Daily fantasy basketball provides us with a unique puzzle to solve each and every night. The teams, players, matchups and salaries all change with each different slate, so there is no reason to treat each slate alike. The notion of having to spend the majority of your salary cap on a certain position is shortsighted. It will paint you into a corner, even if the slate of games may suggest another strategy. If we have a fresh start for each slate of games, we can let the slate dictate the lineup building strategy. This allows us to maximize our options.
Where/When to Save
Rather than targeting certain positions to “punt” or to save salary cap space with each night, it’s better to target a specific type of player to save on. Injuries play a critical role in daily fantasy basketball, especially when it comes to value. The NBA is all about opportunity and when a player goes down with an injury, his teammates are going to soak up his minutes and production. Instead of punting a particular position each night, punt the position that offers the best value, with the primary source of that value coming from injuries.
Another great opportunity to save salary cap space is to target players when their salaries are depressed. Salaries are constantly changing throughout the NBA season and a mini-slump from a player can cause a drastic reduction in price. When this happens, it gives us a terrific opportunity to buy low on a player. Good NBA players will always shoot themselves out of slumps and they will eventually regress to the mean (their season average).
Where/When to Spend
Now that we know which players that we can save salary cap space on, the question becomes which players do we spend up on? There are three categories that I look for when paying a premium for a player: Superstars, players in premium matchups and players that, to quote NBA Jam “are on FIRE!” The three aren’t mutually exclusive, as a player that fits into all three characteristics would make for an excellent fantasy option.
Superstars are the anchors of many fantasy teams throughout the course of the season. They are the biggest source of fantasy production and because of that, we shouldn’t mind paying a premium for these players. The best time to target superstars is when there is an abundance of value plays in a single slate of games. The more value out there, the easier it is to justify paying $10,000+ for a single player.
Targeting players in favorable matchups is an obvious strategy, but many people avoid paying a premium for players, regardless of the circumstance. If the matchup is good enough and you fully expect that player to reach his value expectation, there is no reason to avoid him just because his price is a little higher than you’d like to pay. The same applies to players that are in the midst of a hot streak. We constantly see players string together huge fantasy outing after huge fantasy outing. There is no reason to avoid a player that’s on fire just because his price has come up.
When to use Balanced Approach
Unlike the Declaration of Independence that says that all men are created equal, all slates are not created equal in daily fantasy basketball. Every now and then there will be slates where the superstars are in tough matchups and the value plays are tough to find. When this happens, we may want to take a more balanced approach in terms of spending our salary cap. We should never try to force any picks, regardless of their price point. The ultimate goal each night is to target the best plays (dollar for dollar) at each and every position.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Notorious) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.