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How to Select Core Players in Multi-Entry Tournaments (Fantasy Basketball)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Jun 20, 2020

Given his increased opportunity, Smart was a frequent core play in daily lineups in 2019-20

Setting DFS lineups is a lot of fun, but when you venture into the realm of multi-entry tournaments, lineup setting can become daunting. Fortunately, there’s a way to ease the burden of setting multiple lineups – core players. For tournaments, it’s a great strategy to set a group of players for which you want a lot of exposure. This is your core. Based on price point, context within a slate, matchup and opportunity, you can pick a handful of players who will be the anchor of a majority of your lineups. Once these players are in place, you can experiment with additional players to fill out the roster and get plenty of exposure to guys who are hit-or-miss and might put you over the top in these types of contests.

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Price Point

Price in itself is not a good measurement of a player’s true value, and context is vital. Top-priced studs like LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westrbook and Karl-Anthony Towns rarely see their price fall below $10,000. When that happens, however, the value becomes too good to pass up. If the price of those players falls, it’s almost certainly due to a cold streak or recent injury, but the massive ceiling means you’ll want to seriously consider rostering those players in multiple entries and making one of them a part of your core.

Conversely, players with typically low floors in the midst of a hot streak can see their price begin to move up so much that the value just isn’t there anymore. Josh Hart was a big value at points in the 2019-20 season when Brandon Ingram and/or Jrue Holiday sat out because his price was often sub-$5K. If that price crept up to the mid-5,000’s or low-6,000’s, he might still be a good play, but his value would be much lower based on the price point.

Context Within the Slate

This one is so important, but it’s often overlooked. Context within the slate means that a player could be valuable enough to be in your core one night and receive limited exposure in your lineups another night. This can be looked at position-by-position or lineup-by-lineup.

For example, small forward can be a position rife with disparity, with guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo high above others in terms of price. The Greek Freak’s price was always five figures, while the next closest salary was someone like Tobias Harris ($6,700) or Gordon Hayward ($6,600). In that positional context, you’ll have to make a decision to fade Giannis or make him a core player. Fading him could work out if he flops, but his ability to score 60-80 points on any night means fading him could cost you big.

We can look at this based on the salaries of all players in the player pool, too. Let’s say you’re entering a multi-entry tournament for a five-game slate. In that case, there’s a good chance there aren’t too many five-figure studs in the player pool. If there are just one or two, you’ll need to decide if you want to pay up for that player (based on matchup, expected point total of other players in the pool) or fade him in favor of a more balanced set of salaries across the board. There is always risk built in to paying up for a stud. If he busts, you won’t cash, and if he performs modestly, you’ll have given up too much salary that could have been used elsewhere. It’s all about context, and no two slates are created equally.


Who’s on the schedule for tonight’s slate? Matchup is always something to keep in mind when setting core players, as you’ll typically want to roster guys facing exploitable opponents. The biggest factors to look at are fantasy points given up to the position, overall defense, over/under, spread, and potential injuries on the opposing roster. Fortunately, FantasyPros offers a suite of DFS tools that give you all this information and more at a glance.

Obviously, when selecting a center, you want to target centers facing defenses that are weak against that position. In 2019-20, it was always a smart move to roster centers facing Chicago or Atlanta, as those teams hemorrhaged points to the position. The overall team defense plays a similar role. The weaker the defense, the better the matchup. Over/under and spread are important, too. A high over/under means a lot of real-life fantasy points will be scored, and in turn, a lot of fantasy points will be scored. A big spread means a potential blowout, so if you think a star could have his minutes cut drastically due to a big lead, you may not want to make him part of your core.

Potential injuries to an opposing defense can be very valuable. For example, a team typically stingy against centers who loses its rim-protector for a few games doesn’t have the same stingy defense in the short-term. On paper, season averages show a difficult matchup, but in reality, the matchup is great and highly-exploitable. Keep all of this in mind. Players with excellent matchups who check the box in multiple categories listed above should be on your core radar.


This is the point where you look for reserves who may be in for a minutes bump or starters who could be looking at more work. To find these players, look at the injury report for inactive players, making sure to note players who are resting and those who are suspended or absent for personal reasons. For stretches of the 2019-20 season, Boston was ravaged with injuries, leaving Marcus Smart one of the few remaining options on the court. The same was true of Gorgui Dieng, who was a bona fide stud for games that Karl-Anthony Towns sat. His increased minutes and opportunity made him a strong fantasy play on more than one occasion. As mentioned above, price point comes into play here too, as low-priced players with increased opportunity lose some of their DFS appeal when price begins to creep up.


Setting your core means identifying players whose outlooks are so good that you want to feature them as the cornerstone of many lineups. Picking those players is important because it gives you a solid foundation of points that you can build around with high-upside plays. Utilize the price point, context within the slate, matchup and opportunity to determine the best core plays for your lineups. 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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