Whenever you want to compare the greatest players in the history or you just want to play fantasy basketball without any current games in the NBA [like during lockout...], all-time fantasy draft is a way to go.
Let me start this topic by addressing two main concerns about this game…
[if you don't have any or you are ready to roll do yourself a favour and scroll down one page].
“Isn’t it too predictable since we know everything about the past?”.
I agree it could be a concern but there are four strong counter-arguments:
1) Even if we assume we know everything about retired players, there always will be a gray area because of the differences between eras.
For example, would Bill Russell belong to all-time greats if he played against today’s athletes?
Would fringe NBA player from the 90s dominate in the late 50s? How many stars would be out of the league in a different era when their best skills were considered less valuable? Etc.
2) Even though we have easily available statistics from the past it’s not obvious how to interpret them.
Simple example: Dennis Rodman. Was he one of the all-time greats or merely lucky and good role-player?
How changes in the NBA rules over time would affect players’ past accomplishments?
Would Steve Nash have a great and long career [with two MVP awards] if he was drafted in the 1990 or is he a product of changes in hand-check rules? How many rebounds per game would Wilt Chamberlain have in today’s NBA with different approach to the game’s pace and defence? Etc.
3) You don’t know what other managers will do in such draft.
That’s a key element of uncertainty in this game. Even if you choose only 100 players eligible to be drafted it creates enormous possibilities for creative roster management. Keep in mind that if you have obvious strategy, opponents can quickly see through it and react accordingly.
4) With a simple tweaks you can greatly improve uncertainty [more specifics on that below].
“How can you possibly do it more than once?
Isn’t it by definition very repetitive exercise?”
That’s a possibility… but only if you play over and over by the same rules.
One simple change in them can significantly alter your draft strategy! For example, you can add a rule “you have to draft someone from [enter different decade or team] at least 2/3/4/etc times”. That change alone creates many unique draft scenarios. What’s more, you can also limit available pool of players, for example by excluding obvious choices like Jordan or MVPs, or All-Stars, or players in their prime or players under 6-5… you get the idea. Possibilities are limitless.
I have no idea whenever those changes would allow you to have fun but that really depends on your preferences and it’s not because game’s rules are too obvious and too limited.
With all that in mind here are possible rules for fantasy basketball All-Time Draft
Head-to-head imaginary games.
How can it work: you draft a team and then debate with other GMs why it would be the best one and/or why it would win all it’s matchups. You can create as many rounds as you wish. After that judges [which could mean "other GMs in this league"] vote which case seems the most convincing. It’s probably the most common version played of all-time draft and examples can be found on RealGM, multiple times actually and other places.
IMHO key features: It generates a LOT of discussions, arguments and additional research. I mean A LOT!
It’s also the only option for people who don’t like using statistics as an argument or as a deciding factor.
IMHO key bugs: You need a LOT of time to do it. Your debating skills may be more important than your team. Almost every unconventional idea is either doomed or at a clear disadvantage because of a voting process.
Classic rotisserie scoring, 1 season.
How can it work: You draft one season of any players in the history and after rosters are completed you sum all their statistics by standard rotisserie scoring to determine the winner.
One possible tweak is to draft players and then draft his seasons between those who drafted the same player.
IMHO key features: Simplicity. Probably the best option for fantasy beginners or just to warm up.
Creates many questions you wouldn’t even consider otherwise [how would Olajuwon defend Olajuwon?].
Also if everyone can have their own Jordan’s season isn’t it ultimately fair?
IMHO key bugs: strange feeling of having the same players on many teams.
Usually very limited number of players used. Mess if you want to consider defense.
Rotisserie scoring, 1 season, every player only once in the league.
How can it work: You draft one season of any players in the history but once player is drafted his whole career is off the board and his other season can’t be drafted. In the end you sum all their statistics by standard rotisserie scoring to determine the winner.
IMHO key features: The most similar system to the standard non-keeper fantasy draft.
Very easy to calculate and probably requires the least amount of time.
IMHO key bugs: first few picks in this draft are way better than those at the end of first round so either you have cut players at the top out of the pool or you have to balance this by additional changes in the draft order.
Rotisserie or fantasy points scoring, careers and random season.
How can it work: You draft player’s career and then you have randomly assigned one of his seasons.
In the end you sum all players’ stats by standard rotisserie or fantasy points scoring to determine the winner.
IMHO key features: creates an unique perspective and choices regarding players’ careers.
For example, do you prefer short career where greatness is mixed in with some duds or merely good career but very consistent one? Do you prefer a risk of having one very bad season or 50% chance of average one?
Additionally thanks to a layer of randomness it’s probably the best option if you don’t like rotisserie scoring and prefer simple fantasy points system.
IMHO key bugs: active players have an advantage over retired ones because they haven’t played those end of the road seasons yet. But obviously you can limit how many of them can be drafted by one team.
Rotisserie or Head-to-head, 1 season, random games.
How can it work: You draft one season of any player in the history and after the draft you randomly choose single games from given season [it can be 10 games, it can be 41, it mostly depends on "how much randomness do you want to apply and how much time do you want to spend on it"]. In the end you sum all players’ statistics by standard rotisserie or head-to-head scoring to determine the winner.
IMHO key features: Probably the best way to play head-to-head matchups.
The most efficient way to account for injuries and to generate uncertainty.
IMHO key bugs: it can’t be a full all-time draft because we have easily available data only since 1986.
Also it’s probably the most time-consuming option.
Do you have any other idea how such all-time draft can be done?
If the answer is yes, please let me know in the comments.
If you would like to participate in such draft I recommend RealGM forum [for option with descriptions] and
I could gladly organize any other game on this blog so let me know if you are interested ;-)