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In standard drafts you're always left at the whim of the random draft selection. In auctions, it's all up to you. You have the power to acquire any player you want; that is, if you're willing to pay the price. And if you like strategy, this is the perfect game for you. Snake draft strategy is fairly straightforward: You're picking the best player available for your specific needs. In auctions, you're doing the same, but now you have to consider your budget (and your opponents' budgets) at the same time.
If you're like me, you probably have at least 2-3 leagues per basketball season. Why not try making one of them an auction format? At the very least, you'll make my mother happy.
|If you just have to own LeBron James, all you have to do is bid the most and he's yours.|
You can spend your $200 as you like; that is, as long as you have enough funds to fill out your entire roster. So, in theory, you could spend $188 for LeBron James and fill the rest of your lineup with $1 sleepers if you really wanted to.
See, that's where the strategy comes in. Budget your money wisely, or you'll end up looking like some of these investment banks on Wall Street at the end of the day. But there's no government bailout in the cards for you, my friends. If you falter on draft day, it will be up to you to get yourself out of the hole. So let's get into that strategy, eh?
If you're a first-time auction player (which many folks are), it is absolutely imperative that you participate in at least one mock auction here at ESPN.com. You can read all the auction value cheat sheets you like, but nothing substitutes for a little practice. I would throw in an Allen Iverson joke here, but I think that "practice" bit from back in 2002 is a little overplayed by now.
Do your homework on the competition. Knowing your league mates is important in every fantasy league, but it may be even more important in an auction league. How do they spend their money? Are they going to go all out early for studs or will they sit back and try to vulture players once all the big bucks are spent? Which players do they typically like in snake formats and do they have any allegiances to specific teams? This all comes into play when deciding whether you should bid that extra dollar, or enter a bidding war with the opposition.
The problem here is that we are online, and we can't see the poker faces around the room. In old school "live" auctions, it is much easier to tell if an owner is going to trump your bid or fold in the cards. Knowing your competition will help compensate for the fact that you can't see your opponents.
|Expect to pay similar amounts for guys on the same tier, like Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson.|
Let's say you want to ensure that you have one stud point guard on your roster after the auction is complete. Now let's assume that a bidding war puts you out of the running for Chris Paul and Steve Nash. Well, now you know you're going to need to pony up the dough for either Deron Williams or Baron Davis (two players that I would also consider Tier 1 point guards). You'll also have a good idea as to what type of price it will take to acquire them. Probably slightly less than Paul and Nash, right?
I've never been a huge fan of the Stars and Scrubs routine; instead, I typically like to employ the balanced budget approach with a few modifications. In a true balanced budget strategy, you are going to spread your funds around without going all out for one of the elites. In my modified version, I try to view it as a snake draft, and attempt to acquire a player from each round. So I will bid on -- and make sure I win -- a first-rounder, a second-rounder and so on. Sometimes I'll mix it up and grab two second-rounders or two third-rounders and attempt to find a few $1 steals later in the draft. That said, my strategy may not work for you, and you'll have to tailor your strategy based on your personal preferences.
As the auction progresses, it gets even more interesting. Once you have a feel for your strengths and weaknesses, you can start nominating players that you no longer have a need for. Already have enough point guards? Start nominating the highest-rated point guards left. Have a stronghold on the blocks category? This is your chance to nominate Samuel Dalembert and the like to force your competitors' hands.
Your nomination strategy will change toward the end of the auction, when money gets tight. When the whole league has $1-5 left, don't get burned nominating a player you don't want for $1. You just might get stuck with him.
Also, try to have some fun with this. This is your best shot at assembling your favorite fantasy players on the same squad. So go right ahead and make a list of some guys you definitely want to acquire, and don't hesitate to outbid the rest of the competition.
Brian McKitish is an award-winning fantasy baseball and basketball analyst for ESPN.com.