Hoops Lab: How DFS Helps Season-Long Leagues

Hoops Lab: How DFS Helps Season-Long Leagues

This article is part of our Hoops Lab series.

Daily Fantasy Sports leagues (DFS) have become some of the most popular ways to play fantasy sports. While year-long fantasy basketball leagues clearly trail football and baseball in terms of popularity, DFS basketball shares popularity of a similar caliber as with any other sport. Year-long fantasy basketball is how I fell in love with fantasy sports, and has long been my favorite game to play. However, last year I focused at least as much on my DFS basketball squads as I did on my year-long leagues…maybe more. And this year I've started writing six DFS advice articles per week, which almost comes out to one every day, which only pulls me more into the DFS mindset. So…what does this mean for my year-long teams?

Actually, focusing on DFS only HELPS my year-long teams.

The DFS mindset forces you to stay completely caught up on all of the latest trends and news in the NBA. With a year-long league, especially one with daily transactions, it's possible to run your team even if you don't pay a huge amount of attention on a day-to-day basis. You can run your team like that, but you can't really optimize because the only way to always get to the right hot free agent is to be paying enough attention to be able to identify who those players are. And that's where DFS is a big help.

If you're playing DFS basketball, setting a new team every day, you HAVE to stay caught up on the

Daily Fantasy Sports leagues (DFS) have become some of the most popular ways to play fantasy sports. While year-long fantasy basketball leagues clearly trail football and baseball in terms of popularity, DFS basketball shares popularity of a similar caliber as with any other sport. Year-long fantasy basketball is how I fell in love with fantasy sports, and has long been my favorite game to play. However, last year I focused at least as much on my DFS basketball squads as I did on my year-long leagues…maybe more. And this year I've started writing six DFS advice articles per week, which almost comes out to one every day, which only pulls me more into the DFS mindset. So…what does this mean for my year-long teams?

Actually, focusing on DFS only HELPS my year-long teams.

The DFS mindset forces you to stay completely caught up on all of the latest trends and news in the NBA. With a year-long league, especially one with daily transactions, it's possible to run your team even if you don't pay a huge amount of attention on a day-to-day basis. You can run your team like that, but you can't really optimize because the only way to always get to the right hot free agent is to be paying enough attention to be able to identify who those players are. And that's where DFS is a big help.

If you're playing DFS basketball, setting a new team every day, you HAVE to stay caught up on the latest. The price algorithms that the DFS providers use trail behind changes in production by a handful of games, and the prices are set such that if you pick players based upon their current averages you shouldn't be able to add those averages up to get a total high enough to place in any given DFS game. So, the only way to place or win is to group together several players who are out-producing their averages on a given night. Thus, a DFS vet always knows who the hot players are, so if you switch gears and bring that knowledge to your year-long league, that DFS vet always knows who to target on the free agency wire at any given time.

Why do I love DFS?
Because it makes every day feel like the last day of championship week. Normally you have to work on your team for an entire five-month season, avoiding drafting under-achievers and hitting on most of your pre-draft sleepers, navigating through injuries and bad luck and cold spells in order to be in a position where you can win a prize. If it's a head-to-head league, by the time you get to the end you have to worry if some of the real-life NBA teams have already secured their postseason fate (or lack thereof) and therefore are sitting players who were important to your squad right in the middle of your fantasy playoffs. Or, conversely, if a lottery team starts giving a bunch of minutes to someone that wasn't starting all year and it has led to a late-season fantasy superstar (think Reggie Jackson last season), and if your competition adds several of these types of players that you miss out on, suddenly your "best team in the league" can get surpassed at the tape.

And if it's a roto league, even if you win, there's never a climax per se. Your roto team has to prove its excellence over the long-haul and generally by the end of the season the story has already been told. On rare occasions you get multiple teams fighting over a category or two down to the wire, in which case you may get a climactic rush, but the fun of a year-long roto league is generally more in the journey than in the destination.

But in DFS, you have the opportunity to win a prize THAT NIGHT. In DFS, if you hit on your sleepers and don't miss on your "sure things," you can take home the title THAT NIGHT. Every game is precious, because every game directly influences your team's bottom line. Every game is exciting and every disappointment can be overcome with the thought that tomorrow you get to go it again.

So why do I still love year-long leagues?
Because there's still no feeling like building a championship team from scratch, growing it over time through all of the tribulations and then seeing it come to fruition with a title. If we analogize DFS as living a hot bachelor's life in the clubs every night, then year-long leagues are like a marriage. Yeah, it may not be as exciting on a day-to-day basis, but if you make it work over the long haul there's nothing more rewarding.

OK, that got sappier than I intended, so let's take it a different direction: risk/reward. In a year-long league you're looking at about 10 or 12 teams, including yourself, and most give prizes out to the first few places. That gives you about a 25 percent chance to win, which you can increase if you trust your skills more than your league-mates'. In daily tournaments you have about a 20 percent chance to win, but you could be dealing with thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of other entrants. With those kinds of numbers the margin for error is nil, so it's harder to win. A different approach is to play 50-50 leagues instead of tournaments, but the odds are still slightly less than 50-50 and you have to risk more money to win it. All told, neither is as good of odds, in my opinion, as winning in year-long leagues.

Also, there's some chance of burnout. If every day feels like Game 7, eventually non-stop Game s can get tiring. The good news is if you ever get tired you don't have to play that day, unless you're me, and writing daily advice columns, in which case I'm pretty much locked in every night for the season. Plus, I can't lie, I never get so burnt out that I don't end up excited about playing.

So in the end, I choose both. My year-long teams are my foundation. I drafted well, slowly build and manage my team over the year, and hope/plan to finish in several winner's circles in the end. On the other hand, I've got my daily excitement to keep things fresh over the marathon of the NBA season. For me, it's the best of both worlds.

Around the NBA

Davis' shoulder…worry of dreaded "prone" label?:

I've got Anthony Davis on one of my season-long teams, and I had picked him up in a daily league on Tuesday night. So imagine my dismay when I checked the scores at the half and he still had only two rebounds; either he had gotten into extreme foul trouble or he was hurt. A quick jaunt over to RotoWire.com and, yup, he is out with an injured shoulder. There is no indication on the severity of the injury but it makes me worry about a different issue. When I started outlining this article on the weekend, Davis was out with a sore hip. Davis is in his fourth NBA season, and he has missed at least 14 games in every one. And the injuries are always seemingly different, not a recurrence of the same injury. Is it too soon to start worrying that he may be a tad injury prone? I'm not quite there yet, but I'm at least aware of this and starting to factor that into his value in year-long leagues.

Durant's injury = Westbrook fun:

Everyone has learned the drill over the last two seasons: if either Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook gets injured, the other is going to go NUTS. Durant has been sitting the last few games with a hamstring injury and Westbrook is averaging 27.5 points, 10.3 assists, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 3.0 treys per game, including two triple-doubles and one 40 and 14 game, over his last four. Enjoy it while it lasts, as Durant is expected to miss at least two more games but will be back soon.

Paul battling injury:

Chris Paul has been battling a groin injury that has hobbled him for weeks now. He has missed three of the last five games and is uncertain whether he will be able to play Thursday. A muscle injury like this is annoying, especially to the groin area, because it lingers and is easily re-aggravated. Plus, even when he plays he isn't fully himself so his numbers aren't what they should be. It appears that Paul is trying to tough it out to help his team in real life, but it would probably be better for his fantasy owners if he went ahead and sat out for a couple of weeks and healed all the way to keep this from lingering any further into the season.

Oladipo's concussion:

Victor Oladipo suffered a concussion and has missed the last two games, but he participated in a non-contact practice Tuesday and could return Wednesday. Oladipo's absence allowed the Magic to start Channing Frye, which got him back onto the fantasy radar, but Oladipo's return likely sends Frye back to the bench. Frye can always shoot, though, and his 2.3 treys per game in only 19.5 minutes will continue to be valuable even if they come off the bench.

Teague's ankle:

Jeff Teague sprained his ankle Friday against the Celtics, which is much bigger news in DFS than it is in season-long. Teague didn't play Tuesday, but is questionable to return Wednesday and should definitely be back within a week or so. A blip in year-long leagues, but in DFS it means a short window in which Dennis Schroder is starting. Schroder was solid in his first two starts, but we've seen in the past that Schroder has front-end point guard potential in any given game.

Back-to-back-resters:

One of the more annoying trends in recent years (at least for fantasy owners) is the trend of resting players in the regular season to help them stay fresh for the entire season and into the playoffs. Sure, it's a great idea for the teams and the players, and all of the analytics (as well as common sense) backs that up. But for us fantasy owners, all that extra (and not always predictable) rest just leads to diminished numbers. One way that teams have been getting players extra rest is by sitting them in one half of back-to-backs. This is more commonly done when players are recovering from injury, but it's also done for age or just general wear and tear.

This year we've already started seeing this, and if nothing else by pointing out the cases when we see it we can start to identify the situations early enough to possibly make corrective roster moves The Rockets have been resting Dwight Howard in one half of back-to-backs, ostensibly for his back to recover, but really he's just been physically worn down for a few years straight now and they're trying to preserve him. The Pelicans have been resting Jrue Holiday in B2Bs (and also have him on a minutes restriction), as his lower leg recovers. On Saturday, the Mavericks rested Dirk Nowitzki (age/rest), Wesley Matthews (Achilles) and Chandler Parsons (knee). The Heat have been consistently resting Amar'e Stoudemire. The Wolves have rested Kevin Garnett in one half of a B2B once, though he played in both games of the next one. We know it's only a matter of time before Gregg Popovich starts Popovich-ing his team. It's everywhere, people, and once you identify a "rester" I advise trading him high as soon as possible.

Rondo's detonation:

Darren Collison went down with a hamstring injury last week, and as a result Rajon Rondo went nuts. Rondo has been averaging more than 45 minutes per game in his last five outings, and like a running back that gets better with more touches, he has flourished in the iron man role to the tune of 13.2 points, 14.0 assists, 9.2 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game in his last five. On RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on Monday, Jeff Erickson asked if the "new" Rondo would last. I don't know. Just a few weeks ago, in this space, I had a commenter criticize me for being part of a discussion on whether Rondo was a bounce-back candidate with the idea that he would implode and Collison would eventually take his job. That's actually still in play. But if you have Rondo, enjoy the ride while it lasts and if anyone in your league is willing to give you Iron-Man-Rondo prices for him take the deal and run. Collison is set to return from his hamstring injury soon, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, and that will be the first test for Rondo as his minutes would likely start going back down again.

Back-to-backs Nov. 18 – Nov. 24:

TW: Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Raptors
WT: Kings
TF: Warriors, Clippers
FS: Pistons, Rockets, Grizzlies, Knicks, 76ers, Spurs
SS: None
SM: Thunder, Suns
MT: None

New Additions:

Will Barton (47 percent owned in Yahoo leagues): Barton comes off the bench, and many attributed his first big game to getting extra minutes in a blowout. But now he's done it three games in a row, averaging 20.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.3 treys, 2.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks in 35 minutes over that stretch. Pick him up if he's still available.

Jeremy Lamb (28 percent): Lamb has been playing really well in limited but expanding minutes, averaging in the mid-teens in points with about six boards, almost two treys and assorted assists and steals over the last couple of weeks. He's a young player, still in a mid-20 minutes role, but he's currently productive and he has long-term upside.

Ish Smith (27 percent): Because Jrue Holiday is minutes-capped and only playing one game of back-to-backs, Smith is a viable flex play on most nights and a legitimate starter on the nights that Holiday sits.

Dion Waiters (25 percent): Waiters is a scoring wing, which is just what the Thunder need when Kevin Durant is injured. Waiters has had some 20+ point efforts, but he's still inconsistent and will throw some clunkers in there as well. But he's overall relatively productive while Durant is out, and he has upside if he can ever put it together reguarly.

Cory Joseph (10 percent): Joseph has slowly been earning a larger role for the Raptors, and he's producing. In his sixth man role he is getting almost 30 minutes per game over the last week-plus and has responded with games of 17/4/4, 15/2/5, 12/6/9 and 19/1/0 sprinkled over his last six.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andre' Snellings
Andre' Snellings is a Neural Engineer by day, and RotoWire's senior basketball columnist by night. He's a two-time winner of the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
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