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Advanced NBA DFS: GPP vs. Cash Lineup Building

We continue our breakdown of the basics for NBA DFS. In this section, we look at GPPs vs. Cash Games again, with some new takes on how to approach the two.

Houston Rockets guard James Harden warms up before a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center. Troy Taormina-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 strategies and which ones will help you most in building your lineups. One of those is lineup building for both GPPs and Cash Games, which we will discuss below.

Advanced GPP vs. Cash Games


At this point, I shouldn’t have to go over the difference between tournaments and cash games, both of those were covered in previous installments. So let’s get right into how to approach the two contests. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer for which one you should play. Both are very viable ways of winning money in DFS. One is more of a calculated slow burn while the other is a rocket ship that is constantly refueling.

Advanced GPP lineup construction

If you’ve made a lineup for NBA DFS then you know that hitting the nuts in a GPP is very difficult to do. I mean, it’s tough in every sport, but there’s nothing quite like an 11-game Wednesday night NBA slate. When constructing a tournament lineup the first thing we need to think about is ownership. We can’t just go in thinking all the chalk plays are going to hit. While that does happen, it’s not what’s going to get you to first place. Leverage is what’s going to get you to the top of the leaderboard.

Balancing leverage plays with upside while fitting in the right about of safe plays can be tricky. We want to pick our spots for value and a good way to identify that is by figuring out fantasy points per dollar spent. If you have projections on a player, you can calculate this by dividing that total by their salary.

For example, if say Marcus Smart is priced at $5,000 and is projected to score 25 fantasy points, his fantasy point per dollar would be 5.0. Pretty simple. It gets more complicated when we have players who are really cheap and are projected higher than normal. Taking the best point per dollar plays for your GPP lineup can yield OK results. It limits upside and is better for floor. We would want to target outliers as values and look to other metrics for the rest of the pack.

Advanced Cash Game construction

While in GPPs we can’t go completely based on fantasy points per dollar, in Cash Games we can sort of live and die by them. Most of the plays that land in this category will be products of injuries, significant injuries. So we’re talking superstars sitting out and bench players moving into the starting lineup to fill 30 minutes or so. That isn’t always the case, but that’s usually where we find the best cash-game plays.

Good Chalk vs. Bad Chalk

Chalk plays are what you’re mostly going to use to fill out a cash-game lineup. There are two things we need to decide before proceeding. 1. How much chalk are we using? 2. Which chalk is good and which is bad? Once we answer those two questions, we can find cash-game lineup nirvana. Just kidding.

You never want to go all-in on the chalk, even in cash games. No one play is ever going to be 100% effective. Meaning, there are always outside variables we need to consider that could impact a cash play. Even if Joel Embiid is out and the Sixers are facing the Hawks, Ben Simmons can still have an off game for whatever reason. He could get hurt. These are things that pop up constantly and bust chalk.

So in order to cover our ass — pardon my french — we need to leverage 1-2 hybrid plays. These are safe plays that have a high floor but shouldn’t garner too much ownership. Well, they will still be decently owned but not as much as chalk plays. This can give us some leverage over a portion of the field, which can be the difference between cashing and not cashing.

Bad chalk plays are generally ones that give us no leverage. If we get no leverage and we run into a situation in which a player doesn’t meet expectations, we’re SOL on that slate — at least in cash games. Good chalk plays are generally the ones that give us the best value — points per dollar. We get a safe floor and we know we aren’t spending too much. The Simmons example is perfect. Simmons is chalk on that slate with Embiid out, but he’s also still going to be costly.