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Here are some questions and answers about playing daily fantasy basketball:
The two biggest sites for fantasy NBA are DraftKings and FanDuel. There are several other smaller operators, including Fantasy Draft, Yahoo DFS, Draft, Boom Fantasy, and FantasyDraft, that also offer NBA contests.
Each NBA player is grouped by position and assigned a salary. Users construct rosters using combinations of those positional players. Requirements for lineup composition vary from site to site.
Rosters always include at least one point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center. Some players are eligible under multiple positions.
The salary cap is the important distinction in daily fantasy sports. Users can select any valid combination of players they want, as long as the sum of their salaries falls under the designated cap.
The salary-cap model is the primary format for NBA contests. It’s pretty much the only format for that matter, but that may be changing soon.
DraftKings launched capless Pick’em contests for NFL this season, and it seems like the format would transition well to the hardwood. The same can be said for FanDuel’s Mini contests, a similar idea which is available in both NFL and Major League Baseball so far.
Daily fantasy sports operators provide their full lineup of game types to users during basketball season. All contests require paying an entry fee to compete for a set amount of prize money. (Some contests are also free to enter and may or may not feature a prize.) The site takes a percentage of each entry as a “rake” to generate revenue.
Contests fall into a handful of categories:
More on what contests are like at DraftKings and FanDuel:
|Roster size for main contests||Eight||Nine|
|Fantasy stats||Points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, turnovers, 3-pointers, double-doubles, triple-doubles||Points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, turnovers|
|Late swap available for contests||No||Some|
All serious DFS operators provide basketball contests.
As is the case for most sports, the two biggest providers are DraftKings and FanDuel. They feature the most users, the biggest variety of contests and the most money up for grabs.
|Site||Biggest NBA contests (not held nightly)|
|FanDuel||$1 million prize pool|
Each site takes its own legal approach to differing state laws; check here for a snapshot.
There are some European- or rest-of-world-facing sites that focus on soccer and other sports. But if a site is serving the US market, it is offering DFS involving the NBA.
One of the big debates in NBA circles surrounds “late swap” and the lock time for players in a contest.
In late-swap contests, players are locked as their game begins rather than all players locking at the start of the slate. That allows for users to tweak their lineups over time, either looking for pivot points or yielding to breaking injury news.
The NFL is a late-swap sport on both DraftKings and FanDuel. But the NBA is a different beast when it comes to the availability of information and lineup expectations.
In the NBA, nagging injuries and the rigors of an 82-game season lead to a lot more game-time decisions. Coaches rest players, too, sometimes unexpectedly. A few teams and coaches have a reputation for announcing lineup decisions just moments before tipoff.
For that reason, playing late-swap NBA can be much more time-consuming than NFL. And it favors the serious user. Most of the successful players are glued to their computers for hours leading right up to the start of contests. The uncertainty gives an inherent edge to those willing to tend to their lineups constantly throughout a slate of NBA games. And it means they’re working when they’d rather be watching from the couch.
Until 2016, late swap was one of the primary differentiators between DraftKings and FanDuel. Just before the start of the NBA season, though, DraftKings announced that it was dropping late swap.
As DraftKings moves away from late swap, FanDuel is actually starting to incorporate the feature into some of its games. While all of the largest contests still use early lock, it has introduced a handful of late-swap contests to try to cater to both sides of the argument. They’re identified by an unlocked padlock icon in the lobby.
Still, it looks like late swap is more or less dying off in NBA contests. That’s probably a good thing for casual users and the DFS community as a whole. The move is one more piece in a larger trend across the industry.
The 2015 sports seasons were bolstered by monumental adverting campaigns from DraftKings and FanDuel, who spent hundreds of millions of dollars apiece on television commercials. Tactics are changing, though, and the sites are continually tailoring their products toward casual users and organic growth.
The 2017 NBA season will provide a big test for those new tactics. And they’re optimistic, it seems. The largest contest for opening night on both top sites will attract hundreds of thousands of entries and give away $1 million in prize money.
Legal Sports Report is not aware of any sites offering DFS for college basketball.
DraftKings and FanDuel reached an agreement with the NCAA to stop offering college contests after the 2016 NCAA tournament. And some states have passed laws explicitly banning fantasy contests based on college events.