NBA DFS: Stacking, Stars, Scrubs and Success

I've been paying close attention to NBA DFS this year, playing almost on a nightly basis, and trying most to educate myself on the trends the sharks are picking up on.

Last night we saw an enormous 12 game slate leading up to the All Star break in which DFS has suddenly become a desolate place for the next few days, with no major leagues currently running save for the NHL: which I admittedly know next to nothing about.

I had a very clear plan for cash games last night: Identify the value and build a consistent lineup. The problem was I didn't quite select the right value plays. I still managed to cash in the DK Big $5 Double Up, but it was pretty tight. I finished a mere 2 points above the rake.

One thing I noticed in watching the scoring unfold throughout the night was a common theme among some of the big time players. I love checking out the lineups of guys like ehafner, DraftCheat, ChipotleAddict, etc. So it struck me as a little puzzling why these guys were stacking Philadelphia players last night. Jerami Grant seemed like a good value play with late news breaking that Nerlens Noel would be out. But I happened to notice DraftCheat went with a 4 Sixer stack. Ish Smith, Grant, Okafor, and Robert Covington. The strategy obviously paid off, when coupled with a big money play like James Harden.

So why, on a night when you have 24 rosters to delve into, do you decide to stack 4 players from the league's worst team? My main inkling is opponent. The Kings have been especially horrible defensively over their past few games, allowing about 1.13 points per possession.

We also have some game theory at play here. if you watch/listen to the Rotogrinders content (which you absolutely should) there is a new segment in which JMtoWin and others are discussing game theory. In the initial episode, JM talked about stacking teams when a high-usage player is out with an injury. He surmises that when a high-usage player misses a game, the production missing from that player gets spread out among other players.

This is interesting because we usually think of one player or maybe two benefiting from an injury (namely whoever enters the starting lineup in his place) but we also should think of the slack being picked up by the rest of the team rather than his replacement.

Take into consideration when the Knicks are without Carmelo Anthony. Derrick Williams may become a better value play, but Carmelo's expected production isn't going to be filled by Derrick Williams alone. It may be that instead of just Derrick Williams, Arron Afflalo, Langston Galloway, Lance Thomas, and Kristaps Porzingis will have to do more work on offense to make up for Melo's absence.

So where can we go to investigate which players perform better when X player isn't on the court? is a free query tool that allows you to do just that. Swap X player for Y player and browse the results.

Getting back to last night's slate, I found myself putting together a stars/scrubs lineup for GPP and a "consistency" lineup for cash. Here is a look at how both fared.

Both lineups cashed, but you can see the differences between them clearly. The Cash model lineup has a pretty standard mid-level construction. I added Anthony Tolliver as a value play which allowed me to pay up for Andre Drummond. While Jeff Teague and Jeff Green were able to get past value, Kyle Lowry, Stanley Johnson, and Rodney Hood underperformed. The median average of this "consistency" lineup produced barely enough points to earn the green.

Now on the GPP side, we see a patented stars and scrubs construction. All we're looking for here is bargain basement players coupled with high-priced producers. The theory being if the scrubs can just hit minimum value, if the stars hit their value or approach high ceiling, you'll find enough points to cash.

Here I had Cousins and Harden as my main "studs". I also wanted to get Andre Drummond in at $8000 because I felt he had 50 point potential against Denver. Drummond hasn't been putting up huge numbers lately, so it felt like a good time to buy while his price was low. Anthony Tolliver and Ray McCallum were my bargain basement picks, and I went with Tim Duncan as a contrarian play (0.5% owned). McCallum and Shabazz Muhammad combined for only 23 DK points, which usually would sink a lineup, but Harden, Cousins, and Drummond combined for 175 points. Duncan, Tolliver, and Lavine did just enough to put me in the green here. It is important to note that this was a smaller single-entry GPP, which means this lineup definitely wouldn't have cashed in larger multi-entry GPPs.

The point here is it is tough to put a lineup together on any given night. You have to understand your slate. Identify the value, and identify the studs in good spots. I failed to identify the value last night for the most part, but identifying the studs was good enough to cover me.

Until Next Time,

-- DF

Derek Finley

Existing in a world of psychotic monkeys. Writing about sports for passion. Thirsting for knowledge and beer.