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Daily Fantasy Basketball 101: How to Win on DraftKings

Michael Rathburn

Michael Rathburn

Known as “Rath” in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) community, he has helped run operations for two prominent daily fantasy sports startups. Michael has taken his insider knowledge and expertise in daily fantasy sports to the content side. He was also nominated by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for Best Baseball Series in 2011.


Daily fantasy basketball can be the perfect bridge from football to baseball because its the most constant daily fantasy game night in, night out. We're here to break down the three major daily fantasy sites and their fantasy basketball games. Last week, we broke down how to win tournaments on FanDuel. This week, we tackle DraftKings.

DraftKings Daily Fantasy Basketball

Salary Cap - $50,000

Roster Composition – G, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F, UTIL (eight players total)

Average Cost Per Position - $6250

Average Salary Range per Player – Floor ($3000), Ceiling ($12,000-variable no limit).

Scoring System:

Points = 1 point
Made Three-Point Shot = 0.5 points
Assists = 1.5 points
Rebounds = 1.25 points
Steals = 2 points
Blocks = 2 points
Turnover = -0.5 points
Double-Double = 1.5 points (Max 1 per player)
Triple-Double = 3 points (Max 1 per player)


DraftKings has a combination of fixed and open positions, which makes for the best of both worlds. Also, DraftKings has multiple positions and the qualifications are very low, so this makes for great roster composition. DraftKings' salary algorithm is considered to be in the middle -- not too tight, but not too loose. You can make a roster with stars and scrubs or mid-tier players on most nights. There are always several $3.000 value plays that can return 25 fantasy points or more.

DraftKings is “performance-based” scoring like Fanduel, but with the added carrot of the double-double and triple-double bonuses, which makes point guards and big men more valuable. Also, because turnovers are only -0.5, the strategy is to find a point guard that is shooting guard eligible, while also sliding another point guard into your guard slot. For example, Stephen Curry is PG/SG eligible, so on nights where you can fit him in your lineup owners will want to play him at shooting guard.

The second bonus DK offers is the made three-point shot (+0.5 points). While the bonuses may only be a few points per player on a given night, if you multiply them by the eight-player roster you can end up with additional points to put you in the money.

Double-Double Leaders (through 12/28/13):

1) Kevin Love PF/C – 27
2) Chris Paul PG – 25
3) Blake Griffin PF/C – 23
4) Andre Drummond PF/C – 22
5) Dwight Howard PF/C – 21
6) David Lee PF/C – 18
7) LaMarcus Aldridge PF/C – 17
8) Zach Randolph PF/C – 17
9) DeMarcus Cousins C/PF – 16
10) Nikola Pekovic C – 15
11) Nikola Vucevic C/PF – 15
12) Stephen Curry PG/SG – 14
13) Paul Millsap PF – 13
14) Serge Ibaka PF/C – 13
15) Greg Monroe PF/C – 13
16) DeAndre Jordan C – 13
17) Carmelo Anthony SF/PF – 12
18) Anthony Davis PF/C – 12
19) Pau Gasol C/PF – 12
20) Robin Lopez C – 12

Note: The majority of the double-doubles come from the PF or C position. You can play a PF at the PF, F, and UTIL positions. This combined with your three point guards at PG/SG/G is the best strategy from a roster composition standpoint.

Three-Pointers Made Per Game:

1) Stephen Curry, PG – 3.2
2) Damian Lillard, PG – 3.2
3) Ryan Anderson, PF – 3.1
4) Klay Thompson, SG – 2.9
5) Kyle Korver, SG – 2.9
6) Jose Calderon, PG – 2.7
7) Wesley Matthews, SG – 2.7
8) Gerald Green, SG – 2.6
9) Trevor Ariza, SF – 2.6
10) Bradley Beal, SG – 2.6

Factors for Outperforming Salary

One of the biggest keys in daily fantasy basketball is knowing how to extract value from players on a given night. Here are some of the things to consider:

1) Player is on a hot streak and salary is not yet reflected (e.g. J.R. Smith)
2) Player is inheriting additional playing time due to injury/suspension/player out (e.g. Reggie Jackson)
3) Player has favorable matchup against opposing position (e.g. PG vs Utah)
4) Player has favorable matchup against poor team defense (e.g. vs 76ers)
5) Player has favorable matchup against backup opposing defender (e.g. Jared Sullinger undersized)
6) Player is going against a team that recently made a trade but is shorthanded (e.g. Bucks, Kings)
7) Player returns from injury giving value to teammates (e.g. Deron Williams)

Target Scores

In order to win on DraftKings, you need to know what scores are needed when projecting players. Breaking down each position and category gives you the baselines needed to correctly project the players who will outperform their salary.

Tournaments (Guaranteed Prize Pool) – 300 (average score to take first place in a large field tournament)

Target Score – 300 points; eight players on roster, 37.5 Fantasy Points per player

The average player on DraftKings' production-to-salary ratio is around 4.75x, meaning that a player averaging 57 fantasy points will have a $12,000 salary. The key is finding players with as many positive factors going for them on a particular night, so you can achieve those 6-10 times their normal production multipliers you need to win. Note: This is based on year-to-date FPPG and current salaries.

Sample Breakdown of how DraftKings' salary algorithm works (Average FP = Average Salary Range):

57 FP = $12,000
52 FP = $11,000
47 FP = $10,000
42 FP = $9,000
38 FP = $8,000
33 FP = $7,000
28 FP = $6,000
24 FP = $5,000
19 FP = $4,000
14 FP = $3,000

Return-On-Investment (ROI) Target Multiplier – Value Plays (8x-10x), Mid-Tier Plays (6x-7x), Top Tier Plays (4x-5x)

Value Salary Range = $3000-$4900 -- (25-50 points) High Ceiling Plays
Mid-Tier Salary Range = $5000-$7900 -- (30-55 points) Ceiling Plays
Top Tier Salary Range = $8000-$12000 -- (40-60 points) Floor Plays

Breakdown by Scoring Category for Target Score (300 Points):

Points = 160 (160 x 1)
Three-Pointers Made = 4 (8 x 0.5)
Rebounds = 62 (50 x 1.25)
Assists = 50 (34 x 1.5)
Steals = 18 ( 9 x 2)
Blocks = 12 (6 x 2)
Turnovers = -8 (16 x -0.5)
Double-Double = 2 (1.5 x 1.5)

Here is my lineup from December 25th that scored 296 fantasy points:

PG Russell Westbrook ($8600)- 53.25 FP (6.19x ROI)
SG Kirk Hinrich ($3800) - 19.25 FP (5.06x ROI)
SF JR Smith ($5200) - 34.5 FP (6.63x ROI)
PF Tim Duncan ($7300) - 51.5 FP (7.05x ROI)
C Chris Bosh ($6400) - 43.25 FP (6.75x ROI)
G Manu Ginobili ($4900) - 27.75 FP (5.66x ROI)
F David Lee ($7600) - 44.75 FP (5.88x ROI)
UTIL Carlos Boozer ($6200) - 22 FP (3.54x ROI)

Stats: 69 rebounds, seven three-pointers, 28 assists, nine blocks, six steals, 15 turnovers, 133 points, four double-doubles, one triple-double

Fantasy Points: 86.25 rebounds, 3.5 three-pointers, 42 assists, 18 blocks, 12 steals, -7.5 turnovers, 133 points, six double-doublesl, three triple-doubles

Analysis:

I passed on all the high-priced players like Durant, LeBron, Curry, Paul, Howard, and Griffin because of the smaller slate and I wanted a more balanced lineup.

Westbrook had Beno Udrih defending him and Oklahoma City was favored by 10 points. While Westbrook struggled from the floor that night, he still managed to finish the triple-double, which gave me bonus points. Plus, at $8600, Westbrook offered up elite upside at a discounted price compared to a guy like Curry.

Hinrich plays the point, but he's shooting guard eligible. He was still only $3800, as his salary still wasn't adjusted for the time he was sidelined.

Smith was a must value play because of Carmelo Anthony was sidelined.

Duncan is a must play when the Spurs have recently given him rest or the team is resting other players that night. The game was against Houston with a whopping over/under of 213, so I knew the contest would be played at a high pace.

Bosh was in play at just $6400 because the Lakers' interior defense is putrid. Plus, LeBron and Wade still weren't 100 percent, and there was a strong rumor one of them wasn't going to play. That didn't happen, but Bosh still ended up with a great game.

Ginobili was an obvious play at $4900 in the highest-scoring over/under total of the day. Plus, Houston allows the fourth most scoring points to opposing shooting guards, and I wanted at least two Spurs from that game.

On DraftKings, I heavily weight what the opposing team allows at points/rebounds combined, making Lee a must-play. The Clippers are the worst team in the league allowing opposing PF's total points and rebounds.

Boozer was in a very low-scoring game against the Nets, so I normally would steer away from that situation. But with Rose out, Boozer gets the ball more and the Nets give up the most rebounds to opposing power forwards.


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