Fantasy Basketball is vastly different from fantasy football, aside from the two completely different sports. There are 82 total games in basketball, so the daily grind is much more important than in football where there is only one game per week.

Aside from the game total, the scoring is also different in fantasy basketball. In football, scores are accumulated by tallying all stats together for one grand point total. In basketball, scores are accumulated per category. Whoever has the most categories won within a week wins. 

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What is Fantasy Basketball?

Fantasy basketball is an interactive game in which a group of competitors play against one another with rosters of real-life NBA players. How those NBA players perform in real life dictates the success or failure of fantasy teams.

If Jaylen Brown is on my team, he might have a stat line of 29 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. If my opponent has Jayson Tatum, he might have a stat line of 31 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists. Using this example, my opponent would win the week by the score of 2-1 because he won two of the three categories. 

Fantasy basketball teams consist of multiple players on one roster, so players try to win the most statistical categories in a week based on real-life player performances. The concept is the same as fantasy football, only the scoring and amount of games played are different. 

How to Play NBA Fantasy Basketball

There are various formats to play in fantasy basketball, so understanding them is crucial before joining a league. Scoring and even drafting players differ from league to league, so let’s go over them all below. 

Head-to-Head Points

In head-to-head points, scoring is similar to fantasy football. Each statistical category is worth a certain point total, then teams add up all the points to accumulate one grand total. Whichever team has the most points wins and their record goes to 1-0. Commissioners determine the point value of each statistical category in head-to-head roto leagues, which could be two points for a steal and one point for a rebound as an example. 


Also known as rotisserie style, teams are ranked from first to last in each of the different statistical categories. Points are then awarded to teams based on their ranking within each category. Those points are added up to determine a score that is then used to rank each team in the overall standings. 

This style of fantasy basketball is equivalent to ‘thunderdome’, in which every team is facing every team each week. There are no head-to-head matchups, rather every team accumulates as many stats as possible which are then added up among the rest of the league. 

Category Scoring

This is the most common style of fantasy basketball, as discussed earlier. In category scoring, teams go head-to-head against another team and try to win the most statistical categories in a week. Using the Celtics example above, if my opponent wins two categories and my team wins just one then my team record after the week is over would be 1-2. 

There are typically nine categories to win in fantasy basketball: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, 3-pointers, double-doubles, triple-doubles, and turnovers. With turnovers, the team with the fewest amount of turnovers wins the category. 

Keeper Leagues

Keeper leagues are also known as Dynasty leagues and are wonderful to play in for those committed to playing longer than just one full season. In a keep league, teams get to pick at least one player to keep on their team for next season.

Some commissioners will allow teams to keep more than one player, but one is the standard in most keeper leagues. This means that players game plan for the future as well as the present. For sports like baseball where minor leaguers are called up throughout the season, keeper leagues become very important for future success. 

Standard Drafts

Just like any other sport, you need to draft players onto your team. The standard draft is the most common style for fantasy basketball, where teams get to select one player at a time in a serpentine rotation. 

A serpentine draft sees the No. 1 pick in Round 1 pick last in Round 2, before picking No. 1 again in Round 3. The order alternates between rounds in a serpentine draft, so if you pick 5th in a 10-person league you will be picking 5th every round. 

Auction Drafts

In an auction draft, each team is given a certain amount of money they can spend on players to draft on their team. The idea is to fill your roster without running out of money, so money should be well spent here. This is a less popular draft style because it limits owners on who they can draft on their team. 

Fantasy Basketball Tips and Strategies

There are various tips and strategies to follow when playing fantasy basketball. Let’s go through each of the most important ones below. 

Daily Lineups

As mentioned earlier, there are 82 games in an NBA season which means you will have players play more than one game per week. Fantasy basketball requires daily attention, as lineups change more frequently than ever also. Players sit for ‘rest’ now in the NBA, so checking lineups daily is required to win.

Injured Reserved Spots

This goes hand-in-hand with checking the lineup daily because you will find out a player is injured. If this is the case, most leagues will allow you to place the player on an IR list. This is crucial because it allows you to keep the player on your team while freeing up a roster spot you can fill with a healthy player in free agency. 

Blocks and Steals

It’s easy to forget about some of the minor categories when playing fantasy basketball, but all categories should be sought after equally. Look for players that not only produce points but are also good at the niche stats such as blocks and steals. This highlights defensive play, which is not always the first thought when drafting fantasy players. 

Free Throws

Some leagues use free throw percentage as a category, which means finding players that shoot from the charity stripe becomes important. Much like blocks and steals, don’t be afraid to find players on your team that can help in small categories even if they don’t score a lot of points. 

Free Agency

Tracking the free agency is key to winning a fantasy basketball league, especially early in the season. There are always players who produce that don’t get drafted immediately. Target these players, typically someone who sees a lot of playing time on a mediocre to poor team. You’ll need free agents when players on your team get hurt too, so always have an eye on the free agent market.


Trades are fun and a key part of playing in fantasy sports, including basketball. Just because trades are fun doesn’t mean you have to make them, however. If anyone offers you a trade, take your time to decide, they’re on your clock not the other way around. Trading can also get your team out of a hole. 

In basketball, the season is long enough to make a trade to try to turn things around if the first few months don’t go to plan. Use trades sparingly if you’re in a bind, but if offered a trade make sure you take your time in deciding before pulling the trigger.


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