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A Beginner’s Guide to Daily Fantasy Basketball

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Jul 21, 2020

If you’ve been playing season-long fantasy football for any amount of time, you’ve probably wondered if there are any other ways to play the game and enhance your experience as a player. Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) contests are a lot of fun and offer fantasy managers the chance to pick a new team each and every week and compete against friends, family, and passionate fans in exciting games. The best part? You can win money in some of these contests! Whether you’re brand new to the world of DFS or just dipping your toes in the water, this article will act as a guide to the basics of playing in these daily contests.

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What is it?

Daily fantasy basketball is similar to other DFS sports in that you can enter contests every day that games are played. You can enter lineups for a full slate of action, for single games, or both. In NBA DFS contests, your lineups and entries are one-time only, and each new lineup is a new chance to win. These contests differ from season-long contests in that you’re not invested in the team you drafted, you’re not playing the waiver wire, you’re not making trades, and you’re not thinking long-term. In DFS contests, you need simply to build the best lineup for the contest at hand,

Where to Play and How to Get Started

There are plenty of places to play NBA DFS, but the biggest and best are FanDuel, DraftKings, and Yahoo. To check out the full sites, click here for FanDuel here for DraftKings, and here for Yahoo. Signing up on these sites is quick and easy, and all of them offer some form of a bonus when you sign up and make your first deposit, and additional bonuses can be had when you refer friends to sign up.

Contest Types

There are two main contest types in the world of DFS. These are GPPs (also called tournaments) and cash games.

Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPPs)
GPPs are contests in which a small number of entrants win large prizes in a tiered structure. This means that the top overall scorer wins the most prize money, the second overall scorer wins the next most prize money, and so on. These contests differ from cash games in that the prizes are not equal among winners, and less than half of the field wins. Strategy for GPPs typically centers around building your lineup around high-upside plays who could propel you to the top of the field for a big payday. Utilizing low-owned options is a common strategy as well, because the idea in GPPs is not to beat just half of entrants but to beat everyone. GPPs can be single entry or multi-entry.

For more in-depth information on GPP strategy, click here.

Cash Games
Cash games are contests in which entrants simply need to finish in the top half of entries to win and take home a prize. That prize is equal across all winners and is almost always double the entry fee of the contest. Multiple entries are usually not allowed. Strategy for these contests typically centers around filling out your lineup with high-floor options who are a safe bet for points and will help you win, rather than utilizing riskier plays with more upside. Cash games consist of two contest sub-types:

  • Head-to-Head (H2H): H2H contests pit you against one other entrant in a winner-take-all matchup where one of you doubles your entry fee and one of you loses your entry fee. These contests feature elements of GPPs and cash games.
  • 50/50s: 50/50s are exactly what they sound like. The top 50 percent of entrants win, and the bottom 50 percent don’t. These are sometimes called double-ups because of the prize.

For more in-depth information on H2H strategy, click here, and for more in-depth information on 50/50 strategy, click here.

Single Game vs. Full Roster
These can be cash games or GPPs, and they represent different ways that lineups must be set. In single-game contests, lineups are comprised of players from just one game. Typically, there is a player who earns more points than the other other players in your lineup, and his position in the lineup is designated as the “MVP” or “Captain” depending on which site you’re playing. In FanDuel contests, you actually get three premium positions for single-game contests – “MVP,” “Star,” and “Pro.” The MVP scores 2x his output, the Star scores 1.5x his output, and the Pro scores 1.2x the output. In DraftKings contests, the MVP is called the Captain, but the Captain is 1.5 times more expensive than the other players in the lineup, which is different than in FanDuel contests. The Captain is the only premium position on DraftKings, so strategy is different on both sites. Pay attention to how lineups are built when deciding which site and which contests you’d like to enter.

Full-roster contests, on the other hand, are comprised of players from multiple games on a slate. This can include the full array of games being played on a given night/day, the early games only, or the later games only. In any of these contests, you’ll build your lineup using a set number of players and a salary cap that you must adhere to. Roster construction and salary cap differ from site-to-site, and we’ll cover that in the next section.

Lineup Construction and Scoring

Lineup construction, salary cap restrictions, and player scoring differ on each of the main DFS sites, so you’ll want to do a little homework before diving in. You’ll also want to play a couple of contests on each site to see what it is that you like best. Research alone won’t help you make the best decision on your personal preference, so spend a couple of bucks to get acquainted or take advantage of promotions that offer you free entries.

As a quick rundown, FanDuel’s NBA roster construction for a full slate consists of two point guards, two shooting guards, two small forwards, two power forwards, and a center. On DraftKings and Yahoo, lineups consist of one point guard, one shooting guard, one small forward, one power forward, one center, one guard position (point or shooting), one forward position (small or power), and one utility position that can be any player. Salary cap on FanDuel is $60K, salary cap on DraftKings is $50K, and salary cap on Yahoo is $200. Scoring for each site is based on points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and turnovers, though DraftKings offers bonuses for three-pointers, double-doubles, and triple-doubles.

For a full breakdown of lineup construction, salary cap, scoring, and which players are more valuable on each of these sites, click here.

Odds and Ends

Make sure to turn on notifications, subscribe to emails, and check your preferred site or app frequently for promotions, contests, and giveaways. DFS sites want you to keep playing, so they will try to draw you in with deposit matching, rewards for entering specific contests, and free contests. Many use a point system that rewards users with points for frequent plays or frequent wins. Those points can be used to enter contests and act as a “store credit” of sorts.

It goes without saying, but play responsibly. Fantasy sports are for fun and should be treated as such, even when there is money on the line. Stick to a weekly or monthly budget when entering these contests and know when to walk away. For more on bankroll management strategy, click here.

DFS is a form of gambling, and it’s easy to get too involved too quickly. DFS sites almost always have proactive tools to help users play responsibly. These include restricting access for a set timeframe, restricting monthly deposit amounts, and restricting monthly entries. Now that you have the basics, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get playing!

View the top deposit bonuses and promo codes for each sportsbook >>

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.

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

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