RotoWire Partners

DFS Basketball 101: How to Win on FanDuel (Tournament Play)

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. Rath won the 2016 FSWA "Baseball Article of the Year, Online" award and was a finalist for the FSWA Best Baseball Series in 2011.

Soon the NFL Fantasy Football season will come to an end, which means the lull until fantasy baseball starts. Most players are gearing up by doing offseason research, but that does not mean your daily fantasy needs cannot be met. Daily fantasy basketball can be the perfect bridge from football to baseball because it’s the most constant daily fantasy game, night in, night out. We are here to break down the three major daily fantasy sites and their fantasy basketball games. This week, we start with FanDuel.

FanDuel Daily Fantasy Basketball

Salary Cap - $60,000

Roster Composition – PG x2, SG x2, SF x2, PF x2, C (nine players)

Avg. Cost Per Position - $6,666

Avg. Salary Range per Player – Floor ($3500), Ceiling ($12,000-variable). FanDuel no longer puts a cap on the salary range, but the highest is typically $11,000-12,000.

Scoring System:
Points = 1 pt
Assists = 1.5 pts
Rebounds = 1.2 pts
Steals = 2 pts
Blocks = 2 pts
Turnover = (-1) pt

Since FanDuel has fixed positions on rosters and players are limited to just one position, roster flexibility is limited. The other side of this is that their salaries are not that tight, so finding value is easier. Most of the time, the salary algorithm is three to five days behind. Riding hot value plays is a must, along with taking two or three top-tier plays. The two shooting guard requirement dictates spending less at this position, and looking for players who get time at point guard. Multiple category players are huge in this format, especially since field goal or free throw percentage is not a scoring category.

A stat that is very valuable when determining player selection on FanDuel is called Versatility Index. The Versatility Index, which was designed by John Hollinger, is a metric that measures a player's ability to produce in more than one statistic. The metric uses points, assists, and rebounds. The average player will score around a five on the index, while top players score above 10. The categories that have the most volume are points, assists, and rebounds, and they are the most predictable. Steals and blocks are more specialist categories, and can vary greatly from night to night.

Top VI Player Ratings:

1) Kevin Love 12.4
2) Chris Paul 11.8
3) LeBron James 11.8
4) DeMarcus Cousins 11.7
5) Russell Westbrook 11.4
6) Kevin Durant 11.0
7) Stephen Curry 10.5
8) Tim Duncan 10.5
9) Manu Ginobili 10.0
10) Michael Carter-Williams 10

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 (Damian Lillard)
2) Player is inheriting additional playing time due to injury/suspension/player out (Tony Wroten)
3) Player has favorable matchup against opposing position (Paul George vs. Utah)
4) Player has favorable matchup against poor team defense (vs. 76ers)
5) Player has favorable matchup against backup opposing defender (Jared Sullinger undersized)
6) Player going against a team that recently made a trade but is shorthanded (Bucks/Kings)
7) Player returns from injury giving value to teammates (Deron Williams)

Target Scores

In order to win on FanDuel, 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) – 350 (avg. score to take first place in a large field tournament)

Target Score – 350 points; 9 players on roster; 38 fantasy points per player

The average player on FanDuel has a production-to-salary ratio around 4x, meaning that a player averaging 40 FP will have a $10,000 valuation. The key is finding players with as many positive factors going for them in a particular night, so you can achieve those 6-8x production multipliers you need to win.

ROI Target Multiplier – Value Plays (7x-10x), Mid-Tier Plays (6x-7x), Top Tier Plays (5x-6x)

Value Salary Range = $3500-$5800 (25-50 pts) High Ceiling Plays
Mid-Tier Salary Range = $5900-$8400 (35-55 pts) Ceiling Plays
Top Tier Salary Range = $8500-$12000 (40-60 pts) Floor Plays

Breakdown by Scoring Category for Target Score (350 Points):

Points = 200 (200 x 1)
Rebounds = 60 (50 x 1.2)
Assists = 60 (40 x 1.5)
Steals = 30 (15 x 2)
Blocks = 20 (10 x 2)
Turnovers = -20 (20 x -1)

Here is a recent lineup that scored 350 fantasy points:

PG: D.J. Augustin Salary $3500 28.4 FP (8x ROI)
PG: Chris Paul Salary $9900 49.1 FP (5x ROI)
SG: Alec Burks Salary $5000 51.1 FP (10x ROI)
SG: Joe Johnson Salary $5600 56.9 FP (10x ROI)
SF: Evan Turner Salary $7500 20.5 FP (3x ROI)
SF: J.R. Smith Salary $4800 37.8 FP (8x ROI)
PF: Carmelo Anthony $9800 49.5 FP (5x ROI)
PF: Derrick Favors $6900 31.9 FP (4.5x ROI)
C: DeAndre Jordan $7000 24.7 FP (3.5x ROI)


Augustin was a great play because the Bulls just signed him and he was getting a ton of minutes. Also, he was going against Orlando, who is weak defending against point guards.

Paul is a must-play when you are pairing him with a $3500 point guard. He is one of the most consistent fantasy players and 50 FP is rock solid. You want a 5x from your Top Tier plays.

Burks giving a 10x was incredible. He got a ton of minutes in this blowout, which is something we will cover in the future. He also took advantage of a weak second unit by the Heat. This is hard to predict, as it was the best game of his career.

Johnson had a great matchup against the 76ers, who have the highest team pace in the league and can't defend against anyone. Add in that Deron Williams was back, and that made for a huge value play.

Turner only delivered about 3x ROI, but was definitely worth a play, as Brooklyn has been awful defensively and it was expected to be a high scoring game.

Smith is a very high-risk play, and typically only used in a tournament because of the boom/bust factor. The Wizards have been allowing opposing SF's to shoot 46 percent, which Smith took advantage of.

Melo is another great play when he is on the board, because he should almost always deliver the 5x ROI you need. His usage rate, which measures how active a player is in the offense, is 31 percent, which is good for third in the NBA.

Favors was a bit of a risky play in the blowout against the Heat, but his floor is usually pretty solid and he gets you other categories (blocks, steals).

Jordan was not a good play because the Wizards allow the fewest rebounds and blocks to opposing centers, and that is his game. The 3.5x ROI reflects the poor selection.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Michael Rathburn plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: burnnotice, DraftKings: burnnotice, Yahoo: burnnotice, Fantasy Aces: burnnotice, FantasyDraft: burnnotice.