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Categories vs Points Strategy Tips (2020-21 Fantasy Basketball)

Dec 15, 2020

Whether you’re new to the game or a grizzled vet, it’s never a bad idea to brush on your fantasy basketball strategy. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. We polled our resident experts, and they offered their best strategy tips for categories and points leagues. Here’s what Brad Camara, Dan TitusAlex BurnsAaron LarsonDave Kluge, and Zak Hanshew had to say.

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The differences between points and categories leagues are subtle but important. In a categories league, I’m always looking for balance. In the first few rounds, I’m still looking for the best overall fantasy contributor and not worrying much about the specific categories, but as the rounds get later, I start focusing on categories of need. If I have a big rebounder and shot-blocker that can’t hit a free throw, I feel the need to compensate with a high-percentage shooter, even if he doesn’t contribute much elsewhere. A points league, on the other hand, I treat more like a DFS lineup. It’s ok to stack players with the same skillset if they’ll rack up total fantasy points. A poor free-throw outing isn’t going to hurt my points league lineup if my roster dominates in points, rebounds, and blocks.  -Larson

While a casual fantasy player might not realize the difference, I believe that a lot more strategy goes into building a category-style roster. That is why it’s my preferred format. While I have seen a lot of league managers try to build teams that can put up solid numbers across the board, I opt to draft the best players available with my first two picks and then build a team revolving around their strengths, punting away one or two categories for the opportunity to dominate the rest. For example, if I took Trae Young and Devin Booker with my first two picks, I’d be looking for a center like LaMarcus Aldridge or Nikola Vucevic to pair up with them, as they both shoot a high percentage from behind the arc. If I were to take Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons with my first two picks, I’d be targeting scrappy guards that accumulate rebounds, blocks, and steals. I’d reach for guys like Jrue Holiday and Kris Dunn. In the first example, I’m focusing on points, three-point percentage, and assists while throwing out my blocks and rebounds. In the second example, I’m punting away field goal percentage in an attempt to gain a weekly lock on rebounds, steals, and blocks.  -Kluge

There are minor differences between point and category formats, but I feel there’s more strategy involved in roto-leagues. In points leagues, I am looking to draft elite scorers and players who stuff the stat sheet while ignoring shooting percentages. Someone like RJ Barrett holds more value in points leagues as he can light up the scoreboard on any given night, but his woeful shooting percentages make him less valuable in roto. While in category formats, it can be a balancing act. I am not believer in punting specific categories, as I feel you just need to be within striking distance of each commodity if you want to take down your league. Fantasy managers are looking to draft versatile players as opposed to elite scorers. For example, Joe Ingles has a ton value in category leagues as he contributes in most categories and has decent shooting percentages. Both formats are fun to play, and different strategies are involved if you want to win the championship in any league.  -Camara

In points leagues, I’m looking for opportunity and high-usage rates. Guys like James Harden, Luka Doncic, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Stephen Curry are all on the radar in the first round and beyond. Scoring in points leagues is akin to scoring in NBA DFS contests, so guys who rack up a bunch of points, crash the glass with authority, hand out assists like candy, or do all three are the ones you want on your team. There’s no concern over shooting percentages, and turnovers aren’t as detrimental in points leagues, so guys who might struggle with their shot (R.J. Barrett for example) but still see plenty of work are much more valuable in points leagues than in categories leagues. For categories leagues, strategy varies depending on who you select in the first few rounds. Early on, I’m still looking for opportunity and high usage, but I’m not jumping on guys who can just score or rebound. I’m looking for guys who contribute across the board. Anthony Davis is a prime target if you have the first overall pick in a categories league, because he’s a consistent scorer and rebounder who contributes on the defensive end and typically shoots well. If you really want a competitive advantage in a few categories and opt to select more one-dimensional players in the early rounds, you’ll need to do more of a balancing act in the later rounds. It’s easier to find contributors in categories like three-pointers and rebounds later in the draft, while the top blockers and facilitators are a bit more scarce. Scorers can be found throughout the draft, but to stay competitive, you’ll likely need to grab at least one elite option in that department.  –Hanshew

While there are many different types of fantasy basketball formats, points and category leagues are generally the most common. When building out my roster in a category league, I’m looking for well-rounded players. Those who contribute in the stat column across the board will be more valuable early on for me. For example, Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s value takes a small hit in category leagues due to his low free throw percentage and inability to knock down threes at a respectable rate. As a result, I would be more inclined to select someone like Luka Doncic or James Harden over Giannis if drafting first overall in a category league. I would continue that gameplan for the remainder of the draft in order to construct a well-rounded roster, complete with guys who will contribute in each stat category. In a points league, however, Giannis would be in discussion for the number-one overall pick as his poor free throw shooting and lack of three-point game wouldn’t hurt his value as much. His total fantasy points per game would be added up at the end of each week and applied to the team total. He is arguably the most valuable player in a points format. With that being said, category leagues generally require a greater strategy than points leagues and do have the potential to affect certain players’ fantasy values.  -Burns

I recommend targeting players with a high usage rate that play on teams that are amongst the top in offensive pace. These two statistics (much like targets or rushing attempts in the NFL and offensive scheme) factor into a player’s opportunity to produce. I want the players who are on the floor, touching the ball, and involved on both ends of the court. In points leagues, percentages are not a factor, so focus on ball-dominant players that can fill up the box score. Defensive stats tend to carry more weight in points leagues, and the ability to find players in the mid-rounds like Robert Covington or Lonzo Ball can give you an edge. With category leagues, it is important to have a healthy balance across categories. But remember, the goal is to win at least five categories, and percentages matter. Use the first few rounds to pick the best players available. It’s okay to reach, but make sure you’re selecting players that can give you consistency and efficiency on a nightly basis. As you continue to fill out your roster, pay attention to your weaknesses and fill in the gaps when you reach the mid-to-late rounds. It’s okay to punt a category to dominate in other areas. Managers who select players with deficiencies in their games (i.e., Ben Simmons, Rudy Gobert) should hedge with a high-volume and accurate free-throw shooter like Lou Williams in the later rounds to balance out your team.  -Titus

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Thanks to all of our experts! Be sure to check out their other work and follow them on Twitter.

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