An Introduction to Roster Construction in Daily Fantasy Basketball
Whether you're a seasoned fantasy basketball veteran or not, lineup construction in daily fantasy basketball is something that will take time to understand.
There's no foolproof method, and there aren't really many shortcuts, as each and every slate of contests is different. Further, every daily fantasy site has its own quirks and intricacies, which require time and practice to nail down.
You can rely on trial-and-error if you'd like. And you can even skip the reflection on your past lineups if you'd like, too, but somehow, someway you're going to figure out how to construct a lineup.
Let's jumpstart that process for you.
On FanDuel, you have $60,000 in salary cap to create a nine-player lineup. Sound familiar? It's the identical set-up for FanDuel's football contests.
You must roster one center-eligible player and two players at each of the following positions: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, and power forward.
Those are really all you need to know to create a FanDuel NBA lineup, but you should probably know a bit more while you're at it.
Point guards are typically some of the highest-priced (in terms of salary allotment) players on a given slate. Your high-scoring games with plenty of assists, steals, and rebounds from Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook are big reasons why.
To roster a point guard, you'll need to spend at least $3,500 of your cap (as that's the absolute minimum salary for any player in the database). You can also find yourself spending nearly $11,000 for guys like Curry and Westbrook. If you can fit in those studs, you're generally off to a good start.
However, if you need to spend less, then get acclimated to some lesser-known commodities.
Below the elite options (guys who run you $9,500 or more, roughly) are All-Star hopefuls and players who generally possess a high ceiling but a less certain floor than their high-priced counterparts. These players are typically in the $8,000 to $9,500 range.
Below that in the salary chain, things get cloudier -- usually pretty quickly. You'll find plenty of off-ball guards or point guards who play with ball-dominant stars from roughly $6,000 to the next tier. In the right matchup, they can be useful, but they probably don't play enough minutes or have a big enough role in the offense to contend with the ceiling of the higher-priced options.
Then you'll find the "punt" plays, players who run you somewhere between minimum salary and about $6,000 of your cap (usually skewing lower than that). If you play NBA contests consistently, you'll soon find out that these players can actually be effective plays when the situation dictates it. If the starting point guard misses a game, his backup might only run you $4,000 or so. He could be stepping into a big role, and that can allow him to provide enough points to be worth a starting spot in your FanDuel lineup.
You'll soon realize that most positions are similar in terms of top-to-bottom composition. It makes sense. You aren't paying $10,000 for a bench player, and you're dang sure not getting James Harden for minimum salary.
In fact, Harden tends to dominate the shooting guard position in terms of salary, as that's how the current NBA is unfolding at the shooting guard position.
The second tier is generally a big step behind in terms of salary. Again, that speaks to the position as a whole. However, this second tier generally runs deep. The $6,500 to $8,000 range, on a full night of games, can offer 8 or 10 potentially solid options. You'll need to account for matchups and opposing defenders if you want to make the best choice here, but that's all part of playing the game. This tier often includes combo guards, or players who dominate possessions relative to off-ball shooting guards.
Below this range, you'll generally find players who do one thing well. That could be shooting the three-ball. It could be leading the second-team offense and potentially having 20-point upside. It could be that they see plenty of minutes because they're good defenders. The lack of all-around impact makes these types of players risky, but when a shooter or scorer gets hot or when a steal specialist can swipe multiple possessions, they can be key contributors while you spend bigger salary on other positions.
From the minimum salary to roughly $5,000, you'll mostly be looking at players who don't have guaranteed roles on the offense on a nightly basis. These players could see fewer than 15 minutes per game and be tough to trust. However, if injury frees them up for a bigger workload, then they can become enticing options.
The small forward position isn't really absent of superstar power, but unless you're targeting no-doubt studs, the position can be notoriously difficult to roster on FanDuel. Of course, you have to roster two small forwards, so you should know a thing or two.
On full nights, you'll find options who run you somewhere between $9,000 and $11,000 of your salary. These players generally have a high Usage Rate and are go-to options in their offense. Directly below this tier -- roughly $7,000 and up -- you can often find players with similar roles in the offense but who either aren't as reliable as the elite small forwards or who play in less fantasy-friendly offenses. These players tend to possess elite upside but have a harder time posting full stat lines given their situation.
Then, things tend to get messy. It's not uncommon to find a large cluster of small forwards who run you between $5,000 and $7,000 of your salary. As either primary defenders, tertiary offensive options, three-point specialists, or something similar, the upside tends to be limited and the floor tends to be lower than you'd like for the price. However, figuring out which players are trending up, who might benefit from the matchup (whether skewing big or small to defend the opponent, for example), or who might see extra minutes because of injury is often critical to your lineup.
Unlike having a low score (or a zero) from a cheap flier in a daily fantasy football lineup, getting next to nothing from one of your nine NBA slots is basically death to your lineup. Wasting a slot isn't an option.
That makes the bottom tier of the small forward position especially gruesome. Low-priced point guards and shooting guards who are set up for extended minutes tend to touch the ball on a significant amount of possessions, and low-priced power forwards and centers are at least on the floor for rebound opportunities. Small forwards can get squeezed out from this organic production in the flow of a game -- especially if they are defensive-minded or are guarding shooters away from the basket. Beware of that when seeking the bottom of the barrel at the position.
Power forwards and point guards are usually the most fun -- and most important -- position to pin down. That doesn't mean always spending up at the position, but these slots can tend to offer the most opportunity from the top of the salary list to the bottom.
While it's great to roster elite power forwards -- and they do exist -- you can often find lower-priced plays who can free up space to spend elsewhere. The sure-bet power forwards will run you at least $9,000 of your salary cap, but there tends to be a long list of players with different styles between $6,000 and that top tier. These players can benefit from the right matchups.
Floor-spacing power forwards who are set to square off against an immobile defender? That's an advantage. A glass-cleaning power forward against a team that struggles getting rebounds? Yeah, that's nice.
Of course, matchups matter at every position on every night, but given the variety of power forwards that exist in the NBA, they can really dictate success on a nightly basis.
The bottom tier at the position will offer players who only deserve rostering if they are getting significant minutes and players who generally aren't involved on offense. When the stars align and they're primed for a bigger role, they will be very important, but punting with a random power forward can cap your lineup's upside, even if it allows you to roster a second star player.
The center position is unique when it comes to FanDuel rostering. Firstly, it's the only position of the five that requires only one spot to fill. Secondly, the center position isn't exactly what it used to be -- but I guess that's not specific to FanDuel. Anyway...
Despite fear of sounding like a broken record, the center position usually offers some high-priced, All-Star caliber players who can collect points, rebounds, and blocks in most matchups. There will be nights, though, that do not feature any of these guys, and that makes the center position intriguing.
Provided that there are more than two or three games on the docket, you'll likely be seeing a good many center options ranging from about $6,000 to $9,000. These players -- like the power forwards -- will vary in skillset. Some will be high-usage players on the low post, some will be rebound artists, some will be defense-only types, and some will be shot block specialists. Plenty will be great at nothing but solid in a few areas.
Determining between the group often comes down to matchup and the player they have to guard that night. This might be a smart price range to target, provided that you can find a player in the right matchup.
There will also be low-priced options from which to choose, and given that centers can be in good positions for rebounds and putbacks, these types of players can produce some fantasy points if they see enough minutes -- even if the ceiling is low. Targeting a low-priced center could open up space for the rest of your roster, but matchups will always be crucial before looking to save salary at any position.
Unlike football, where paying up for elite quarterbacks and high-volume running backs can help establish a safe floor, fantasy hoops depend more on the players than the positions, and finding value will be critical to sustained success in your daily fantasy endeavors.