Daily Fantasy Basketball 101

The NBA season starts today, which will begin a 6 month period of daily fantasy NBA games nearly every day. For people who have played daily fantasy NFL, transitioning to another sport can seem daunting or just not that appealing. But winning at daily fantasy NBA game requires a quite similar skill set to winning at daily fantasy NFL, so the transition is actually quite easy. Daily fantasy NBA is also a lot more frequent than NFL, so the profit potential is greater and the variance is smaller. In this article, I will go over some of the basics of making a daily fantasy NBA lineup to get you started in your NBA daily fantasy career or hobby.

Scoring and Lineup

The scoring and lineup framework on FanDuel and DraftKings is a little different but for the most part quite similar.  On FanDuel, a point is worth a point, assists 1.5 points, rebound 1.2 points, block/steal 2 points, and turnovers are -1 points. DraftKings only gives -.5 for turnovers, an extra .05 for rebounds, an extra .5 points for three pointers, and its usual bonuses for large statistical goals like double/doubles or triple/doubles. For the most part, good looking stats translate to a lot of fantasy points.

For FanDuel, you have to pick two players at each position and one Center. With DraftKings, you draft one of each position along with a Guard, Forward, and Utility (anyone can be played in the Utility). With that said, DraftKings has a lot more flexibility than FanDuel when it comes to making a lineup with a lot of guys at the same position.

You can get more details on how lineups and scoring at each respective site.

Playing Time

95% of the time, you want to play a guy who is in the starting lineup for their team. Just like in NFL where snaps are really important, minutes are really important in the NBA. You can’t get a stat without being on the floor, so how much playing time a player gets is an integral factor in their performance. Of course, there are some teams that utilize 6th or 7th men in their rotation heavily, but you should make sure if a player is coming off the bench that he is very productive, will play a lot, and is well priced. Rotoworld offers NBA depth charts, but you can also use other services to find projected starters for each game.

Injuries Are Incredibly Important

Injuries are prolific in the NBA, and matter more in daily fantasy NBA than in any other sport. Teams often rest players in season to save them for the playoffs and bad teams often take advantage of holding out players with small injuries to better their draft position.

First off, it’s imperative that you are looking out for NBA injury news at least 30 minutes before the lock onward. Players are scratched all the time and having a guy in your lineup who is not playing is going to be a killer. The best resource tends to be Twitter, so look for NBA player news type accounts to follow. You can also look at player news on Rotoworld. For late swap sites like DraftKings, you should keep an eye on injuries up until the start of the last relevant game.

An injured starter can mean a could mean a lot more minutes for one player or an increased role for another, which can greatly increase a players fantasy value. For example, Jeremy Lin should be a solid play on the Lakers at the start of the season with Steve Nash out for the year, as he will play a large amount of minutes at the point guard position. On the other hand, Russell Westbrook shouldn’t see more minutes than we would normally expect with Kevin Durant out, but he should have larger offensive role without Durant around, and therefore should have really good fantasy production. You will always find the best value on teams with injured players.

Rookies/Emerging Stars

Daily fantasy sites normally rely partially on last seasons statistics to price a player. When a player is a rookie or is a young, improving player, his price may be too low for what we can expect from their production. This is a guy like Elfred Payton, a rookie starting point guard on the Orlando Magic, who should play a lot of minutes and have a big role on a bad Magic team.


Just like in every other daily fantasy sport, we recommend looking at Over/Under lines to figure out what kind of matchup a team has on any given night. Points and fantasy points are not as synonymous in the NBA as MLB or NFL, but in general teams that score the most points are going to score the most fantasy points.

Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers were in their own tier as far as giving up monster amount of fantasy points per game, and we should see more of the same from them this year. Generally bad teams and teams that play at a fast pace are going to give up a lot of fantasy points.


Out of the four major American sports, the NBA may have the most subjective stat keeping around. While Home/Away matters a lot in all sports, it matters the most in the NBA, where favorable home stat keepers can help any players cause. This is especially true for point guards, as assists are the most subjective of all stats. Being at home also helps in the foul department, as six fouls will cause a player to foul out of the game, something that happens more often than you think for big men. A guy like Demarcus Cousins is almost unplayable on the road because of his foul issues, but is a much safer play at home where referees are more liberal.


  • Daily Fantasy NFL can seem like the only sport worth playing but NBA is quite similar and a lot of fun.
  • Lineup and scoring systems are pretty similar on DraftKings and FanDuel.
  • Playing time is important because in order to get a statistic you need to be on the floor. More minutes = more fantasy points.
  • Injuries are the most important consideration when making lineups. You need to keep a close eye on day to day injuries and game time decisions to avoid playing injured players but also to find good value through injury impact.
  • Rookies and young emerging stars can be good value early in the season as pricing algorithms have a tough time with poor or nonexistent previous year stats.
  • Matchups are important when determining player value. Mostly, you should look at Over/Under lines to determine how good a matchup is, but also keep in mind bad teams who play at a fast pace tend to give up the most fantasy points.
  • Home court advantage is an extra boost because NBA has a lot of subjective stat keeping. This is especially true for assists, so be inclined to target point guards at home.


Some NBA Strategy Articles on DFW:

Don’t target Spurs players when they are big favorites

Injury impact for non-replacements

Why blowouts are favorable for the winning team, especially big men


View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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