NBA DFS is ridiculously awesome. You have 2 game slates, 6 game slates, 12 game slates and you can play (almost) any day of the week.
It comes halfway into NFL DFS and you’re just getting really into it and need to play more than just NFL. NBA is for you.
The studs, the values and the roster construction are so unique and the variance is exciting. It’s time to learn how to play NBA DFS at the highest level using this Ultimate Guide to NBA DFS Strategy.
How to Know Which Stats Matter in NBA DFS
For NBA DFS there is no 1 stat that you can look at and base all your decisions around, just like those of you that play NFL DFS. You can’t just look at how many snaps a WR is getting.
It’s great to play 94% of the snaps, but what if that team runs the fewest plays in the league?
And what if that WR also only sees 2-3 targets per game because his QB only throws 25 passes per game and is on the same team as Deandre Hopkins who commands 12-13 of those targets?
The same goes for NBA, as 1 stat will not be enough to determine who to play. One of my favorite guys to watch for NBA DFS content is Al Zeidenfeld, who has a great quote “Minutes equal money.” And that’s true and often the first thing I look for when constructing my DFS lineup.
But things like usage rate, individual defensive matchups, assist rate, and a team’s ability to score 105+ points also come into play. If you have a Small Forward playing 34 minutes, but he’s on a team averaging only 90 points per game, he has a low usage rate, and is going to be covered by Kawhi Leonard all game, then those minutes might not equal a lot of money.
So, one of the main things I want you to come away with from this guide is to understand which stats are important, which stats are just fluff, and how to combine these things into building the ideal DFS NBA lineup.
Developing an NBA DFS Strategy is Key to Your Success
Things change on a nightly basis, so this will be less tactic based (on this night, you want to do this) and more of a game theory based article.
Just like in poker, you can play 1 of 2 strategies. You can play an exploitative strategy, that will work in particular games against particular opponents, or you can play a GTO (game theory optimal) strategy, that doesn’t exactly pick on any 1 weakness of an opponent, but will ensure that you are a profitable, solid player every time you hit the felt.
I want to lay out a GTO strategy for DFS in that same way. I want you to be able to look at any slate, on any night, and be able to determine how to construct your lineups. I’m going to explain the differences in cash games vs tournaments, how to manage your bankroll, and how your strategy will differ depending on game type.
I want to start with defining what our goal is, and then finding the best way to get to that goal based on salary and stats. Let’s focus on the two main DFS sites, Fanduel and Draftkings. Essentially, at the end of the night, on both sites, you will have 8 players that contribute to your teams final score.
NBA DFS on DraftKings vs. FanDuel
The guys over at Rotogrinders did a great job breaking down what your target score should be in GPP’s (tournaments.) This is much different than cash games, but they found that on DraftKings you want 5.48 points per dollar to cash, and on Fanduel you need 4.82 points per dollar.
That runs in line pretty well with what I use, which is 5.5x salary (3000 price tag, we want 16.5 points). So lets focus on that 5.5x salary to determine our value plays, and with a total of $50,000 salary on Draftkings, you’re roughly looking for 275 points.
My goal is always 300, but you should be a profitable cash player if you can average in that 275 range. If you can get 6x points from salary, that will get you to that 300 point number.
The 2 Main Differences Between Fanduel and Draftkings:
DraftKings gives Bonuses for 3 pointers made, double doubles, and triple-doubles.
These aren’t always very predictable things, but it’s something to keep in mind when constructing your lineups.
Fanduel now drops the lowest score from your lineup.
So instead of drafting 8 players, you draft 9 and only 8 of the scores count. For a more in depth review of how this affects your Fanduel specific lineups, and what strategies to use there, check out our article specifically on that right here.
Since I’ve covered Fanduel in the past, let’s focus on building on DraftKings because it’s more straight forward, and the concepts can be applied to both sites, whereas the inverse is not true.
Making DraftKings DFS Lineups for NBA
On Draftkings, your lineup will look like this:
You have 50,000 in salary to fill out a team of:
How Much Should You Be Spending on Players?
The two most important things are obviously the Remaining Salary, and Average Remaining/Player. This will let you know roughly how much you can spend at each position to fill out your roster. That’s one of the things we love about DFS basketball, there’s so many different ways to construct a winning lineup, and there’s no 1 correct way.
You can build your lineup with 8 players that cost 6,200 each and have a bunch of solid players, or you can fill your roster with four $3,000 players and four $9,000 players.
With that lineup, you don’t have the consistency and high floor of the first lineup because players are priced at $3,000 for a reason, but using those cheaper players allows you to get 4 studs that have the ability to win you a week by themselves (Russell Westbrook going for 40-15-15.)
It will come down to personal preference and where your value comes from. If you think that Lebron will get more than 5.5x salary at $9000, that is still considered a value play, because you think he will outscore his salary.
How to Know Which NBA Players Are Starting
One of the most interesting things about the NBA that you won’t get with the NFL, is rest days. Unlike the NFL where you have the entire inactive list a while before the game, NBA is like the wild west where you might not know if a player is in the lineup or not until 5 minutes before the game kicks off.
This makes it very important to not “set and forget” a lineup for DFS basketball. Things change fast and you need to have all the information of who’s in and who’s out.
This does bring in unique opportunities that only exist in the NBA world of DFS. For opening night this year (2018) it wasn’t known if Russell Westbrook was going to play or not. Dennis Schroeder had just been acquired to the team and was thought to have a bench role. Turns out that Russell’s out, and Schroeder becomes a steal.
Equate this to the NFL and learning only 2 hours before Sunday kickoff that Todd Gurley came down with a sudden illness, and all of a sudden you have Malcolm Brown (Gurley’s backup) priced at $3000, being vaulted into a starting spot on the most efficient running team in the NFL.
You now have a top 8 RB for 3K. This VERY rarely happens in the NFL, maybe once or twice a year, but is a much more common occurrence in the NBA. This makes it vitally important to not “set and forget” a lineup.
You have to be at your workstation right up until opening tip-off, following beat writers on Twitter, making sure you have the most up to date information on who is playing and who is not. This opens up some awesome value plays and can easily change the slate with 1 injury announcement.
So step 1 to building the ideal NBA DFS roster, know who’s in and out.
What Stats Matter Most in NBA DFS?
As I covered briefly earlier in this article, there is a lot of noise out there when it comes to stats for fantasy basketball. Let’s take a look at the most important stats when it comes to making the best DFS NBA team on DraftKings:
1. Minutes DO in Fact Equal Money
This isn’t uniform across the NBA
Some fantasy players have a much higher FPPM, which needs to be taken into account.
9 extra minutes (average rotation) for a player only averaging 0.15 FPPM will only add 1.35 points to his fantasy output.
Team and system will also make a difference in how much increased minutes will have an impact
However, in general, a player who sees a 20 percent uptick in possessions will see a 20 percent uptick in fantasy production. We measure time-based opportunity using Minutes and Pace.
2. Pace – Team Possessions Matter
Pace is the amount of possessions a team plays in a typical 48 minute game
A team’s amount of possessions per game is a huge factor in determining opportunity. And opportunity is everything in Daily Fantasy.
It’s important to look at both the Pace the player’s team plays at, but the opposing team’s pace as well
A slow paced opponent is often worse for a player than a bad DvP, most notably for guards.
3. Usage Rate
The percentage of plays that a player finishes while on the court – and a player “finishing a possession” can come from a number of ways like:
Using this stat you can probably guess that a PG that has a high usage rate is a solid, safe pick, because they have the ball in their hands a ton and the most opportunity to score fantasy points.
4. Defense vs. Position
I don’t like to dwell on this number a lot based on lack of correlation, but I do pay attention to specific matchups, and would rather attack weak defenders instead of the Kawhi Leonard’s and Javale McGee’s of the world.
5. Fantasy Points Per Minute
6. Points Per Game
5 and 6 are pretty straightforward, but depending on your favorite DFS site’s scoring system need to be understood.
I typically like to look at everything on a per minute basis, and after projecting out their minutes for an upcoming game, determine what my projected Fantasy Points for the game will be for each player
7. PER (Player Efficiency Rating)
This is a per minute statistic which correlates very strongly to fantasy points.
Beware of the Back to Backs for veterans
Many vets (Kawhi, Lebron, Harden) are getting rest games on one side of the back to backs.
How to Combine These Stats to Make the Best NBA DFS Team
Combining all these stats to create the ideal strategy for your NBA DFS roster construction will take time, but to make things more simple, let’s just focus on a few and see how we can use them to our advantage.
When it comes to all these stats, the 3 I use most are:
While I always do a quick check to make sure a player isn’t going to be against a lock down defender, or playing on the 3rd night of a triple header, I can build a solid lineup based solely on these 3 things.
Finding Value Picks in NBA DFS on DraftKings
If we check out Steph Curry, for example, we want to determine if he’s a strong value to put into our lineups for tonight. We will use only those 3 stats while looking at our 5.5x salary point target for reference.
So far this season, Steph Curry is averaging 33 minutes per game, and in his last 10 games he’s stayed right around that mark. So minutes have been determined. To calculate FPPM all we do is divide FPPG (52.6) by Minutes (33) and we get 1.6 FPPM
Now to find Pace, I like to use teamrankings.com .
We see that Golden State is actually middle of the pack in 2018 sitting at No. 13 with 106 possessions per game. Memphis, Curry’s opponent tonight, is dead last in the NBA, and the only team under 100 possessions per game, at 99.4. On the surface, this doesn’t look amazing for Curry’s fantasy potential tonight.
Normally I do not want my highest priced player on a slate playing against the slowest team in the NBA. Curry’s salary for tonight ($10,300) is also his highest price all season. He would need at least 56.5 points just to pay off tonight’s salary, and I don’t think this is an ideal setup for him to do so. Curry would not be in my lineup tonight.
Jrue Holiday on the other hand, is someone I’m trying to get into the lineup.
Holiday has an $8,300 salary, and has a great PACE play with the Pelicans (8) taking on OKC (7).
He’s also been averaging 44 FPPG over his last 4 games.
Holiday is playing 35 minutes per games.
He’s perfectly priced in my opinion and I’m cracking up to myself after doing all those calculations and seeing that salary and points needed to reach value are the exact same. Give me Jrue Holiday!
Great Resources for Building the Best NBA DFS Team
It’s a it more straight forward to do research for locked in starters than it is the bargain picks ($5,000 and cheaper) but the process is very similar. The only extra research you will need to do with 5K and below guys, is to learn from Team Beat Writers how many minutes they’re projected to get, and their role in the offense, and you can then rinse and repeat this process!
One of the best resources I can give to you guys is a collective list of all the NBA beat writers. This is the absolute best place to find out who’s in and out, and who will be stepping into their roles. This is a Twitter group of all the NBA beat writers that you’ll need to crush NBA DFS on DraftKings and Fanduel.
Knowing who is playing and replacing is one of the greatest advantages you can gain in DFS. Combine that knowledge with the stat crunching and projecting that you learned in this article, and you’re well on your way to becoming an NBA DFS pro.