FanDuel NBA Santa Slam Strategy Guide: Wednesday 12/25/19

The NBA's Christmas Day offering is a holiday tradition for a lot of us sports fans, and FanDuel is actually making it a whole lot sweeter this year with a massive offering.

The Santa Slam's guaranteed prize pool is $1,000,000 -- with $200,000 going to first place. It's only $12.25 to enter (get it?), so what could be a better Christmas gift to yourself than a stocking full of entries in this contest?

Of course, with everyone gunning for the top spot, it can pay to be a bit different with your lineups. Here are some broad strategies that could help you climb the leaderboard.

Spend up at Power Forward and Center

Ownership is a key aspect of daily fantasy sports. While that's usually a little less true for the NBA because players tend to be pretty consistent from game-to-game -- LeBron James may score 35 one night and 20 the next, but he's not really going to go 0-for-4 and give you a dud game like a stud hitter or wide receiver might -- it still matters. Identifying the popular plays and building lineups a bit differently is a great strategy for gaining an advantage in a big tournament like this.

Conversely, the Toronto Raptors' injuries should open up work for cheap power forwards Chris Boucher ($3,800) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ($4,100), and Montrezl Harrell ($5,500) is an inexpensive center option. That could lead to heavy ownership on the bottom of the power forward and center pools. That naturally means lower ownership for the expensive players at those positions.

We have studs at every position, but the best value (at least early in the week) looks to be in the frontcourt. So paying up for some combination of Anthony Davis ($10,700), Kawhi Leonard ($9,000), Joel Embiid ($9,900), Nikola Jokic ($9,400), or Clint Capela ($8,700) could be contrarian.

Spend Up for James Harden and/or Giannis Antetokounmpo

It's weird to think that James Harden ($11,700) and Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,200) could at all be game-theory options. I'm not saying they'll be off the radar or that playing them is groundbreaking. However, their salaries are sort of backbreaking when building lineups. Rostering both of these guys -- the two leading scorers in the NBA -- leaves you with just $5,300 per roster slot for seven remaining players. That's tough sledding.

Antetokounmpo leads the NBA in FanDuel points per minute (1.89), and Harden is third (1.59). Harden has blowout risk as a 9.5-point favorite over the lowly Golden State Warriors, and Antetokounmpo plays the Philadelphia 76ers, who are second-toughest against versatile forwards. Neither matchup is particularly jolly.

Unsurprisingly, both are top-three in raw fantasy ceilings in my projections. Spending up here and playing Ebenezer Scrooge elsewhere in your lineups could unlock a massive ceiling. Don't be afraid to avoid a balanced lineup and instead build a stars and scrubs rotation.

Stack Any Game

With just five games on the slate, you can really gain leverage if you pick one to stack. Let's say it's the New Orleans Pelicans and Denver Nuggets and you have six or so players from this game. Let's say that puppy sticks close despite the 9.5-point spread and even goes into overtime. You could be getting an extra 20 to 30 minutes from your players (combined) in a five-minute overtime. That can add up and help you separate from the field. Hitting on the right game in any capacity will pay dividends, especially if we see some blowouts elsewhere on the board that lead to subpar production for the other studs.

Seek Ceilings

It sounds obvious, but in a big tournament, ceilings matter. Floors matter, too, and you don't have to pick the most volatile nine-man roster you can find, but players who do not have 30-minute upside because of their role in the offense or who don't have promising per-minute production could cap your lineup's ceiling. You can check out numberFire's floor/ceiling projections for the slate to see just who qualifies for Wednesday's slate.

You can also take a stab on bench players who can sometimes get extra run or guards who can get hot (like Lou Williams ($5,100)). Ultimately, you should be prioritizing players who can log heavy minutes and can put up shot attempts when things go their way.

Watch the News

Not that news, but rather the news surrounding the slate. In the NBA, minutes lead to production. On the basketball court, there is no such thing as a huge play. There's no pinch-hit grand slam, no 80-yard touchdown on a player's lone touch. Fantasy points accrue slowly over multiple possessions, so we need to make sure that all nine of our players are going to see significant court time (18 to 20 minutes at the very least).

For example, if Marcus Smart ($4,700) and Gordon Hayward ($6,300) continue to miss games, then a punt option like Brad Wanamaker ($3,500) can do just enough to help you pay up for your favorite stars, and Kemba Walker ($7,600) and Jayson Tatum ($7,300) will get more opportunity for shots. These situations really matter.

To help during this busy time of year, you can check numberFire's projections to see which players are expected to see a lot of run on Christmas Day, and you can (and certainly should) also download the FanDuel Scout app to get up-to-the-minute news on your fantasy team.