DFS Strategy: NBA Optimizers

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How can you take advantage of lineup optimizers? Use players you like on a given night, like LeBron

Football is the undisputed DFS Prom King, but in terms of the truly daily sports, nothing approaches the popularity of the NBA. On the major sites, you will find the head-to-head lobby filled with players from the micro-stakes all the way up to the five-figure buy-ins. The GPP and 50/50 lobbies are stuffed with huge fields at every level, from the quarter arcade on DraftKings to the nosebleeds.

The draws of NBA DFS are obvious. Unlike MLB, NHL, and even NFL contests, an NBA DFS player gets the enjoyment and stimulation of seeing his score constantly creeping higher. Even a 60-point deficit can be overcome with one player remaining if all breaks well.

In contests such as hockey and baseball, there is a point, often early on in the slate, where it is beyond question that you will not be cashing that day. Due to the sheer number of points scored by any NBA DFS roster, the feeling (part reality, part illusion) is that anything is still possible much deeper into a standard hoops tourney, and, after all, entertainment is what most are after in the first place.

One opponent to the DFS gamer is the abundance of research sites that contain “optimizers.” For those who are unaware, an optimizer is a tool that uses statistics and players’ nightly salaries to calculate the optimal lineup you can roster given your salary cap. A very significant number of your opponents are using these tools and you will often see large numbers of entries in one block move up or down the leaderboard as a result.

A casual player’s mindset is, “I have a job and am way too busy to dig into everything myself, so this at least gives me a shot at rostering a competitive lineup that isn’t the product of a total fish.” They also see these trains pass them at times and become frustrated. NBA nightly performances have far lower variance than hockey or baseball, which makes the optimizers more accurate and makes the desire to use them more prevalent.

Another problem with this is that NBA news changes throughout the day. A player who is projected to put up a big game when Jimmy Lunchbox pressed “optimize” at 11am may not be such a hot proposition by the 7pm lineup lock. Perhaps a top defensive player who was out with general soreness has now been declared active and is going to be guarding your optimizer hero. Perhaps your hero’s teammate, who leads the team in shots, has been declared active at 5pm. The list goes on and on, and these things all make the plays of optimizers and random social media touts less-than-optimal.

Knowing the reality of the NBA DFS landscape we are venturing into on a nightly basis, how do we use it to succeed? Luckily, GPPs favor the well-placed bit of contrarianism, which you will always have a measure of by definition when bypassing crutches like touts and optimizers.

If you follow the game nightly, you do not necessarily need hours of daily research to succeed. You will have a basic understanding of the way teams generally play. This along with keeping tabs on late breaking news will not guarantee you anything in and of itself, but it will over time put you ahead of the mindless optimizer monkeys.

If you are determined to use an optimizer on a given night, do not take what it spits out and cut-and-paste it. Simply having a couple of players who you like that night who will be a bit under-the-radar will allow you to lock them in when using the optimizer so that it will spit out remaining plays around those guys. You just put yourself ahead of every other optimizer user who doesn’t think for themselves.

Nothing beats putting in your own work, however, and using a lineup completely independent of the opinions of others, be it man or machine, might decrease your min-cash percentage, but if you are a sharp player, your ROI will tell a nicer story.

Now, take what you’ve learned and sign up for DraftKings and sign up for FanDuel.