What should your score targets be in Daily Fantasy?
This is a question constantly asked by new Daily Fantasy players. The answer given is often a generic ‘You want to 5X your salary in the NBA cash games,’ or ‘2X your salary in the MLB cash games’. These numbers are based off of the historical average needed to cash in these contests, however using a historical average as your target on a given night is a flawed goal.
Don’t get me wrong, historical data IS useful. When projecting how many Fantasy Points Gordon Hayward will score we use his historical usage rate, assist rate, rebound rate, shot attempts etc as an indication of his rates in today’s game. However we must first adjust those numbers based on the variables of that specific game. We have to account for increase or decrease in efficiency due to his match up, his opportunities and a host of other factors (pace, etc). Gordon Hayward projection is much better against the Lakers than it is against the Spurs.
Just as expected value changes for individual players from game to game, expected value also changes for projected optimal lineups slate to slate.
Over the last 54 days that I’ve played NBA DFS I’ve kept track of the score needed to cash in DraftKings $100 Multi Entry Double Up:
In addition to demonstrating my poor ability to draw a circle around a data point in Microsoft Paint, this chart demonstrates the wide range of scores needed to cash in DraftKings’s $100 Multi Entry Double Up night to night. The data point I circled is the night with the second highest score needed to cash. I chose the second highest score because we’ve already talked about that night in our “NBA MUST PLAYS” article.
If you haven’t yet read that article, let me fill you in on the situation from March 5th. Both Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez had been given the night off to rest. This left the Nets with just Thomas Robinson, Willie Reed, and Chris McCullough as the only big men available to play. Assuming the new starters Robinson and Reed would each play at least 30 minutes, you could project both players to score 30 fantasy points at DraftKings minimum salary of $3,000. Right off the bat this would give you 10X value on $6,000 salary. Assuming you projected the rest of your $46,000 salary to 5X (conservative example) you would have a lineup projected at 280 DraftKings points.
The average score needed to cash over this 54 game sample was 268 DraftKings Fantasy Points. Using this average, the conventional method for target scores, you’d aim to 5.36X ( 268 / 50,000 * 1000 ) your DraftKings salary. If you targeted a score of 268 on March 5th, you’d be aiming too low. This may seem obvious, but it is a good example of why target scores based on historical averages are pointless.
My advice would be to spend less time focusing on target scores and more time trying to select the lineup you feel is optimal. Don’t compare player value to seasonal averages, compare player value to the value of other players that slate.
“But I Need A Score To Target, Right?”
Did you even read this article?
Okay fine. If you really want to get an idea of what score you’ll likely need to obtain to win on a given slate use projections for that slate. Exclusively using projections is not the best method to create DFS lineups, but projections are definitely a useful tool. The highest projected lineup from a trustworthy source should give you a better idea of a score to target than a seasonal or multi year average will. At least good projections will take into account obvious values that don’t exist on all slates.