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Daily Fantasy Basketball 101: Finding Profit on FanDuel

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.


Just because a player is hot, doesn’t mean he’s worthy of a play. Understanding the player opportunity for production versus his price is one of the most underrated strategies in daily fantasy basketball. A player might be a great value play at $3,000 or $3,500 because he’s getting more playing time than usual, but his ceiling is 20-25 fantasy points. As he gets a few games under his belt at the increased playing time or production, then a salary of $4,000-$5,000 no longer presents value. I’m going to look at some players who have recently broke out and presented value so you know when to play them and when to back off because the price dictates such.

Salaries were taken from Friday March 7th and Saturday March 8th.

VALUE PLAYS

Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC ($7,700) – This is a huge flaw in the FanDuel salary algorithm because clearly it’s taking all of the games that Westbrook didn’t play into calculation. There’s no way he should ever be less than $8,500, and at 44 FPPG in his last five games, his actual value is closer to $9,000. Keep riding him until the salary gets adjusted which could happen any day now.

Kenneth Faried, PF, DEN ($5,700)– Faried has returned great value in the past five games due to his matchups at home and production (32/37/29/56). Faried went off for 56 fantasy points in a huge game Friday night versus the Lakers. Expect his salary to jump in a huge way, possibly over $7,000, which will take him out of play.

Tyreke Evans, SG, NOR ($7,200) – Evans has had some tasty matchups this week and most savvy players were all over him. He was also popular due to his increased role in the Pelicans’ offense. Reports of 90% ownership in some contests were being talked about, so he’s great for head-to-head or double up, but not for tournament play. Evans’ salary was only $5,200 before averaging 40 FPPG over his last five games. His actual production value is around $9800, so there’s still some profit at the new price, but I would expect him to crack $8,000 very soon. When that happens look at other plays.

Nikola Vucevic, C, ORL ($7,400) – Vucevic has been a pretty consistent 30-35 FPPG player throughout the year, but he has stepped up to 40 FPPG in the last five games, which is a nice 25% increase in value without much of a salary bump. If he hits $8,000 then the value is not as high, so buyers beware.

Gerald Green, SG, PHO ($6,300) – Green had a monster game Thursday night versus the Thunder, finishing with 55 fantasy points. Thursday’s big effort should send his salary close to $7,000 making him a non-play. Green has shown an increase in production lately, but he was a $4000-$5000 salary player, and anything above that is just too high of a price tag for a streaky three-point shooter.

Trevor Ariza, SF, WAS ($6,800) – Ariza has been on a nice run the last five games, averaging 37 FPPG over that stretch. But one of those efforts was for 55 points, while the others were 30-35. In his current price range he remains a play, but once Ariza creeps up in the mid $7,000 range, start looking elsewhere.

Matt Barnes, SF, LAC ($5,700) - Barnes has taken advantage of the recent playing time and usage increase as he was averaging 18 FPPG on the season before jumping up to 31 FPPG over the past five games. His current production suggests around a $7500 salary value, so keep an eye on the price tag/playing time situation. Anything above $6500 puts him out of range.

Jeff Adrien, SF, MIL ($4,000) – You never know what Bucks coach Larry Drew is going to do with his rotation, but take advantage of it when you can. Right now, Adrien is only $4,000 and hitting around 24 FPPG, so anything under $5,000 makes him a nice value play.

Marcin Gortat, C, WAS ($7,100) – Gortat has been a consistent 27-32 FPPG player most of the year, but he has stepped up to 37 FPPG over the last five games giving him a 30% bump in value. His production suggests closer to $8,500 in value, so anything up to $8,000 makes him a must start.

VALUE BUSTS

Damian Lillard, PG, POR ($7,800) – Lillard was on fire while LaMarcus Aldridge was sidelined, but over the last five games Portland’s point guard is down to 23 FPPG, which is closer to a $6,000 salary output. I don’t expect to see Lillard’s price tag drop too much because he’s been so consistent for most of the year. Another factor is the Blazers blowing out teams at home and Lillard’s minutes being limited.

Brandon Jennings, PG, DET ($6,600) – Just one month ago, Jennings put up 56 fantasy points against the Nuggets, but he has made you pay for that ever since. It was the equivalent of a pitcher in baseball going out and throwing a no hitter on 150 pitches and never recovering the rest of the season. After his big game, Jennings’ salary jumped from $7900 to $8500 and he hasn’t returned close to value since. In the past two weeks, his salary has dropped almost $2000 because of a terrible stretch of games. The sad part is that his salary is still not worthy of his recent production. He would have to drop all the way to around $6,000 to make him worthy of a flier (30 FPPG).

Nikola Pekovic, C, MIN ($6,900) – Pekovic is still not 100% because of the ankle injury, and his salary hasn’t been adjusted down enough to make him worthy of playing again. If he starts to drop in the low $6,000 and the production creeps up, then pull the trigger.

Kemba Walker, PG, CHA ($8,100) – Walker is a guy who gives you fits because you just can’t play him against any good point guards or on the road. That limits him as a play at home when the matchup is right. His stat line the past five games (49/35/19/16/19) offers great value the past two games but brutal the previous three. His salary went from $8800 to $8100, but now it will go back up taking away any and all value that could have been there.

Derrick Favors, PF, UTA ($6,100) – Favors was a player I mentioned in several of my home/road splits pieces in prior weeks. Prior to a good outing against Philadelphia, Favors had struggled in three straight road games (14/18/8), which caused his salary to drop from $6700. The recent drop in minutes has also been a contributor to his dismal returns.

LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, POR ($9,300) – Aldridge missed five games and his salary only dropped from $9900 to $9300 and now he’s on a minutes limit. He just put up a monster game of 58 fantasy points at Dallas, but he’s too volatile right now to pay top dollar for.

Chris Bosh, PF, MIA ($6,600) – Bosh’s minutes have started to fluctuate (less than 26 minutes in three out of his last five games) making him too risky to play. Too many games of 15-20 fantasy points at a $6500-$7000 salary make for a horrible return on investment.

Dwight Howard, C, HOU ($9,100) – Howard hasn’t returned value for seven consecutive games at a $9100-$9300 salary (29/34/40/29/38/40/38). His price should be more in the $8500 range, but it would take three bad games in a row of 20 fantasy points or less to see that. I’d rather pay $9800 for Al Jefferson who has 46 FPPG in his most recent stretch.

DeMarcus Cousins, C, SAC ($9,400) – Cousins has been a player I have talked about all year as a great daily fantasy basketball play, but that hasn’t been the case recently. He’s still not 100 percent healthy and his minutes reflect that. Also, in spite of the recent low production, his salary has not dropped very much ($9300-$9600). A lot of his recent games were also on the road, and Cousins is a better play at home. Until we see his minutes jump back into the 35-40 range, and his production consistently in the 40-50 FPPG area, he’s someone you should fade.

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