Course No. NBA 101
There are two types of lineup you will utilize when playing NBA DFS, and those two types of lineups are “Cash" and “GPP". Knowing the difference between the two is key, but knowing how to build a lineup based on the contest you are entering is of the utmost importance for DFS success. I'm going to walk you through the process and difference between the two types of lineups.
- 1) Cash Game Lineup Construction
When constructing a “Cash" lineup, it is important to know what type of contests this lineup is best suited for. These contests include 50/50s, H2H, Double Up, and some small leagues.
When you start building your cash game lineup, you want to take into account as many factors as possible. Start by looking at Vegas lines (O/U, point spread) to determine which games have the highest totals, as well as which games are expected to be close. Targeting players in games with high totals is essential to success in NBA DFS.
Next up, target players who have a solidified role and are locked in to big minutes. Players like Jimmy Butler (38.7 MPG in 2014) and Andrew Wiggins (36.2) make for great cash game plays because you can rely on them to be on the floor for the majority of the game. Minutes equal opportunity, which can in turn become production. Certainly there are exceptions to every rule, as evidenced by players like Kyle Singler, who averaged over 32 MPG with the Pistons last season, yet averaged just 17.5 FD points per 32 minutes.
Next up, you want to look at “Pace", which is the number of possessions a team uses in a given game. For example, the Warriors, Rockets, Suns, and Nuggets led the NBA in pace last season. Each of these teams were also in the top 12 in PPG. With more possessions, there are more opportunities to rack up fantasy points, whether it be points, rebounds, assists, blocks, or steals. The Jazz, Heat, Knicks, and Pelicans were the teams who played with the slowest “Pace" in the NBA last season, and all but the Pelicans finished in the bottom 5 in PPG. Like I mentioned earlier, there are exceptions to every rule, and that's why it is important to look deeper than just one particular surface statistic. Another key statistic to look at is “Usage Rate", which is the percentage of team possessions that particular player utilizes when they are on the court.
The most important thing to focus on when building your cash game lineups is each player's “Floor", or their lowest potential output in this particular matchup. This brings us to the next important point, which is focusing on matchup. Targeting players in good matchups is key. Of course, individual matchups (PG vs. PG, for example) are important, but team defense is also a very important thing to consider. For instance, targeting a team like Utah in your cash games is a losing proposition for a few reasons. First, they play at the slowest pace in the league, which means less possessions, which means less fantasy production. Second, they have an elite rim protector in Rudy Gobert. If you're targeting a player like Tyreke Evans, who likes to attack the rim, this matchup is a bad one for him, even if his individual matchup may look good on paper. By focusing on good individual matchups, as well as good team matchups, you're setting yourself up for success.
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Finally, let's talk about balance. The casual fan would love to play LeBron James and Stephen Curry in the same lineup, but let's be honest with ourselves, it is nearly impossible to build a lineup with a high “Floor" on a given night with 2 superstars in your lineup. Players like Trevor Ariza are the perfect cash game target. You can rest assured he will be locked into 35+ minutes on a given night, and he contributes in every peripheral category (rebounds, assists, steals, blocks). You don't necessarily need the players from your cash game lineup to score a lot of REAL points, but you need them to be versatile. Every player in the NBA has bad shooting nights. Targeting players who can manufacture production even when their shot isn't falling is key in cash games.
- 2) GPP Lineup Construction
GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool, or “Tournament") lineups are a whole different animal. When construction your GPP lineups, you don't have to worry about stability or “Floor". What you're looking for here is upside. For instance, on a site like DraftKings, where you earn a half-point bonus for 3-pointers made, targeting volume shooters is a good idea in GPPs. Knowing the scoring for the site you are playing on is key.
One example of a GPP play is a player who is coming off the bench, but steps into a prominent role in the offense. A bench player with a high usage rate (see above) is a great target in GPPs. For instance, Lou Williams was a 6th-man for Toronto who had a 27% usage rate in 2014, 17th-highest in the NBA. His price was generally depressed because he was a bench player who averaged just 25.2 MPG. However, he averaged 22.2 points per 36 minutes, which was the 18-th best mark in the entire NBA.
Targeting value-priced players in games with high Vegas totals is another good strategy in NBA GPP lineups. If you could target two similar players at the same price point, one who is playing in a game with a 188-point total, and the other playing in a game with a 210 point total, your decision should be an easy one.
Game theory is another key point when building your GPP lineups. Much like any other sport on any other day, there will be popular plays, or “chalk" for a particular slate. Separating yourself from the field is always a good thing, but there are often situations in the NBA where there may be 1-2 near “must-plays" due to their price, matchup, or positional scarcity. For instance, on a short slate (5 games or less), there may be only 2-3 viable options at a given position. The best example of this is the SG position on FanDuel. Each roster must include two players from the SG position, so there will be plenty of times on a short slate where going along with the crowd at SG makes sense. Having a unique lineup is great, but in the NBA, you need to be aware of these situations. Follow the recent injury news and follow our content on at Daily Fantasy Café to get an idea of which players are seeing increased or decreased roles. Situations can change overnight in the NBA, and if you miss out on an obvious value play in any format, it can be very tough to make up those points and missed salary.