How to Actually Find Value in DFS NBA

Daily fantasy is primarily a game of uncovering value—when expected production exceeds cost. It’s a simple idea, but there are obviously many complexities in doing it in the right way.

Value isn’t all that matters, especially in tournaments, but the degree to which you should be price-sensitive is related to predictability; the more often you can expect underpriced players to provide value—the most consistent the sport—the more price-sensitive you should be.

And there’s no sport that is more predictable on a nightly basis than basketball. Mike Trout goes 0-for-5 sometimes. Calvin Johnson occasionally has just a couple catches. But, unless injured, LeBron and Steph never have near-zero-point fantasy performances. The range of potential outcomes for basketball players is much, much smaller than in most other sports.

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Even in tournaments, where ownership on certain players can get high, price-sensitivity matters a lot. Thus, the importance of identifying underpriced players in daily fantasy basketball is massive—more so than in baseball or football, for sure. You can’t be contrarian if a sport is perfectly predictable. Basketball isn’t of course 100 percent predictable, but since it falls at the more predictable end of the spectrum, it follows that value matters more than ownership, at least relative to other sports.

Which Metrics Matter?

In daily fantasy sports, we use stats to help find value. There’s two ways to think about how valuable a stat might be for you as a player.

The first is how well it predicts performance, which is obviously one part of assessing player value. This is the typical way that stats are used, and it’s why DFS players tend to favor advanced analytics; they are more predictive than most basic stats. Ultimately, stats that don’t help us predict anything are trivia.

The second way a stat has value—and the aspect of analyzing value that I think is most overlooked—is to what degree a daily fantasy site is pricing it into their player salaries. DraftKings and FanDuel have algorithms to help them predict performance and set salaries. Presumably, they value a lot of the same stuff, to varying degrees, and some stuff that’s different.

There’s a lot that goes into identifying value, but figuring out how sites price certain stats into salaries is one of the most important and ignored facets.

Vegas Lines

Let me give you an example using the Vegas lines. The Vegas lines clearly have predictive value. Teams projected to score 110 points score more than those projected at 100 points over the long run. Vegas is good.

But guess what? While the Vegas lines might not be properly factored into site pricing in other sports, they’re very much accounted for in basketball. Here’s a look at value above expectation for all players on DraftKings based on the Vegas-implied team total.

There are some ups and downs near the edges—due to smaller samples—but for the most part, value hovers around zero (meaning we know DraftKings is accounting for the Vegas lines in their pricing, at least indirectly).
And we see the same at FanDuel.

Almost the exact same thing.

Thus, the Vegas-implied team total is an example of a metric that clearly has predictive value, but not usable value for daily fantasy basketball purposes; it’s priced into site salaries. Players in projected high-scoring games cost the most money as a whole.

And in fact, there’s actually a small amount of negative value in the Vegas lines. That is, DraftKings and FanDuel overdo it a bit with the lines to the point that the most value tends to be with players on teams projected to score the fewest points.

I think this concept of theoretical versus actual value is really important when talking about DFS value. We want stats that are predictive, but even more important, we want to emphasize stats that aren’t priced into player salaries, i.e. those the sites don’t care about enough.

This Course

This course is designed to help you identify some of those numbers. And some of them might surprise you.

In all sports, I tend to emphasize stats, analytics, or traits that others deem as minor. A big part of the reason for that is because the “big stuff”—like the Vegas lines—is either priced into salaries or into public opinion; you can’t gain a big edge by utilizing it, even if it’s super important in terms of predicting performance.

My goal is to help you identify which stats are and which stats are not priced into daily fantasy site prices so you can transcend theoretical value into the realm of usable value—so you can actually find value in daily fantasy basketball.

In Bales’ How To Actually Find Value In Daily Fantasy Basketball, you’ll learn:

• Introduction and the Meaning of Value
• Value on DraftKings vs FanDuel: Know the Difference
• Using Advanced Stats
• Understanding Recent Performance
• Salary Movement and the Effect on Value

Want to keep reading? Purchase the course and learn from the best!

RotoAcademy offers one-of-a-kind, data-driven content to help you win.

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About the Author

  • Jon Bales (JonBales)

  • Jonathan Bales is the founder of RotoAcademy and author of the Fantasy Sports for Smart People book series.


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