NBA DFS Betting Guide

While season-long fantasy basketball is a popular pastime with plenty of advocates, it pales in comparison to the enthusiasm surrounding daily fantasy sports basketball. NBA DFS has emerged as the second-most popular option on leading platforms behind only the NFL.

It’s not hard to see why. NBA DFS is tons of fun, and presents opportunities to win massive prizes every day. Setting up an account is a breeze, and moving money in and out couldn’t be easier.

You’ll find contests of all shapes and sizes at various price points to fit any budget. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be some kind of basketball savant to play NBA DFS. It’s actually quite simple.

There are plenty of folks who play at a casual level. One of the great things about NBA DFS is that you can play whenever you want. There are no rosters to manage. You simply pick the lineup you want when you’re ready to play while staying under the salary cap.

It’s super simple to get started with NBA DFS. We’re going to walk through everything you need to know right here. Let’s begin by taking a look at one of the biggest questions surrounding daily fantasy sports.

Best Daily Fantasy Basketball Apps in 2021

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Which NBA daily fantasy app is right for you

Two DFS operators are well ahead of the pack when it comes to prize pools and total number of users, but there are other options out there for those looking for something a little different. Here are the top choices for where you can play NBA DFS:

  1. DraftKings DFS – $20 free with first deposit + up to $500 deposit match: The No. 1 operator in all of DFS, DraftKings has made that happen thanks to a slick platform, innovative scoring concepts and massive grand prizes. New users who sign up via our exclusive links get a $20 bonus with a $5 deposit. Plus, new and existing players get a 20% deposit match up to $500.
  2. FanDuel DFS – $5 free on sign up + $5 extra on deposit: FanDuel was one of the driving forces behind the growth of the DFS industry. Ease of use and simple game play are among its biggest features. Clicking on our exclusive links to create an account gets you $5 free and another $5 with your first deposit.

MKF is not available in app form as of yet, but the site is optimized for mobile browsers. Simply click through on our exclusive links to create your account, and you’ll get a 100% deposit match up to $50. After doing so, visit the site on mobile, log in and you’re all set.

For DraftKings and FanDuel, downloading the apps is a snap. After signing up for an account with our exclusive links, you’ll find direct links to download the app for your iPhone or Android device.

Follow the simple instructions, visit the site on your mobile device and log in. After doing so, you’ll be able to perform all of the same functions on the app as you can on the web version, such as entering contests or adding and removing funds.

Is NBA DFS legal?

Yes, NBA DFS is completely safe and legal to play in the vast majority of the United States. More than 40 states have given it a green light, and there are just a few outliers at this point. Here are the places where you won’t be able to play.


You’ll be good to go everywhere else in the US. The biggest operators in the industry service the other 43 states, and they wouldn’t be doing so if they were putting themselves in legal jeopardy.

For further confirmation of the acceptance of NBA DFS, consider that FanDuel is the official daily fantasy sports partner of the league, while DraftKings has signed on as the NBA’s official sports betting partner.

How to sign up for an account/how to deposit money

Signing up for an account on our recommended providers couldn’t be easier. Once you click on our exclusive links, you’ll be redirected to a sign-up page, where you’ll need to enter just a few pieces of information, such as:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Screen name
  • Password
  • Email address
  • Date of birth

And so on. Afterward, you’ll check off some boxes and enter the answers to security questions where needed and click to create your account. It’ll be set up instantaneously, and you’ll be able to browse around right away and check everything out.

To add and remove funds, you simply visit the cashier section. For DraftKings and FanDuel, the most efficient ways to move money around are via credit/debit cards or PayPal. Over on MKF, there’s no PayPal option, but all major credit and debit cards are accepted.

NBA daily fantasy vs. season-long fantasy basketball

If you’ve played season-long fantasy basketball, then you’re starting off with a good base to build off. However, there are some distinct differences that you’ll need to be aware of.

Daily contests vs. full-season affairs

For season-long fantasy basketball, the contest runs throughout the NBA year, and winners aren’t known until the end. In NBA DFS, you play daily and know where you stand once the final game on the slate is in the books.

Salary cap vs. draft

Part of the appeal of daily fantasy basketball is that you can pick whomever you want for your lineup. As long as the final product fits under the salary cap, you’re good. For season-long, the base of your roster is formed at the draft in the beginning of the year.

Lineup building vs. roster management

You can have a brand new lineup each and every time you play daily fantasy NBA. For season-long, you’ll be managing your roster along the way with trades, waivers, adds and drops.

For those who have never played fantasy basketball, don’t sweat it. In fact, it can be beneficial to start your fantasy career from scratch with NBA DFS.

In this case, you can jump right in and learn how to play without having to worry about switching the mindset from season-long to DFS basketball concepts.

What kinds of NBA DFS contests can I play?

You’ll find a number of different ways to play NBA DFS. There are contests of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the very small to the massive. The same applies for buy-in points and prize pools. Here’s a look at the various contest types:

  • GPPs: These are tournament-style contests that can be single- or multi-entry. Top prizes in the biggest contests can be mind-blowing.
  • 50/50s and DoubleUps: These are contests in which you need to beat up to half of other users to cash. The reward is up to two times your entry fee.
  • Head-to-Heads: These are the DFS contests that most closely resemble season-long. It’s user vs. user, with the highest scoring lineup winning.
  • Multipliers: Similar to 50/50s and DoubleUps, but the prize is a multiple of your entry fee such as three times or five times.
  • Leagues: Similar to GPPs but on a smaller scale. A league may have up to 100 participants, and the top-placing lineups win prizes.
  • Qualifiers: These are tournament contests in which the prize is a ticket to a larger tournament or a seat at a live final event.
  • Tiers: A pick ’em style contest with no salary cap. You simply select one player from each group to build your lineup.
  • Showdowns: These are DFS basketball contests that revolve around a single game as opposed to a full slate of contests.

The style of play will vary based on the type of contest you enter. We’ll get into more detail on that in a bit. For now, just know that there are plenty of ways to play NBA DFS.

Which NBA DFS contests are best for beginners?

DraftKings NBA LineupNBA DFS has been around for a number of years at this point. There are plenty of highly experienced players who have been doing this for a long time. As such, it can be a little intimidating for those new to the game.

Thankfully, there are beginner contests that you can take advantage of. On DraftKings and FanDuel, new users are considered beginners until they have reached 50 paid contests.

There are contests that are reserved specifically for beginning players, and they’ll be labeled as such in the lobby. A great place to start is with beginner 50/50s.

In these contests, you’ll be competing against players of a similar skill level. Your goal is simply to finish in the top half of entrants to win nearly double your entry fee.

This is a fantastic way to get a handle on the nuances of NBA DFS without worrying about getting crushed by top players. It takes a little bit of effort to get used to the salary cap and building out a lineup.

It’s much easier to do that with confidence when you know that you’re playing with others in the same boat. In addition to beginner contests, both of the main sites will clearly designate users by experience level.

This way you know whom you’ll be competing against going in. In the massive GPPs, you’ll find players of all skill levels. If you’re looking to play some head-to-heads, you can choose to be matched up against those who also don’t have a ton of experience.

How are points scored in NBA DFS?

Another area that you’ll need to acclimate yourself to is how points are scored in NBA DFS. It’s not overly complex by any means, but there are differences on the two biggest sites to consider.

3-Point Shot Made10.5

While the minor scoring differences may not seem like a lot, they can absolutely add up during the course of a contest. They can also make one player more valuable on one site or the other on any given day, so keep that in mind.

What are the differences between DK and FD for NBA DFS?

In addition to the scoring differences outlined up above, there are some other variances to consider when playing on DraftKings or FanDuel. Most importantly, the roster requirements are different:

  • DraftKings: PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F, Util
  • FanDuel: PG, PG, SG, SG, SF, SF, PF, PF, C

Also, DraftKings is more liberal with player positioning than FanDuel is. For example, a player on DraftKings could have eligibility at both guard and forward. Over on FanDuel, players are typically designated with just one position.

As for the other differences between the two platforms, they’re mainly cosmetic and come down to user preference. The two DFS giants invest a ton in tech, and you’ll see that right away once you start clicking around.

The platforms are slick and user-friendly. It’s easy to find what you’re looking for, and all of the functions such as entering contests or funding your account work seamlessly.

In short, they’re both great places to play. As for which one is better than the other, that all comes down to user preference, the layout you prefer and the style of play that works best for your game.

How to optimize your NBA DFS lineups

Your account is all set and you’ve found a contest that you’re ready to tackle. Now what? It’s time to build out your first lineup. While it may seem intimidating at first glance, it really doesn’t take that long to get the hang of it.

First things first, understand that the salary cap essentially works in tiers. There will be high-priced studs, solid players in the mid-ranges and potential value plays found in the lower reaches of the salary scale.

Make a mental note of the players you like from each category for the day’s games. From there, examine the individual matchups for those players. Is the game they are in projected to be high- or low-scoring?

How does their opponent defend their position? Once you have a handle on those two pieces of information, go back to the original list of players you had in mind. Choose one or two from each salary tier.

You now have the base of your daily lineup. From here, it’s a matter of filling in the rest of your spots while staying under the salary cap. You can follow the same process while looking for players that fit.

After you’ve gone through this process a couple of times while playing beginner 50/50s, you’ll have a good grasp on lineup building.

Single entry vs. multiple entry NBA DFS

For many of the different contest types in DFS, there are single-entry and multi-entry versions. For the former, each user is permitted to submit just one lineup. On the latter, users can submit several lineups.

In the biggest GPPs, the cap on the number of lineups per user is 150. Yep, that’s a ton of lineups, and it takes time and effort to manage so many. For some advanced users, the answer is to use algorithms and lineup optimizers.

For those new to the game, the best advice is to try both game styles and see which one you like better. There are plenty of users out there who prefer building out one single optimal lineup per day, and there are others who like putting together multiple combinations.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Once again, it comes down to user preference and what works best for your style of play. As long as you find success with your lineup or lineups, that’s the bottom line.

NBA DFS world championships

DraftKings and Fanduel Basketball DFS contestsDraftKings and FanDuel both play host to signature events that are the most sought-after tickets in all of DFS. Known as live finals, these are events that users have to qualify for.

The reward is a trip to a live final event where they will compete with other users for massive prizes. Here’s what the two companies have on tap in 2020.

DraftKings Fantasy Basketball World Championships

FanDuel World Fantasy Basketball Championship

Qualifying for these events is far from easy, but winning a seat at one is well worth the chase. The two DFS titans go all out and put on a memorable experience, not to mention the fact that qualifiers have a shot at massive prizes.

Beginner NBA DFS strategy tips

There are a number of ways to approach NBA DFS, ranging from the simple to the advanced. Don’t drive yourself crazy when first starting out. Instead, master the basic concepts and you’ll be well on your way to finding success.

1. Look for games that project to be high-scoring

For the slate of games you intend to play, take a look at the sports betting odds. Each game will have a projected point total for bettors to decide if they like the over or under. Target games that are on the higher end of the scale, and use caution with potentially lower-scoring affairs.

2. Find stud players with fantastic matchups

The best players are going to cost the most, but there are times when you really can’t pass on having them in your lineups. Pay attention to the individual matchups. For example, if James Harden is going up against one of the worst defensive teams in the league, it could be a good time to get him in your lineup.

3. Go value shopping

You can’t fill out your entire lineup with high-priced studs. You’ll need more affordable players in the mix. Take the time every day to go through the lower salary tiers. There’s diamonds to be found, including players who are slated to see increased playing time, and players who have salaries that don’t match their recent level of play.

4. Consider salary in relation to potential output

When choosing players for your lineup, it’s important to consider the price you are paying for them in relation to their potential output. There are times when players are just too expensive, and other times when they are a steal. As your experience grows, you’ll learn to spot these situations in an instant.

Once you’ve mastered these four concepts, you can feel free to get more advanced in your research. There are players who love advanced stats, others who rely on advice sites and some who continue to keep it simple and stick to the basics.

The choice is completely yours. Whatever works best for the time you have available and your style of play is perfectly fine.

How to win at NBA DFS

There’s no magic trick to winning at NBA DFS. It takes practice, persistence and patience, and a little bit of luck doesn’t hurt, either. That said, you won’t have any trouble coming across different strategy theories as you research.

DFS advice is a cottage industry in and of itself. There are sites that give lineup advice, others that merely aggregate information and some that do a bit of both.

Don’t be afraid to lean on some of them if it saves you time, especially the ones that do a good job of getting together stats and injury information. As for lineup recommendations, you can use them to point you in the right direction.

However, remember that you’re not the only one reading the advice that day. When a player is recommended as an excellent play in a number of spots, then there’s a good chance his ownership percentage will be through the roof.

There are times when you have to bite the bullet and take that player anyway, but there are other times when it can make sense to take a contrarian approach and look elsewhere. Lineup differentiation is a big factor on DFS leaderboards.

For the bigger tournaments, it can be very helpful to have a diamond in the rough or two in your lineup that few others are on.

From a bottom line perspective, you can keep it simple and still win at DFS. Yes, you’ll have to put effort in when it comes to research and honing your skills, but you also don’t have to get lost in a time vortex while doing so.

Stick to the basic pieces of information that really move the needle. In addition, focus on beginner contests when starting out, and don’t be shy about playing 50/50s and DoubleUps as you advance.

You can still take your shots at GPPs and qualifiers, but contests in the former categories can be great ways to sustain and build bankroll.

NBA DFS vs. NBA sports betting

For those who have a sports betting background, there are some parallels that one can draw with DFS. Both are research-driven pursuits in which you are putting money at stake in a quest to earn even more. However, there are key differences to keep in mind between betting on basketball and DFS:

  • Player performance vs. team performance: In DFS, the main focus is on individual player performance. For sports betting, the object is to figure out which team will win and by how much. It requires at least some level of research to figure out both, but it’s a different approach.
  • Rake vs. commissions: DFS sites make their money by charging “rake” on contests. It can be as high as 15% in some cases, and sites aren’t very transparent about the charges. In sports betting, you know the potential reward and commission as soon as you plug in your bets.
  • Other users vs. oddsmakers: In DFS, you’re competing against other users, with the highest score winning. For sports betting, it’s you vs. the house. The goal is to beat the oddsmakers, who just so happen to be very good at what they do.

While there are distinct differences between the two, there are also skill sets that correlate well to both. Included on that list are strong research skills and an understanding of the relationship between risk and reward.

NBA DFS terms explained

As your DFS journey continues, you’re going to come across a number of different terms that are ingrained into the industry lexicon. Here are some of the most important ones you should become familiar with.

  • Stud: This refers to one of the top players in the game who may have an excellent matchup coming up.
  • Value: A player whose salary for the day isn’t matching up to what’s expected to be a good level of output.
  • Fade: This is when you choose to pass — as a strategic move — on a player who is expected to be highly owned.
  • Contrarian: This is when you make a selection that’s a bit against the grain with a player whom not many others are expected to have in their lineup.
  • Ceiling: This refers to player projections and what you can expect a player’s max output to be.
  • Floor: Also referencing player projections, this is the lowest amount of output you should be able to reasonably expect from a player.
  • AVFP: Average fantasy points.
  • PRK: Player rank.
  • OPRK: Opponent rank.

As with any other pastime, DFS has its own lingo that’s specific to the game. Before you know it, you’ll be throwing around these phrases regularly as well.


What are the most important stats for NBA DFS?

Average fantasy points — AVFP — give you an all-encompassing glimpse at what you can expect from a player on a nightly basis. If you compare this number in relation to the player’s salary for a slate of games, you can also gain a sense of when the player makes for a good bargain or not.

What position scores the most points in NBA DFS?

This will depend on the slate of games, and the answer will vary. For example, a PG could go out and have a monster night as the top star on the docket, but a C could just as easily do the same.

Whom should you start in NBA DFS?

The answer to this question will vary nightly based on the schedule, matchups, salaries and expected output.

What is the best NBA DFS site?

DraftKings and FanDuel are the two largest in terms of users and prize pools. Choosing one over the other comes down to a matter of user preference, and there are plenty of players who play on both.

What is the biggest NBA DFS contest?

Live final events are very heavily sought after by both DraftKings and FanDuel users. In addition, both sites run nightly contests in which the top prize runs into the tens of thousands of dollars.

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