Fantasy Basketball

2015-16 Fantasy Basketball: Head-to-Head Categories Strategy

Basketball season is right around the corner, and with Opening Night scheduled for October 27, fantasy hoops owners are beginning to join their respective leagues.

For those who may be newer to the sport, or even those who are looking for a “change of scenery”, it’s important to know that there are options out there for you.

No, this isn’t an infomercial about retirement plans, slowly putting you to sleep at 3 am. It’s a public service announcement alerting you to the fact that fantasy basketball leagues have several formatting options. If you’re a traditional rotisserie league guy/gal, and are looking to mix things up a bit, head-to-head (H2H) category leagues offer the same great fantasy sport, but at a faster pace.

Let me start off by saying that I prefer roto leagues. I think they’re the best way to make money in fantasy sports, because you’re not going up against other owners on a weekly basis. Your team succeeds based on how well you draft, trade, start/sit and manage the waiver wire.

But…

I do play in a couple of H2H category leagues each season. Roto can get a bit boring sometimes, and the daily competition and rivalries H2H league’s provide can help offset those slower periods of the season.

I’m gonna lay out some ground rules. If this brand of fantasy basketball is new to you, pay attention. Even if you’ve played H2H leagues before, you may learn a few pointers.

Overview

The overall concept of head-to-head category leagues is simple: win as many categories as possible on a weekly basis.

That’s it.

Traditional H2H leagues are similar to roto leagues in that they are usually comprised of either eight or nine categories. Those categories are points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and three-pointers made. In nine-cat leagues, you add turnovers to the mix. Of course, in private leagues, the categories can be fully customized, but these are the standard ones.

You’ll be matched up against another league member each week. Unlike fantasy football where the winner gets one “win” at the end of the matchup, each category you win represents one win in the overall standings. So, if you win five categories and lose four, your record for that week is 5-4. If you were 6-3 the previous week, your overall record is now 11-9. You’ll play about 19 or so matchups until your league’s playoffs begin. At that point, each win does matter, because overall standings are thrown out the window, and to move on to the next round, you must win five categories or more.

Depending on your league size, four or more teams make it to a bracket-style playoffs — the same as in the NBA. After each round is completed, the two remaining teams battle it out and the winner is named champion. Easy peasy.

Draft

If you plan on winning loads of cash, it all starts during your draft. Head-to-head league draft strategies aren’t much different than roto, save for a few differences.

In general, you want to acquire all the best players possible, but it’s easier to “punt” categories like free throw percentage, blocks and threes. “Punting” is where you hypothetically give up on a category in order to boost another one. An example of this would be drafting both DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond. In roto leagues, owning these two would make it extremely difficult to escape the basement in FT%. You know this going in, though, and you’re okay with it because it makes you dominant in rebounds and blocks, as well as very, very good in FG%.

In H2H leagues, you can still draft those two and possibly win the FT% category in a few of your matchups. What if the Clippers and Pistons only have two games each that week? And maybe in one of those games, Jordan only goes to the line once, making both shots. Roto leagues tally your stats for the entire season, but since your stats reset each week in H2H leagues, there are ways to avoid completely punting a category.

Don’t get me wrong, drafting a well-rounded team is the key to success, but if you want to splurge a little in certain categories, don’t let a couple players with poor track records in one department turn you off. Remember, in the end, all you really need to do is win 5-4 each week, because in reality, there will be some weeks you’ll win 9-1 or 8-2, and 100 or so wins will almost always get you into the playoffs.

As far as sleepers and rookies go, apply the same strategy that you’d use in roto league drafts: grab some in the late rounds and hope they pan out.

Matchup Strategies

Mapping out and planning each of your head-to-head matchups is the key to winning your league. Here are some rules to abide by:

  • Always look ahead to your next matchup. Don’t wait till Monday afternoon to see how many games your guys have that week or to check which hot players may be available on the wire.
  • On a day with a full slate, make sure to research which players have favorable matchups. Just like you would in baseball with a lefty-lefty split or in football with a running back facing a team with the best run defense, you want to have the best possible players in your lineup.
  • Check your weekly totals. If you have an insurmountable lead in eight of the nine categories, but you’re still behind in threes, it’s okay to bench DeMarcus Cousins for Courtney Lee. Be on your toes and be smart about your lineups. Each category win matters. Don’t fall asleep at the wheel.

And this leads me to the most important strategy of all…

Game volume.

Game volume is often the difference between winning and losing. One of the detractors of H2H leagues is how much game volume can skew a matchup. More games played usually means more counting stats. It’s simple math. This of course is why roto is the “purest” form of fantasy sports, but a smart owner will take advantage. A lackadaisical opponent may not pay attention to how many games his players have and wait till the end of the week to add guys. Don’t be that guy. Have a plan on Sunday, sometimes even Saturday, before your next matchup.

It may sound a little, um, obsessive, but hey, you wanna win don’t you?

Always use up your allotted moves. Don’t ever go into your next matchup leaving moves on the table from the previous week. If it’s Sunday (the last day of your matchup) and you have one add left, use it on a player that may be playing Monday and Tuesday. It’s like getting in two extra games for free. You’ll begin your next matchup with a full supply of waiver wire adds, and you’ll get more game volume because of it. Getting a couple of steals and a handful rebounds from that player could put you over the top by the end of the week.

I sincerely hope this helps all of you who may be interested in playing in a head-to-head league this season. While I’m a huge proponent of roto leagues, I encourage you to join at least one head-to-head league. I’ve been doing this for almost 18 years, and I can say that having diversity really helps break up the monotony that can often come post-All-Star break. Keeping your brain and wits sharp will lead you to victory.

Be sure to also check out the roto league strategy article from Zack Rewis and also stay tuned next week when I will discuss another form of the H2H genre, H2H points leagues.

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1 Comment

  1. Bernadette
    October 12, 2015 at 11:34 am — Reply

    I am all in proactive tanking. FT is clearly the best. I also play in a H2H auction league for $300.

    Reasoning is mostly that I can lock up a Deandre, Drummond, Okafor, and Nerlens for around $130. FT is a goner and I’m behind in points, but I have also spent about a third of my budget to be VERY secure in 3 of the 6 categories I’m trying to lock in.

    I have $170 left to spend on 5 guards and swing men to try to win 3’s, points, asts, stls, and TOs. I could double down on tanking and go with Klay, Paul George, Ariza, Lou Will, and KCP.

    Feel great about – 3’s REB STL BLK TO
    Feel good about – FG
    Can compete – Pts
    Thrown away – FT AST

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