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ESPN Fantasy Basketball 101: Settings

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

If you are a League Manager (LM), you can change settings by going to your league or team page, clicking on "League," then "Settings." Here you will find general settings, which you can change by clicking "Edit."

For answers to this or any other ESPN Fantasy Basketball questions, you can always click here for the Support page.

NOTE: Hover your mouse over the "i" circles for information on each option.

For a detailed examination of how you might want to approach each setting, click the appropriate link below:

Basic Settings
Draft
Rosters
Scoring
Teams and Divisions
Transactions and Keepers
Schedule

Basic settings

League name: Make it something fun and memorable. It can be anything you want, as long as it doesn't include vulgar language or HTML, and you are limited to 32 characters.

Number of teams: It is strongly recommended that head-to-head leagues have an even number of teams to limit the number of bye weeks on the schedule, because teams will miss out on the fun during those byes. All leagues must have between four and 20 teams.

If you go with eight teams or fewer, your rosters will be stacked with plenty of star power, though you can counter that by enlarging the size of each team's roster, like using two starters at every position or several utility players. This can be a fun way to get the ball rolling if you are a newbie.

Ten teams is the traditional size of most leagues. The player pool is deep enough that each team has stars, but managers will still have the challenge of picking up free agents and players who are getting hot.

For a greater challenge, try using 12 or 14 teams. In bigger leagues like that, the player pool is thinned out enough that managers will need to have knowledge of lesser-known players in order to succeed.

Make league viewable to public: If you want to be able to let people who aren't in your league (friends, family, etc.) see your league pages, make it "Public" and share your league link with them. Note that some pages such as the list of team managers and the league message boards are never publicly viewable.

Scoring type

There are five scoring formats to choose from:

  • Rotisserie (Roto): Teams are ranked from first to last in each statistical category over the course of the season. Points are then awarded according to the order in each category, and totaled to determine an overall score and league rank. Typically, these leagues cap the total amount of games played at 82 at each position to ensure that no manager can play more games than the rest.

  • Head-to-head: Points: This format should be familiar, because it's similar to the way fantasy football is played. It allows you to assign a given point value to individual statistical categories, and each scoring period's winner is determined solely by which team accumulates the most fantasy points versus a single opponent. At the end of the week, you earn either a win, loss or tie before moving on to your next opponent. The default scoring system is as follows: field goals made (1), field goals attempted (-1), free throws made (1), free throws attempted (-1), points (1), rebounds (1), assists (1), steals (1), blocks (1) and turnovers (-1).

  • Head-to-head: Each category: Each week, the totals of each stat category are accumulated and your team is awarded a win, loss or tie based on how it did against your opponent. By the end of the week, you will have a record that reflects your performance (i.e., 6-3-1 in a 10-category league).

  • Head-to-head: Most categories: This format is similar to Head-to-head: Each category, with one big exception. Every week, the team totals are accumulated in each of the categories for both you and your opponent. Here's where things are different: At the end of the week, a winner is determined by which team wins the most number of categories. The end result is a win (1-0-0), loss (0-1-0) or tie (0-0-1).

  • Total season points: Points-based scoring allows you to assign a given point value to each individual statistical category (i.e. assist = 2 points, rebounds = 1 point, etc.) Standings are based on the accumulation of points covering all statistical categories and combined into one total points column. The team with the most overall points for the season wins.

Draft

There are four types of drafts that you can hold for your ESPN Fantasy Basketball league:

  • Offline: There really is no doubt that the most fun you can have is to get your friends, family or co-workers together in a room and do a live draft in person. You can't beat the laughs, trash talk and the feeling of being a general manager making selections at the NBA draft. If you go that route, then choose Offline draft, enter the rosters following the draft and play your season out on ESPN.

  • Snake: A live online draft is the simplest format and is ideal for leagues that have managers spread out over many cities, states or countries. "Snake" means that the draft order reverses each round, so a 10-team draft goes from 1-10 in odd-numbered rounds, then 10-1 in even-numbered rounds. That means whoever picks first in the draft will make his/her next pick at No. 20, then No. 21, etc. The manager who picks last in the first round (10th) will also get the No. 11 pick but will have to wait until picks 30 and 31 for their next selections. This is done so that each draft position has its advantages and disadvantages. Based on a predetermined draft order, the snake format ensures that you can construct a winning roster from any draft spot, but there are certain years when having one of the top one or two picks can be a big advantage if there are a couple clear-cut superstars in a tier all by themselves.

  • Autopick: If your league managers don't want to commit to preparing for taking part in a live online draft, simply select autopick, and we'll draft every team for you. This is a good way to enjoy playing fantasy basketball if you aren't that up on NBA rosters or don't want to spend much time on it. You can still get viable rosters, pull for your players each week and compete against your friends, family and coworkers. Note: You can game plan prior to your autodraft by ranking players, choosing how many of each position to fill, etc.

  • Auction: In this format, instead of drafting in a specific order, you will have a set budget and get to bid on each player in an auction format. This really tests your skills on an extra level, because not only do you need to know player values, but you also have to consider your budget during the auction draft. Make sure that all of your managers are committed to being online from the beginning to the end of the auction, because our system will automatically bid for any manager not online. While this helps fill the void, it also wreaks havoc on the prices of players and makes it difficult for active bidders to find values. This type of draft is appealing because you can get any player you want if you're willing to go for the highest bid, but it also takes about twice as long as a snake draft.

Draft settings

Draft date: When choosing a draft date and time, it's extremely important to make sure all of your managers are able to attend the draft in person or online so that you can avoid autodrafting. Our system will make autodraft picks for any managers not in attendance for a live online draft, which helps fill the void, but the human element is part of drafting, and absentee managers can have a negative effect on the fairness of the league. In other words: Don't be that guy/gal who forgets your draft is going on.

Seconds per pick: Choose how long each person will have to make a pick when they are on the clock (30, 60, 90 or 120 seconds). The default time is 90 seconds, but that can seem like a long time in bigger leagues, so be sure to consider that before the start of your draft.

Draft order: Select whether to have the League Manager manually set the draft order or, if you prefer, for the draft order to be randomly selected one hour prior to the start of your draft.

Allow draft pick trading: Some leagues like to spice things up a bit by allowing their fantasy managers to wheel and deal their draft picks. You can decide to go that route if you want to, but the default is set to "No."

Rosters

Roster size

Here you can adjust how big or small you want each team's roster to be. Select how many players each team will need to start (standard is 10) and how many players will be on the bench (standard is three).

Position

Standard rosters include one point guard (PG), one shooting guard (SG), one small forward (SF), one power forward (PF), one center (C), one guard (G), one forward (F), three utility (UTIL) spots -- filled by any position -- and three bench (BE) spots. Those who are on your bench are players who are on your roster but not in your starting lineup.

The fun part of fantasy basketball is all of these options can be adjusted however you see fit. Every league is a little different, and some league commissioners find certain roster settings more fun than others. The options are endless, really.

You can adjust to have multiple starters at each position, including center, and do away with the generic guard and forward positions. You can eliminate the utility spots or reduce the amount of them to one or two.

Adding more bench spots is another option worth considering, but be aware that it changes the complexion of your league. More bench spots provide additional wiggle room on your roster, giving you more choices on a daily basis, and that can be helpful with the uneven NBA schedule (some teams play just one or two games in certain weeks while others play up to five).

More bench spots can help even that out, but it also means fewer players will be available to pick up as free agents throughout the season. Be sure to weigh your options with this important decision.

You can also include injured reserve (IR) spots, so you can stash an injured player until he is ready to play again without sacrificing one of your active bench spots. Given the amount of injuries in the NBA these days, it can often be a good option to have at least one or even two IR spots.

Be aware that the IR is also a place managers often use to pick up and stash stars and elite players who begin the year injured and are slated to miss a good portion of the season.

Scoring

Much of the strategy involved in your league ultimately depends on the scoring format that's used, and there are several options to choose from (listed above in Scoring types). Here, you can decide which stat categories you want your league based around -- the default is points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, FG%, FT% and 3-pointers made.

Teams and divisions

Some leagues use two divisions with the winner of each division granted the top two seeds in the playoffs, and the two or four next-best records earning the other playoff berths.

If your league consists of 12 or more teams, you may want to consider going to three divisions with the three division winners earning the top seeds in the playoffs and the one or three other teams (depending on whether your playoffs call for four teams or six) with the next-best records claiming a playoff berth as a wild card. Please note, often in leagues that use divisions, a potential wild-card team misses the playoffs because a team with a worse record won the other division and claimed an automatic playoff berth.

If that isn't your thing, you can also create leagues that don't use divisions, which many believe is the fairest way of rewarding the teams with the best record during the regular season. Without any divisions, the teams that make the playoffs (whether it be two, four or six) are simply the ones who finished with the best records. To do so, click the Division dropdown, choose the same division for each team, click the red minus sign next to the division you wish to delete, then click "Submit Team and Division Settings."

Transactions and Keepers

Player rules

Observe ESPN's undroppable players list: This is basically a safety net to ensure that managers in your league won't drop a star player who could affect the outcome of your league via collusion or tanking. Any player on our undroppable list can't be released to waivers. Note that we take players off the list if they are injured or no longer warrant being on the list because of poor performance. If you genuinely trust all of your fellow managers to not mess with the integrity of the league, choose "No" to this setting. Generally speaking, though, it's wise to just be safe and let ESPN declare players who should not be droppable.

Player universe: Nearly all fantasy basketball leagues use all NBA players. However, you do have the option to stick with just Western Conference or Eastern Conference players only.

Acquisition and waiver rules

Lineup changes: You can choose to lock lineups either on a weekly basis or on a daily basis. If you choose the weekly setting, your lineups for the week have to be in before the first game on Monday, and this is a good setting if the managers in your league don't have a lot of time to spend obsessing about their teams throughout the week. It's a more casual setting. The more hardcore basketball fan typically prefers a daily setting, which requires attention pretty much every day of the NBA calendar. This option promotes more moves (free-agent pickups, etc.) throughout the week and is much more involved altogether. You can choose whether you want your lineups to lock individually at the scheduled game time or to lock when the first game of the day begins. The first of those two makes for a more fair experience, as you are able to move a player to your bench if he is a late scratch and a replace him with a bench player whose game has yet to start.

Player acquisition system: If you choose waivers, any player who is dropped from a team will be placed on waivers for a day or two, during which time each team has the option to put in a waiver claim for him. The team with the highest waiver priority that made a claim will get that player and move to the bottom of the waiver order. This is a simple system, which is good for beginners and is the standard format. Free-agent auction options allow teams to bid on unowned players, using their free-agent auction budget (FAAB, a dollar amount set by the commissioner). The highest blind bid gets the player. This offers an extra level of strategy, as you have to decide how much of your money to spend for each bid and how much to save for later in the season.

Season acquisition limit: Most leagues allow unlimited waiver moves (such as adding a free agent), because managers want to be actively trying to improve their rosters all season long. However, you do have the option of limiting such moves, which could be handy if your managers have limited time to commit to the league. You can set the limit of moves based on the entire season (50 is a common number) or for each weekly matchup (which is good for head-to-head leagues, and six is a solid number).

Trade Rules

Trade deadline: Most leagues allow unlimited trades so managers can improve their rosters throughout the season. However, you can set a limit on the amount of trades if you wish, and including a trade deadline is generally a good idea, because you don't want managers who have no chance of making the playoffs making trades in the waning weeks of your regular season with managers who are deep in a playoff chase. You can see how that could mess with the integrity of the league. On the other hand, many keeper leagues don't include a deadline, because a team that is out of the race for this season could still make trades to improve their team for the next season -- even if that gives a significant boost to an opponent this season -- without affecting the league's overall integrity.

Trade review: If you know and trust everyone in your league, you can skip trade reviews altogether. That way, when you make a trade minutes before a game starts, you can immediately insert those new players into your lineups. However, generally speaking, it is wise to give your fellow managers a day or two to vote on whether to veto a trade. (Note: Check your league rules to see how many votes are required to veto a trade.) It's important to note that a trade should not be vetoed simply because you feel it may be lopsided. Quite often such trades turn out to be just fine or the managers had good reasons to make the deal, even if it seems one-sided. Vetoes should be reserved for when collusion or blatant tanking is involved and will affect the integrity of the league.

Keeper rules

Keeper leagues arguably are the most fun to play, because like real general managers, you construct your roster over the course of many seasons. If your team stinks this season, you can build for next year. If you think you may have a winner this season, you can trade away young talent for high-end stars to put you over the top now. The bottom line is, playing with keepers allows you to hold on to players for the following season. How many keepers you get depends on the number your league decides on.

Schedule

Since so many NBA teams rest star players and/or shut down injured players during the final stretch of the season, it is wise to wrap up your fantasy league a little earlier.

How do you make this work? Much of this will depend on the size of your league, how many teams you want to have make the playoffs (you can choose anywhere from zero to eight) and how long the playoffs will last, but a smart way to do it is to wrap up your league by Week 21 or 22. The reason for this is because by Weeks 23 and 24, the final weeks of the regular season, many teams are using little-used reserves and rookies instead of their starters. That's far from ideal.

ESPN's default in 10- and 12-team leagues is for four teams to make the playoffs, with the semifinals and championship spanning from Weeks 21-24 and each round lasting two weeks. You can easily go in and adjust these settings if you prefer one-week playoff rounds, and here are some settings we'd recommend.

  • Four-team playoffs in Weeks 21-22: In this case, four teams make the playoffs, with the semifinals in Week 21 and finals in Week 22. This puts a real premium on regular-season wins, because only the top teams get a spot in the playoffs.

  • Four-team playoffs in Weeks 19-22: In this case, the semifinals run in Weeks 19-20 and the finals Weeks 21-22. This format uses two full weeks for each of the playoff matchups, which can be a grind after a long season but also helps ensure that the better team wins by removing some of the randomness you may find in a one-week playoff game. This is particularly true in the NBA, where certain teams play more than others during those critical fantasy playoff weeks.

  • Six-team playoffs in Weeks 20-22: In this format, the top two teams earn a bye in Week 20, while the next four teams battle in a pair of wild-card matchups. In Week 21, the two winners from Week 20 advance to face the top two seeds (which were on a bye) in the semifinals. Those winners then face off in the Week 22 championship game. This format rewards the teams that had the best regular season, but it also allows in two extra teams and gives squads that get hot late in the season to make a run to the title. Often times, those are the teams that end up winning it all.

For answers to any other ESPN Fantasy Basketball questions, click here for the Support page.