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Fantasy basketball: Tips for daily NBA players

Michael Carter-Williams was a good fantasy pick up after Tony Wroten went down with aGetty Images

Our generation’s version of the gold rush was the poker boom, when millions of young adults took their shot at fame and fortune. Those that knew what they were doing early on cleaned up.

There’s new boom blowing up as we speak and it’s called Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). There is a lot of profit to be had by simply picking a fantasy team for one day at a more effective clip than our opponents. Some tips for winning at NBA DFS.

Injuries are everything

The entire landscape of every slate is shaped by injuries. An easy example is Russell Westbrook, who averages 24.0 field-goal attempts per game when Kevin Durant is sidelined vs. 18.3 when KD plays. More time on the ball means more shots, more assists, more free throws, more everything. We see this around the league every night, turning good DFS plays into great ones. Kyle Lowry when DeMar DeRozan was out, Rudy Gay when DeMarcus Cousins sits, Michael Carter-Williams after Tony Wroten went down.

Stars and scrubs

Ideally, we’ll use the aforementioned injuries to build a “stars and scrubs” style lineup. This means taking advantage of the value plays, usually in the form of backups. So when Durant is out, Dion Waiters is priced as a 20-minute player even though he’s starting and his usage rate will be high. When Brandon Jennings first sustained his injury, D.J. Augustin cost near the minimum even though he’d be on the ball for 35 minutes. Think about who is replacing the injured player, how many minutes they’ll play and what their fantasy point-per-minute average is. Use those cheapies to afford stars like LeBron James, James Harden and Stephen Curry.

Pace and matchups

So how do we know which stars to pay up for? It’s all about the spot. NBA players typically skew toward their averages, but there are certain situations that are better or worse for them. For example, back-to-backs are tricky spots, and a lot of players have better home splits than road. We should know not to mess with the elite defenses of the Grizzlies, Hawks and Bucks very often. A more advanced way to think about spots is in pace, defined as possessions per game. The slower the pace the less chances there are for fantasy points from our players. Use the Las Vegas over/unders to get a general idea of how fast a game will be played.

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NBA Pickups of the Week

Marcus Smart, PG, Celtics – It was ugly early on, but Smart’s rapid improvement has earned him a promotion into the starting 5.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Pistons – The Brandon Jennings injury has made D.J. Augustin a superstar and KCP a must-start player.

Jason Smith, PF, Knicks — Playing the Pau Gasol role in the triangle has allowed the reasonably versatile Smith to stand out.

NFL News

Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers tried to turn Colin Kaepernick into a pocket passer, ditching the read-option and asking him to pick apart defenses with his arm. There was one big problem with that: It’s not where he wins. Kaepernick’s legs are what make him unique, so the new Jim Tomsula coaching staff is going to change things up (even though they’re in-house promotions). The designed runs will be back as a major part of the offense, raising Kaep’s fantasy floor and improving the outlook for breakout candidate Carlos Hyde as well. Running quarterbacks consistently open extra lanes for running backs.

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