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NBA Daily Games Strategy: Different Nights, Different Strategies

Renee Miller

Renee Miller

Neuroscientist at the University of Rochester and author of Cognitive Bias in Fantasy Sports: Is your brain sabotaging your team?. I cover daily fantasy basketball for RotoWire and write for RotoViz about fantasy football.

Deploying Different DFS Strategies on Big Slate NBA Nights

The NBA schedule is a repeating series of big 10-plus game nights, small two game Thursdays, and the just right slate in between. Last week, I wrote about how I construct my daily NBA lineups using either a Studs & Scrubs or an All Average strategy. The day after Thanksgiving brought with it a slate of 13 NBA games, including an epic showdown between Golden State and Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook provided a finish that just might have won my nine-year-old over to the excitement of the NBA for good. It's why I say that you can win money playing daily NBA, but that it's so much more fun when you actually enjoy watching the games too.

Russell Westbrook's game-winning three-pointer.


Getting back to the point, you might wonder which type of strategy works best on big nights? Small nights?

With 13 games last Friday the lineup possibilities for daily fantasy games were nearly limitless. The available tier one Studs were LeBron James and Kevin Durant, followed very closely by Stephen Curry, John Wall, Anthony Davis and Paul George.

There were also abundant value plays to be had Friday night. The new and notable names included E'Twaun Moore and Jeff Taylor, getting their first starts for Orlando and Charlotte, respectively. We had Aaron Brooks and Marvin Williams coming off great games at great prices. Finally, Andray Blatche, DeJuan Blair and Khris Middleton were in play as usual.

I played both types of lineups Friday. My All Average team outscored my Studs & Scrubs by 60 fantasy points (fpts). For sure, I saw other Studs & Scrubs strategies pay off big, it just depended on the specific players involved of course. James was a letdown, as was Wall, while Durant, Davis, George and Curry were terrific. On the value side, Taylor ended up something like a 1x value (salary of $5k, scored approximately 5 fpts), and Blatche was <0.5x value, while Moore, Blair and Middleton reached a solid >3x value. Brooks and Williams were outstanding reaching over 4x value. Unfortunately, in my losing lineup, the Studs I had were James and Curry, and the Scrubs were Blatche and Taylor. With three underperformers, I was done, regardless of the rest of my lineup (which was very solid).

On my Above Average Friday night team, I had Jrue Holiday, Dwyane Wade, Moore, George, Steve Blake, DeMar DeRozan, Demarcus Cousins, Middleton and Blair. Taking calculated risks on second tier players such as Holiday, Cousins, and Wade, whose production varies quite a bit, really paid off here. Each took advantage of a good matchup and overachieved in DFS (daily fantasy sports) terms. With the rest of the team also meeting or exceeding value, this lineup cashed in every game I entered it in.

What can you take away from this? The success of the Studs & Scrubs requires all players to hit their value. It's a riskier strategy that can dominate a big field, such as a tournament or GPP (guaranteed player pool) game, when all the pieces fall into place. On the other hand, on a big night like this, you have so many second tier players from which to draw your All Average team, that with careful research, they really can become All Above Average. This gives you a great chance to outscore most of your opponents in head to head (h2h) or double/triple up games, which is all you need in those cash games.

Small slate nights on Thursdays, or if your site does separate early games on Sundays, require a totally different mindset. Next time, I'll look at how to tweak my lineup strategies when there are fewer options available.

Final thought. Today, I wrote about one recent example from my limited personal experience. I used it because I think it reflects what happens a lot on big nights and illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of different strategies under this one set of circumstances. However, I'm always interested to hear about your experiences and opinions on DFS strategy, either in the comments below or on Twitter @ReneeMiller01. Thanks for reading.