NBA Strategy Guide

Our goal here at Top Flight Fantasy Sports is to make you a better player in all things daily fantasy.  The only way to do that, is for you to understand the basic principles of what makes people successful at DFS. In this article, I’ll layout our guide to success in the NBA for Daily Fantasy, and give you insight into why we pick the players we pick.  We’ll also review “game selection”, in other words, understanding what types of contests you should build your day around.  We’ll also talk about sources of information, good and bad.  Finally, we’ll touch on bankroll management.

Lets begin…

The Player Selection Process:

I always start my day by narrowing down the field of players.  On any given day in the NBA, there can be upwards of 200 players in the player pool, someday’s more, someday’s less, but the first thing you need to do is narrow the list.  *Note, you’ll never be able to achieve every single combination of lines, no matter how much you narrow it down, don’t do the math, it’ll boggle your mind*:.

When narrowing down players, I tend to look at the following items (in no particular order).

  • Usage Rate

  • Minutes Per Game

  • Minutes Expected for this game.

  • Pace

  • Defensive Matchups

  • History vs. Opponent

  • Over/Under of the game in question.

There are some eliminating factors, which I’ll outline below, but generally these are the processes adopted by many experts I know, including our team here.  Some hold more weight, but overall if you’re not paying attention to these factors on a daily basis, you’re most likely not profitable either.

Usage Rate:

Basically, Usage Rate is exactly what it sounds like, how often is the player used on the team they play on.  Players with higher usage rates tend to produce higher results in Daily Fantasy formats.  We track usage heavily, because I want players who have the ball in their hands the most during the game.  A breakdown of this is simple, if you have 2 players you’re deciding between, and they’re going to play roughly the same minutes, have the same salary, but the usage rate on Player A is 35, and the usage rate on Player B is 20, you’ll want to go with Player A.  Usage dictates directly how many opportunities that player is going to get to score points for you on any fantasy setting.

Minutes Per Game / Minutes Expected:

Similar to the Usage Rate mentioned above, you generally want players who are going to log big minutes in every game.  Players like Anthony Davis tend to play 38-40 minutes per night on the NBA, which is absolutely huge.  The more time your player spends on the court, the more likely they are to find their way to points.  Starters in the NBA generally log between 30-36 minutes per game, some higher, some lower.  This doesn’t mean you can’t play bench players, but they need to have overriding factors elsewhere (for example, at the time I write this article, despite averaging only 28 MPG, Jordan Clarkson has a very high Usage Rate, therefore can be considered a decent play if his salary is lower).

A very important factor in this is PPM or Points Per Minute.  This comes into play more so when a bench player has to start for an injured starter.  If there is a bench player who generally averages 1 point per minute, but only plays 12 minutes per game, he’s never a good play….until the starter gets injured and that bench player is now expected to play 30 minutes. If that bench player could maintain a similar PPM, you’ll get 30 points (and chances are, that bench player’s salary was still super low).  We get our minutes per game expected from NumberFire, who is considered a great source for such information.  In evaluating their accuracy, we find them to be very accurate on a daily basis.

This is also one of the easiest ways to narrow down your pool.  Some may disagree with me, but if a player isn’t expected to play 20+ minutes in an evening, I won’t play them, period.  That immediately reduces the pool of players by about 25% on any given night.

Pace

Pace is exactly what it sounds like, how fast the game moves for each team.  Pace is a massive thing to look at, and can’t be understated.  Games would good pace give your players extra offensive possessions to score points. I never want to take too many players from the same game, but if I can get 3 solid plays from the highest paced game of the night, it generally does well.  Pace information is available free at sites like ESPN and NBA.com.information.

Games with slower paces aren’t necessarily a no go, but again, you need overriding factors like a high usage rate.

Defensive Matchups

Looking up defensive matchups is how I spend a large amount of my day.  It’s probably the single most important thing you can do for picking players.  I’m constantly learning more and more about this every single day, and continue to grow my knowledge of how certain teams and players matchup against the player I’m considering.  I’ll present 2 concepts here, both of which generally work, but 1 in particular seems very effective, DVP (Defense vs. Position) and DBPM(Defensive Box Plus Minus).

DVP – This is simply how the opponent guards the position your player is playing.  This information is available on RotoWire, RotoGrinders and other sites similar.  This stat is helpful, but can be misleading.   Generally speaking, the higher the DVP the better.  If you can get a player matched up with a team who is 30th DVP, that’s a good matchup on appearance, but again, can be misleading, and here’s how.  Say we have an elite defender as our starting Point Guard, and he plays 28 minutes per game.  For those 28 minutes per game, a team could be top 10 in DVP.  Then as a backup I could have a great scoring PG, who is absolutely horrific on the defensive end, and he allows 20 points per night in his 20 minutes played.  Suddenly, my overall DVP jumps from 1st to 20th.  All because of a crappy defending backup.  Why is that important?  Well….

DBPM –   So sure, the DVP might look good, but if my starter is going to play 32 minutes, and for 28 of those he’s matched up with a great defensive point guard, that is NOT a good matchup for me to exploit.  DBPM allows you to see which players are great defenders and which ones aren’t.  Now, as far as deciding what player matches up against who, well, that’s a little tougher, but generally you can assume that the starting point guard from team A, will be matching up with the starting point guard from team B.  There are exceptions, but its a good general rule to follow.  Reading DBPM is simple, the lower the number, the better the matchup.  If a player has a DBPM of -3.00, that’s a guy you want to target against.  Anything higher than 0 becomes a negative matchup.  This doesn’t mean you have to avoid it…it would be hard to get 9 players that all have good DBPM matchups.  But this is a very important stat to explore when considering which star players to play.

History vs. Opponent

It’s always a good idea to see how the player has performed against their opponent within that season, or if the teams rosters haven’t changed much, you can even look to a previous season.  This needs to be taken with a grain of salt though, as teams can adjust defensive strategies to slow down a player who burned them previously.  But if the 2 teams have played 3 times already in the year, and the player has 6x value or above in each contest, they may be a solid play.

Over/Under

If you’re looking for punt plays, the best place to go is a cheap player within a high over under game.  I’m not big on stacking in the NBA but on the rare occasions you do, you’ll need to stack games with a good over/under.  Important also is to look at Team Implied Points, and figure out if the team is implied to score more or less than their season average.  If you have a team that scores 100 PPG on average, and they’re implied to score 110, if they hit that, that’s 10 extra points to go around, along with possibly 5 extra assists.  Also pay close attention to the game line, an over/under could be high because the game is expected to be a blowout.  If the game is projected to be a blowout, there is a high chance you’ll lose your players availability in the 4th quarter.

 

Contest Selection

So let’s talk contest entry, because this is such a mismanaged thing for most DFS players.

Tournaments:

Those big $4 entry nets first place $50,000 sure do seem appealing don’t they?  Well, lets evaluate that, shall we?

Start with the basics, 19,640 places are paid, out of 104,166 entries, a paid % of 18.85%…..that absolutely sucks.  Now also consider, that in that same contest, sharks are swimming, 150 unique entries each, and just go ahead an assume they have better tools than you do (they do).  Your true odds of hitting big there, maybe .0000000000001% at best.  Better chances are if you do hit money in that, you’ll hit somewhere in the lowest pay scale, which pays you a whopping $8 on a $4 investment.  Sound familiar?  Oh that’s right, you basically just played a more difficult version of a double up.

Now lets take your same $4 entry, and flip it to a Single Entry tournament, with a lower prize pool

An entry of $5 into a Single Entry GPP ( like the FanDuel NBA Assist), where first place gets paid $1,000.  I know, no where close to as sexy…but do remember how excited you’d be if you actually won $995 on a $5 entry….

So the odds in this contest are interesting, 2352 entries allowed, 425 get paid.  The odds actually seemingly went down to just 18% payout…however, a very important factor here, and the basics of tournament play in DFS, less total entries, and Single Entry only = more opportunity to win.  It has been proven over and over again, by many, that if you put the same lineup in the huge $4 tournament and the modest $5 tournament, you’ll get a bigger payout on the $5.  The reason is simple, lower entries = greater odds, period.  Single entry also ensures that 20 sharks didn’t put in 150 expert lineups a piece.  Lineup variation will be lower, which means that if you have one player who goes off, it’ll help you more.

Watching the Paid % is also a very simple thing to do, and should help you net more money in GPP.  Some GPP’s go as high as 20% paid percentage, and some as low as 15% paid.  Considering your odds of finishing first in any of these is extremely low, you’re more so aiming to win something out of it.  So why not enter the contests with the higher paid %?

Paid % = (Paid Entries / Total Entries) * 100.

Generally speaking, higher entry fee, single entry, low total entries is the best GPP.  If you can get in a $25 single entry tournament with only 300 contestants, that’s your best chance for a money maker.

Sources

One of the hardest things to do in DFS is find “trustworthy” information. There is a lot of information, statistics, etc that are thrown at you that you’ll need to understand how to interpret and understand.  I’ll key you into my process, who I trust, who I don’t trust.

Let’s start with the big name in the industry, RotoGrinders.  RotoGrinders is a great source for some data, they have some great free articles, projections, and basic information (such as starting lineups, and Over/Under).  I have no issues with RotoGrinders, except for their Optimizer/Quick Build tool.  Bottom line, don’t play this line if you want to win in DFS.  It’s really not that simple.  I have a home built optimizer I use, and it is very hit and miss.  Ultimately its about the quality of the projections, but never rely on one source.  RotoGrinders projections tend to be fairly accurate, but again, using an optimizer line with no logic behind it, most likely will result in your demise.

Other good sources of projections, both paid and free:  LineStar, Fantasy Cruncher, NumberFire.

Let’s talk Twitter, first thing you’ll see if you search for FanDuel on twitter is about 1,000 different “Line Sellers” who promise you if you pay them $10 a week, they’ll give you winning lineups.  This is the absolute biggest scam in the DFS Industry.  It’s disgusting that this exists, but we have to address it.  To be fair, there are a couple ones out there who do a decent job for their subs, but most of them are awful, and just use an optimizer to give you a line, take your money to boost their own bankroll. I know I crapped on the RotoGrinders Optimizer and all Optimizers earlier, but honestly you’d be better off just entering an optimizer line into contests nightly than paying for lines.  Don’t do this, money earned is much better than money won.  Plus what’s the joy in taking down a GPP if you have to split it with 40 other people who sub for the same seller?

Also on twitter though, there is a twitter account called “Basketball Monster”.  Following them and setting up push notifications to your phone is a fantastic idea, so you get the latest injury news.  Part of managing your team nightly is responding to Injury news.  If you play an injured player, kiss your night goodbye.

Other than that, be weary of information or advice given on twitter unless it has a reputable website linked behind it.

Facebook Groups:

This is a fun one, considering I run a group myself.  One of the hardest things in the groups is separating people who know what they’re talking about from people who just are throwing out opinion as fact.  Easiest way to find this out?  Ask for a statistical reason that they want to play a certain player.  If they can’t give you a solid piece of statistics behind why they are playing a player, consider it just opinion.  I personal research any player I end up with, so I know the statistics behind why I picked them.  Anyone posting quality advice on facebook should be able to do the same.

Bankroll Management

There are 2 players in the DFS world, those who want to play daily without depositing, and those who go for broke nightly.  If you’re in the disposable income business, and can deposit weekly, this section may not be for you.  If you want to make modest earnings nightly, and continue to play strictly off what you won, this guide is for you.

So what’s the key?  Cash Games vs. GPP.

Cash Games – Double Ups, 50/50, Triple Ups even all count as “Cash Games”.  As show above, your odds of winning one of these contests can be anywhere between 30 to 50%.  The goal of bankroll management is to keep money in your bank, so you don’t have to deposit.  Cash games are the absolute key to this philosophy.  You need to at bare minimum cover your losses from your GPP entries.  However, to be an effective cash game player, you really need to ensure profit nightly.  The goal of cash game playing is to win 55% of the time, and if you’re consistent with your betting, you’ll never run out of money to play.

Bankroll Management Example:

As you’ll see in the example below, I laid out a schedule of playing nothing but double ups for a week, betting only 10% of bankroll (20% is the max recommended), and only winning 4 out of 7 days that week.  4 out of 7 isn’t that great, but as you’ll see below, it makes a decent bump to your bankroll.

Starting Bankroll 100
Bet Result Profit New Bankroll
Day 1 10 W 10 110
Day 2 11 W 11 121
Day 3 12 L -12 109
Day 4 11 W 11 120
Day 5 12 L -12 108
Day 6 11 W 11 119
Day 7 12 L -12 107

 

The goal obviously would be to win 5-6 times out of 7 (you will get on hot streaks, but you’ll also have lulls, no one wins all the time).  Using the Same Example, but just making day 3 a win instead of a loss, thus starting your week on a 4 game cash win streak, would make a massive difference.  Win streaks are paramount, if you follow sound advise, you can get on one and make your bankroll grow very quickly.

Starting Bankroll 100
Bet Result Profit New Bankroll
Day 1 10 W 10 110
Day 2 11 W 11 121
Day 3 12 W 12 133
Day 4 13 W 13 146
Day 5 15 L -15 131
Day 6 13 W 13 144
Day 7 14 L -14 130

 

To give a final example, this is the “worst case” scenario, you get on a epic cold run, and can’t get a win for a week….most people would run out of bankroll, but if you follow this example, you’d only be losing about half.  Clearly this isn’t ideal, but this is how you can keep playing regardless without depositing.

Starting Bankroll 100
Bet Result Profit New Bankroll
Day 1 10 L -10 90
Day 2 9 L -9 81
Day 3 8 L -8 73
Day 4 7 L -7 66
Day 5 7 L -7 59
Day 6 6 L -6 53
Day 7 5 L -5 48

 

 

Important to remember here, only 20% of the DFS world actual profits.  The ones who do, either hit big GPP’s and that makes them, but for the rest of us, profiting a 5-10% gain daily is the goal.

If you sustain a 55% win rate, and follow these rules, you’ll profit enough to build your bankroll and keep playing every day on the house’s money.  Below is an example of bankroll playing 10% daily for 30 days, with a 57% win rate, and the end effect is a profit.  And again, its’ not sexy, but the goal is to sneak in a GPP or Quintuple win every now and then to boost your bankroll.

Starting Bankroll 100
Bet Result Profit New Bankroll Win Rate:
Day 1 10 W 10 110 17 Wins
Day 2 11 W 11 121 13 Losses
Day 3 12 L -12 109 57%
Day 4 11 L -11 98
Day 5 10 W 10 108
Day 6 11 L -11 97
Day 7 10 W 10 107
Day 8 11 L -11 96
Day 9 10 W 10 106
Day 10 11 W 11 117
Day 11 12 W 12 129
Day 12 13 L -13 116
Day 13 12 W 12 128
Day 14 13 L -13 115
Day 15 12 W 12 127
Day 16 13 W 13 140
Day 17 14 L -14 126
Day 18 13 W 13 139
day 19 14 L -14 125
Day 20 13 L -13 112
Day 21 11 W 11 123
Day 22 12 W 12 135
Day 23 14 L -14 121
Day 24 12 W 12 133
Day 25 13 L -13 120
Day 26 12 L -12 108
Day 27 11 W 11 119
Day 28 12 L -12 107
Day 29 11 W 11 118
Day 30 12 W 12 130

 

Look, bottom line there are about a million other things that go into this, it’s complicated to win in the NBA, it’s well known to be the most difficult sport in the DFS Industry.  It’ll never be easy, but if you follow these pieces of advise laid out above, I promise you’ll become a better player.  I hope this article helps you, and if you have any questions, you know where to find me!  We strive to make you better players, so there is no such thing as a dumb question.

Lenny Hadley

Lenny Hadley is a Daily Fantasy player for the past 5 years, specializing in NBA, NHL, NFL, and PGA. He operates under the user name leonardhadley on both DraftKings and FanDuel, currently ranked top 10% overall on RotoGrinders.

One thought on “NBA Strategy Guide

  • December 29, 2018 at 9:31 am
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    With the information I just read, this has really inclined my knowledge. Thank you very much!

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