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How Much Risk Should You Absorb in GPP Lineups? (Fantasy Basketball)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Jun 26, 2020

Whether you’re new to daily fantasy basketball or a seasoned professional, be sure to check out our Daily Fantasy Basketball Glossary. You can get started with Why “Points Per Minute” is the Single Most Important Stat in DFS or head to more advanced strategy — like How to Select Core Players in Multi-Entry Tournaments — to learn more.

If you’re a regular daily fantasy basketball (DFS) player, guaranteed prize pool (GPP) should be a regular part of your fantasy vernacular. GPPs are tournaments that pay out a set amount of prize money, typically in tiered fashion, with the top scorers receiving the highest payout and the lowest scoring winning entries receiving the least payout. These differ from cash games which pay a flat rate to a certain percentage of entrants. GPPs are where you can win the most amount of money, but because you have so much competition, you have to set yourself apart from the field to get ahead. That’s where risk comes in. In order to take home the top prizes in GPPs, you’ll need to have risk baked into your lineups, but how much should you absorb?

Core Players

Any good GPP lineup is going to have some safe plays built into it. That’s where core players factor in. Core players are guys you utilize as your foundation in multiple entries. These players are typically selected because of ridiculously strong matchups, injuries around them leading to increased opportunities and price point, among others. Core players provide a stable fantasy scoring floor with plenty of upside. They’re typically safer options, but choosing core players with a little built-in risk is ok, too. Using core players across multiple lineups while switching out the surrounding players with more risky options is a sound strategy that gives your GPP a nice balance of sure-fire points and guys who can propel you to the top of the standings.

Balance

There’s too much risk involved in swinging for the fences with every single player in a GPP lineup. You’re sure to differentiate yourself, but this will come at the expense of being competitive. The more risky, boom-or-bust options you plug into your lineup, the harder it becomes to find a winning combination. If you’re playing on FanDuel and select nine guys with genuine risk, your odds are far higher to have one or more of those guys flop than if you select a handful of riskier picks mixed in with some safer picks. The idea is to have balance in your lineups that comes from a combination of riskier picks and safer core players. One or possibly two high-upside fliers are worth adding as well. How does a GPP lineup look when talking about risk?

Construction

For the purpose of this article, let’s pretend we’re setting a lineup on FanDuel. This lineup consists of the standard 2PG/2SG/2SF/2PF/C roster slots. For an entry into a GPP, I’m going to select a core of 4-5 players that I firmly believe will provide me a high floor and a high ceiling. Next, I’m going to select 3-4 riskier options who have some question marks but present a high-upside gain if they play well. Finally, if space or budget allow, I’ll add a boom-or-bust player to really set me apart from the field. This is the biggest gamble, but it’s well worth it to roster a high-scoring player few entrants own. A rough breakdown of the lineup percentages is shown below:

45-55% Core Players
35-45% Higher-Risk options
10% Hail Mary

My Core Players make up the majority of my lineup because I’m building my team to be competitive. My higher-risk options come in just behind my core players, because this is a GPP, and I want to make sure I’m picking players that will separate me from the field. My final play can be referred to as a Hail Mary because the outcome of rostering that player could torpedo my lineup or lead me to a big pay day. It’s all about balance when setting these lineups, and even the riskier plays have to be well thought out. Even the riskiest plays should be calculated.

Stay Educated

Your core is set, and you have your eye on some less safe players. But if you really want to have a shot at winning it all, you’ll need to do some research. First, identify players who might not be popular on a given slate. Players with “bad” matchups based on a “Defense vs Position” tool are a great place to start. These players don’t always have as bad a matchup as it seems due to a number of factors including individual matchup, fluidity of players between positions and injuries on either team.

Next, look for players whose value may have been depreciated due to a recent slump or a difficult defensive matchup. Look for players with high ceilings. These are guys who have the potential to erupt for game-winning stat lines. High-risk, high-reward is fine, but make sure that there really is a high reward if you’re making a high-risk selection.

Look for shooters who can heat up. Guys like Terrence Ross get a fair share of minutes but are streaky and have potential outcomes on both sides of the scoring spectrum. Likewise, guys like JJ Redick are more consistent but don’t typically see enough usage to warrant consideration in your lineups. If a bump in minutes is in store or the opponent is poor defensively, shooters like this can be low-priced, low-owned and worth the investment.

Take a look at prices overall and prices within the slate. Sure, it might not seem like a risk to put Nikola Jokic or Kristaps Porzingis into your lineup, but those studs can sink your GPP entry if they underperform. You need to really pay attention to expensive players and determine if they are worth investing such a large portion of your budget. Next, look at players on the slate who seem like they might not be a bargain based on cheaper plays. For example, Montrezl Harrell could be priced at $6,600 and Steven Adams at $5,800. Both are playing in great matchups and are sure to be popular, budget-friendly selections. That’s when you can look toward the top of the salaries for guys who are a bit pricier with similar dollar-for-dollar value. Those players are a little more risky because of the lofty price and because of the quality of cheaper plays on the slate, but you can find low-owned GPP targets here.

It’s important to remember that when you select your risky GPP options, do so rationally. There’s a big difference in making an educated guess that a low-owned player will have a big game and just snagging a low-dollar dart throw that happens to catch your eye. Stay in the know.

Conclusion

Risk is an important factor when setting GPP lineups, and it’s vital to absorb the right amount of risk. Play it too safe and you risk falling in with the crowd. Play it too risky, and you take yourself out of contention. It’s all about balance. Using a core set of players in multiple lineups is a great way to strike balance while still absorbing some necessary risk. Pay attention to public opinion, pricing, and context within a slate to smartly absorb risk. By doing that, you can stay competitive while getting a leg up on the field. Thanks for reading, and as always, good luck!

Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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