Stealing the Crown in NBA Fantasy Basketball

John TamelCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2008

Remember Mookie Blaylock?

Mookie was best known in the '90s for his play as a point guard with the Atlanta Hawks. He scared the hell out of his opponents because of his ability to steal the rock. Often times, you'd see Mookie swipe it and then be gone like a thief in the night. Mookie ended up ninth all-time on the NBA steals list.

If your goal is to take home the fantasy crown, certain forms of "fantasy theft" are necessary. Yes, stealing is wrong, and I'm sure you've heard all of the lectures from your parents about that growing up. But, if you think you're going to coast to an NBA fantasy championship because you drew the first pick in the draft, I'm here to tell you it won't happen.

Competitive NBA fantasy league owners are hungry, and trying to find an edge any way they can. Look at it this way—view yourself as a rookie drafted to the NBA in the second round, trying to make the team because your contract isn't guaranteed. You're going to work as hard and play as smart as you can, right? 

My point?  Do what it takes to win your league (within the league rules), and forget the rest.

There are three types of thieves in NBA Fantasy Basketball. In order to crown yourself victor of a competitive NBA fantasy league, my view is that you must execute in at least two out of three of these NBA fantasy thieving strategies in order to get to the promised land. They are:


1. Trade Thieves

This type of thieving usually happens to your inexperienced fantasy owner. Theft by trade, as I like to call it, is when an experienced fantasy owner successful convinces an inexperienced owner of giving up a top-25 pick or better in return for players of little fantasy value. Usually, this will result in the experienced owner offering two players of little value in return for receiving one good player, which is a big mistake.

For example, I was in a league not too long ago where I saw an experienced owner successfully trade for Dwayne Wade. In return, the inexperienced owner was convinced that giving up Wade and receiving Andrei Kirilenko and Rafer Alston was the better deal in a H2H league.

This toad convinced a rookie fantasy owner that he was getting the better deal by stating that the values of Alston and Kirilenko combined met or exceeded Wade's value. What a joke.

Now that I think about it, this guy was smart. He stole the farm and at the same time, murdered the rest of the league by submitting the trade over the Christmas holiday. There were only two owners who logged on over the holiday and objected. This wasn't enough to get a commissioner involved, and the trade went through with almost no resistance.

He had such an advantage over everyone else that the rest of the league couldn't compete—we all felt like we were just struck down by Darth Vader. He talked trash all the way to the crown and didn't even leave us air for life support.

What a waste—all because we didn't want to give up singing Frosty the Snowman to check out what was going on in our league.

Holidays are a great time for someone to pull a stunt like that. Do yourself a favor and check your leagues on a regular basis. If that's not possible, set up email alerts so you can be notified about any situations of theft by trade.


2. Wire Thieves

Waiver-wire thieves are the most common form of thefts in NBA Fantasy Basketball. Wire thieves are owners who instantly pull players down off the waiver wire within seconds of getting a piece of juicy, fantasy information. Most of these reasons are due to trades, starter promotions/demotions and injuries. 

You may be thinking, "If it's off the wire, its not theft." Horse pucky. You've got to be fast, know what that information means, and be able to beat everyone else to the punch. Have you ever seen that movie Gone in Sixty Seconds? A wire thief is just like that—glued to NBA news and player developments and ready to bounce as soon as something goes down. 

Let's take last season, for example. Ron Artest goes down with a considerable injury. I see it, run to my computer, and log on. When I got there, John Salmons was gone—abducted by a wire thief and gone as fast as a fart in the wind. I checked that owner's roster and he was inserted into that owner's starting lineup without a second thought.

As it turned out, Salmons put out some major fantasy production last season and really helped that owner. I would have had him, but I just wasn't fast enough.

Having easy access to your league and developing NBA news, along with a few quick fingers for logging in, will go a long way into making you a great wire thief.

Also, knowing and understanding the rosters of each NBA team is essential to the career of a wire thief. You have to know who is going to get plugged in and where without having to go to a depth chart to look it up. In a novice fantasy league, you might be able to get away with a little more due to inexperience. But, for the most serious of NBA fantasy competitors, you'll only have minutes, maybe seconds.

My advice is to sign up for NBA fantasy alerts on your cell or laptop. Having your fantasy teams accessible on your cell phone is a considerable advantage. On average, I estimate a great wire thief gets anywhere from three to five significant pickups off the wire over the course of the season. That can translate into bringing you from an owner with only a chance to win to being a fantasy playoff contender if the pickups are correct.

Again, following these tips will give you a edge for developing into a great wire thief.


3. Draft Thieves

Draft thieves are limited to capitalizing mostly on rookie owners before the season starts—mosty those who have novice NBA fantasy draft experience. I call them draft thieves because they are drafting players who are well out of draft position due to inexperience.

For example, I saw Chris Bosh get drafted early in round four. That was unbelievable, and should never have happened. Bosh is a second-round pick, maybe third at the latest.

By the end of the draft in a league with twelve owners, this guy had Chris Paul as his first pick, Elton Brand as his second, Rudy Gay as his third, and Chris Bosh as his fourth picks. In other words, this owner had a roster that was going to be hell to deal with before the season even started—because of novice owners with a lack of knowledge and draft experience.

Experienced fantasy owners in paid leagues will often investigate the ratings of their opponents to get an edge. More often than not, they will sign up to play competition that they know they can beat to make earning cash an easier process.

To combat this, do yourself a solid and throughly investigate the top 50 picks in the league before you draft. Fantasy websites and magazines are a great source for this information. Knowledge is power—and if you don't have it, the experienced fantasy owner will be looking to capitalize on anyone with a lack of it. This is the cardinal rule of a draft thief.


Any questions, please feel free to contact me, John Tamel at