Everything you need to know about fantasy basketball scoring, including calculating points, scoring options, tips for choosing the right system for your league and FAQs.

When starting a fantasy basketball league, one of the first steps is figuring out which scoring system to utilize. 

There are plenty of options and they each provide a unique experience, so this decision can seem overwhelming for fantasy beginners and veteran managers alike.

Below is everything you need to know about fantasy basketball scoring, including how points are calculated, various scoring options, tips for choosing the right system for your league, frequently asked questions and more!

What Is the Fantasy Scoring System for NBA Basketball?

Like all fantasy sports, fantasy basketball involves drafting individual NBA players to your roster, where each player earns points based on their real-life statistical output. The goal is to build a superior roster and outscore the other teams in your league. 

It’s worth noting that fantasy scoring is completely customizable, with each commissioner responsible for choosing the best scoring system for their respective league. There are several options when it comes to fantasy basketball scoring, which we’ll detail below. 

How Does Fantasy Basketball Scoring Work?

Fantasy basketball scoring varies depending on the league format and scoring system. First, your league commissioner must decide between a points league or nine-category league. 

Scoring by Points

In this setup, every stat is worth a specific amount of fantasy points. Throughout the week, players rack up fantasy points as they play in their NBA games. The goal is for your roster to score more points than the other teams in the league. Not all statistical production is valued equally. While scoring is highly customizable by platform, points leagues typically follow a scoring system like this: 

  • Points = 1 point
  • Rebounds = 1.2 points
  • Assists = 1.5 points
  • Steals = 3 points
  • Blocks = 3 points
  • Turnovers = -1 point

Scoring by Category (Nine-Category League)

In a nine-category league, the goal is to win more statistical categories than your opponent. Your objective is to build a well-rounded roster with players who complement each other and feature a wide array of skill sets, so your team fares well across multiple categories. The nine most common categories are:

  • Points
  • Rebounds
  • Assists
  • Steals
  • Blocks
  • Threes
  • Field goal percentage
  • Free throw percentage
  • Turnovers

Fantasy Basketball League Formats

Next, the commissioner must decide what type of competition format they want their league to follow. Here are a few of the most common variants.

Lock-In Mode

Each week, you choose one performance to lock in for each of your players. After each player’s latest performance, you decide if you want to lock it in, but you must do so before their next game starts. A player must be in your starting lineup in order to be lock-in eligible. Lock-In mode is available exclusively on Sleeper.

Game-Pick Mode

Each week, you select one game per player that counts toward your matchup. You choose the game before it starts. Once a selected game begins, the player is locked in place until your matchup ends. (If your player doesn’t play for some reason, a new game can be selected). Game-Pick mode is available exclusively on Sleeper.

Head-to-Head Matchups

Managers square off head to head each week to see whose team can score the most points or win the most categories. At the end of the season, several teams make the playoffs and go head to head in a postseason bracket. A head-to-head championship matchup determines the winner.

Rotisserie Scoring

Rather than facing one manager each week, in “roto” leagues teams are ranked at the end of each week based on their roster’s combined points or number of categories won. At the end of the year, whoever is No. 1 in the standings is the winner. There’s no postseason.

On Sleeper, commissioners have a wide range of additional options to customize their league’s scoring rules. League type is an important consideration, too. For example, in a Dynasty League players stay with owners for more than one season, so scoring format strongly influences long-term roster management.

Which Fantasy Basketball Scoring System Is Best for You?

Determining the right scoring system for your league comes down to your group’s preferences and level of commitment. 

Points leagues tend to be easy for new fantasy-basketball managers, as the format is straightforward: the more points you rack up, the better your team does. Some find roster construction simpler in a points league since players don’t necessarily need to have strong performance across different scoring categories.

With nine-category leagues, roster building requires more strategy because you need to focus on strengths and weaknesses and try to balance personnel across all the categories. 

Your level of commitment should be factored in when determining a scoring system. As fantasy football has grown in popularity, many fantasy players are accustomed to weekly roster management. For those who prefer this rhythm, Lock-In and Game-Pick modes may be preferable.

For example, if you want to pick your games at the start of the week and take a set-it-and-forget-it approach, perhaps Game-Pick mode is right for your league. But if you want the extra risk of deciding which performances to "lock in" as well as a little more frequency in roster decisions, Lock-In mode may be your best option.

It’s worth noting that you don't have to keep your league’s scoring system forever, and there are a number of ways to customize scoring settings within each platform. Fantasy basketball leagues often give one format a try for a season and then hold a vote on whether to change it (or tweak certain settings) over the offseason. Sometimes it can take a year or two to find your league’s perfect settings.

Fantasy Basketball Scoring FAQ

As you try to figure out the right settings for your league, let’s go over some scoring-related frequently asked questions that may be of assistance.

What are fantasy points per game in fantasy basketball leagues?

In points leagues, players are sorted by fantasy points per game — or their average fantasy points scored.

For example, during the 2023-24 season, Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic totaled 4162.20 fantasy points across his 70 games, meaning he averaged 59.34 fantasy points per game — the most of any player in the NBA. 

This is a helpful way to sort players and understand their fantasy impact on your lineup.

What is the most common type of fantasy-basketball league?

The most common settings in fantasy basketball are nine-category leagues with rotisserie scoring. While they can be a bit complicated for newcomers, there are many passionate fantasy basketball managers who love the in-depth nature of these leagues.

However, points leagues are gaining popularity in recent years given the similarities to fantasy football and the influx of new users trying fantasy basketball for the first time.

Who were the highest-scoring players in fantasy basketball this season? 

The best players vary depending on the scoring format. But for the sake of this answer, let’s cover the top players in points leagues. During the 2023-24 season, the following players averaged the most fantasy points per game: 

  1. Luka Doncic (59.34 FPPG)
  2. Joel Embiid (59.30 FPPG)
  3. Nikola Jokic (57.18 FPPG)
  4. Giannis Antetokounmpo (55.75 FPPG)
  5. Anthony Davis (52.42 FPPG)
  6. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (51.40 FPPG)
  7. Victor Wembanyama (48.97 FPPG)
  8. Domantas Sabonis (47.69 FPPG)
  9. LeBron James (45.02 FPPG)
  10. Jayson Tatum (45.02 FPPG)

Which players are worth more in points leagues versus category leagues?

In nine-category leagues, the most valuable players are well-rounded individuals without any glaring weaknesses, and the least valuable are one-dimensional players who can’t help in multiple categories. However, in a points league, this doesn’t matter; as long as the player is producing stats of some kind, they can help your fantasy lineup. 

Scorers who provide little outside of getting buckets are often downgraded in a category league, but they retain their value in a points league. If a player is an inefficient chucker, they’ll lose a lot of value in a nine-category league since shooting percentages are factored in. However, in a points league, a player’s efficiency doesn’t matter.

Also, big men who can only rebound and block shots have value in a points league, whereas in a category league, their lack of points, assists, steals, and threes (plus their poor shooting percentages) hurt their value and may cause managers to avoid them.

There's No Bad Fantasy NBA Scoring System

Now that we’ve covered the various types of scoring systems and fantasy formats, you’re ready to start your own league! 

It’s never a bad idea to float some of these potential scoring options by your fellow managers so they can weigh in on your league’s settings.

If you’re interested in starting a fantasy basketball league, Sleeper has you covered! Sleeper offers exclusive features like Lock-In mode, Game-Pick mode, voice and text chat, custom scoring, in-depth notes for research, custom playoff settings, no ads, multi-team trades, every type of league (including keeper and dynasty), weekly league reports, live scoring, each player's transaction history, and more.

Not only is Sleeper an excellent platform for season-long fantasy leagues, it’s also a great destination for DFS. With Sleeper Picks, you can 100x your winnings with just a few selections, follow live game casts and chat with your squad mates as you compete.