Before the Internet, there were fantasy leagues, believe it or not. You needed a hard-working Commish who compiled stats manually. That kind of dedication and creativity among commissioners still exists, though record-keeping is much easier; I’ve played in many leagues that go far beyond the “standard” rules to offer greater complexity and challenge.
Jeff and I are former champions of a baseball league with 60 teams. It’s been run on Yahoo for more than a decade, featuring three 20-team leagues. The kicker is relegation and promotion between the levels. New owners begin in the Carter Division. (The founders were Blue Jays fans; A-B-C was altered to Alomar, Barfield and Carter.)
After each season, the top three teams in Carter advance to Barfield — the middle division — while the bottom three finishers in B are relegated to C. The same thing happens in the “Premier League” known as the Alomar division. Each year, three strong, experienced owners who suffer various misfortunes must drop down to Barfield and earn their way back to the Show.
As a result, the A division gets tougher every year. I’ve played in money leagues where the competition is fierce, but never with so many truly great opponents.
Other possible variations on standard fantasy settings are almost limitless. Many leagues used to trade draft picks, long before Yahoo integrated that feature into their free game. Some have a “farm system” or reserve roster. I’m in a hoops league where each team has a “salary cap” of contract years. There, you want to own your stars on long-term deals and fill roster spots with 1-year guys. It creates a great deal of player turnover.
The rest of this article looks at one fantasy twist that I recommend with enthusiasm.
For me, while keeper leagues may be more challenging, the most enjoyable fantasy format is Elimination Roto. It requires more skill than Head-to-Head but is way more fun, with a lot more action, than traditional Rotisserie leagues, which progress at too glacial a pace for some.
We create a 20-team Roto league each year. Keepers just don’t work in this format. All our owners are in other keeper leagues that draft later, so the Elim draft is traditionally held very early. In fact, it’s tomorrow. Our 16-man rosters are ridiculously large at first; they become quite significant later.
Here is the main supplemental rule, from the Commissioner’s Note on our league’s main page.
1. Mini-draft: At the end of each month, two teams are eliminated — their players are put on special waivers and made available to the remaining teams. (Usually the teams eliminated are the bottom two teams, unless there’s also a “dead” team.) Owners who are in danger of being eliminated *must* cancel any trade offers or waiver claims by the last day of the month. Eliminated owners can continue to post on the message board, but their rosters will be locked for any future player activity. When their players are dropped, the waiver priority will temporarily be reset, so that the worst surviving team gets first choice of dispersed players, the next lowest gets second choice, and so on. (At the end of November, the teams in 19th and 20th are eliminated, and the team in 18th place gets first choice of a player on the eliminated teams’ rosters. The team in 17th place gets 2nd choice, etc. — the first-place team will have 18th pick.) Giving first choice in the mini-drafts to the remaining worst team allows owners who start slowly to catch up and compete for the rest of the year. At the end of each subsequent month, two more teams are eliminated. NOTE: If a manager forgets to participate in the dispersal draft on the first of each month, or fails to read important messages about the mini-draft, the rule is “snooze, you lose!”
In just my second week at Sheridan Hoops, I was stuck for a Sunday column during the all-star break and talked about preparing for one of those mini-drafts.
Seven months late, I must apologize to reader Seth, who asked me for the Roto Elim rules in a comment the next day. Sorry, I completely missed that until today; it’s easy to overlook comments on our articles, especially for a raw rookie.
Better late than never (I hope) for Seth and for anyone else who might be interested in creating this kind of league, here are the remaining rules:
2. Tiebreakers: Where two or more teams are tied at the end of any month, the tiebreaker categories will be in this order: PTS, AST, DREB, FG%, BLK, 3PTM. The team winning the tie-breaker will be considered the better-ranked team.
3: Waiver Priority: Except for each mini-draft, the waiver priority will be Yahoo’s normal order. Before each dispersal, the Commish will record the current priority, then manually reset it in reverse order of standing. On the 2nd of each month, the day after each mini-draft, the waiver priority will be reset as it was before. (Any players already on waivers for the 2nd will have their dates changed to the 3rd.)
4: Extra players: Players unclaimed in the dispersal draft become free agents. They do not return to the eliminated teams’ rosters.
Actually, because some people with Internet courage believe anonymity trumps integrity and manners, there are three more rules concerning trade protests, inactivity and acting like a jerk, but those aren’t specific to Elim.
Running such a league is extra work for the Commish, five times a year. The earlier the better on the first of each month, here’s my Yahoo routine (it may be slightly different elsewhere.)
- Change waiver date on any players already on waivers from the 2nd to the 3rd.
- Lock the two eliminated teams (except for messages) and release all their players.
- Change the waiver date on all 32 of those newly-released players (it will usually be the 4th in 2-day waiver leagues) to the 2nd.
- Make a note of the current waiver priority — copy and paste it to the message board.
- Change the waiver priority according to Rule 3 above, after applying tiebreakers if needed.
- Notify the league that the mini-draft is ready.
Each surviving owner then has the rest of the day (and evening) to submit a bunch of waiver claims, which are processed overnight by Yahoo.
The next morning, all the Commish must do is change the temporary waiver priority back to normal. The surviving owners have each added a player (or two, sometimes three) from the rosters that were eliminated. Until the next mini-draft, it’s a standard Roto league again.
Critical to Roto Elim and most Rotisserie leagues is a limit in games played (GP) at each position. We have two point guards (PG), two shooting guards (SG), two small forwards (SF), two power forwards (PF), two centers (C) and two utility spots (Util) — up to 12 active players per day. Because the NBA season is 82 games, each Roto team has a maximum of 164 GP at each of the six positions.
Some of us try to finish as low as possible in the standings the first two months. We bench productive players — squandering “valuable” stats — in order to receive an early pick in the dispersal drafts. This creates a large deficit in GP, while adding an additional star (or two) to our rosters.
Very strong teams get eliminated, by aiming for the first draft pick and miscalculating. It’s the “downside,” of course. If you join an elim league, you might not survive the season. However, the excitement of battling for position each month (fabulous finishes are the norm) and the ability to improve your team five times per year are unique features that soon become addictive.
Owners using the extreme come-from-behind style gladly take on that additional risk, for potentially greater rewards. They must also work very hard in the final two months to make up the GP they have “banked.”
I’ve never understood why some people hate streaming so much. If you aren’t utilizing every available roster spot in H2H playoffs, you aren’t trying. In elimination Roto, late in the season, streaming becomes a necessity and even an art form.
Each month, as the number of surviving teams gets smaller, the free agent pool gets deeper. Those GP you didn’t use (teams are often-100 or more in the first two months) can be made up in March and April by streaming some surprisingly useful players. Having four bench spots encourages this practice.
Whether or not you decide to form your own elim league, you can learn from our draft. I’ll publish the results in the Spin on Wednesday. It will be a two-part article; the first eight rounds (160 players) roughly correspond to a standard 12-round, 13-roster-spot league. Rounds 9 through 16 will be of more interest to those of you prepping for deeper leagues.
For a redraft league, with a gimmicky format, our Hoops Elim is loaded with experienced, successful fantasy GMs. When we reach for certain sleepers, or how far injured players drop, could be useful information in your draft preparations for even the most traditional leagues.
Tomorrow, don’t miss Part 3 of Jeff’s Fantasy Basketball Primer, a six-part series on strategy that is loaded with useful tips. He’s a master at taking advantage of every rule and exploiting every loophole. I wish he didn’t play in my leagues.
The Fantasy Spin will be here every day until the end of the NBA season next spring. Follow @SheridanFantasy on Twitter to keep in touch.