FanDuel NBA Strategy Course 101
Have you ever had the joy of game stacking a NBA game that goes into overtime? How about double overtime? That is the one of the best feelings in the world. The only feeling better than that would be winning all the money by taking down a large field tournament. The goal of this article is to give you the keys to becoming a winning NBA Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) player!
Rosters & Scoring
Roster construction is simple on FanDuel. You roster 9 positions and you have a 60,000 salary that you have to stay under when picking these players. You have to roster two point guards, two shooting guards, two small forwards, two power forwards and one center.
In terms of scoring, you get one point per three point field goal made, 2 points per field goal made, one point per free throw, 1.2 points per rebound, 1.5 points per assist, and 3 points per block/steal. Be careful with the turnover prone players as on FanDuel players lose one point per turnover.
The ideal way to take advantage of the drop score function is by rostering a close to minimum priced player ($3,500) at a position that doesn’t have the greatest players in good matchups. These types of players are streaky role players who can get hot from the field in limited minutes or a role player in a up tempo and high scoring game with the ability to contribute across the board.
Just like baseball and football, stacking teams is one of the most profitable strategies and we should take advantage of stacking in basketball also. Stacking is taking 2 or more players from one team on one roster. The first thing you want to do when breaking down slates is find the teams with bad defensive ratings and teams who play at a high pace and stack against them. Some teams overlap those two things. A profitable strategy last season was stacking against the Atlanta Hawks because they ranked number one in terms of pace and bottom three in defensive rating. These are the teams that you want to stack against. Any time the Hawks were on the slate I would have a few lineups where I stacked against them. That was my most profitable strategy of the NBA season.
In basketball, more than the other DFS sports, it is beneficial to have game stack games. This is when you stack players from both teams from one game on one roster. We usually do this in games with high paced teams with bad defenses. These games usually has the higher game totals which are another crucial part to how we construct our rosters.
Another crucial part that people do not take advantage of when breaking down a slate is looking at the Vegas totals. The game totals as well as the point spread help you understand more about how the games may be played. Which game would you stack? A game between the Golden State Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks with a 220 total and a 4 point spread? Or a game between the Memphis Grizzles and the Toronto Raptors, with a 205 total and a 13.5 point spread? That is an easy call, we want to get the exposure to the tightly contested game that will be high scoring. You do not want to roster players in a game that will be a blow out because your stars may be having a great night through three quarters, but their team may have a 20 point lead and they don’t play at all in the 4th quarter. Minutes equal money. Our players will be missing out on minutes, so we will be missing out on money!
When playing in cash games, we want to take the least amount of risk possible. This is when you want to take the most popular players who are in great matchups. The best way to construct your lineups in cash games is by having a lineup with a “high floor.” Floor is the worst possible outcome for your lineup. The reason why we want a high floor is because there isn’t a large amount of people you have to beat in order to cash. In head to heads or in 50/50s you need to be better than half of the other lineups. So, we do not need to strive for a “high ceiling” lineup. You save those high ceiling lineups for GPP tournaments.
Players to target in cash games are players who contribute across the board. These players score points, get assists, grab rebounds and get a few steals and blocks. These players are the players with higher floors and massive ceilings. A players floor is the worst possible outcome for a player in any game. Ceiling is the opposite of floor, as it is the best possible outcome for a player in any game. The reason why we want well rounded players is because if their shot isn’t falling, they can still make value. This makes them more consistent, therefore having higher floors.
Guaranteed Prize Pool
Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) tournaments are the most popular contest in FanDuel. These GPPs have large numbers of entries and the pay structure is usually in the top 20-30 percent of lineups cash. In these large field GPP tournaments we want to be contrarian, which means being different than the other lineups by rostering low owned players.
The low owned players are usually those streaky/volatile players who are scoring reliant. If these players shot is off, their fantasy point output will be greatly affected. Players like CJ McCollum and Devin Booker are these highly volatile players. They could get hot at any moment and end up as the top scorer on the slate. Because most of their fantasy point output comes from raw points, we want to target these type of players in GPP tournaments. We’ve seen Booker score 70 NBA points and that is his ceiling. Rostering Booker at 5 percent ownership when he drops 65+ fantasy points would be the key to winning large field tournaments. On the other hand, he can score 15 NBA points, get one assist and two rebounds to score only 25 fantasy points. This would ruin all the lineups where you rostered him, so this is why he is a tournament play.
A solid GPP strategy is taking advantage of the drop score FanDuel gives us by rostering players who are listed as a Game Time Decision. These players will be lower owned, so taking chances and rostering these players helps you differentiate your lineups. The reason these players come in lower owned is because they could be held out of the lineup and give you a zero. But if the players suits up and plays at an elite level, you have huge leverage on the field.
Another smart tournament strategy to differentiate your lineups is rostering two close to minimum priced players and expect one of them to be your drop score player. If one of these players exceeds his value and you hit on your other players, you will be looking good in tournaments. Not only does this strategy help you be contrarian, but it also helps you save salary so you can spend up on high priced studs.
Another way to be contrarian is looking at Vegas and looking at which games will be highly owned and fade those games. Rostering players in games with low totals or high spreads will help you differentiate your lineup. If that game that has a high point spread stays close, you will have leverage on the field because the studs you rostered in that game will be at lower ownership. This could help you take down large field tournaments.
Stay Locked in to NBA Starting Lineups
The most important part of NBA DFS is making sure you have the ability to adjust your roster until the slate locks. The beautiful thing about baseball is that teams must release their lineups at least an hour before their game starts, so we know the lineup and can adjust our teams and set it and forget it. We do not have that luxury in NBA DFS. If the slate locks at 7 you need to make sure you are on FanDuel until 6:59:59 because there is a late scratch virtually every day. You can get huge leverage to the field when a player gets late scratched and are able to roster the value players who will see an uptick in minutes and usage due to the late scratch. Follow our NBA Starting Lineups page for the latest projected and confirmed lineups for every game.
Players to Roster
The first thing you want to do when breaking down a slate is look at a team’s rank in terms of offensive rating and points per game. The top offenses score more points per game, so you want exposure to these teams. The top two teams in the league in terms of points per game were the Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors. Each team was the number one seed in their respective conference. The players on these teams were usually more expensive than other teams, but when your team scores more NBA points there are more fantasy points for the players. So it is beneficial to target the better offenses in the league.
Just like we want to roster players on top offense, we also want to roster players on teams who play at a fast pace. More possessions equals more fantasy points. Not only does more possessions mean more points for a certain team, but it also means there will be more rebounds after missed shots, more assists on the extra made baskets, and more steals and blocks because of the increase in amount of possessions.
The NBA DFS community has a simple saying that sums up NBA DFS basketball “Minutes equal Money.” Meaning that we want to roster players who play a lot of minutes because the more minutes a player plays, the more opportunity the player has to produce. These are the players we want to target. The high minutes gives them higher floors and ceilings.
When predicting minutes for players, you have to think about the game flow of games and the other team’s roster. An example of this is rostering a slow power forward such as the Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors versus an up-tempo Golden State Warriors. In a matchup like this Derrick Favor will play less minutes because he would get ran off the court. The Warriors start the game off with a traditional center like Andrew Bogut, but they quickly go to their “Hampton 5” lineup which has Draymond Green at the center position and Kevin Durant at the power forward position. Not only do the Warriors play at a high pace that doesn’t suit well for Favors, but they also are an awful matchup as he cannot defend Durant or Green. These are some of the things you need to think about when breaking down a slate.
Injuries also effect a player’s minutes. If the starter is injured or gets late scratched, you want to take advantage of this situation. One of the best examples of this is with Toronto’s Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. The Raptors wanted to make sure their starters were well rested for their playoff run so they gave him many days off during the regular season. Fred VanVleet had plenty of spot starts and he was in my lineups for every one of them. His minutes increased drastically, his usage rate increased drastically, and most importantly his fantasy points increased drastically!
One of the most important stats that people do not take advantage of is fantasy points per minutes (FP/Minute). To calculate a player’s FP/Minute you take his average fantasy points per game and divide it by the player’s minutes per game. This is crucial when deciding between those lower owned players because we ideally want to roster players with 1 FP/Minute or more. Fred VanVleet averaged 23.6 fantasy points a game and played 27.5 minutes a game. On the season, his FP/Minute is .86. If he was to get a start and score 40 points in 30 minutes his FP/Minute sky rockets to 1.33 and he becomes one of the best value plays on the slate!
LeBron James, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook are some of the top scorers in DFS NBA. These players have one similar trait/stat, they all have high usage rates. Usage rate is the percentage of a team’s plays where a certain player is used while on the court. This is one of my favorite stats to look at when I start my research. The more a player has the ball in his hands, the more points the player is projected to score. Because of this, the players with higher usage rates usually are the top priced players.
A smart way you can find the value plays is when a player gets injured and is out for the game, you need to check his usage rate and predict how his usage rate will be dispersed across his team. The best example of this is when Russell Westbrook was out. His incredible 31 percentage usage rate didn’t go to the back up point guard Raymond Felton. Most of it went to small forward Paul George and shooting guard Dennis Schröder. When Westbrook was out, these players would become some of the top value plays on the slate because of their increased usage rate!
What we want to find when making our roster is the players with the best value. Value is the amount of points a player scores divided by his salary. The optimal value we want in GPP tournaments is 5x. If we have a player whose salary is $5,000, in order for him to reach optimal value, we need him to score 25 fantasy points. High priced studs making value in great matchups is easy, but where you win large field tournaments is when you find cheap players who play extra minutes due to injuries or performance. The key to winning slates is rostering players like Boban Marjanovic when he gets a spot start for Joel Embiid and 10x’s his $3,500 salary.
My absolute favorite stat and the first one I look at when I start my research is Defense vs Position (DVP), which is how a team does against a certain position. My absolute favorite team to target last season was the Brooklyn Nets with centers. The Nets ranked 30th vs the center position and were dominated by them every night. DVP is a crucial stat to look at because if you spend up on Joel Embiid you want to make sure he doesn’t flop and the Nets were the perfect matchup for him. But even cheap players like Alex Len would exceed their value and score 40+ fantasy points and be a main contributor to your wining lineups.
You are now ready for this upcoming NBA season! There was a lot of information for you to digest, but the two most important things you want to remember are to look at teams DVP and attack them with positions they are weak against and be able to adjust your lineups up until the slate locks.