2018 NBA Rising Stars Challenge FanDuel Primer

Which youngsters should be on your FanDuel rosters for the Rising Stars Challenge?

Just because the NBA is heading to the All-Star break doesn't mean you need to wait an entire week to play fantasy basketball on FanDuel.

That's because FanDuel is offering both a slate for the Rising Stars Challenge and the All-Star game. There's even Bingo.

Naturally, these All-Star offerings are a bit different than your typical NBA DFS format, so let's dive into some strategy for building your Rising Stars Challenge rosters.

The Format

FanDuel's single-game setup will be in effect here, meaning that you roster five players instead of nine. You get the standard $60,000 to build your roster ($12,000 per player), but you select one guard, one forward/center flex, two utility players, and one MVP, whose FanDuel points get multiplied by 1.5.

Some Data

You've come to numberFire for some details on who to play, but we can't really do that without telling you why. I dug back into the past three Rising Stars Challenges, coinciding with the swap to the USA versus the World roster change. Ideally, we'd have more than three games to examine, but in our case, enough clear trends emerge for us to have some nice takeaways and to improve our lineup decisions.

Minutes Matter

As usual, minutes matter in order for players to secure FanDuel points. That's just the way basketball works: you need to be on the court and be impactful to rack up fantasy points. In case you're interested, the correlation coefficient between minutes and FanDuel points for the 60 players in the past three Rising Stars Challenges is 0.703. That's a pretty strong relationship.

But Points Matter More

It's still an All-Star game, and team scores will flirt with 150. The clearest path to fantasy points is through actual points. The correlation between points and FanDuel points in our sample is 0.860. Field goal attempts are 0.803, so it's better to get up shots than to play big minutes. However, those tend to go hand-in-hand.

Start the Starters

All of these young players are in the game for a reason, but the starters still -- generally -- get preferential treatment. Check out the median values for the 30 starters compared to the 30 reserve players over the past three Rising Stars Challenges.

Rising Stars Challenge 2015-2017 Minutes Actual Points FanDuel Points
Starter 22.5 14.5 31.7
Reserve 17.0 10.5 17.8

Further, the fewest FanDuel points a starter has tallied has been 11.1 (Elfrid Payton in 2015); the fewest a bench player has tallied has been 3.2 (...also Payton in 2016). It's true that the highest output over the last three years has come from a bench player -- Jamal Murray last year (56.1 FanDuel points) -- but it's evident that probability prefers starters.

So, we want starters, minutes, and points. The 10 players to play at least 25 minutes in our sample were all starters. The five players to attempt 20 field goals were all starters. Starters own 12 of the 15 highest FanDuel outputs over the past three seasons. Prioritize starters when possible.

Players to Target

Joel Embiid ($16,000) - Embiid is wearing multiple hats this weekend, as he's in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Skills Challenge on Saturday and playing in the All-Star Game on Sunday. So that leaves me a little concerned with how much he'll play on Friday. However, among players in this game, Embiid leads the way in FanDuel points per minute since January 1st. He's at 1.41 in that category; no other player tops 1.20. Embiid also averages 19.9 field goal attempts per 36 minutes since the start of the new year, most of the 20 players in this game.

Donovan Mitchell ($14,000) - Mitchell ranks second in field goal attempts per 36 minutes since January 1st (19.4). Mitchell also ranks fifth in FanDuel points per minute (1.00) in that split. He has a great shot to be the leading scorer in this game, and that makes him worth the lofty salary. He's also in the dunk contest on Saturday, but that shouldn't really impact his minutes.

Kris Dunn ($13,000) - Dunn's 1.14 FanDuel points per minute since January started rank him third, behind just Embiid (1.41) and Ben Simmons (1.19). But the Chicago Bulls' point guard is taking 16.1 shot attempts per 36 minutes in 2018. That ranks sixth. He could easily get overlooked with some bigger names around him.

Dennis Smith ($13,000) - Smith, like Mitchell, may have his eyes on the dunk contest, but he'll get his shots in Friday night, too. He's attempting 17.8 field goals per 36 minutes in 2018 and averaging 0.98 FanDuel points. Smith should also benefit from the added pace here, as his Dallas Mavericks are the 26th-fastest team in the NBA in 2018, limiting his per-minute output.

Jamal Murray ($12,000) - Murray caught fire last year off the bench, making for a rare strong bench showing in this Rising Stars Challenge. He was 9 of 14 from beyond the arc for 36 total points and 11 rebounds (56.1 FanDuel points). Murray ranks just 14th among the 20 Rising Stars this season in FanDuel points per minute in 2018 (0.86), but he should have a solid role on Friday, and we know he can fill it up.

Lauri Markkanen ($12,000) - Markkanen is up to 0.99 FanDuel points per minute in 2018, tying him for sixth among participants in this game. His 14.9 shot attempts per 36 minutes since the new calendar year are seventh, and he's taking 6.8 of those from beyond the arc. That's not bad for someone priced at the average FanDuel salary for this slate.

Buddy Hield ($10,000) - Hield dropped 50.7 FanDuel points in this game last year as a starter. He played 27 minutes, had 22 field goal attempts (12 from deep), and chipped in 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and a block. He likely won't flirt with 30 minutes this time around, but he'll still chuck it. He's taking 16.3 field goal attempts per 36 minutes, fifth-most among the 20 players in this game.

John Collins ($10,000) - Lost in the shuffle will be some big men who don't necessarily stretch the floor. But Collins is about as active a player as you'll find in today's NBA. He's taking just 10.0 field goals per 36 minutes (ranking 19th of the 20 players in this game), but he's 4th in FanDuel points per minute (1.04). Two years ago, Dwight Powell put up a 12-point, 11-rebound game off the bench in just 16 minutes, and we've seen seven points-rebounds double-doubles in the past three years. You'll need to save salary somewhere, and taking a shot on the springy rookie makes sense.

Domantas Sabonis ($9,500) - Similarly, Sabonis could be a nice value option tonight. He's averaged 0.99 FanDuel points per minute in 2018 (tied for sixth). The shot attempts are down (12.9 per 36 minutes), but you're just seeking rebounds and the ability to chip in some easy buckets from someone in this price range. Sabonis fits the mold.