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Fantasy Basketball: The Differences Between a Roto and Head to Head League

Phil Naessens begins sharing his Fantasy Basketball column from his syndicated Phil's Fantasy Sports column and answers a readers question about the differences between a Roto and Head to Head Fantasy Basketball league.

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The dog days of summer for the NBA are nearing an end. That means more and more of you are either preparing for your Fantasy Basketball drafts and maybe in some cases embarking on your first Fantasy Basketball journey. Today I will take a closer look at some of the differences between a Head to Head Fantasy Basketball League and a Rotisserie or Roto League.

Dear Phil,

I'm entering a Fantasy Basketball League for the very first time. What is the difference between a Roto League and a Head to Head League and what is the best league for me to join?

Thanks for the question!

Let's begin with Head to Head leagues; since the Internet age Head to Head Leagues are probably the most popular ones at sites like ESPN, Yahoo and CBS Sports. Essentially you are playing a weekly matchup against another owner and you accrue points in the various scoring categories with your goal being to win as many of those categories as you can for that week. At the end of the week you either get a win or a loss for each category that goes towards a running win-loss tally to determine which teams make your league playoffs. Generally those playoffs run during the last month of the regular NBA season with a Championship Round involving the top 50 percent of the teams and a consolation playoff for those teams finishing at the bottom half of the league.  That's the basics but you will need to consult the league rules for any special scoring or other nuances that the league commissioner decides to add.

Rotisserie or "Roto" leagues are the way Fantasy Sports used to be done prior to the Internet age. They are still very popular and very different from a Head to Head league. Here's how Roto leagues differ.

Unlike Head to Head leagues where you play a weekly matchup against another owner in Roto leagues you will be competing daily against every other owner in your league. Points are awarded in each scoring category based on how you rank against the other owners scores that determines  a daily leaderboard.

In most Roto leagues the season lasts the entire NBA regular season and the team with the most points wins the league. There usually aren't playoffs in Roto leagues but you will need to check your league rules just in case the commissioner has set your league up this way.

In most Roto leagues there is a limit of 82 games per position. When your 82 games per position is up you aren't allowed to use that position for the remainder of the season. If you look at the screenshot below you will see that I used up my limits for the SG, PF, C, G and utility spots. I still won my league but it went down to the wire so if your Roto league has limits pay careful attention to those things.

Which one is best? I like them both but if I were just starting out I would probably join a league with a Head to Head format. The scoring is easier to understand, you can take more chances on draft night and it will be easier to navigate your roster in terms of needs your team has.

I hope that helps and over the next few weeks I'll be talking about draft night strategies that should at least help you get started.

If you have any Fantasy Basketball questions that you would like to see answered in this space or are interested in joining a Sonics Rising Fantasy Basketball league for this season please email me at

On this week's Phil's Fantasy Sports Fake Teams Tim Finnegan join me to discuss DFS strategies like stacking as well as advice on how to win big DFS Tournaments. Fantasy Baseball legend Lenny Melnick joins me to talk 2016 Fantasy Baseball prospects and how Fantasy Baseball has changed over the years, Fasketball curator Daniel Grezlak joins me to talk about his unique and free to the public Fantasy Basketball stats site, Rotowire NBA writer Alex Rikleen joins me to discuss the Fantasy Value of Damian Lillard, what stats are the best for determining Fantasy Basketball value and much more Fantasy Hoops talk and Draft Kings Playbook writer Jason Walker and I discuss Fantasy Football Wide Receiver rankings and some sleepers. You can download the show from my site or listen below.