrook

    I know alot of people are resistant to the thought of season-long, points-only leagues, but I don’t know why…if the point distributions are set up fairly and the owners are committed, it’s season-long competition, and no one is really out of it until 3/4 of the season is thru….sorry for the lengthy post, i tend to advocate for points leagues…but try it tho u might like it

    • Newbie:

      John’s reason for using “AVERAGE EFFICIENCY” was to compensate for the fact that some players play more games certain weeks. Do you do something in your league to compensate for that or it’s just as is? Maybe it’s possible to edit the efficiency stat to take to not count field goal %?

      • MJ:

        We do daily lineups, max games played per position…everything evens out by the end of season..I know that alot of people don’t have the time or desire, but it makes for great competition thru the whole season

  • Newbie:

    Does Yahoo! Fantasy have the “average efficiency” setting? I only see regular scoring. Does anyone know where to find it?

    • John Paulsen:

      Marcus asked the same question earlier – I directed him to Fantrax who has an option for average efficiency, I believe.

  • josh:

    John Paulsen, do you know if any websites such as ESPN or Fantrax will solve “problem 3” as you mentioned above? To be clearer, will a player’s scores over the course of the week be calculated and averaged out for you by ESPN, Fantrax, or other sites? Thanks.

    • John Paulsen:

      Fantrax does the Average Efficiency scoring.

      • josh:

        Ok I’ve created a league on Fantrax. I’m a little confused on how to adjust the scoring system. Since EFF = ((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) – ((Field Goals Att. – Field Goals Made) + (Free Throws Att. – Free Throws Made) + Turnovers))

        here is what I have set everything at:

        Points 1
        Rebounds 1
        Assists 1
        Blocks 1
        Steals 1
        FG Made 1
        FG Att -1
        FT Made 1
        FT Att -1
        Turnovers -1
        Efficiency 0

        To me, it looks about right. How do you adjust yours? Let me know if something should be changed. Also my biggest question is: how do I know if the average eff. of a player will be counted per week and not the cumulative eff., or do I already have it correct? Thanks in advance for answering my questions.

        • John Paulsen:

          No problem.

          Looking at my scoring from two seasons ago (I didn’t run this league last year), all of my scoring categories are “per game” so: As/G, Blk/G, FGM/G, FT/G, FTA/G, Pt/G, Rb/G, St/G and TO/G…i also have Eff at 0 so we can track it. Using “per game” ensures you are using average EFF and not total EFF.

          • josh:

            I have now set the scoring categories per game as you said. Now in the middle column it gives me the option to assign points either as “Game” or as “Scoring period.” Which do I choose? Also, on the column to the right of this is called “Use Range,” and gives me the option to check mark that box or not. Do I need to use this as well? I’m very new to fantasy basketball and didn’t like the standard ways it was played until I read this article so thanks for your help.