By Arik Zilber of "Day To Day fantasy NBA" app

Every fantasy manager who loves the game and enjoys snake drafts must at some point move on to the next step in the evolution, and that of course is auction draft.

So what exactly is an auction draft? It's a public auction of players. Each manager starts with a $200 budget with which they are supposed to buy their 13 players. Each manager in turn brings up a player and an auction is held on him, with the manager who makes the highest bid winning.

There are several very clear advantages to this draft method. First, it is a fairer method. Unlike snake drafts where those who choose first are considered to have an advantage in the draft, so here everyone has equal chances and everyone can get any player they want (as long as they are willing to put the appropriate amount on it).

In addition to being fairer, it allows for a variety that snake drafts simply cannot allow. If in a snake it is clear to you that you will have a first-round, second-round, and so on player, here a manager can choose from a variety of options. You can bid most of the budget on 3 first-round players and be left with little money to complete the rest of the roster, you can skip first-round players and build wide, you can build a team that is similar to a snake build. The possibilities here are very diverse. We will talk about the different strategies later.

The disadvantages of auction draft are first that it is a draft that requires a lot more understanding and lack of understanding can cause a player to build a very weak team. If in a snake draft the method still protects the manager so that in the end, he chooses impressive players and makes the most of his choices, here an inexperienced manager can spend too much money on players and build very weak teams, or be left at the end of the draft with a lot of dead money that he did not use. Another disadvantage is that auction draft takes around 2 and a half hours as opposed to snake draft which ends in less than an hour.

From my personal point of view, the previous paragraph describes additional advantages of the draft rather than disadvantages. Auction is two and a half hours of pleasure. Two and a half hours that are used in the best possible way that if you can use two hours. Anyone who connects to this type of draft, there is no more fun than it. And yes, it requires more skill, that's what makes it more interesting in my eyes.

If you talk about strategies, it's worth understanding what the basic strategies are in the draft and, no less important, when to use each one.

Stars and scrubs

This is the sexiest strategy in auction drafts. Buy 2 or 3 first-round players, spend most of the budget on them, and use the rest of the budget to buy complementary players.

On the one hand, it's really fun to think about a team with Tatum, Curry, and Embiid, but the problem here is the complementary roster that can be achieved with the little money that's left. This is a method that requires the player to be ultra-active in bidding and trying to fill their team with 10 playable players. In principle, I don't like this strategy very much and I don't tend to use it. Part of the reason is that first-round players usually come at a price that is higher than their value (according to, and I'll expand on that later).

There are very few players who use this strategy and it really worked for them. My recommendation is to use it only if you are very experienced managers. I've seen a lot of fantasy managers who ruin their season because they played with players who are ranked too low and they didn't understand the meaning of losing value by playing with them. In general, elite players are more exciting, but in my opinion the next strategy is more efficient.

Building wide

In contrast to the previous strategy, when we build wide, we give up on first-round players and build a balanced team of more middle-round players. So in the end, we have a mostly (or even all) playable team without shiny stars. True, this is a less sexy option, but there are some very big advantages here. The first is that it is much easier to find middle-round players at a discount. After all, we are playing a game with a fixed budget, and if we spend more money on first-round players, we have to spend a little less money somewhere. The second advantage is that there is less need to deal with building the roster. Sure, bidding is fun, but it's better if we don't have to look for playable players because we're missing them.


Punts are easier to use in auction drafts than in snake drafts because we can target any players we want, including all the players that are suitable for our punt. Even double punts become a legitimate strategy in auction drafts, because we can plan them accurately.

It's important to clarify that auction drafts allow us to build a variety of high-quality punts, not just punts for free throws. However, when we build a punt, whether it's regular, double, or even triple, it's very important that we plan it before the draft. It's also important to understand that in auction drafts, the difference between teams is greater because there is no classic division of first-round, second-round, third-round, etc. players in each team. Therefore, managers who are good at auction drafts can build strong teams that are far ahead of weaker managers.

How does this relate to punts? The less competitive the league, the more problematic multiple punts are, because in multiple punts, you target specific players and can miss out on a lot of the value that the draft has to offer. If it's a league with players who are not experienced in auction drafts, it's likely that you can get certain players at a much lower price than their real value. This can create a situation where your triple punt faces a team that is just as good in some of the categories that you are strong in, even though it is punting in fewer categories than you, or not at all.

Therefore, even though it is much easier to prepare and build a punt in auction drafts, it is important that it be well-built and well-thought-out. It definitely requires planning of the players we want to buy to close the difficult categories of the punt (for example, 3pts in ft% punt + turnovers or ft% in assists + steals punt) and planning of the budget with an estimated price for the players we want to take, with extra margins, so that we can make sure that $200 is enough for us to build the team we want. A really good punt requires serious preparation. It is highly recommended to sit down and build the team with estimated prices, to know who are the essential players for the punt and to find alternatives for those who are not, and most importantly, to be flexible enough to understand that in this specific draft you need to give up on the punt because the important players in it are going at a much higher price than we were willing to pay. It is important to remember, this is a strategy that will increase our chances of reaching the podium, but if we want to run for the championship, it must be executed perfectly.

In principle, this is the basic division of strategies in auction drafts, but in reality, of course, most managers use intermediate approaches, that is, they combine stars with middle-round players. But in my opinion, this division does injustice to the complexity of the auction. In the end, the team we build needs to be a good team and in each of these strategies, we can build good or terrible teams. We can buy first-round players at relatively attractive prices, thus allowing the selection of a few more good complementary players, or we can buy them at inflated prices (which happens quite a bit) and thus damage the chances of building a normal team. Even with a wide build, a lot of things can go wrong, with the main risk being to be left with money that is not used. After all, we are looking to build a team with the highest value, and the risk when building widely and not spending most of the amount in the early stages of the draft is that there will not be enough good players left later on and we will be left with money at the end. This is an even worse waste than paying too much for players. At least there we get the player we wanted.

Because auction drafts are so complex, it is important to understand when to use which strategy and to consider the nature of the draft itself. But before I continue with the breakdown, it is worth talking about value.

What is the dollar value of a player in an auction draft? After all, in snake drafts, everything is simpler. If player 1 is better than player 2, who is better than player 3, that is their order of selection, and that's it. There is no meaning to the statistical differences between them when we make the selection. In contrast, in auctions, we pay for the expected level of a player, and we also take these differences into account.

When I talk about dollar value, I am talking about their statistical value translated into a dollar calculation. I will not go into the calculation method here, and I find it hard to believe that new auction players will want to bother with building spreadsheets and functions in Excel to calculate the value. There are more convenient tools for this, such as, which provides the dollar value of players, where you can see per-game or total value. And of course, in our Day to Day fantasy app, you can also see the dollar value of players. I will only mention that the value changes dramatically depending on the size of the league and the definition of dollar players in the league. (In the Day to Day fantasy app, we currently only refer to prices in standard leagues of 12 teams and 36 dollar players.)

Dollar players are players who are defined as worth one dollar. The standard number of dollar players is the number of all bench players. The rationale behind this is that we want to spend as little of our budget on the bench and as much of the amount on the starting players, and since we do not play with the bench in roto, we want to spend only $3 on the bench. In h2h, the rationale is actually to not define dollar players, but because the variance in these rounds is so large and the chance of making a mistake by a few rounds in such late picks is very high, it is better to define the value of the players in h2h in a similar way. Of course, everyone is free to define it differently, and different people have different considerations, but I define my leagues in this way. This decision directly affects the prices of players, and sometimes the difference is dramatic, and this is something that most players pay less attention to.

So, once you define the league, you can see the dollar value of the players. It is important to remember that we are talking about forecasts, which is far from being accurate, but if we believe in the forecast, then there is no reason not to believe in the dollar values.

Of course, the expected value of a player per game or total does not give an accurate picture of the value we will agree to spend on it in the draft. There are still a lot of considerations to take into account, such as our level of trust in the forecast, the floor versus the ceiling of the player, the player's injury risk (Although it is embodied in the total value, but total value is a problematic value in itself) or our draft strategy (punt for example). But this gives us a basis to focus on when talking about the value of a player.

So, now that we've clarified what we mean by value, it's time to talk about the draft itself and how to manage it effectively.

The most important quality when managing an auction draft is flexibility. We can make all sorts of plans before the draft, and it's much easier to plan for an auction draft than a snake draft, for example, but often things don't go according to plan, or we find ourselves in a situation where unexpected opportunities come our way, opportunities that are worth reconsidering our original plan.

I want to distinguish between three situations that we need to be aware of early on in the draft.


In most drafts, there is overbidding early on. This is due to a few reasons. The first is that first-round players are often bought for more than their expected value per game. There are a few reasons for this, one of which is that the confidence in the statistics we get from them is the highest, another reason is that they usually lose a lot of value on turnovers, which is a category where we find more players with high value as we move down the ranking. Another reason is that many people do not take into account the per-game value, and it should indeed be taken with limited confidence, as I have already mentioned.

Another reason for overbidding early on in most drafts is simpler. People just have money. For example, if we bid on a late-round player at the beginning of the draft, he will go for more money than at the end of the draft, where people no longer have money to spend, and if the draft went into overbidding, players of this type will go for $1.

In a situation of overbidding, the strategy I recommend is to wait patiently for  bargains in the draft. There is always a point where people have less money left, and there are still attractive players on the board, but they are willing to spend less on them. This is the time to find bargains in the draft and build a team that has high value. This will usually be a wide-range build, as I mentioned, since first-round players will go out expensively at the beginning of the draft. The danger here is to get into a situation where we build too wide, and if we are not flexible and stuck on the idea that we have to get value on players, the pool of good players dries up and we are left with not-so-attractive players, and then we don't finish the money and build a team that is too wide. It is not easy to know when the perfect time to start bidding is and when it starts to be too late, so I recommend equipping yourself with a certain amount of assets already in the early stages of the draft, even if they are not discounted. It doesn't have to be a first-round player, you could for example take two second-round players, but it is very important not to get stuck on the idea that you have to make some dollars on every player. In the end, the goal is a team that is worth as much as possible, and if we left $20 unused, it means we could have built a better team.


The opposite of overbidding is underbidding. This is a situation where players are not being bought for their expected value per game. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as a lack of knowledge or experience on the part of the managers, or a fear of missing out on a player they think is a good value. However, this is a relatively rare situation.

Balancing Prices

In leagues with experienced managers who have played a few seasons in auction drafts and understand the pricing system well, there is a situation where there is no serious overbidding, at least not to the point where it allows you to find bargains. In this situation, a move that will give you an advantage over the other competitors is to go for a punt. There are a few reasons why punt is a successful strategy when players are going for their expected price range.

The first reason is that in this case, the variance between teams should be smaller. In this situation, there should be fewer bad teams and fewer teams that are significantly better than the others. Therefore, this is a classic situation to go for a punt, as the fact that it limits your ceiling should not affect the league.

The second reason is that if this is the case, it will be relatively easy to predict the prices of most players, so you can rely on your punt strategy more, and the prices of your expected players will probably be appropriate, and you will be able to build the team you planned (again, depending on the level of your planning and whether you really did a thorough job of building it, and of course you left a margin of safety in it, because no planning is ever completely accurate).

Of course, in this case, there is no obligation to go for a punt, and you can always manage a good draft and find the players you value a little more than the others. However, it is very important in this type of draft not to wait too long for those bargains, as in a draft with serious overbidding.

But no matter what the nature of the draft, in auction drafts, you must be patient, flexible, open-minded, and restrained.

On the one hand, you need to be flexible to the idea of changing your strategy in the early stages of the draft. This can be because you went for a punt and you see that the prices of the players you want are too high, or because you find out that someone else went for the same punt as you, and you are getting into bidding wars over the same players. Or you started the draft and you see players that are not related to your punt and are going for a big discount.

On the other hand, once you are in the middle of the draft and you have already committed to a strategy, it is better not to jump in and out of it. For example, if you are deep into a punt and suddenly there is a player that is not related that you think looks tempting, it is usually not worth taking him and destroying the punt (the reason why usually and not always is because if it is a player whose price is very attractive and you know that this is an active league, then it might be worth taking him as an asset for future trades).

You also need to remember that, despite the temptation, you will not be able to take all the players that are going for a discount, and sometimes you will have to watch people take a player at a discounted price. I personally think that bidding up players that you are not willing to take at the increased price is a pointless move. One such increase can ruin a draft because you are stuck with a player you didn't want, and it changes your system of considerations.

But there is a very delicate balance here, because taking, for example, a player with high trade value at a low price is actually a great idea, even if it does not fit your team.

In the end, there is no substitute for experience. You need to experience this draft a few times, and maybe even get burned in less successful drafts, to draw your own conclusions. There are many nuances that you can talk about and raise. You can talk about how to handle yourself deep in the draft, or about the strategy of putting players up for sale (who is it better to put up and when? Is it better for a player that I am targeting to come out early or not, and is it good for me in punt that my main players come out early so I know the price? Or maybe it is better for them to come out late so that the price is a little cheaper?), which most players simply ignore and choose to put up the most expensive players first. But as a basis for entering this wonderful world, it seems to me that the text here is comprehensive. Just be prepared, an auction draft is much longer, so set aside two and a half hours and get ready to experience the most fun thing that exists.

Good luck!

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