Points in the Paint

Fantasy Basketball Opinions, Strategy & Tips

Strategy: Head to Head vs. Rotisserie

Posted by Erik on October 12, 2007

I decided to make a primer to help players, who are new to the game, get a clearer and more in-depth perspective of fantasy basketball through a discussion of the 2 most popular formats of the game, head to head (h2h) and rotisserie (roto).

I just want to say upfront that the bottom line in fantasy basketball is to form the best team possible in terms of winning as many categories as possible. With that being said, and out of the way, I want to highlight that each format has its own particular nuances that differentiate one from the other and how these differences can affect your decisions and strategies come draft day and through the course of the season.

The Big Picture vs. The Here and Now

Basically, in the rotisserie format, your team’s performance is tracked and compared against the performance of everyone else’s team through the course of the entire regular season. In head to head your team is matched up against one particular team for the week with either team gaining “win” points or “loss” points for each category (standard is 9) either team beat the other at.

The roto format requires more patience because you are after year-end total contributions of your players and not hot streaks which favor h2h. Just because your player had a 2 or 3 game slump, this shouldn’t necessarily mean you should hastily toss him into the free agency pool and search for his “viable alternative”. On the other hand, h2h is all about streaks and slumps a 2 game slump of a key player could spell impending doom for the week’s match-up. A head to head league, usually has a more active free agent market as managers scramble to pick up the hottest “flavor of the week or month” from the waiver wires.

Understanding the Value of Each Category

The stats generated in the categories your team produces have different effective values when comparing the 2 formats.

In rotisserie, each category generates points for your team based on your comparative totals relative to the totals generated by the other teams. For example, in a 12-man league, if your team has the most assists you then get 12 points in the assist category. While if you have the least rebounds, your team only gets 1 point. It’s the total of the points your team generates across all 9 categories that determine who wins in your league. Hence, it is advised to form as balanced a team as possible.

In head to head, each category your team beats its opponent in is worth 1 notch in the win column. Conversely, cats you lose in, give you a notch in the loss column. In the event of a tie between teams, you both get a point in the draw column. Towards the end of the season, the teams with the best win-loss records advance into the playoffs – similar to the NBA.

In roto, someone like Allen Iverson, whose cumulative TOs and missed FG attempts may cost your team in those respective categories over the course of the season and lose you anywhere from 8-11 points by playing him (of course this varies, depending on your other picks) . The swing can be tremendous and painful to the point that it may cost you a podium finish come year end. However, in H2H his FG% and TOs are only worth 2 effective points. His strengths in POINTS scored, FT% and STEALS, not to mention 7 ASSISTS can really aid your team in winning those particular cats in your match-up. You would be trading 2 potential loss points to gain 4 potential win points if you use AI. The tricky part here is to make sure you win the particular categories you’re going for in your match-ups!

The eXplosive Factor! vs. Consistency

In the midst of the plethora of NBA superstars out there, there a select few stars who are capable of erupting in great games to produce a ridiculous performance. This spikes the stats they produce off-the-charts! These players can suddenly swing the week in your favor and provide your team a boost in stats where it may not have necessarily won its match-up solely based on players’ averages. Players like these get a bump upwards in terms of draft position when I’m drafting in a head to head league. Names that come to mind when I’m drafting are Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Dwyane Wade.

Just last season, Kobe exploded and went on a spectacular 4 game, 50 pt scoring streak (read more here)! The 5th game he scored 43 points. If you had Kobe on your team in a head to head league during that streak, you must have been one hell of a happy camper because aside from the increase in points he also marginally boosted his other stat cats. Kobe’s streak virtually assured his owners a win in the PTS column even if they were not projected to do so that week. It is exactly this kind of unpredictability that makes fantasy head to head match-ups particularly exciting!


So you’re playing in a standard 12-man, 9-cat league and find yourself picking second on draft day! Woohoo! So “Mr. First Pick” goes and decides to pick Kevin Garnett, who in my book, is both capable of being consistent and explosive this year because of his new situation. So now it’s your turn and you’re deciding between Shawn “The Matrix” Marion, who finished last season at Rank 1 and Kobe Bryant who finished at Rank 2. The Matrix is a “no-frills” multi-cat producer with no drawbacks will quietly give you his across the board production night in and night out. While Kobe, also a multi-cat stud, has his turnovers as a category stinger.

Now here is where I relate the format difference to my draft decision. If I were playing in a rotisserie league, I would most likely draft Shawn. I will get his season totals in multiple stats at the end of the year making my team well rounded and competitive in almost all the categories, with the exception of assists, which I would compensate for through later round picks. In a head to head league, however, I am inclined to pick Kobe because he is still a multi-cat producer but has the bonus of having the “explosive factor”, which I’ve previously discussed.

Games Played Limits and Using SPECIALISTS

In the rotisserie format there’s a limit to the number of games you can play per position (82). In H2H, there’s none. So what does this mean in terms of strategy? You can theoretically “overplay” your starting lineup positions by using your bench players! This helps to add to the totals your team generates. The stats based on totals are POINTS, REBOUNDS, ASSISTS, BLOCKS, STEALS & 3-PTs MADE. That’s 5 of the 9 standard categories right there. Adding more games played by your team will most like result in additional turnovers so make sure you win the cats you want when you overplay.

This is where the use of “specialists”, who are good at producing one particular stat but not much else, in H2H comes into play. Alonzo Mourning‘s blocks last season (2.3 BPG) were very impressive, but you’d be hesitant to park him in one of your playable slots in a rot league because of his shortcomings in the other cats. In H2H, I wouldn’t mind having him in my bench and just stick him in my lineup when the Heat are slated to have a game to beef up my BLOCK totals for the match-up. Brent Barry of the San Antonio Spurs is a good example of a 3-pt shooting specialist(1.7 per game). Similarly played as Zo in a H2H league, he can give you an extra push in the 3PT cat while quietly riding your team’s bench.


While having injured players, stars especially, on your team hurt your chances for success almost equally in both formats; certain injury-prone players are better suited to be picked in certain formats over others. Case in point, Marcus Camby. He’s notorious for not playing 80+ games a season, but the statistical totals he produced last season over the 70 games he did play in, clobbered other rival centers in the league. He finished the season at an effective Rank of 8. This makes Marcus a viable choice in a rotisserie league. In H2H, however, the games he misses (if late in the season especially) can put a team in dire straits. In H2H, if you drafted him as a major cornerstone for some of your key “big man” stats i.e. REBS and BLKS, and you lose him for a significant period of time, then expect your team to be hard-pressed to win in those specific cats. I would prefer to draft say Dwight Howard in H2H over Marcus Camby, simply because he has less of a history of missing games – none his entire career to be exact. I would be practically giving up my chances to win TOs and FT% but his FG%, REBS, BLKS are worthy trade-offs. I just have to make sure I win those particular cats so that I don’t end up with a loss-loss scenario.


Whew! Well there you have it folks. I hope I was able to shine some new light on the 2 formats for fantasy players, new and old alike. . .

For more information regarding Fantasy Basketball, its rules and other formats, check out Wikipedia‘s run down. It’s pretty complete.


4 Responses to “Strategy: Head to Head vs. Rotisserie”

  1. Great run down. My major fantasy league is h2h 16 teams with weighted categories (a stat like points is worth 25 points while FT% is only worth 10 points). I have been lucky enough to balance explosive scores with solid players. We are in the second year and allow 2 unrestricted keepers.

    Here’s a look at my roster:
    PG- Ricky Davis (explosive)
    SG- Brandon Roy (injury Risk)
    SF- LeBron James (Stud, explosive)
    PF- Dirk Nowitzki (Stud, solid)
    C- Mehmet Okur (solid %’s, unusual categories for position)
    UTL- Caron Butler (solid)

    Andrei Kirilenko (injury risk, hustle catagories)
    Peja Stojakovic (injury risk, points %’s)
    Marco Belinelli (rookie)
    Jeff Green (rookie)
    Louis Scola (rookie)

    With having such a solid starting lineup, I took a lot of high risk/high reward players on my bench. I don’t expect much out of them, but if a starter goes down or if they are hot then they are a steal.

  2. Erik said

    Your team looks very good! You’re in a 16-man league? Holy Cow!

    Your Dirk-LeBron combo is one mean machine! You’ve got 2 multi-cat monsters anchoring your team. That’s just fantastic! I assume they were your keepers. 🙂

    You probably got Brandon Roy (PG,SG) and Ricky Davis (G/F) switched by mistake when you posted your comment.

    Your team is a bit light in the assists department, but at 16 managers, you still might win it in a match-up or two. You’re also very light in the “big man” stats (FG%, REBS, BLKS), but you clearly more than make up for this with your team’s strengths which are Points, 3’s, and Steals!

    I would recommend a back-up C in your bench, in the unfortunate event that Mehmet goes down with an injury. I like Peja’s chances to make a comeback more than AK’s this year. Belinelli is a solid rookie choice (your best), you should watch for Kelenna Azubuike, who is rumored to have a chance at contesting Marco for the starting PG job over at GSW. I’m not too keen on Jeff Green this year, he looks like he’s still too raw of a talent. He’s my choice to dump in exchange for a solid back up C on the FA market.

    Good Luck on your team’s season. . . 🙂

  3. […] Points in the Paint has a great post on your basic primer on how to form a team depending on if your…. I wrote something similar at one point but am now too Antoine Walker to go look for it. […]

  4. […] reading? Here’s a re-run of one of my earlier posts last year – Fantasy Strategy: Head to Head VS Rotisserie. Some people who aren’t too knowledgeable in the head to head format can use it as a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: