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DFS Basketball 101: Buy Low, Sell High

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.

Daily fantasy sports can be a lot like the stock market. You are essentially buying and selling players each day based on value, matchup and opportunity. The old stock market adage of “Buy Low, Sell High” fits in perfectly with daily fantasy sports. I used to purposely track the low-to-high price on stocks, and when a stock hit the low, I would pounce on it. Now, you have to also feel confident that the fundamentals of the company are there in order for the stock to bounce back and you earn a profit.

One of the biggest keys to winning daily fantasy basketball is making sure that you get a return on investment (ROI) with your most expensive commodities. If you take two studs on a given night and even one of them busts out, you’re looking at a losing night. This week, we delve into how to gauge the market on the top-tier players and use it to your advantage in daily fantasy basketball.

Top-Tier Players – “Blue Chip Stocks”

Below are factors that influence when to buy your “Blue Chip” Stocks. Look for as many of these factors on a given night to determine which top-tier players to plug in your lineups.

1. Player must be 100% healthy and playing starter’s minutes
2. Player is on a hot streak and salary has not caught up
3. Player salary is low based on recent bad performance or injury
4. Team is at home and/or rested versus opponent with no rest or long road trip
5. Opposing individual matchup is optimal (bottom 10) or backup is starting
5. Second or third option in the offense is not playing
6. Opposing team matchup is optimal (High Pace)
7. Over/Under is 200 or higher
8. Vegas Line is within (plus or minus) five points

I'm going to take a capsule look at the top daily fantasy basketball players and breakdown their performance year-to-date and identify where the right buying opportunities are. Below are the players' salary ranges and current salaries for the current featured sites on Rotowire – Fanduel, Draftstreet, and Draftkings.

Kevin Durant

Fanduel – $10800-$12300; Current $12100
Draftstreet – $19805-$23943; Current $23633
Draftkings – $10300-$12000; Current $11300

Durant has been on an incredible run since Russell Westbrook (knee) went down. Durant’s production is still out producing his salary and he makes for a great all-around play, especially on Draftkings where he’s priced less than max value even in the midst of his current run. He’s priced at max value on Draftstreet, making him a head-to-head and 50/50 play only.

Stephen Curry

Fanduel – $9300-$10400; Current $9900
Draftstreet – $16714-$21685; Current $20674
Draftkings – $8400-$10400; Current $9800

Curry's salary range should not fluctuate too much throughout the season because he doesn’t put up many awful games. He puts up consistently good numbers, with the ability to pop a 50+ fantasy point night. This is especially the case on Draftkings where he’s shooting guard eligible. Draftkings also has double-double and three-pointer bonuses, which favor Curry.

LeBron James

Fanduel – $10200-$12000; Current $10700
Draftstreet – $18535-$23703;Current $21852
Draftkings – $9600-$12000; Current $11200

This current Miami team doesn’t allow for LeBron to hit 50+ fantasy points very often, but he’s a lock for 40+ fantasy points, especially when Dwyane Wade sits out. James’ price is a little depressed, so he’s worth playing in optimal situations where it’s a faster-paced game and Wade is injured. James is a great head-to-head and 50/50 play because the floor is so consistent.

Kevin Love

Fanduel – $9800-$12000; Current $10600
Draftstreet – $17788-$24560; Current $22117
Draftkings – $8500-$11600; Current $10500

Love has only had five (out of 40) games this year under 30 fantasy points. The guy is an automatic play every night that he’s less than peak salary. He has increased his scoring from 18 points per game last year, to 25 points per game this year. The only time you want to fade Love is when he’s facing a tough opponent on the road.

Paul George

Fanduel – $8600-$9800; Current $9100
Draftstreet – $15698-$18498;Current $17330
Draftkings – $8600-$9800; Current $9200

George was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, but, surprisingly, you should consider fading him at home and playing him on the road, as he averages four more points away from Indiana. The Pacers play a faster pace on the road, which helps explain George’s splits. Teams have started to adjust to George on the defensive end and his field-goal percentage is down this month.

Anthony Davis

Fanduel – $7600-$10400; Current $9400
Draftstreet – $16015-$22904;Current $20774
Draftkings – $7400-$10400; Current $10000M

So much of Davis' value is tied to blocks and steals. When he racks up defensive stats, it’s a monster night, but his line can look pedestrian on lackluster defensive nights. Those defensive categories are much harder to predict than points, rebounds, and assists. Still, he’s running cheap on Fanduel and still worth taking until that salary creeps back up over $10K. Davis is another player that’s significantly better at home than on the road.

Damian Lillard

Fanduel – $7400-$8600; Current $8100
Draftstreet – $13466-$16111; Current $15621
Draftkings – $7900-$8900; Current $8400

Lillard eats up weak point guards, but he plays no defense. He thrives in fast-paced games, especially at home. With the Blazers playing great ball, there’s still value with Lillard because he’s below peak salary. Note that his salary range is pretty tight, so he makes for a great head-to-head and 50/50 double-up play. Also, with LaMarcus Aldridge more of the scoring load lately, Lillard isn't as attractive. Pick your spots (at home vs weaker teams)

John Wall

Fanduel – $8500-$10100; Current $9000
Draftstreet – $15877-$19855 ;Current $16961
Draftkings – $8600-$9800; Current $9200

Take note of the pretty tight window for Wall on Fanduel and Draftkings. But on Draftstreet his salary has much more of a variable. Right now, he’s low due to a couple of bad games, but look at his salary on Jan. 20 ($19072, when he put up 26.75 fantasy points) compared to Jan. 22 when his salary dropped to $16961 and he put up 45.25 fantasy points -- 3x incredible value on DraftStreet. Wall is much better at home, so he’s a non-play for me on the road.

LaMarcus Aldridge

Fanduel – $9000-$10500; Current $10500
Draftstreet – $16558-$21957; Current $21297
Draftkings – $8000-$9800; Current $9800

Right now, Aldridge is at his peak price, so you need to only play him at home in fast-paced games where the Blazers are favored by less than double-digit points. More of the offense is going through him, so expect this run to continue.

James Harden

Fanduel – $8200-$10300; Current $9200
Draftstreet – $15751-$20762; Current $18955
Draftkings – $8400-$11100; Current $10100

Because of the injuries early in the season, Harden saw his price dip, which presented a buying opportunity. He’s still about mid-value on his salary peak, so there’s value here. But as he creeps up, buyers beware. Be on the right side of the down games, and take advantage when he goes into a mini slump and the price drops. Note his lowest price on Draftstreet came after a 12.25 fantasy point performance, and then he put up 43.50 fantasy points at that low price. It almost always pays to take a blue chipper after a bad night on Draftstreet if their salary drops considerably.

Carmelo Anthony

Fanduel – $9500-$10400; Current $9800
Draftstreet – $16830-$20521;Current $19225
Draftkings – $8300-$10300; Current $10100

Right now, I'm only taking Melo in optimal situations because of all the rumblings about the team turning against him during the losing streak. He will still put up his shots and get his numbers, but it’s only a matter of time until the Knicks deal him or he quits on the team. Also, he’s close to max value, so there’s little profit making him a tournament play.

DeMarcus Cousins

Fanduel – $8700-$10100; Current $9800
Draftstreet – $16606-$22686;Current $20082
Draftkings – $8000-$10200; Current $9300

Cousins used to be a tournament play only because he was so inconsistent due to lack of motivation and fouling out of games/getting thrown out. But now, Boogie has become a fantasy beast, and he has took over the crown of best center in the game from Dwight Howard. The double-doubles on a nightly basis make him a must-play. Also, just about every category is up from last year and he ranks number one on the versatility index.

I'm sure the number one question will be – how do you get the salaries for previous games? Well, I export the salaries from Fanduel, Draftstreet, and Draftkings each night into Excel and create separate worksheets for each site. I put the date next to the player name, salary and matchup. I sort by player and I’m able to create an archive to know the history of a player. You don't have to do this for the whole season, start now. I create a column for Top Tier, and filter my players before doing my research. You need to understand the true value of a player and when he is underpriced or overpriced. A swing of $1,000 on a couple of players to either side can be the difference of winning and losing. If you put this exercise into practice, it will minimize your mistakes on your highest spend and you will start to cash in more contests.

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.