Strategy Talk: Tips To Help You Dominate Your Auction Draft

by Ray Kuhn

I am biased. Give me a choice on draft type, and I’m taking auction every time.

When doing a draft against 9 or 11 other owners, there is no such thing as having a perfect draft. All it takes is one thing to completely change the direction of your team. But I feel that an auction gives you more control. This is not meant to be an argument as to what type of draft you should do, as auctions are not as common, but instead the hope is that it provides you some tips. Perhaps by the end of this article, you will be more prepared or be apt to trying an auction.

There is no such as having a plan when it comes to auction. Yes, I know that goes against everything you know about fantasy basketball and everything that we stand for. The statement may be harsh, but it is true.

Of course you are going to have a plan, you say. Your rankings are done, players are tiered, statistical targets noted, sleepers highlighted, and dollar values computed. You are asking for trouble if you do otherwise.

But then the LeBron James gets nominated, and goes for $9 more than the dollar value you had for him. Now what?

For starters, every other dollar value on your sheet is now inaccurate. The market has spoken. But it is not as easy as just adding $9 to the other top players. The entire dollar pool is now impacted, and everyone will react.

While it is necessary to have dollar values projected for each player, you also have to remember that each auction is different. But perhaps more importantly, because someone overpaid for James, there will be other players undervalued by the same amount because ultimately the total available dollar pool will not change. The success of your auction will be dependent upon finding those players.

So now how do you handle this situation?

Unless you have software to calculate this automatically, it is not exactly feasible to adjust dollar values after every player is purchased. However, what you should do is track the purchase price for each player and compare that your values. This will help you to identify some possible values.

The problem that you can run into though, is that you hold on too firmly to your dollar values, and you miss out all the top options, or all of the rebounders, and then are left with a hole.

Perhaps the most important thing to do, is to have a plan. Identify groups of players that you want. Do this by position and statistical category to make sure you build a well-rounded squad. And by having groups of players, at varying dollar values, it helps to make sure that you aren’t in the position of overpaying for any one individual player or category. When you feel that the auction is passing you by, remember that for all of the overpriced players, there will be the same amount of bargains. But don’t be too stubborn where you miss out Russell Westbrook because you wouldn’t go $1 over your budgeted amount.

When you come up with your budget, realize that it cannot be static. Build some wiggle room and discretion into it. And this is still better than a draft.

If you don’t like any of the mid-tier players this year, then you can go with a stars and scrubs approach. What if you there aren’t any stars you like? Then draft a team of mid-tier players. If you were in a draft, this would not be efficient. With an auction, as long as you hit your statistical targets to finish in the money, it doesn’t matter how you get there.

Not to speak in absolutes and to expand on my previous point, within reason, you can get everyone you want. I mean yes, you can draft LeBron James, Kevin Love, and James Harden if you wish, but your team will likely suffer for it. But if you think that is the best path to fantasy success, then you can do it. However, I wouldn’t advise it.

Where this really comes into play, is regarding sleepers and mid-tier players. Instead of worrying about when you should draft a Markieff Morris, Klay Thompson, or Elfrid Payton, just wait for their names to come up in the auction. If you really want all three of them, they can be yours. Granted you might have to pay a dollar or two more than what you think they are “worth”, but it is better than having them drafted the pick before you.

There are many ways to be successful in a fantasy basketball auction, but the one guaranteed way to fail, is to not have a plan.


  1. kevin T says:

    HELP! i’m in a 10-team, 9-cat H2H league, and we’re doing our auction draft tonight. i suspect that at least three teams will be on autopick. any specific tips to tilt things in my favor? best to nominate players i don’t want for the first few rounds, so they burn money? or nominate value picks early, since i’m only competing with 6 (instead of 9) other teams if the price goes over a player’s standard price? there must be a strategy here to at least increase the odds of a great draft, right? (ps: i discovered your website last year, and LOVE the insight!)

    • ML says:

      i reckon it’s best to stuff the overvalued guys to the autopick teams early, including injured stars if the host site has not adjusted their projected values.

      Then stuff those teams with $2/$3 scraps to fill up their roster and eliminate the cpu from bidding the sleepers you like.

    • Ray Kuhn says:

      Hey Kevin – Glad you discovered our site, much appreciated

      First of all, I can’t stand doing any kind of draft, but especially an auction with teams on autopick. I generally like to nominate the big name players first to get others to spend their money on them, or to grab a bargain if teams are more cautious at first. The problem though, is that on autopick, those teams will bid up to the website’s dollar value. So let’s say LeBron is $70 and you dont want him, nominate him, and at the least one of those teams will get him for 70 or you will force another team to go over the 70 to get him.

      But in general i like to get the other teams to burn money early, and I also like to see what the market is. Wait to sneak in the value picks, because those autopick teams will force you to pay at least whatever value the website has for them. Instead nominate guys you dont want at that price point. In a situation like this, I would likely wait to nominate guys you actually want, because you aren’t going to get them for a discount. But make sure you save enough money that you will be able to get them in the end, but also don’t be afraid to go a dollar or two over the site value if you really like a player. Don’t fall victim to pricing that really doenst make sense.

      I hope that helped.


  2. ML says:

    Auction over standard snake draft – Everytime!!
    It is a much better way to draft, because it’s a much fairer way to draft generally speaking. Specifically, I think auction is better since:

    1. There will be clear advantages drafting at certain spot in a snake, especially when there is a clear cut group of top players. To me drafting top 3 in the first round always has a substantial advantage than drafting top 3 in the second round, because the drop-off is much bigger between 1-3/10-12 than 13-15/22-24 in most years.

    2. In relation to number 1, in certain situations, you are sometimes forced to pick players you didn’t really like, because they’re the best there is at your pick. If you always go for the players you like, sometimes you aren’t yielding the best value of the pick you have. In auction, as long as you still have the money, you will be able to bid for any player you like at any point, and everybody has a fair chance of landing any particular player.

    3. Auction offers more ways to build a good roster. ANY type of “good” roster, and have fun with it. Standard snake draft will produce a league full of similarly structured rosters – A couple of very good players from first 2 rounds, 2-3 mid-tier guys, another 2-3 solid/low end guys, then a bunch of uninteresting or frustrating-to-own fliers. For example, it is possible to land both Lebron and Durant together in almost any type of auction, while the chance of landing both in a standard snake is practically nil.

    4. Auction emphasizes preparation for the draft – In standard snake drafts, even if the cpu draft for you, you probably won’t end up with too bad a team, since it’ll automatically pick the best pre-ranked player each time (assuming the rankings are not too outrageous). In auction, if you don’t go into a draft with a plan, you are going to suffer mightily because you might be stuffed with rubbish and end up leaving money on the table, or got caught into a bidding war for certain players and overspend in the early stage.

  3. Chuck says:

    If all statistical categories are equally weighted for weekly scoring, would it make better sense to draft according to players overall projected statistics rather than drafting based upon position and/or category?

    Great article by the way

  4. Chuck says:

    I have compartmentalized my picks into A,B,C & D players. My budget is $250.00. I am considering One A player, Two B’s, Three C’s and Four D’s. Of course I hope many of my players are purchased for less than their budget yet higher than the grade assigned. I have $70 as target price for A, $30, $20 and $15 on down the line.

    This is my first-ever fantasy basketball foray.

    Your thoughts please?

    • Will Overton says:

      Early in the draft I will focus more on overall rankings and projections, then later I start looking at specific positions and categories based on how my early draft went.

      I like your system, but don’t get married to it, prepare to be flexible if needed. You’ll end up getting a guy who should cost you $15, for $5 for example. so be prepared to be flexible.

      • Chuck says:

        The article seems to suggest we should nominate top players first and see what is left over. I thought we should nominate the lower tier players first to see what we will have to pay for them.

        What is your recommendation?

        • Ray Kuhn says:

          Well there are two approaches to that. Obviously you aren’t planning on drafting every top player, so you will want to get some large chunks of cash out of the way. Sometimes though, lower tier players go for more money early in the draft since everyone is flush with cash. If you don’t really care about adding that player, then yeah you can see what the market is.

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