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Advanced NBA DFS Strategy: Stars and Scrubs

We continue our breakdown of NBA DFS. In this section, we look at how to build a stars and scrubs lineup, with definitions and some strategy.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and guard J.R. Smith against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena.  Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In daily fantasy basketball, like in most things, getting the fundamentals down is integral toward laying a foundation of knowledge to build from as you progress as a player. For DFS, that means understanding statistics, strategies and which ones will help you most in building your lineups. One of those is Stars and Scrubs, which we will discuss below.

Stars and Scrubs

Definition

This is a lineup building strategy in which you balance the lineup to only support using cheap values to pay up for high-priced studs. The goal is to cram as many stud plays on the slate into one lineup in order to maximize our ceiling. You usually try to balance this out with the safest value plays available.

Strategy

GPPs

“Stars and Scrubs” is a pretty standard way to approach tournaments on DraftKings. Generally in GPPs, we want to build a lineup around ceiling plays. Stars and Scrubs allows us to do so while also taking advantage of any value on that particular slate. So if we know there are going to be 3-4 very, very plus value plays, we can already plan out which studs we want to go with.

Think of it this way. In NBS DFS, there aren’t a whole lot of players who can feasibly score, say, 60+ fantasy points. The number decreases at 70 and again at 80, until we have a few players left (basically just James Harden). So if the stars align (get it) and there are enough high ceiling spots for studs, we can go with S&S.

Picking the Studs

The best way to identify when it’s a good night to go Stars and Scrubs is the difference in projected fantasy point totals. If you have projections available, great. If you don’t, you can use FPPG, though I would keep in mind ceiling and matchup. So if we see a few players at the top projected for way more points than the rest of the pack — boom — we’ve got our stack.

Another way to go about this is simply pull out your favorite plays from a set salary tier. This doesn’t need to be $11-12K only — honestly most slates you’d be lucky to have two players over $11K. Go with a tier from say, $9K-$11K. This gives us a wide range of outcomes and if we pick right, could land more value. Obviously we get the best potential reward with the top studs, but paying down a bit can mitigate some risk.

Find the values

This is probably the most important part of this strategy — hitting our values. We know the studs at worst should hit around their averages, especially in a good matchup. What we don’t know is how a value play could pan out. I’ve seen plenty of chalk nights get ruined by one value who is at 60% ownership. In GPPs with a lot of entries, this is not good. Chalk busting in a tournament is a lineup killer. So we really need the perfect storm of values for S&S to reach its peak.

An easy way to identify these value plays is by going to read more about identifying value plays with Ameer Tyree! If you stick here, I can run you through it really fast. The perfect value would be brought about by an injury to a significant player. A good example is when Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out due to the birth of his son and Khris Middleton proceeded to drop 51 points and 10 rebounds on the Wizards. Perfect lineup situation + perfect matchup = optimal value. Even knowing Middleton is usually at $7K, we can view him more as a stud player who should be priced around $8-9K. So picking the value isn’t always about picking somebody who is cheap.

Final Thoughts

While this can be a very viable strategy in DFS formats, it’s also worth mentioning you really need everything to go right for it to work. It’s a volatile strategy that should be reserved for special occasions. That doesn’t mean we can’t break it out every now and then or throw minimal funds on a lineup like this. It’s another instance in which we can have fun within the game. Around the DK offices, we like to call this a “Cannonball Stack” in which we’re loading up on 3-4 heavy-hitters. It’s all about enjoying the sweat when James Harden drops 50 points, LeBron goes for a triple-double and Andre Drummond has 30 rebounds.