2022-23 Fantasy Basketball: Auction Tips and Strategy

by Mike Cooper
2022-23 Fantasy Basketball: Draft Tips and Strategy for Category Salary-Cap Leagues

I like to think of fantasy sports as the great equalizer.  You don’t need to be the smartest or the shrewdest manager in your league. You just need to be the most prepared. Typically, the most successful fantasy managers are the ones who pay the most attention leading up to and throughout the season, and draft with a strategy. To help, we've put together this 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball: Auction Tips and Strategy article.

The draft is the most important (and most fun) part of the fantasy season. You either end up with the exhilaration of putting together a team you’re excited about, or you leave with that pit in your stomach of an ugly choke job, akin to missing free throws to win the game.

You won’t hit your free throws unless you work on your form and practice them before the big moment comes. Creating a draft strategy is the way we practice our free throws. No league format requires more strategy than a category salary cap league.

Here is your guide to a successful auction:

2022-23 Fantasy Basketball: Auction Tips and Strategy

What is a category auction league?

Generally speaking, in category leagues fantasy owners compete in either eight or nine categories, with Field-Goal Percentage, Free-Throw Percentage, Three-pointers, Points, Assists, Rebounds, Steals, and Blocks as the standard categories and Turnovers added in 9-cat.  In auction leagues, all players are auctioned off, one by one, to the highest bidder until all teams are full.

When you combine these styles, you end up with the most fun, and most strategic, form of fantasy basketball (throw dynasty in there for extra points!). 

There are four keys to creating a strategy for these drafts. 

  1. Team Builds: Stars & Sleepers vs Value Drafting
  2. Punt SOMETHING
  3. Buy a lottery ticket
  4. Plan, but be flexible.

Team Builds

You can find a lot of strategies to build a team, but most of them boil down to two types: Stars & Sleepers or Value Drafting.  

Stars & Sleepers

In the Stars & Sleepers build, you spend a bunch of money (typically half to 2/3rd of your available salary cap) on superstars. For example, let’s say your cap is set to $200 in a 12-team league with 12 roster spots to fill. Maybe you walk away with a nice trio like Giannis Antetokounmpo for $70, Stephen Curry for $60, and Paul George for $35. Then you have $35 left to spend on your remaining 9 players, so call it $4 per remaining roster spot. You then fill out the rest of your team with guys like Gary Trent Jr., Saddiq Bey, Kevin Porter Jr., Nicolas Claxton, etc. You're targeting guys who aren’t expensive (typically $1-5) but have the potential to produce as valuable starters. This build leads to higher upside potential outcomes, but more volatility.

Value-Draft

In the Value-draft build, you need to exercise an abundance of patience. You stay open and flexible to what the draft brings, knowing you are waiting to pounce when a player is being sold too cheap for their true value. This happens in every draft, many times.  Often it has to do with perceptions that are not valid.

Last year, for example, Demar Derozan was vastly overlooked due to his move to the Chicago Bulls.  In one of my leagues, he went for $11.  This year? His average draft value in Yahoo! is $30.  There are a bunch of players I deem to be quite undervalued so far this year, including Kawhi Leonard (Y! Avg of $35.5 and recently sold for $29 in one of my leagues) or John Collins (Y! Avg of $13). Both of those guys have upsides that are double those prices.

The value picks won’t be the same in every draft, which is why you need to watch closely. When you see a guy going for a price that feels criminally low, buy him. It doesn’t matter if you love him. You’re getting value. And if you string together enough of those picks, you end up with a team of solid starters from top to bottom, because you had enough money to stretch for a complete team.

With this build, you often end up with a strong, but an unexceptional team that will win most weeks and keep you in the middle to the upper half of the standings. The caveat here is that these teams rarely win championships without good trades to take advantage of the depth you’ve built. 

Two considerations for this build:

  1. Make a list of players you do not want under any circumstances. (Eg maybe you don’t want Russell Westbrook, even for $2)
  2. Print out a ranked list of all the players in the draft and jot down your perceived values for each. You'll have something to reference other than your emotions during the draft.

Punt Something

If you’re in a category league and you’re not punting even a little bit, you’re doing it wrong. The reason is simple: in a category league, you can’t win all eight or nine categories every week. You will inevitably be weak in one or more. So lean into that! Be intentionally terrible in one category to allow you to be stronger in the rest. 

Here's what you do: Start like you normally would. Most likely your first pick will be your most impactful player--a “first rounder” by snake draft standards.  Then, identify their weakest category and stop caring about it for everyone else you draft.  If you get Nikola Jokic, who has no weakness, you can defer this step for your next pick.  But let’s say you take James Harden or Damian Lillard, then you can punt field goal percentage.

Now the value of all remaining players changes for you personally, because someone like Cade Cunningham (who shot 41.6 percent last season) jumps from a 45th ranking to a 24th ranking. Meanwhile, Bam Adebayo (who has a career field goal percentage of 55.8) goes the opposite way dropping from 22nd to 44th. You can get a list of these values for yourself by using Hashtag Basketball's customizable rankings and adjusting for your needs.

My favorite punt build is punt free throw percentage.  Big men get a massive boost, and players like Jakob Poeltl become top 20 in value but sell for much less. 

There are plenty of punting guides online to help you see all your options.  Punting can seem complex, but when you get the hang of it, it gives you a huge advantage. You are buying players at their “market value” while the value they offer your particular team is actually much higher. Remember, don’t pay extra for players that don’t fit your build.  

Buy a lottery ticket

In pretty much every league you will have either 3 or 4 bench spots.  These are opportunities for you to take that mid-court, buzzer-beater shot to end the half.  When you have one or two picks left, I recommend you buy a player that is a total gamble. Think about how every year there are “waiver wire gems” who become top 50 players seemingly out of nowhere. Well, those guys are often discussed in the preseason as “deep sleepers” (like this nifty article describes, for example) which many owners ignore because they’re “not in a deep league”. Do your research, and pick one to take a chance on, even if there are more serviceable players out there at the end of the draft.

Last year I didn’t understand why no one thought Miles Bridges would get minutes. In 2020-21 he was incredible for the final 20 games of the season, so why would there be no chance of that carrying over? I threw $2 at him at the end of my draft and was rewarded with a top-25 player for the season.

Miles Bridges Statistics

FG%FT%3PMPPGRPGAPGSTLBLKTO
2020-21 Last 20 Games51.1%83.2%3.019.76.82.81.01.21.7
2021-22 Full Season49.1%80.2%1.920.27.03.80.90.81.9
Miles Bridges success last year seemed predictable, if you were paying attention.

Take your chance on a lottery ticket player. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve got someone to drop that you won’t miss. This year I’ve got my eyes on Luguentz Dort (completely under the radar) and Dillon Brooks. Both are young, have proven they can be high-scorers (though inefficient) and are starters. They’re both going for an average of $1.3 in yahoo, a number I guarantee they surpass in value.

Plan, but be flexible

Auction drafts are much harder than snake drafts.  You can do laundry or make dinner while you snake draft. The only pick that matters in a snake draft is your own, every 7-10 minutes or so.  It is almost too obvious of a tip for our 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball: Auction Tips and Strategy, but in auction based drafts, you can't risk being distracted for a minute.  There's a chance you’ll either miss out on a player you wanted, or you’ll miss an opportunity to bid just to add pressure to other teams.

Every pick counts. That is why you need to plan for the draft, do mock drafts, identify players you like, and learn the strategies available. But, when the time comes, you also need to be nimble and ready to adjust.  Every draft is different and you don’t really know how yours will go until it starts.  Is everyone bidding absurd amounts on the superstars? Then that means there will be deals to be had later on when managers run out of money.  Is there an injury-prone star you didn’t want but are about to be sold for half of what you think they’re worth, even with their injury risk factored in? Then maybe it’s time to buy a guy you didn’t expect.  

The more knowledge you come armed with, the easier it is to be flexible without being emotional.  The draft goes by quickly, and it’s common for managers to leave feeling that they've made mistakes.  You can avoid this by being the most prepared person in the room.

The best part of fantasy is starting soon

When your Yahoo! draft loads, the message “The best part of fantasy is starting soon” sprawls across the screen. Many fantasy owners feel this way, and for good reason. The thrill of building a team under a time crunch in the draft is tremendous. In a category auction draft, that thrill is amplified significantly as you compete for player after player, trying to simultaneously craft a cohesive team and bluff your league mates into making bad decisions.  The key is coming in prepared - knowing about both major draft strategies, understanding how to punt, grabbing a late draft lottery ticket, and being flexible enough to change your decisions on the fly based on what the draft delivers.  Follow these keys to success in this 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball: Auction Tips and Strategy, and you’ll leave those lazy league members in the dust!


Check out our 2022-23 Fantasy Basketball Rankings!

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1 comment

Stan Leibner October 12, 2022 - 11:56 am

Amazing!

Reply

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