The NBA regular season is winding down, which means we should start thinking about DFS strategy for the postseason. While the classic slates will still be available — at least early in the postseason — many of the larger contests will feature the popular one-game formats on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
I took a look at a few helpful strategies for DraftKings’ Showdown format last week, and today’s piece will focus on FanDuel.
I’ve crunched the numbers for the past 37 single-game slates on FanDuel, and there are a few interesting trends that we can take away. Some of them are similar to winning trends from the DraftKings’ lineups, but others are slightly different.
I also went through and looked at all 10 slates from the Eastern and Western Conference Finals to see if there were any major differences between the regular season data and postseason data.
Let’s start by looking at one of the more obvious takeaways.
Spend up at the Premium Positions
FanDuel’s single-game format has some big differences from the DraftKings Showdown format, but the biggest is how they approach the “premium” positions. You select one Captain on DraftKings, and that player earns 1.5x fantasy points in exchange for 1.5x the salary. On FanDuel, you have to select three premium players: One MVP (2.0x fantasy points), one Star (1.5x fantasy points) and one Pro (1.2x fantasy points).
That said, there is no salary penalty for any of the premium positions on FanDuel. If LeBron James costs $15,000 as a utility, he still costs $15,000 as an MVP, Star or Pro.
With that in mind, it makes no sense not to put your best players in those spots. Of the 37 winning lineups I analyzed, 34 spent at least $10,000 on their MVP and Star. In most cases, they spent much more than that: The average salary for winning MVPs and Stars were $14,850 and $13,890, respectively.
The Pro spot checked in right behind them. Only two winning lineups had a Pro with a salary of less than $10,000, and the average winning Pro salary was $12,135.
Basically, you’re not going to win in this format unless you have the highest-scoring players in the premium spots, and odds are that those players will command top salaries.
Embrace a Stars-and-Scrubs Strategy
This is a repeat from the DraftKings piece and goes along with paying up at the premium positions. Since you want to jam three studs into your MVP, Star and Pro spots, it makes sense that you’re going to need a few less-heralded players to round out your lineup.
It looks like you’re going to want one punt in particular. Winning lineups averaged just $7,716 for their final roster spot, which is just above the minimum salary of $6,000. A high 67.6% of winning lineups spent $8,000 or less on the last player, and 35.1% spent $7,000 or less.
Those players also helped to differentiate winning lineups. They commanded average ownership of just 22.5%, which was significantly lower than every other lineup spot.
Spend the Cap (with a Caveat)
I’ve talked about the importance of salary cap dollars in the Showdown and Classic formats on DraftKings. That still holds true on FanDuel, with the average winning lineup spending $59,260 of a possible $60,000.
That said, spending the full cap doesn’t appear to be as important.
The way the salaries are created on the single-game FanDuel mode just doesn’t leave as much room to get creative. The salaries come in $500 intervals, and the top players don’t cost as much in relation to the salary cap as they do on DraftKings. Further, the $60,000 salary cap is higher, you need to fill only five roster spots instead of six and you don’t have to pay the extra 1.5x for one player.
With that in mind, not spending the full $60,000 is a nice way to increase the contrarian nature of your lineup without sacrificing too much upside. You still don’t want to go too low – only one winning lineup spent less than $58,000 – but sacrificing $1,000 or so doesn’t appear to preclude your chances of winning as much as it does on DraftKings.
Don’t Stack Four Players
This is another repeat from the Showdown piece, but it might be even more important on FanDuel. There are only two ways to split the teams – you can go 3-2 or 4-1 – and the former appears to offer much more upside than the latter.
Only five of 37 winners featured four players from one team, so there appears to be a significant edge by foregoing that strategy.
This can be particularly useful on slates in which one team appears to offer a lot of value. Most players will likely load up on teams that are playing shorthanded or missing a star player, but you still want to make sure you’re getting significant exposure to both teams. You need to score 285 points to win on average, and the best way to do that is by targeting both squads.
Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30).