Sample “Keeper League” Rules

Posted on 21. Oct, 2009 by Nolan Shulman in Fantasy Hoops, Keeper Rules, NBA

As an NBA fantasy junky we all look forward to doing our research, making lists, attempting to shield our strategy from other owners, and then drafting what we view is “the winning combination of players.” The season starts and for the first fifteen games everybody couldn’t be more excited. A slew of teams take shape at the top of the standings and a bunch of owners who aren’t in the hunt lose interest. Sound familiar?

The purpose of the keeper pool/dynasty league allows owners to protect players year to year and alleviates the concern of owners falling off the radar early in the season. If you have a good nucleus of owners who have been participating in your pool for many years, give this concept a try. I have been partaking in a keeper league and we are going into the eighth season. As a group we have had our fair share of debates regarding the rules, but we all carry an equal say and for the most part things have worked very smooth. Our group is not set in stone on the rules and they are always a work in progress, but we are at the stage where we are very comfortable with the basic principles. We have developed a mechanism for trades whereby owners can never question a trade being ruled unfair, and we have hammered out some of the typical problems that slow down an auction. How many of you have commissioners that need a little help taking charge or getting your collected group onside with the rules? Below is the bible that the teams in my pool live by. They are by no means perfect, but they can act as a baseline for anyone looking to start their own fantasy league and can be incorporated into an existing league. While they may seem complicated (they were written by a Harvard Law Student), they keep the peace and it has been an absolute pleasure to be part of this dynasty league.



To assemble a team of NBA players who, rated collectively on the standards outlined below, win the title. There will be cash prizes for the top four teams, and a trophy for the champion.


There will be a maximum of sixteen franchises in the league. If at any point a new franchise seeks to enter the league, that team’s entry must be approved by a majority vote of all the owners. [see section 15(c)]. This also applies to new owners assuming control of existing franchises. If necessary, an expansion/contraction committee will be created to formulate rules for the addition/subtraction of franchises.


a. The annual entry fee for each franchise will be $75. At the end of each season the sum of these fees will be distributed to the top four teams, as outlined in section 4. Teams are expected to pay the annual entry fee at the beginning of each season. Failure to do so will result in the offending owner’s roster being frozen until payment is received.
b. There will be no transaction fees.

Prize money will be divided as follows:
First Place: 50%
Second Place: 25%
Third Place: 15%
Fourth Place: 10%


a. Each franchise’s roster must at all times consist of a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 15 players, subject to the restrictions of this section.
b. Active Roster: The active roster (those players collecting stats for the franchise) will consist of: 1 Point Guard, 1 Shot Guard, 1 Small Forward, 1 Power Forward, 1 Center, 1 additional Guard (PG or SG), 1 additional forward (SF or PF) and one utility player (PG or SG or SF or PF or C).

c. All position eligibility is determined by the eligibility rules of the online stat provider.
d. Bench: The roster of each franchise will also contain four bench spots. There are no position restrictions on the players occupying these spots. Players occupying these spots do not accumulate statistics for the franchise.
e. Reserve: Each franchise will also have the ability to reserve a maximum of three players. The reserve provision is discussed in section 11. Reserve spots not in use do not create additional bench spots.
f. Auction: At the end of the auction, each team must have 12 players.


a. Franchises collect statistics for a player for all games for which he is on the franchise’s active roster. The cumulative total of all statistics thus acquired over the course of the season is the franchise’s total.
b. Points are awarded based on cumulative totals in the following categories: 1) Total Points; 2) Total Rebounds; 3) Total Assists; 4) Total Blocks; 5) Total Steals; 6) Franchise Free-Throw Percentage; 7) Franchise Field Goal Percentage.
c. Points are assigned on a rotisserie system. (The franchise with the largest total, for example, in a 14 team league would get 14 points in that category, the team with the second largest total 13, etc. The cumulative total number of points for each team’s corresponding points standing in all the categories determines the final standings.
d. There is, however, a maximum number of games that a team may ‘play’ its players at each position on its active roster. This maximum number of games is 82 and, therefore, no team may exceed this designated total at any of the positions on its active roster. The stat provider monitors the number of ‘games played’ at each position and provides a projected total at each position which is readily available. Failing to take into consideration the number of games a team has played its players at each position may cause a team to be forced to bench a star player late in the season.
e. Roster transactions for ‘playing the game’ are made daily. Therefore, each team receives stats for the players it has chosen to place on its active roster before the start of the day’s game.


a. Before each season a draft will be conducted from all players who were selected in the NBA entry draft that offseason.
b. Order of selection will be determined by a lottery. The lottery will be weighted by order of finish from the previous season (with the worst teams getting the largest lottery odds). The number of “balls” for each team in the lottery will be double their standing in the previous season, with the exception of the teams which finished in the money which will not have their standing doubled. (i.e. from first place down, the number of balls would be: 1,2,3,4,10,12,14,16,…32 for a total of 262 balls).
c. The rookie draft will be a ladder draft – e.g. 1,2,3,4,4,3,2,1. There will be 2 rounds in the rookie draft.
d. Order of selection may be traded at any time.
e. Trading of lottery balls will be permitted.
f. A franchise may elect to ‘not pick’ i.e. forfeit any or all of its rookie draft picks.
g. Players selected in the rookie entry draft may be waived prior to the start of the auction of the same year.
h. Salaries for players selected in the rookie draft will be determined by their order of selection. [See Section 10 for details.] In the year of his selection, the salary of a rookie does count against a team’s budget at the auction but does not count against the team’s budget and player maximum for its “Protected List”.


a. Beginning in the inaugural season, and for all subsequent seasons, available players not retained on teams’ “protected list” will be selected in an auction format.
b. Franchises will take turns naming available players to be bid on. The order of naming will be determined at the auction. All teams will be notified of the first 20 or so players to be bid upon (determined by submission of the owners) at least 3 days before commencement of the auction.
c. The total amount each team has available to bid at the auction will be the salary cap ($85 million) less the combined salaries of all players on that team’s roster, excluding players with Reserve Status. [See section 13 (b)]
d. The minimum bid is $2.0 million. All bids must be made in $0.1 million multiples.
e. No bids may be retracted, except that no team may place a bid which will make that team unable to fulfill the minimum roster requirements of Section 5(a).
f. Whichever team makes the highest bid will be awarded that player, subject to section 13(e) (right to match). At the conclusion of bidding on each player, the team with right to match on that player (if any) may declare his choice to exercise that option.
g. Money remaining at the end of the auction is not transferable to subsequent seasons.


(1) Franchises are free to trade players at any time. However, no trades will be permitted after the trade deadline. The trade deadline will be determined at the beginning of each season, and will be approximately one month prior to the end of the regular season. This date will be as close to March 15 as possible.

(2) All trades will be subject to a “Peer-Review” mechanism. All trades must be announced both by posting a message to that effect on the Yahoo message board and by sending an e-mail announcing the trade to the entire basketball group. In the 24 hour period immediately following the announcement of any trade, any other team may make a counter-offer to either trading team by posting a message to that effect on the site, and sending trade details to the commish and the trade committee (commish and two other owners) as well as the parties involved in the trade.
a) All counter-offers must be for the EXACT SAME players and/or consideration exchanged in the original trade.
b) If no counter-offers are received in the first 24 hours, the trade will be considered final. If, however, one or more offers are received, the team who is receiving the counter(s) has 12 hours to make known if he would prefer (one of) the counter offer(s) to the initial one.
c) If the counter offer is accepted, then the team who made the initial offer, which has been “bested”, has 12 hours to make a counter-counter proposal. The team who is receiving offers then has 12 hours to make a final decision. If a decision by the team receiving offers is made sooner it may be processed sooner.
d) Teams may negotiate at any time during the peer-review process. However, no counter-offers may be modified after the initial 24 hours, no counter-counters may be modified after 36 hours and no final decision on a deal after 48 hours.
e) There is no protesting of any trade completed through this mechanism.

(3) Statistics are not retroactive for trades, or for any other transactions (i.e. the acquiring team only receives the acquired player’s statistics from the point of acquisition forward.)
(4) Money or percentage of winnings cannot be included in any trades, nor can non-pool considerations (e.g. baked goods).
(5) “Loans” or temporary trades are not allowed.
(6) Trading of bench spots is not allowed.
(7) Any “Future Considerations” must be exchanged within one week of the relevant transaction. The nature of the possible future consideration must be specified at the time of the original transaction
Comment: this does not bar the trading of future draft picks or future auction cash (or even the right to trade those things in the future). The consideration is the right: as the right is exchanged now, the fact that it cannot be exercised until a much later date is irrelevant. This type of consideration must be expressed explicitly and in clear terms.
(8) Traded players maintain the Reserve Status eligibility they had with their former team. However, a team may not have more than 4 players with Conditional Reserve status. In the event that a trade results in one team having in excess of 4 players with this status, the Conditional Reserve status of all players in excess of 4 must be vacated, as determined by the owner.
(9) Picks in future rookie drafts may be traded. However, no rookie draft picks that are not usable within two drafts of the trade may be exchanged.
(10) Auction cash may be traded at any time. No team may trade away (and no team may use, from acquired amounts, in any auction) more than $10 million cumulatively in: (a) the upcoming auction, or (b) the second auction from the current date.

(1) All league eligible players not on the active, bench or reserve roster of any team, or currently on waivers, will be considered a “Free Agent”.
(2) During the Season, Free Agents may be signed at any time. There is no limit on the number of players a franchise may sign as Free Agents over the course of the season. There is no Free Agent signing during the offseason.
(3) All Free Agents will be assessed a uniform salary. [See section 11(f)]

(1) Players may be waived at any time. If at any time a team exceeds the maximum roster size it must waive as many players as necessary to bring it into compliance.
(2) Players on waivers may be claimed by any team. If the player is claimed by more than one team, he will be assigned to the team with a higher waiver priority, as determined by Yahoo.
(3) If, after two days, the player on waivers has not been claimed, he returns to the Free Agent pool.
(4) Players claimed off waivers retain the contract status issued while on their former team (11.e).
(5) Following the auction each year there will be a waiver draft. The drafting order will be determined by picking the names of owners in an evenly weighted lottery system. The draft will proceed in descending order, followed by ascending order (reversed). No team may exceed the maximum roster limit (see 5a) as a result of the waiver draft.


For players acquired in the Rookie Entry draft, contract salary is determined by the position in which the player was selected. The first pick will be assigned a salary of $5.6 million, the second pick $5.4. million, etc. with the last pick (28th) having a salary of $0.2 million.
a) For players acquired in the Auction, contract salary is the amount of the winning bid on that player at the auction.
b) For players acquired via trade or off the waiver wire, contract salary is the salary that player had with his former team. (i.e. these transactions do not change a player’s contract status). However, once a player has cleared waivers, his original contract status becomes void and he is treated as a free agent.
c) For players acquired from the free agent pool, salary will be $2.0 million
d) The duration of all player contracts is three years. No contracts are guaranteed (from a player perspective): a player may be released at any time, regardless of contract status.
d) All player contracts are subject to mandatory indexing between seasons, except players (up to 3) that were on a team’s reserve list the preceding season.
e) Thus, the contract salary for players who are in the second year of their contract will be $1.0 million + their original salary. For players who are in the third year of their contract, their salary will be $2.0 million + their original salary. This indexing will occur immediately after submission of protected lists.
f) Rookie salaries are not indexed in the year they are selected.
g) The original contract status of any players cut in compliance with offseason Protected List requirements [See section 13(b)] is terminated.


a. Players who finish the season on a franchise’s reserve list acquire “Reserve Status” in the auction preceding the subsequent season. The consequences of this status are as follows:
1. The salary and roster spot of players who have Reserve Status does not count against a team’s corresponding offseason maximums. [See section 13(b)]
2. The salary of players who have “Reserve Status” does not count against the franchise’s budget at the auction.
3. The season(s) in which a player earns Reserve Status does not count against the number of seasons in his contract. [See section 11(a)]
b. Reserve Status can be acquired as follows:
1. A player may be placed on a team’s reserve list before the start of the season. If that player is not removed from the reserve list for the entire season, he earns Reserve Status, subject to the conditions of section 11(c)(1).
2. A player may be designated as a “Conditional Reserve” before the start of the season. Players designated as “Conditional Reserves” do not need to begin the season on a team’s reserve list, however, to qualify for Reserve Status, they must be placed on reserve prior to December 16th, subject to the conditions of section 11(c)(2)
(1) Designation is accomplished by an announcement prior to the start of the season on the league bulletin board or an e-mail sent to the league commissioner(s). All teams should verify the status of the players on their own roster, as recorded on the rosters sheet, at the beginning of the season.
(2) No more than 4 players may be designated as “Conditional Reserves” by any franchise.
3. A player who does not satisfy either of the above conditions may still acquire Reserve status, subject to the conditions of section 11(c)(3).
c. Restrictions
(1) If a player accumulates in excess of 2000 minutes for his NBA team(s) over the course of the season, he must be removed from a franchise’s reserve list within 24 hours.
(2) A player loses his Conditional Reserve status if he plays in excess of 5 games for his pool team(s) prior to being placed on a team’s reserve list. Players reserved who have not lost their Conditional Reserve status are subject to the restrictions of section 11(c)(1)
(3) If a player placed on reserve under section 11(b)(3) accumulates in excess of 1000 minutes for his NBA team(s) over the course of the season he must be removed from a franchise’s reserve list within 24 hours.


a. The cumulative salaries of all players on teams’ active rosters will be subject
to a ‘salary cap’. This salary cap consists of two levels: a ‘soft cap’ and a ‘hard cap’.
b. The soft cap is set at the level of $125 million. Any team who has an
active roster (starting and bench) of players whose cumulative salaries exceed
the level of $125 million will be penalized with a ‘luxury tax’.
c. A luxury tax is assessed at the rate of $1.0 million penalized for every amount
up to $5.0 million exceeding the $125 million soft cap (i.e. $1.0 is penalized
for $125 to $130, $2.0 is penalized for $130 to $135, and so on.).
d. A ‘hard cap’ of $145 million is in effect for all teams. No team can
have its active players salaries exceed $145 million at any point during the season.


a. During the offseason, trading is unrestricted, however no Free Agents may be signed, and no players may be waived, with the exception of players drafted in that offseason’s Rookie Draft [See section 7(f)]
b. Approximately two weeks prior to each season’s auction, all teams will be required to submit a “Protected List” of eligible players it wishes to keep for the upcoming season. No team may protect more than 8 players, and the combined salaries of players protected for the upcoming season may not exceed $60 million. Players with Reserve Status may be retained without regard to either of the preceding restrictions.
c. The indexed salaries of all such protected players will be subtracted from the $85 million auction cap to determine the amount of money each team will have available to bid during the auction (see Section 10 d,e).
d. As discussed in Section 11(a), the maximum non-reserve contract length for any player is three years. Players whose three years have expired are not eligible to be included on the Protected List of any team. These players become restricted free agents.
e. Owners of restricted free agents have the right-to-match the highest bid that player receives at auction. No player may have his auction bid matched on two consecutive contracts.
f. The eligibility of a player for free agency is determined by when he signed his last contract, not when he was acquired by his current franchise. Any player acquired as a free agent at any point during the season will be counted as having been signed for one whole season at the end of that season.


a. In the event that the NBA season is halted by a labour dispute, all rosters will be frozen until the dispute is resolved.
b. If the NBA season, or part thereof, is cancelled due to the dispute, it will have no effect on the operation of the pool, subject to Section 14(c).
c. If the dispute occurs during the regular season, the season will be considered as a full year if a minimum of 50 games is played by each NBA team. If this requirement is not satisfied, fees will be refunded and no winnings will be paid.


a. Generally, rule interpretations will be made by the league commissioners, with the guidance of the owners. If the commissioners are unable to reach a decision, they may submit the matter to a vote of all the Owners. Rule interpretations so submitted to the owners will be decided by a “simple majority” vote (50% approval of those owners voting).
b. If any decision of the Commissioners is opposed by more than 60% of the other owners, it will be invalidated.
c. In contrast to 15(a), a vote on rule changes may be instigated on the request of any owner. To request such a change, the proposing owner must both notify all teams by e-mail and by a post on the league website of the current rule and the desired change. To overturn a rule a proposal must have the support of a “majority of the majority”: more than 50% of all votes, provided that at least one-half of all owners vote.
d. Voted approval will not be required for any “housekeeping” type rule changes made by the Commissioners. However, all team should be provided with an updated copy of the modified rules. Request of a vote by any 1 owner is sufficient to make any or all housekeeping amendments subject to vote.
e. Each pool team constitutes one “owner”. Thus, each team has only 1 vote, regardless of how many people are co-owners. Further, this vote is indivisable – there are no half-votes where ownership is split.



There was a $100 membership fee assessed before the 2002 rookie entry draft [See section 7]. This fee was used to fund the purchase of a trophy and any other league expenses that may be deemed necessary by the owners.

a. At the beginning of each season, $25 was transferred from each franchise’s balance in the membership fee account toward payment of that season’s annual entry fee.

b. Comment: The purpose of this fee structure was two-fold: (1) to frontload payments to make sure teams entering the league are committed to staying in the league; (2) to generate interest with which to buy a trophy (as opposed to adding an additional assessment to each team.) The effect of the system is that each continuing team’s out of pocket contribution to annual fees after the first year will be $50.

i. For the inaugural draft, weighting (of lottery balls) was equal for all teams.



a. For the inaugural (2002-2003) season, players will be selected in draft format. For all subsequent seasons, an auction will be used.
b. Draft order will be determined by random drawing. The draft will be a ladder draft – e.g. 1,2,3,4,4,3,2,1.
c. Each team must have a complete roster in compliance with the position restrictions of section 5 at the end of the draft. At no point may a franchise make a draft selection which will make them unable to fill the required positions during the draft.
d. Order of selection may be traded at any time. Players selected during the draft may also be traded at any time. However, no trades may be made which will make any team unable to fill the roster requirements of section 5(c)(1).
e. No team may draft a player who will cause that team to have in excess of 15 players on their roster. No players may be waived during the course of the draft.
f. All teams are subject to the drafting mechanics (e.g. time limit, default selections, etc.) of the Yahoo system. No considerations will be made for system, connection, personal, or any type of difficulty a team experiences in using the system. Technical difficulties may occur during the draft – it is advisable to pre-rank as many players as possible.
g. The Draft will be held as close to, and preceding, the beginning of the NBA season as can be arranged by the owners. If there is no date feasible for all owners, a minimum of 12 owners may approve a best-fit date.


h) For players acquired in the Inaugural Year Draft, contract salary is determined by the position in which the player was selected. The first pick will be assigned a salary of $15.0 million, the second pick $14.9 million, etc. for the first eight rounds. All players selected in the ninth round will have a salary of $3.2 million, in the tenth round $2.7 million, in the eleventh $2.2 million, etc. Thus, all players selected in the last (15th) round will have a contract salary of $0.2 million.

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4 Responses to “Sample “Keeper League” Rules”

  1. arnold

    22. Oct, 2009

    tight ship but looks as though it can work. going to incorporate some of these into my existing keeper.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Dave

    21. Oct, 2009

    Thanks. These are incredible.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Ed

    21. Oct, 2009

    Agreed. WOW

    Reply to this comment
  4. Roger

    21. Oct, 2009

    This is way too hardcore for me. hahahahha

    Reply to this comment

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