The National Basketball Association will embrace fantasy basketball like never before this coming season by adopting an official fantasy scoring system.
"We've seen all the data that shows how engaged fantasy players are, and how much live basketball they watch," said Scott Kaufman-Ross, NBA associate vice president, fantasy sports. "Because of that, we've been looking for ways to make fantasy a bigger part of basketball culture and make fantasy basketball a bigger part of the basketball conversation."
The system will include six categories. A point will be worth one point, naturally. Rebounds will be worth 1.2 points, and assists will be worth 1.5. You'll get three points for every steal and for every blocked shot, and you'll be docked one point for every turnover.
"We felt like it really needed to be simple and easy to understand," Kaufman-Ross said of the scoring system. "Especially since the new [fantasy] players for basketball -- if we're looking to increase participation, they'll likely be casual fans, so we wanted to make sure it was as simple as possible."
Several different departments at the NBA were involved in the process of devising the scoring system, and fans were involved as well, via a survey. There was discussion about including some other categories.
"The biggest [other] one that we considered was finding a way to measure scoring efficiency -- field goal percentage, free throw percentage, etc.," Kaufman-Ross said. "We would have loved to find a way to include that. But it's just so complicated to add points for made shots, and minus points for missed shots, and trying to calculate that in your head is a little bit difficult.
"We looked across to other sports -- for example, if you look at football, a quarterback being 12-of-30 is no different than a quarterback being 12-of-15. Or, a running back that rushes 10 times for 100 yards is no different than [rushing] 25 times for 100 yards. So certainly you'd love to reward efficiency a little bit, but again, it's a little bit too complicated."
They also strongly considered making turnovers more costly, subtracting two points per turnover, as opposed to one, as a way to reward efficiency.
"Fans had a very negative reaction to that," Kaufman-Ross said. "What we learned is that fans don't like negative scoring, they don't like losing points. So that was one of the ways we listened to the fans."
As for the 1.2 points per rebound and 1.5 points per assist, there was a specific strategy associated with those numbers as well.
"We've seen in the daily fantasy world that they have to do certain things to make sure there aren't too many ties," Kaufman-Ross said. "And so that was something we heard from that community, that there needed to be sort of a decimal, if you will. Obviously it would be easier if everything was one, two or three [points]. But the decimals help to avoid ties."
All the NBA's official fantasy partners will be adopting the new scoring system for the 2017-18 season.
"Pretty much every major provider has a different scoring system for basketball," Kaufman-Ross said. "We thought having a consistent scoring system would go a long way to help everybody start speaking the same fantasy language. And since we were the league, we were in a unique position to spearhead that conversation."
One other tweak the league is making that's fantasy-related is the way it presents its schedule, with a clear nod toward the NFL.
"We've actually labeled our schedule in weeks this year," Kaufman-Ross said. "So it's Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, all the way through Week 26. And while that was done for a number of reasons, to help fans follow the games better, one of them was for fantasy purposes. Because we felt the most popular form of fantasy would be a weekly scoring system.
"A common complaint about fantasy basketball is that there's this perception it's too much work. And so [we thought] a more familiar weekly structure would go a long way toward addressing that."
Week 1 begins on Tuesday, Oct. 17. The NBA has a ways to go to catch up with the popularity of fantasy football, but the league is clearly trying to close the gap.