Dynasty Basketball Introduction and Strategy

by Greyson Adams
2021-22 Fantasy Basketball: Jalen Smith

As fantasy basketball grows, so do the mediums of how you can play the game. A dynasty league is one of my favorite ways. There are extra layers of strategy involved, and it's probably the closest thing any of us will get to being a general manager for a basketball team. I'd highly recommend starting one up. So to help you do just that, I have my 2023-24 Dynasty Fantasy Basketball Introduction and Strategy.

Dynasty leagues are relatively new to fantasy basketball. Fortunately, we have a template thanks to fantasy football's long history.

There are important things to know when starting up a league that will help it to continue running as long as you want.

And of course, it wouldn't be fair to give you all this information on starting a league without giving you a few tips and tricks to give you the edge. So, let's get into it.

Dynasty Basketball Introduction and Strategy

Setting Up Your League

The first and most important step is to find people who are all invested enough in fantasy basketball to be willing to do this. It's better to have an 8-team league of dedicated players rather than a 10-team league with two people who are barely paying attention.

Once you have who you need, your league will have a big decision to make: What platform should we use? It's typically between Yahoo!, ESPN, and Sleeper. Which platform you choose will come down to a few different factors: Scoring method, app preference, and how much work you want the commissioner to do. The first two options are pretty self-explanatory. If you want to have a roto/category league, you rule out Sleeper. And if you don't like ESPN's interface, then you're now left with Yahoo. But, it's important to know how much work the commissioner is going to have.

A commissioner's life in a dynasty league on Yahoo! or ESPN is much more difficult. These platforms don't have a dynasty mode built in like Sleeper does. So trading picks, holding players until the next year, etc. all need to be done manually. This will require more time and organization from the league and the league's commish.

Sleeper is far easier to use when it comes to a dynasty league. You have the option to select a dynasty mode, which allows you to add a taxi squad, trade picks, and carry the league over to the next year automatically. Unfortunately, their options for how you can play are limited to two different modes that only involve points, rather than categories. So if your preference truly is categories, then you may want to try to figure something out over on Yahoo! or ESPN.

Dynasty Roster Layout

Once you have your platform picked out, there are typically a few things you'll want to have that are different from redraft leagues:

  1. More roster spots. A lot more. The waiver wire should be a desolate Hellscape that you only turn to for that random G-leaguer who finds his way into minutes on a tanking team midseason. This may seem weird at first, but it's normal to have guys you play and guys you stash away for later.
  2. More injury slots. With more players comes more injuries. Add plenty of injury slots so nobody feels the need to drop a player that could be valuable.
  3. If you're playing in Sleeper, make sure there are at least 3 taxi squad slots. A taxi squad is for players that you don't expect to use. If you remove someone from a taxi spot, they can't go back onto your taxi squad. In Yahoo! or ESPN, you can have this done manually by adding three extra slots, but this will require more organization from you and your league-mates.

Keeping the League Going

Once your league is set up, there will obviously be that first hit of dopamine and everyone will be really excited to get going. But how do you keep it going? It's pretty easy in my opinion: communication and trades. If you're constantly talking in a group chat and trading to keep the excitement up, it's unlikely that the league will stop any time soon. Speaking as someone who's been on both sides, it's far more fun to be in an active and talkative league.

Lastly, if you are doing your league with a cash prize, consider making it a significantly smaller amount than you normally would. If a player doesn't have a good squad that year, it'll be a lot less likely for them to want to shell out money that they're almost guaranteed to lose if it's a larger amount.

Dynasty Drafting Tips

Tip 1: Don't Always Look to Next Year

When a dynasty startup draft takes place, I think people tend to get caught up with youth in dynasty leagues. Of course, sometimes it makes sense. Victor Wembenyama going first overall may be a seemingly obvious choice for some, but I myself am not so sure.

I like to try and draft similar to how I would in a redraft league. Obviously, players like Wembenyama or Chet Holmgren will go much higher than normal, but is that really going to help you win this season? Take advantage of this, and draft some players who are great now, but might not be in a few seasons.

If you started a dynasty league three years ago, would 32-year-old Stephen Curry have been a top-5 pick? Would 35-year-old LeBron James have even sniffed the top-10? Probably not, but I guarantee the managers who grabbed them would be pretty happy they did so three years later.

It's good to mix in those win-now players with high-upside rookies. Creating that balance can help you maintain a strong team for several years.

Tip 2: Draft for Value, Not Build

This mainly applies to category leagues. I recommend drafting players for value, rather than for if they fit your build or not. For those who don't know, a "build" refers to a team that is set up to punt, or just disregard, a certain category or categories. So for example, if I draft Giannis Antetokounmpo, it's unlikely that I win the free throw percentage category, so I may lean towards players who also shoot poorly from the line.

But, as long as you have set up your league the right way, there will be trades aplenty. It's better to draft who you believe to be the most valuable player available and trade for a build later. The build you're going for may not even work out the way you predict it to.

This can also apply to points leagues when it comes to drafting for a position that you feel you need versus just drafting the best available. Again, if you feel a guard is the best player available, you should draft them and trade for a forward later. The guard you like might end up getting you a forward as well as another solid player back in the deal you go with.

Tip 3: Target Young Players With a Path to Success

It's easy to target younger players in a draft that you like, but how many of them will truly pan out? You can increase your odds here with a little extra research. Volume is king in fantasy sports. No matter how good a player is, they won't have fantasy success unless there is a path available for them. Let's dive into this a little more with an example of a player who hasn't panned out so far.

We'll look at Jalen Smith. Smith was drafted 10th overall by the Phoenix Suns back in 2020. As a lottery pick, it wouldn't have been surprising for him to be incorporated early on, even as a backup behind the starters at the time of Deandre Ayton or Jae Crowder. But Phoenix had other plans, and Jalen Smith ended up playing in just 27 games at 5.8 minutes per game. So why did this happen?

Well, Smith was already at odds coming in with Deandre Ayton in front of him. Smith would not be supplanting him any time soon. In addition, the Suns found themselves in win-now mode with the arrival of Chris Paul. So, despite the draft capital, Smith never panned out here and was moved to Indiana. He had a small amount of success, but his path here too was blocked by the sheer number of serviceable bigs the Pacers had behind Myles Turner.

This is all to say, it's important to look at context along with talent. There have been some games I've watched where Jalen Smith looks great, but his situation is also important. Here are some things I look for when it comes to drafting young players.

The Path to Play

  • Team situation: is the team going for a playoff spot? is this player good enough now and trusted by the coaches to crack the rotation? Think about James Wiseman's stint with the Warriors.
  • Teammates' situation/contracts: If another player on the team has better draft capital, or a long-term contract already in place, it may be hard for the rookie to make any noise. Teams tend to stick with a player they've paid for longer. Think about any rookie that the Denver Nuggets have drafted. All 5 starters are locked up for at least another two years. It's difficult to see a path for anyone else to start unless there's a major injury. You're then left hoping that someone can get enough run as their 6th man.
  • Coach's philosophy: How does a coach run their team? Coaches like Tom Thibodeau (New York Knicks) and Michael Malone (Denver Nuggets) rarely put a rookie into their rotation. They want a trusted veteran with experience there. Other coaches are more inclined to allow the young players to play early on. This usually goes hand-in-hand with a team's situation.

Tip 4: 2023-24 Players to Watch

This is, in part, connected to tip 3. Here are some players I like to target in a dynasty league.

Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets

You may be thinking, "duh." But my question to you is, would you draft Victor Wembenyama or Nikola Jokic in a startup league? I doubt all of you have the same answer. For me, I'll take Nikola Jokic. Now I'm a massive Denver Nuggets fan, but the numbers don't lie. I would expect him to continue with this type of production for at least 4-5 more years. I'm not sure Victor Wembenyama has this level of fantasy basketball dominance right away.

Jalen Williams, SG/SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

Jalen Williams is already a stud in real life and in fantasy after having a great rookie season. Some may expect him to regress with center Chet Holmgren coming back, but I see him taking a leap. He's very talented on a good young team that's looking to push for a playoff spot. I expect him to be someone that the Thunder end up extending in the future and keep as a core piece.

Franz Wagner, SG/SF/PF, Orlando Magic

I feel like I'm always talking about him as a sleeper or an underrated player, but I truly feel that he is both of those things. Wagner has really been overshadowed by Paolo Banchero. Banchero looks great don't get me wrong. But, if we look at who the better fantasy player is for 9-category leagues, we see that Wagner was ranked 106th last season, while Banchero was down at 211th, per BasketballMonster. Of course, Banchero has more upside, but don't sleep on Franz Wagner!

Devin Vassell, SG/SF, San Antonio Spurs

Vassell just signed a 5-year, $146 million contract extension with the San Antonio Spurs, per Adrian Wojnarowski. It's clear they want to make him one of the core pieces along with Victor Wembenyama. Take advantage of his down year last season.

Bilal Coulibaly, SF, Washington Wizards

Coulibaly was drafted 7th overall by the Wizards and is already competing for a starting job, starting in one of their preseason games against the Cairns Taipans. Preseason doesn't always tell us everything, but teams typically like to put their starting five out there if they're all healthy.

Ausar Thompson, SG/SF, Detroit Pistons

The Thompson twins are two of my favorite prospects. Their basketball IQ is extremely high, and they both play the game beautifully. I would expect Ausar Thompson to start immediately and have a strong impact next to Cade Cunningham. I also wouldn't be surprised if Ausar Thompson gets point guard eligibility before the season's end.


This concludes my 2023-24 Dynasty Fantasy Basketball Introduction and Strategy.  Any more questions, feel free to leave a comment below!

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