5 Tips to Guarantee You Win Your Fantasy Basketball League This Season

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2012

5 Tips to Guarantee You Win Your Fantasy Basketball League This Season

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    Fantasy basketball season has arrived, and now's the time to strike and create some separation from the rest of your league mates.

    For those who haven't drafted, you'll find a few tips specifically for you in here. In short: Preparation will make or break you.

    If you've already drafted, you'll instead need to focus your attention on the early-season waiver wire. Don't hesitate to pick up surprise performers in the first few weeks of the season, especially if one of your late-round picks isn't producing as expected.

    Whether it's your first time playing fantasy basketball or you're a seasoned professional at this point, these five tips will help guide you to your league's championship this coming season.

1. Strike Early on Point Guard

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    If you haven't had your fantasy draft yet, here's the best advice I can offer in 2012-13: Go big on point guard or go home.

    With the plethora of young, exciting point guards in the NBA, this suggestion may sound counterintuitive at first. Look a bit deeper, though, and you'll see why it's not so crazy.

    Derrick Rose, Ricky Rubio and John Wall will all miss the start of the season due to injuries, and at least five other teams have new starting point guards. With the rise of score-first, pass-second point guards, drafting a traditional PG in the first two or three rounds becomes that much more critical.

    Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook should all be top-six picks in your draft, especially with James Harden's departure from Oklahoma City likely freeing up even more time for Westbrook. Ty Lawson and Kyrie Irving won't be far behind.

    If you haven't acquired a point guard by the fourth round, you could already be looking at slim pickings, though. Unless you're ready for Jrue Holiday or Jeremy Lin to be your squad's fantasy starter at the 1, do yourself a favor and make sure you grab a PG in the first three rounds.

2. Go for Multi-Category Stat-Stuffers

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    In fantasy basketball, there's nothing like players who fill up every single category in the box score, such as LeBron James.

    You won't be getting James without a top-two pick this season, but you should be targeting the poor man's versions of him in your draft.

    Scoring specialists who don't offer much else have their place in the NBA, but not on your fantasy team. Instead, target players who will contribute their fair share of points, rebounds, assists, three-pointers, steals and/or blocks.

    You'll also want to target players, both in the draft and on the waiver wire, who contribute in categories that you might not expect from someone at that position. Think Kevin Love's three-point field-goal shooting or Rajon Rondo's rebounding, for instance.

    Drafting multi-category stat-stuffers won't pigeonhole your team into being overly focused on winning certain categories, which will help you maintain flexibility as you work your way toward your fantasy playoffs.

3. Have a List of Sleepers Handy

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    If you're drafting and you don't have a list of potential fantasy sleepers handy, you're dramatically lowering your squad's chances of taking home your fantasy title. (Here's my top 10.)

    Barring injury or other major calamity, you can't really screw up your first few picks that badly. It's those middle rounds where you either forge championship greatness or completely fall apart.

    At this point, guys like Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors have become chic sleeper picks, but they bear repeating here. They're going to each be fantasy gold in 2012-13.

    Don't ignore the impact of recent trades and injuries, either. Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves each get a major early-season boost thanks to Kevin Love's broken hand, while Eric Maynor just took on some extra importance with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the wake of the James Harden trade.

    The middle rounds of any fantasy draft are all about drafting players who are brimming with potential, whether due to talent, playing time, or a combination of both. Referencing a list of sleepers (or compiling your own!) could be the difference between having a team full of stars or being forced to resort to the waiver wire early.

4. Don't Ignore Players on Terrible Teams

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    The Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats will be lucky to win 45 games combined in 2012-13.

    That doesn't mean you should completely ignore all of their players in terms of fantasy basketball.

    Look, someone has to put up stats on those teams. They might not be pretty. They might not be all that impressive. But those teams are each scoring at least 85-90 points per night.

    Personally, one of my favorite sleepers of the year, Glen Davis, plays for the Magic. When Dwight Howard went down with his back injury in April, Davis came in and averaged 16.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals in only 31.4 minutes per game over the final month of the season.

    With Howard now a permanent resident of Los Angeles, Davis has the best shot of any to become his permanent replacement as the focal point in the post. Jameer Nelson of the Magic, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Bobcats and his teammate Bismack Biyombo are all solid later-round picks, too.

5. Plan Accordingly for Your League's Format (Roto vs. Head-to-Head)

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    If you're going to heed the advice of only one of these slides, make sure it's this last one.

    When gearing up for your league this year, make sure you pay close attention to your league's settings, most specifically whether it's a rotisserie or head-to-head format.

    Much like points-per-reception in football, player values can dramatically change depending on what format you're playing. (ESPN has a great breakdown of all the differences between the two.)

    For instance: The month-long injuries to Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki aren't worth sweating about as much in a head-to-head league compared to a roto league. When Love and Nowitzki return, they'll go back to putting up their typically ridiculous averages, so you'll just have to sustain those first few weeks without them in H2H.

    In a roto league, however, the games-played limit will cause you to play other, lesser players in the stead of Love and Nowitzki. Those are tough decisions you'll want to try to avoid whenever possible.

    Also, H2H leagues introduce the concept of "punting" a category, like any good Dwight Howard owner should try to do with free throws. In essence, you can decide that you'll never try to win a certain category in lieu of winning a few others each week, such as points, rebounds, blocks and field-goal percentage.