How to Get Started With Daily Fantasy Basketball

Daily fantasy basketball has a lot of similarities with
season-long fantasy basketball. If you’ve entered season-long
contests before, then you should have no problem picking up the
daily version of the hobby. In some ways, however, it’s an
entirely new and different game.

One of the main perks of daily fantasy contests is that they
require much less commitment and time than a season-long league.
Another perk is the amount of money you can win in such a short
period of time. They are also readily available, as there are
plenty of easy to join daily fantasy sites where you can choose
from a large selection of different contests.

The aim of this page is to offer advice for getting started.
We do that by explaining how these daily contests work, and
looking at the differences between them and the season-long
version. We also offer some strategy tips for beginners.

Scoring Points in Daily Fantasy Basketball

The first goal is to learn how points are scored in daily
fantasy basketball. In this respect, it closely resembles the
season-long version of the sport. Different sites have different
scoring structures, but they all share similarities. When you
approach any game, the first piece of data you need is how to
win—in fantasy basketball, players win by scoring more points
than their opponents.

As in other fantasy sports, points are tied directly to your
players’ performance each week. In daily fantasy basketball, the
players on the court score points for just about everything they
do—this includes scoring, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and

Top Tip

We’ll get into more detail about it later, but one
of the crucial aspects of effective strategy in this hobby is
chasing minutes. Since players make points for almost everything
they do, getting players in the lineup who spend a lot of time
on the court makes a big difference in the final score of every

You’ll want to check the exact scoring structure at whichever
site(s) you decide to play at, but here are a couple of examples
from two major sites.

Example 1

  • Each point scored by a player is worth 1 point.
  • Each 3 point shot gets a 1.5 point bonus.
  • A rebound is worth 1.25 points.
  • An assist is worth 1.5 points.
  • A steal is worth 2 points.
  • A block is worth 2 points.
  • A turnover is worth -0.5 points.
  • A double-double score 1.5 points.
  • A triple-double scores 3 points.

Example 2

  • A 3 point field goal is worth 3 points.
  • A 2 point field goal is worth 2 points.
  • A free throw is worth 1 point.
  • Rebounds are worth 1.2 points.
  • Assists are worth +1.5 points.
  • Blocks and steals are both worth 2 points.
  • Turnovers are -1 point.

Other sites might have slightly different rules for scoring,
but they mostly share the same principles. No matter where you
play, please familiarize yourself with the scoring rules before
playing as that will affect your drafting and lineup strategy.

Lineups & Salary Caps

In most season-long fantasy sports, participants attend a
draft at the beginning of the season. The managers select
players when it’s their turn in the draft, and once a player is
chosen, he’s removed from the pool of available players. Since
the point of daily fantasy basketball is speed, that aspect of
the game changes. You can draft the same players as your

In fact, you might even have the same lineup as your

Smart players might think that a lot of people would just
choose all of the best players each week, so you’d have a lot of
ties. But that’s where the salary cap comes in. To make things
interesting, you’re given an in-game budget—a salary cap—with
which to draft players.

The site assigns a salary to each player based on their
performance in previous games and their projected performance in
the upcoming games. Your goal is to get the most production for
your money. That’s called finding value, and we’ll discuss that
more in the next section.

Understand that your salary cap doesn’t represent real money
in any way. It’s like Monopoly money—it’s an in-game limitation
to make the game interesting. So no matter what the buy-in for
the contest is, you get the same salary cap as your opponent.
You can’t pay extra real money in order to get more salary

The amount of money you get for your team varies based on
site, although somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 is common.
The sites also have different rules for how many players you can
draft and at which positions. Here’s an example of what your
roster must consist of at one site.

  • 2 x Point Guards
  • 2 x Shooting Guards
  • 2 x Small Forwards
  • 2 x Power forwards
  • 1 x Center

Here’s another example, from a different site.

  • Point guard
  • Shooting guard
  • Small forward
  • Power forward
  • Center
  • Guard
  • Forward
  • Utility

As usual, other sites will have different lineups available,
based on their own scoring rules. But they’re all pretty

Finding Value

Players win at daily fantasy basketball by finding value. In
a season-long league, you do this by drafting players who should
have been drafted earlier but were neglected. In a daily
contest, you do this by drafting players who are going to score
more points relative to how much of your salary cap you have to
spend on them.

Daily fantasy basketball players measure value in terms of
how much each point costs. You can calculate this for each
player, but you can also calculate it for the entire team in
aggregate. Most players calculate this twice—once when they’re
projecting their team’s points for the week, and again when
they’re looking at the actual results.

For example, if a fantasy basketball team scores 100 points
on a $50,000 salary cap, you spent $50,000/100, or $500 per
point. If your opponent scores 200 points on the same salary
cap, he only spent $250 per point. When thinking about who to
draft, how many points you project that the player is going to
score compared to his salary is the critical element in that
decision-making process.

Here’s an example.

  • You really like Russell Westbrook, and want to draft him
    for your team.
  • You project that he’s going to score 60 points, and his
    salary is $12,000.
  • You’re paying $200 per point for that player.
  • You also like Brook Lopez.
  • You project that he’s going to score 50 points, and his
    salary is only $8000.
  • You’re only paying $160 per points for him, so he
    represents a better value.

Why wouldn’t you just draft the player who’s projected to
score the most points in each position? The problem is that you
can’t—you don’t have enough money to do that. In the above
example, Russell Westbrook is eating up almost 25% of the
budget, but he’s only 12.5% of your team. You still have to
budget for the other 8 players.

How does one project points for players? How does one find
value? Figuring out the answers to those questions is the whole
point of the game. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can
do this.

Watch The Games

One of the obvious methods is to follow basketball in real
life. Watch the games. Know how well each team is expected to do
against their opponents.

Chances are, you’re a fan of basketball already—if not, why
get started in this hobby? But if you’re not a fan now, or if
you’re only a casual fan, you’ll find that playing daily fantasy
basketball is a great way to get more interested in the actual
games. You’ll naturally become more mindful of what’s happening
in the sport.

Use The Vegas Lines

Another important piece of the “finding value” equation is
watching the lines that the Las Vegas sportsbooks are setting on
the games. The’re the pros. They’re better at handicapping
games and projecting scores than anyone else. Use their skills
to inform your own decisions.

Keep Records

A lot of players keep spreadsheets to track their projections
for their players. They include a column for the $/point cost of
each player and for the team overall. After the game, they
analyze how well their players and their team did relative to
their projections.

Tracking these details will make you a better informed
player. We only improve at skills we practice, but we also only
improve when we track and measure performance. Want to get good
at projecting scores? Track your results.

Study The Competition

You also want to look at the results on the site where you’re
playing. You can get a good idea of what kind of average score
you have to put up in order to win the various contests
available. That can inform your decisions, too—it will help you
decide which contests to enter. It will also help you set a
target score for your team.

Suppose you draft a team that you project is going to make
200 points, and they only make 140 points. Then you enter
another contest, and you project 200 points for this new lineup,
and they also only make 140 points. Finally, you enter a contest
and project 200 points for a lineup, and you get a lot
closer—180 points.

Seeing that in black and white can be motivating. But you can
also look at individual players on each of your lineups and see
where your thought process is going wrong.

Keep in mind, though, that projecting player scores isn’t an
exact science, anyway. The best handicappers in the world are
still wrong almost half the time. But that extra 5% to 10% of
the time that they’re right makes all the difference in the
world to how much money they make.

Freerolls & Low Buy-In Contests

We always suggest that beginners get started with freerolls.
These are contests that offer cash prizes but have no entry fee.
Most major sites offer freerolls to new players and as rewards
to players who bring a lot of action to the table. Taking
advantage of these is a risk-free way to learn how to play.

Find contests with low buy-ins, too. We’ve played in many
daily fantasy basketball contests which only had a $1 entry fee.
With an entry fee that low, you can experiment with a lot of
different lineup strategies without taking on a lot of risk.
Winning a few of these free and low-stakes contests is also a
great confidence builder.

Don’t stay away from the higher buy-in contests if you’re
already confident and eager to get some money into action. You
might get lucky and do really well from the beginning. A lot of
it depends on your tolerance for risk.

Daily Fantasy Basketball Contest Types

All daily fantasy sports contests can be categorized as cash
games or tournaments. The terminology comes from the world of
poker, but there are clear differences. Your goals will
determine which contests you enter.

How Cash Games Work

Cash games include head-to-head contests and 50/50
tournaments. These are also sometimes called “double-ups”.
That’s something of a misnomer, as you don’t really double your
money when winning one of these. Here’s a quick rundown of how
they work.

  • You enter a contest with another player (or multiple
    other players).
  • Assuming that everyone is average, you’ll win 50% of the
  • The prize for winning comes from the losing players.
  • The site takes a commission from the entry fees.

Here’s a simple example of a head-to-head contest and how it
pays out.

  • You play a contest with one other player
  • The entry fee is $1.
  • Total of entry fees is $2.
  • The prize pool is $1.80.
  • If you win, you ALMOST double your money.
  • The other 20 is the site’s commission for hosting the

In a 50/50 contest, you might be in a contest with 100
players. The players with scores landing in the top 50% win the
money from the players in the bottom 50%, less the commission.
So if you pay $1 to enter, so do all of your opponents. That
means there’s $100 in the pot. The site pays the top 50 players
$1.80 each, for a total payout of $90.

For players who aspire to make a living at this hobby, cash
games are their bread and butter. These would-be professionals
are counting on their skills at finding value being better than
their opponents’.

It’s harder than one might think to make a profit with these
games, though. The commission means that you have to win 55.56%
of the time just to break even. Every 1% added to your win rate
increases your ROI (return on investment).

Professional daily fantasy sports players look at these cash
games as an investment with a positive ROI. They grind out small
wins over the course of a season. They rely on compound interest
to grow their bankroll to a point where they’re making a lot of

But almost all players also take advantage of the other type
of contests available—tournaments.

How Tournaments Work

In tournaments, multiple players enter, but only the top 10%
or 20% (or some other arbitrary number) get paid. You might
spend $5 to enter a tournament with a large playing field of
1,000 players. You have the opportunity in that situation to win
as much as $1,000 or $750 on that $5 buy-in.

The best kinds of tournaments to enter are those with
guaranteed prize pools (GPPs). Most tournaments base their prize
pool on the number of entrants multiplied by the entry fee. For
example, if 1,000 people pay $5 to enter a contest, the prize
pool is $5,000 less the site’s commission, or $4,500.

But in a tournament with a guaranteed prize pool, that prize
amount is guaranteed even if too few players sign up. The
website puts up the additional money for the prize pool. In the
above example, if only 800 people buy in to the contest with the
guaranteed prize pool, you’re basically playing for dead money.
It’s like having 200 extra people sign up for the contest, all
of whom score 0.

A guaranteed prize pool tournament with too few players is
called an overlay situation. Your goal should be to get involved
in overlays every chance you get.

The Importance of Chasing Minutes

During a basketball game, only 5 people from a team are on
the court at any given time. Every time someone has possession,
they almost always score something. The only hope of scoring a
lot of points is to put players on the roster who are going to
spend a lot of time on the court.

If you follow the Vegas lines as we recommended earlier, you
can look for games that are expected to be close. Combine this
with teams who don’t have a lot of players. In fact, if you can
get starting players from teams that only have 8 or 9 available
players, you can do very well. Injuries make a lot of players
unavailable for certain teams in certain games, so targeting
those teams helps line up players who will almost certainly get
a lot of time on the court.


Daily fantasy basketball is an exciting and fun way to enjoy
the sport of basketball as more of a participant than other
spectators. You can also win money at it. Getting started
involves learning the scoring system and projecting value for
the players you line up.

Chasing minutes is the best strategy for daily fantasy
basketball players. Since almost every possession results in a
scoring opportunity, making sure that your players get a lot of
playing time is a key to success.