NBA DFS Lineup Study: 3 Takeaways From Top Pros

Each morning, I spend time doing lineup study, leveraging the Stokastic Post-Contest Sims to learn from the prior night’s slate. This is the single most important part of my process and has led to a lot of success for me this NBA season. This process consists of reviewing my own lineups, taking a look at the field’s exposures compared to 150-maxers and doing a deep dive on the lineups of 20 or so pros that I follow closely that have a strong, repeatable process. In this series of articles, I will uncover daily learnings from my NBA DFS lineup study process.

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First, congrats to Stokastic CEO Tom Kennedy on taking down the top prize by nearly a 10-point margin.

Tom’s winning lineup was the perfect example of balancing chalk with lower owned pivots – a strategy that nearly all pros leverage to find themselves at the top of leaderboards. Both Nikola Vucevic and Jarrett Allen were popular options at the center spot last night, but Tom went to a similarly priced Kyle Kuzma at a massive ownership discount, which turned out to be a key to his success.

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NBA DFS Lineup Study: 3 Takeaways From Top Pros

Lesson No. 1: Late swap is absolutely critical to success

Taylor Hendricks (Utah power forward) was announced as a surprise starter late last night and wound up in seven of the top 10 lineups in the main contest on DraftKings. Despite being a mediocre fantasy producer, at $3,100 and starting, he represented a strong value play. Hendricks was rostered in over 20% of lineups constructed by 150-maxers while only being in around 1% of lineups for non-150-maxers. This delta was the largest on the slate between the two groups and really drives home the importance of late swap – it is fundamental to the success of all top pros.

Lesson No. 2: Do not be afraid of good chalk

Last night, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley were clear “good” chalk. Despite Garland’s slow start, both players ended up in many lineups at the top of the leaderboard, with Garland being in Tom’s $100,000-winning lineup. However, the field did not play these players as aggressively as pros did: Garland’s ownership from 150-maxers was 67% (only 33% for non-150-maxers); Mobley came in at 43% for 150-maxers and 21% for non. Both of these deltas were in the top 5 for largest between the two groups on the slate. More importantly, they represent a trend I’ve noticed this year: There’s no reason to be afraid of playing good chalk as long as it is properly balanced by lower-owned plays. Individual player exposure is far less important than total lineup construction and the ownership product produced. Case in point: See Tom’s winning lineup above.

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Lesson No. 3: There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for portfolio construction

Looking closely at the lineups of top pros, there are certainly common themes — as described above — but certain successful players deviate. Choosing where to deviate is all about honing your own process and is also based on risk tolerance. As a concrete example, let’s look at Garland’s exposure last night:

  • Recall, 67% for 150-maxers across the board
  • Certain pros has 90%+ exposure: JoshEngleman, youdacao, ImnotNavT, just to name a few
  • On the other hand, others took an underweight stance compared to other pros: dacoltz, (39%) papagates (12%), hishboo (27%)

Clearly, these are all highly successful NBA DFS players, and analyzing their strategies in light of the results of last night is a fool’s errand. They do not let results-oriented thinking bias their processes.

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