RotoWire Partners

NBA Daily Games Strategy: DFS Postseason Strategy

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.

We just enjoyed three straight days of temperatures in the 70s, and even hit 81 on Sunday! After a long, harsh winter, one of the coldest and snowiest on record, people were ready. One of the things that makes it tolerable to live in a place where there is actual tracking of things like coldest and snowiest (and in Upstate NY, a Thruway Snow Derby in which Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo compete for most snowfall) is that when it's warm and sunny, people are just out of their minds happy. What you Floridians, Californians, and Arizonians take for granted, we celebrate each and every time it happens in the Northeast.

Sadly, after wearing a sundress and sandals to dinner last night, I woke this morning to a slushy mix of precipitation falling from the spring sky and 36 degrees. We will likely break the record low of 22 degrees later tonight, with, you guessed it, more snow. Such is the unpredictable nature of spring in NY and other horrible, miserable places...like NBA DFS in April.

Whether it's been superstars sitting or bench players going off, playing NBA DFS in April forces you to question everything you thought you knew. Everyone is questionable, every night. Information is released mere minutes before -- or worse, after -- lineups lock on most sites. Just because a player is starting doesn't guarantee his full complement of minutes lately, whether the team is playoff-bound or not. Teams doing what's best for them this time of year sure doesn't make it easy to know what's best for your daily lineups.

At the same time, basketball has been pretty damn good! Stephen Curry and Kevin Love showing why they're my favorite players in real life and in fantasy, respectively.... Joakim Noah and Dirk Nowitzki moving up those "all-time" lists and generally being the heart of their respective playoff teams is fun to see if you love the game of basketball, which of course I do.... The upstart Suns, fighting for their playoff lives and ultimately falling short, much to my personal disappointment.... The playoffs are going to be great. They always are, but the excitement right now is so palpable for this year's mix, I just can't wait for Apr. 19!

The question is, will you play DFS in the playoffs? Should you? If you've been playing steadily all season, including this month (for the record, I've rarely played since MLB started, maybe once or twice), then answer yes. I don't have any data on play rates during the regular season versus the playoffs for the big DFS sites, but I suspect it drops. The slates are all small, which many DFS aficionados avoid. Some people have moved onto MLB DFS, and some just want to enjoy the playoff basketball unencumbered by the pull of their daily lineups. My guess is that those still playing daily NBA are playing reduced volume.

At the same time, the consistency we came to expect midseason will return in the playoffs. Stars will be stars, scrubs will be scrubs, game plans will center on one thing only: winning. No back to backs to worry about, no easy wins to eek out more rest for certain guys. Another obvious factor that you can use to your advantage: the series! In the playoffs, coaches get to game plan and prepare for one opponent, for at least four games. Thus, from the first game of the series, you can see what that plan is and how well it worked. You, like the coach, can use that information in planning your next few DFS lineups, particularly with respect to unusual defensive shifts.

One narrative heard frequently during the NBA playoffs concerns pace of play. The widely held, but sometimes disputed belief, is that playoff games are played at reduced pace. To the best of my quick research-based knowledge, pace is reduced on average 1-2 possessions per game in the playoffs versus the regular season. That is not drastic. There is also no trend as to whether high- or low-pace teams (based on the regular season) are more successful in the playoffs. How far a team goes depends on their overall strengths and their matchups. I've written about how pace affects individual play (or, more accurately, doesn't affect individual play) earlier in the season...there is no reason in my opinion to think that it has any greater effect in the playoffs.

One last tactical point about DFS in the playoffs regards salary. Salaries are strict in the playoffs. My recollection from the last two years is that you will pay for your studs, a higher price than you ever have so far. Your mid-tier guys will be priced like low end studs, and value is essentially non-existent. You will have to play bench players, so monitoring game plans and knowing who the key sixth (seventh and eighth?) man is on every team is critical.

As long as there are two games a night, NBA DFS will be available to us. That gives us until mid-May, right around the same time as the National Weather Service might feel confident enough to hand out the Thruway Snow Derby award for 2014.