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NBA DFS Strategies for 2020 Restart and Playoffs - FanDuel, DraftKings Daily Fantasy

The return of the NBA is rapidly approaching and it looks like we are going to have several months to play NBA DFS! It's been over four months since that fateful night when Rudy Gobert tested positive and the NBA shut down indefinitely (though I remember it like it was yesterday), but we are finally closing in on the return of the NBA.

The 22 NBA teams that are still playoff-eligible have been invited to the "bubble" in Orlando to participate in eight final regular-season games and then the post-season tournament. 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern conference teams will be competing in Orlando with the top eight teams in each conference qualifying for the playoffs. If the eight seed finishes less than four games ahead of the ninth seed (which is very likely in the West),then we will have a play-in series in which the ninth seed would have to beat the eighth seed twice to eliminate them and take their spot in the postseason.

It's been a long time since I filled out an NBA DFS roster, and like the players taking the floor in Orlando, we DFS players need to shake the rust off our game as well and adjust quickly to new rotations, changes in minutes or players taking on new roles with their teams this summer. This is basically an entirely new season (albeit a short one) as the players have been off as long as they usually are from the end of one season to the beginning of the following preseason.

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A Quick Look at the Playoff Picture

In the East, the top six teams are safely into the postseason and the Wizards (without Bradley Beal mind you) are a long shot to even get to a play-in game for the eighth seed. The Bucks only need to win a game or two to lock in the #1 seed, while the seeding from two through six is very much up for grabs. Brooklyn and Orlando will be likely battling it out for the #7 seed in order to try and avoid the Bucks in round one, but the Nets will be without Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, and DeAndre Jordan.

The top teams in the East will have the luxury of easing back into things and won't have to push their superstars into heavy minutes right out of the gate. Obviously teams like Indiana and Philadelphia would like to move up in the standings and get home-court advantage in round one, but they will be weighing the importance of moving up against maintaining their players' health for the stretch run.

The West should be really fun to watch as the top six teams have already locked up playoff berths with the current #7 seed Dallas only needing one more win to secure theirs. The Lakers are well ahead of the rest of the pack with the Clippers and Denver likely battling it out for the #2 seed. We then see Utah, OKC, Houston, and Dallas all clumped up in the middle of the pack with only a few games separating fourth place from seventh place. That leaves the final six teams battling for only one remaining spot, with Memphis in the driver's seat with a 3.5 half-game lead over the next closest team Portland.

The Spurs (without Aldridge) and Suns are likely to be eliminated from playoff contention first, while the Kings, Pelicans, and Blazers will all need to do some serious work to push Memphis for the eighth seed. I could definitely see one of them within four games of the Grizzlies and forcing a play-in scenario which would create some nice drama and Portland seems to be everyone's pick to make a run since they have Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back.

Where teams stand in the playoff race and seeding is likely going to impact how coaches distribute minutes to their players and whether or not we see any stars sit out for "load management" during the final eight regular-season games. You laugh now (why would they need to rest after four months off?), but I think we do see some players sit or have their minutes monitored. This brings me to the first factor that we will have to consider when making our lineups.


Other Factors to Consider When Building NBA DFS Lineups

Injuries and Rest

DFS production is highly correlated with minutes, if players aren't on the floor for long stretches it's incredibly hard for them to produce in fantasy (even for our favorite fantasy point per-minute players).  We won't know exactly who's good to go for the first few games until next week, but some teams are definitely going to be missing key players due to COVID and other injuries.

Like I mentioned earlier, I think the teams that are higher up in the standings are more likely to rest guys or restrict their minutes in "tune-up" games. And if we do see a star get hurt and their team has already locked up their seed, I doubt we see them back on the floor until the first round of playoffs begin.


Loosened or Tightened Rotations

Let me repeat, it's all about the minutes here. The first few slates are going to be very tricky as we won't know exactly how coaches are going to approach their rotations and some teams have lost and/or added several pieces of their rotation from March. This is where I will be combing through Twitter and reading as much as I can from NBA beat writers to see if we can get any coaches to commit to how many minutes they plan to play their stars and starters.

This won't be nearly as big of a problem once the playoff start, but the first eight games it's going to be very interesting to see how teams use these games to get their players back in shape and whether or not they prioritize rest over team chemistry going into the playoffs.


Late Swap

FanDuel has finally come to their senses and added late swap to their product for this unique situation that we have with NBA schedule and hopefully, they decide to keep it in their format going forward. Those of you who have been playing on DraftKings the last few years are used to this already, but be prepared to pivot mid-slate when injury news and starters are announced.

One of the reasons FanDuel took late swap away was because they claimed they wanted to level the playing field and not give a huge advantage to those players who stayed up late and were willing to re-optimize and tweak their lineup as more information became available. If you are a "set it and forget" type of DFS player, you're in for a rude awakening as games are going to run from mid-afternoon into the late evening. You’re going to need to monitor these skates as they unfold and that may be tough to do based on your schedule so plan accordingly (and no that doesn’t mean cancel all plans from 2:30 PM until 9:00 PM).


If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

If you've been playing NBA DFS for any substantial amount of time you already know what type of players to target in GPP contests and cash games. And if you followed the NBA from last October until March, you should be familiar with these players- their usage rates and fantasy potential with their current clubs. While we have a few situations that demand some caution and a "wait and see" approach, most of these teams are still going to utilize their players in much the same way they did earlier in the year. Don't overthink it (I'm telling you this and also reminding myself).



I know you're as excited as I am for the NBA restart (otherwise you wouldn't be reading this article!) I would personally advise all of you to play somewhat light the first few nights until we get a sense of what each team is doing with their personnel and minutes - which is hard to do when DFS sites are going to be tempting us with huge contests and payouts.

I'll be targeting the teams with the most to play for on a nightly basis and those who have shown us some dependable rotations, however, there could also be some great plays on non-contenders as we get close to playoffs, too. My best advice is to check in with us here at RotoBaller for daily NBA content!



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