Tuesday is our first two-game slate of the NBA playoffs, and I must say I’m excited for the change. That is not just because it marks the end of 10 a.m. PST NBA DFS lock times for me in Los Angeles, although that doesn’t suck. But we get some dynamic shifts in pricing, roster construction and game theory to account for.
So let’s get to it. This is today’s Slate Starter for Tuesday’s main slate on DraftKings and FanDuel.
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NBA DFS Short-Slate Strategy
If you take anything away from reading this article, make it this: The easiest way to be contrarian on any DFS slate is leaving salary on the table. It’s as simple as that.
Let’s take a look at an example for Tuesday. While building a dummy GPP lineup by hand on DraftKings, I’ve come across a particular build I’m fond of that has $6,400 in salary left over for my final guard spot. Here are the next four options listed I could click on, accompanied by salary and my current projections for each:
Lou Williams — $6,400 (29.98)
Tim Hardaway Jr .– $5,800 (30.01)
Jordan Clarkson — $5,200 (23.87)
Joe Ingles — $5,100 (29.01)
So, I’ve built a lineup I’m extremely happy with, and now Williams coming off a monster 34-minute, 50.5-fantasy-point outing in Game 3 fits perfectly as a last piece in. What a slam dunk, right?
Wrong. I’d be willing to bet that if you put this particular lineup into a contest of 20,000-plus entries and finished it off with Williams (which uses up all $50,000 of your salary), you’re looking at splitting the top prize with hundreds of other lineups as a best-case scenario. That would be fine and dandy if you could guarantee it would be the winner, but spoiler alert, you can’t.
However, if you went with Ingles in this particular NBA DFS build and left $1,300 on the table, your chances of having that same lineup duplicated are practically zero … and it’s not like it’s infinitely less likely to occur. After all, I have less than a one fantasy-point difference between the two plays.
Take a lineup you’re in love with that zeroes out the salary, make a pivot somewhere for significantly less salary and voila — you have a unique lineup capable of winning the big bucks.
That’s All I Have To Do?
I’m telling you, that’s all you have to — well, no, it’s not.
Out of all the major sports, I’ve found leaving salary on the table in NBA DFS the most difficult to do. This is purely because basketball is a low-variance sport. Compared to other sports, players’ salaries are far more indicative of what their actual production should be. In other words, the higher the salary, the higher the predicted fantasy output with a tighter range of outcomes.
So in the Williams/Ingles example above, by not using the $1,300 in remaining salary, I’m forgoing $1,300 in expected NBA DFS production I could more than likely use to upgrade a position elsewhere. Add in that the main sites now have a three-game sample size for each series to base their pricing off of for tomorrow, and you’re looking at even more accurate player salaries than normal.
Still, as ridiculous as it may feel to leave $1,000 or more on the table in a low-variance sport, it’s even more ridiculous to fire a lineup that has $0 of salary remaining and has more chalk than a kindergarten classroom. So be bold, be unique and be borderline-laughable with your builds tomorrow. Whatever it takes to be different is fine by me.
I had an inclination that Luka Doncic would give it a go for a must-win Game 4 on Saturday, but I thought there’d be no way he’d be 100%. Hence, I convinced myself it was Kristaps Porzingis Day, when in fact it was Late-Scratch-Kristaps-Porzingis-After-Lock Day. I didn’t feel much like celebrating.
So it’s only fitting that the only big piece of injury news on this slate revolves around the 7-foot-3 big man once more, as he’s listed as a game-time decision. If Porzingis gives it a go, he’d instantly become the best tournament play on the slate, and would render plays like Maxi Kleber less useful and Boban Marjanovic near obsolete.
But if he sits (wouldn’t that be fun) and we get the news ahead of time (wouldn’t that be something), the entire Mavericks playoff rotation would become the best source of value on the slate. Trey Burke saw the start in Game 4 and would instantly be my favorite piece to next to Doncic. But everyone besides Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who played last game, would be viable in NBA DFS.
Final Thoughts for Your NBA DFS Lineups
Keep in mind the Mavericks – Clippers game is the second one of the night, so unless the Porzingis news comes out before the Jazz – Nuggets tip-off at 6:30 p.m. EST, we’re going to have to make some ballsy stands. I still feel the burn from Saturday, but I’d slightly lean on him sitting again. And if he does play, the prices on the Mavericks aren’t exorbitant enough that they couldn’t still get there..
Enjoy a quiet morning, my friends, and see you back here tomorrow for another edition of the Slate Starter!
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