A guide to making the perfect fantasy basketball league

It’s that time of fantasy football season where the haves and have-nots are apparent. Only a select number of teams still have a realistic shot at winning the league, and sorry, your 1-5 team isn’t among them.

Luckily for you fantasy losers out there, another season has just begun.

That’s right people, fantasy basketball is back.

OK, I understand fantasy basketball isn’t very popular. Heck, even many NBA fanatics can’t stand fantasy basketball. Whether it’s the tedious scoring system or the long season, sometimes joining a basketball league just isn’t worth the time commitment.

Not anymore.

Here are some tips on how to make your fantasy basketball league enjoyable.

Ditch the standard format

Most standard fantasy basketball leagues utilize a scoring system based off categories. The winner of a head-to-head matchup is determined by whoever wins the most categories. Those categories include points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, 3-pointers, field goal percentages and free throw percentages. The problem with this format is that players, such as Serge Ibaka, emerge as top-10 players because they thrive in one category (in Ibaka’s case, he was the only player to average more than three blocks per game last season). A scoring system more similar to fantasy football is much more ideal.

Fantasy football combines multiple categories while ignoring efficiency. Passing yards, rushing yards, receiving yards, field goals, defense and, of course, touchdowns are combined into a point total. Yards per carry, completion percentage and yards per reception don’t matter. Fantasy basketball should be the same.

Throw out field goal percentage, free-throw percentage and turnovers. This way stars such as Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard won’t kill teams by bricking free throws. This also limits the effectiveness of pure dunkers, such as DeAndre Jordan, who sport ridiculous field goal percentages.

Stick to the essential categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and 3-pointers made. Points, rebounds and assists are worth one point each, while the rarer categories — steals, blocks and 3-pointers made — are worth two points.

This points format is not only easier to understand, but it also allows for the best players in real life to be the best players in the fantasy realm. For example, Ibaka finished eighth on ESPN’s player rater last season based on standard scoring while Howard ranked 65th. Ibaka dropped to 66th overall when adjusting for the simpler scoring system while Howard surged to 11th. The Houston Rockets wouldn’t have signed Howard to a four-year $88 million contract this offseason if he was the 65th best player in the league.

Simplify the lineups

Fantasy football, once again, is the inspiration for this idea. Few people are going to keep up with daily lineups during an 82-game season. That’s why it’s best to switch to a weekly format.

I know an NBA team can play 3-4 times a week, but it makes a lot of sense. Even the most avid fantasy basketball owners are unlikely to remember to change their lineup every day. A weekly lineup allows the owner to set a rotation once a week without having to worry about checking the daily statuses of players. In addition to the weekly setting, owners should switch to a more traditional lineup.

ESPN standard leagues include each position, point guard through center, and then a guard spot, a forward spot and a utility spot. The guard and forward spots are too confusing. Is Andre Iguodala a guard or forward? What about Paul George? By eliminating this confusion, you can only play Iguodala at positions he plays — shooting guard and small forward — and can’t interchange him with point guards or power forwards in your utility spots.

Keep a starting lineup consisting of a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center. Maybe add three utility spots to the starting lineup, but keep the roster at 12 players max. Fifteen-player rosters are unnecessary in a star-dominant league. (If you own Kirk Hinrich, you’re doing it wrong.)

Put it all on the line

This may seem obvious, but fantasy sports are not enjoyable unless something’s at stake. With basketball it’s even more important since the long season can tune out fantasy owners. There needs to be some incentive to keep fantasy owners active throughout the season. Sometimes rewarding the first place finisher isn’t enough. Once the bottom teams realize they don’t have a chance, there’s little reason to continue trying. Well, unless your league penalizes the stragglers.

Think of it like the relegation system in professional soccer leagues. If you finish last, you have to pay for it. Some ideas include being dropped from next year’s league, paying an additional sum of money, or my personal favorite; showing up to Olive Garden in a suit with a blow-up doll as your date. (Yes, this actually happened in a league I was in.) Handing out fines for forgetting to set your lineup or starting Andrew Bynum every week is another option. Don’t be that guy.

Michael is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]