Who are the best players to target for your Daily Fantasy NBA lineups? That often depends on who is in position to play a lot of minutes.
Obviously, players can't rack up fantasy points while they're on the bench, so it's vital to assess various factors that might relate to their playing time before selecting anyone for your DFS lineups.
Of course, these guys don't get credit for simply being on the floor, so you also want to consider how involved they are offensively. Read about how to balance those factors in our latest NBA DFS strategy piece.
The most important factor to consider while selecting NBA lineups is injury news. Players are constantly sitting out contests with knee, ankle, back injuries, or even the flu during this winter sport, which provides the opportunity for other guys to step up on their teams.
If you aren't going to be able to periodically check injury news right up until game-time (or several hours after first tip on DFS sites with late swap), you should probably limit your exposure on a given night, because other owners are going to use that news to derive an advantage.
When a backup PG gets the opportunity to start, their price tag could be in the minimum range, which obviously opens up a lot of salary to use throughout the rest of your lineup. Backup PFs can see a huge bump in playing time if a center sits, and there is something of a trickle-down effect to consider when a star that is usually a high-volume shooter sits.
For example, when Carmelo Anthony missed Tuesday's game against the Thunder, nearly every Knicks player on the roster saw an increase in usage. This resulted in not just Lance Thomas and Derrick Williams exceeding value at the SF position, but Langston Galloway (39.25 DK points over 33 minutes) and Arron Afflalo (25.75 DK points over 40 minutes) exceeding value as SGs on the Knicks roster.
By thinking outside of the box and using players that aren't direct injury replacements, you could find the sleeper play that you need to cash big in GPP formats.
A player may get the opportunity to start, but how can you be sure that they do enough offensively to exceed the value of their price tag? With a PG, that's usually a safe bet, unless they play in an offense (Spurs for example) where assists tend to come from all over the floor and not necessarily from that position.
There is also a chance that a fill-in PG plays with a ball-dominant teammate such as James Harden, which can seriously diminish their usage.
So, how do you know which players are going to get their opportunities?
Check Basketball-Reference.com for advanced statistics that can help you determine a players involvement on offense. Usage Rate refers to the percentage of time a player winds up taking a field goal on a given possession while they're on the floor. Assist Rate refers to the percentage that they assist on a made field goal. There are also rebounding rates, turnover rates, and averages per 36 minutes which can be used to project how a player might fare when given a full slate of playing time.
Consider Game Flow
A bump in minutes doesn't always come from injuries. The best way to hit it big with a tournament lineup is to accurately predict which game will go down to the wire as a high-scoring affair, or even head into OT to provide bonus production.
By checking game lines and point totals according to Vegas, you can try to find these contests on a full slate of NBA action, and stack two or three of players with high Usage Rates on both teams in GPP formats.
Game flow can also prove critical when choosing which stars you don't want to play. Obviously, if a team is favored by 15+ points (as the Warriors usually are at home), the starters in that game could play fewer than 30 minutes. Steph Curry is averaging 8 fewer DK PPG and 7 fewer PPG at home at this point in the season because his team is often ahead down the stretch.
If you feel confident about a game turning into a blowout, you can even role with some of the reserves on the winning team and hope that they meet value during "garbage time" once the game is already decided in the fourth quarter.
Scheduling and Other Extenuating Circumstances
Every bit of NBA news can be considered when building DFS lineups. If a coach praises a players' effort on the bench, that player could see a spike in playing time the next time out. If a player is criticized by his teammates, he might step up in the following contest to show his leadership.
Sometimes its a superstars' birthday, its their "bobblehead night" at the arena, or they're facing a former team with something to prove. Anytime you believe that these circumstances will increase a players' motivation as they head into a game that is "circled on their calendar" you should feel more confident about them exceeding value while playing big minutes.
Scheduling is clearly tied to playing time and often to results in the NBA. When a team is playing its 5th game in 7 nights, they're going to struggle defensively, and starters on that team could see limited minutes. Many successful teams will simply rest their veterans in some of those games, which opens up opportunities for players who have been on the bench a lot during that hectic schedule.
When teams are on the second half of a B2B set, very few superstars put together big games in consecutive nights. Make sure you consider the context of their schedule before choosing which studs to play in your lineups, and if you believe that those horses need a break on a given night against a poor team (Lakers or Sixers for example), feel free to roll with their backups as value plays.