Skip to main content

Fantasy Basketball Handcuff Strategy (2020-21)

Jan 18, 2021

It’s been a wild season thus far, as the NBA’s compact schedule has seen plenty of rest days, notable injuries, and the emergence of COVID-19. The coronavirus has caused some teams to play with a skeleton crew, and fantasy basketball rosters have been depleted as a result. Can fantasy managers employ handcuffing – a common fantasy football strategy – in fantasy basketball, too?

Here are Brad CamaraAlex BurnsAaron Larson, and Zak Hanshew with some tips to utilizing handcuffing strategy in fantasy basketball.

Create FanDuel lineups using our DFS Lineup Optimizer tool >>

Handcuffing is a strategy I usually employ in regards to drafting backup RBs in fantasy football. With the age of COVID, backing up your star players in fantasy hoops is a smart strategy. We have seen multiple players miss 7-10 days unexpectedly due to health and safety protocols. It can happen any day at anytime. We have recently seen star players such as Jayson Tatum, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler miss time due to COVID. If you had Damian Lillard on your team, using a roster spot on Anfernee Simons makes sense just in case Lillard unexpectedly misses time. Fantasy managers wouldn’t be scrambling to find a replacement. Instead they would have an option to plug and play into their starting lineup. I believe it’s a better strategy for deep-league formats in fantasy hoops, but backing up your top player wouldn’t hurt in any type of league.  -Camara

Handcuffing is a popular strategy in fantasy football, and while even in football I’m not the biggest proponent of the approach, I understand the appeal. It’s employed far less frequently in fantasy basketball but maybe we should start thinking about that differently. The best handcuff targets aren’t sitting idly on the bench, they already have important roles that would exponentially expand should their start teammate miss time. Two of my favorites are Jalen Brunson and Bobby Portis. Brunson plays nearly 17 minutes when coming off the bench behind Luka Doncic but saw that skyrocket to 37 minutes in the lone game Doncic missed this season. Brunson put up 31 points, seven assists, and five rebounds in that game. Portis is already a fringe fantasy option coming off the bench for Milwaukee. He saw a season-high 33 minutes while putting up a 17 point, 11 rebound double-double earlier this week when Giannis Antetokounmpo missed his first game of the season.  -Larson



Handcuffing in fantasy hoops isn’t a strategy that’s talked about too often, but it can definitely be beneficial, especially in a season that’s already been hampered so much by injuries, resting in back-to-backs, and COVID-related absences. If you have the roster spot and the ability to add a high-upside talent, it doesn’t make sense not to do so. The same applies in fantasy football. Why waste a bench spot on a guy who could score 10 points as a fill-in when you could take a flier on a lottery ticket. Hassan Whiteside hasn’t been a viable option all year, but if Richaun Holmes gets hurt or misses time for health and safety protocols, Whiteside is your ticket to big-time production.

Stashing Tyrese Maxey a couple weeks ago would have led to huge returns and a potential league winner before his 39-point eruption last week. The same is certainly true of Enes Kanter, who now finds himself in a starting role after Jusuf Nurkic broke his wrist. Some handcuffs, like Bobby Portis, are already productive in a backup role but could really take off if given extended minutes. Not all backups are created equal, so remember to look for guys with high ceilings who could put your team over the top if inserted into the starting lineup.  -Hanshew

In the midst COVID-19 affecting the availabilities of many top-tier stars, it certainly makes sense to adopt a strategy that will help guard against the volatility of your roster in 2021. While handcuffing is a strategy often used in fantasy football, it’s rarely spoken of in the fantasy basketball world. It’s a bit different in basketball, however, as just because a player is out doesn’t necessarily mean his direct backup will get all of the work. All 30 NBA teams use many different lineups and schemes relative to their opponent, so playing time and roles are never guaranteed for most reserve players.

With that being said, there are a few guys who consistently receive large workloads when the player in front of them happen to be out of the lineup. My favorite handcuff is Monte Morris of the Denver Nuggets. He sees around 26 minutes per game as the backup point guard behind Jamal Murray but receives a spike in playing time and usage when thrust into a starting role. When Murray missed a game back on December 29th, Morris entered the starting lineup and played 37 minutes, scoring 24 points on 66 percent shooting and dished out four assists. The great thing about Morris is that he even offers value when Murray is healthy as he is averaging 11.3 points, 3.2 assists, and 1.0 steals on 52 percent shooting off the bench this season. While those numbers won’t win you a league by any means, it’s enough to get by and should something ever happen to Murray, you got yourself a potential league winner.  -Burns

Create FanDuel lineups using our DFS Lineup Optimizer tool >>

Beyond our daily fantasy basketball content, be sure to check out our Daily Fantasy Basketball Tools. From our Lineup Optimizer – which allows you to build winning DFS lineups in seconds for Cash and GPP contests – to our DFS Cheat Sheets – that helps you get a quick read on the day’s players – we’ve got you covered this fantasy basketball season.

What's your take? Leave a comment

Follow the Pros!

Follow us on Twitter @FantasyPros for exclusive advice and contests