By Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) can seem overwhelming at first glance. There are a ton of contests to choose from and no drafting involved, which is unusual for those used to year-long fantasy. But DFS can be picked up quickly and is a great alternative to the commitment of longer leagues. Most sites that offer DFS have slightly different formats, and it’s important to understand how things are done on Yahoo.
There are two main types of contests to join: Tournaments and 50/50s, often referred to as GPPs (Grand Prize Pools) and/or Cash Games. In 50/50s, as long as your fantasy team’s score places in the top 50 percent, you’re awarded double your entry fee. These are lower-risk, lower-reward contests. As such, it’s typically best to roster lower-risk, lower-reward players. Play it safe — there’s no extra money on the table for finishing in first place.
A smaller percentage of fantasy owners win money in tournaments, but a bigger score nets you more money. Ultimately, the owner with the highest score earns the most cash. You’ll have to take some risks in order to be in contention for the grand prize. You can join a 50/50 and a tournament with two entirely different rosters and end up successful in both.
Building A Lineup
Once you pick a contest to join, it’s time to construct your team. Yahoo allots each fantasy owner $200 to construct a team of eight players (PG, SG, G, SF, PF, F, C, UTIL). Each player has a different salary which can, and will, fluctuate throughout the season based on performance and/or opportunity.
The scoring is as follows: Points (1), rebounds (1.2), assists (1.5), steals (3), blocks (3), turnovers (-1). Field goal, three-point and free throw percentages do not affect players’ scores. Therefore, it’s usually a good idea to roster volume shooters and players with a high usage. Turnovers being less harmful than assists also benefits point guards like Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who can often rack up high turnover numbers in addition to their assists.
The most important variable to be cognizant of when constructing a lineup is injuries. For example, if Steven Adams is ruled out after morning shootaround, reserve center Nerlens Noel is a near-lock to see a significant uptick in minutes. However, Noel will likely be at his usual price, allowing you to get great value if you start him. You can use the saved money to invest in better players, ultimately giving your team a higher ceiling. Some players will be designated as questionable right up until nearly tipoff. In general, it’s safest to avoid those players, especially in 50/50s. Taking the risk in a tournament has the ability to pay off, but is still very risky.
Pay attention to individual matchups. LeBron James and Kevin Durant may be similarly priced on a given day.
Obviously both players have massive upside, but how do you go about choosing which to use? If LeBron is playing against the Kings, who are expected to be near the bottom of the standings this season, and Durant is playing against the Rockets, who gave the Warriors trouble in the Western Conference Finals last year, it may be better to roster LeBron. There’s a higher chance of Durant having a poor outing and hurting your team’s chances of victory. The same logic can be used for players across all prices.
Pace of play is also important. More possessions means more potential for stats. A matchup with an over/under of 220.5 (something like Nets/Bulls, for example) should provide more total fantasy points than a game with an over/under of 194.5 (Spurs/Grizzlies, for instance). It’s also important to realize when a slow-paced team is facing off against a fast-paced team. If the Pelicans (fast) play against the Grizzlies (slow), Pelicans players are likely to post fewer fantasy points than usual, while Grizzlies players gain an advantage as the pace of play typically finds a medium between the two contrasting styles.
Some DFS users like to build more balanced lineups, while other opt for a “stars-and-scrubs” approach, with a few top-tier players and many lower-end risks. Both strategies can be viable, but you shouldn’t necessarily lock yourself into one every day. On a day where there are a myriad of injuries, a stars-and-scrubs approach happens almost by default. On a day where there’s only a few games and virtually no significant injuries, it may help to go balanced. The most important thing is trying to get the most value out of every dollar you spend.