StratPinion – Roto Vs. Head to Head

Read more from Michael here. His scoring system is explained in depth in his Fantasy Basketball Manifesto. His two week and season-long ranks are posted on his blog as well. You can find him on twitter too, but you’re probably more likely to find him at work where he doesn’t have internet access!

I first wrote about the differences between rotisserie and head-to-head scoring early this season on my blog at, and I think it is one of the biggest misconceptions made in fantasy basketball, so I’m tackling it again. My opinion is that players with bad percentages are bad roto players because they force you to punt categories, not because percentages matter more in roto leagues.

Different Types Of Leagues

To make sure we are all using the same terms, I think 99 percent of fantasy basketball leagues can be split into three categories: points, roto, and head to head. The biggest difference is that roto and head to head leagues are category leagues, and points leagues are completely different.

In points leagues, you get “points” for certain categories, just like fantasy football. Most daily fantasy sports sites use this system. You might get three points for a block, one point for a point, and two points for a rebound. Whoever has the most points at the end of the matchup wins.

In roto leagues you play the entire season and rank each category against the rest of the league. If you are in first place in points, second in steals, and fourth in blocks, you get (12+11+9) 32 points.  There are no playoffs; the team with the most points at the end of the season wins. In head to head you play one team every week, and each category is worth one point (or, winner-takes-all for the week if you win the majority of the categories).

Punting Categories

Punting categories is a popular strategy for head to head leagues, since the penalty for losing to everyone in the league in any particular category is low. If you assume the talent in your league is equally divided between the teams, a punting strategy will concentrate your value in enough categories to win the majority of your matchups. On the other hand, in roto leagues it is nearly impossible to win if you finish at the bottom of a category. I would never recommend punting categories in roto unless you were in a really special scenario, or just wanted to experiment.

Common sense and popular opinion agree – you shouldn’t punt categories in roto leagues, but it’s a great strategy (though certainly not required) in head to head leagues.

Which Categories To Punt

There are two basic types of categories: ratios (e.g. field goal percentage and free throw percentage), and the basic countable categories. You can punt any category, but it pays to punt deliberately. If your team is going to punt rebounds, it might make sense to punt blocks too. Then you can concentrate on getting valuable guards, and big guys that have their value in non-traditional big-guy categories.

Punting a category by concentrating value away from countable categories is okay, but punting the ratio categories is great. If you don’t care about free throw percentage, you can use Andre Drummond and not worry about the fact that you will never win that category.

Percentage Categories Don’t Matter More In Roto Leagues

Percentages do have more variance. This means that sometimes a team that is really good at a percentage category will lose to a team that “should” be worse. Shooting slumps and hot streaks are more likely to affect you in the ratio categories, but they balance each other out. A player’s percentage at the end of the season is just the sum of his weekly performances.

Adding low percentage shooters to your team can really hurt your chances at winning that category for the week, unlike the counting categories. No one cares that Brook Lopez doesn’t get a lot of assists or threes. But it would be really painful if he shot 0/10 from the line in his next matchup!

Having a player with really bad percentages forces you into punting that category, or taking a huge amount of value to overcome his weakness in that category. If you paired Harden (FTOP: +33) with Drummond (FTOP: -38) this year, you probably aren’t winning free throw percentage every week, even with the most valuable free throw shooter in the NBA this season.

Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard are terrible players to own in roto leagues. But they can also be liabilities in head to head leagues, unless you punt free throw percentage. Players with bad percentages are bad roto players because they force you to punt categories, not because percentages matter more in roto leagues.

Ray Guy Memorial All-Stars

To read these, the “Standard Score” and “Standard Rank” are for teams that are not punting any categories. These ranks are based on standard nine category leagues. The next two columns are how much they improve on their overall score and rank for teams that are punting field goal percentage or free throw percentage, respectively. The players are ranked by worst FGOP or FTOP to tenth-worst.

Please keep reading, there are a lot of new writers here at the RedRockBasketball empire. Of course keep listening to Josh on the podcast, and support the site by checking out Audible or any of the other links you see around the site. Most importantly, share the articles you like!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy playing and analyzing fantasy basketball as much as I do. If you follow me on twitter @StatDance you can tell your friends you were one of the first people to follow me, so go get in on the ground floor! I’m always excited to hear new ideas, questions, and constructive criticism.

About Michael Muskett

Love the basketball, love the numbers. I have a degree in Chemical Engineering but if you're an NBA team owner, I'm available.

Leave a Reply