How-to guide for Yahoo Daily Fantasy Basketball

Paying up for multiple stars like Kevin Durant and LeBron James isn’t always the way to go in DFS. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

By Jeff Edgerton, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports

In the crowded landscape of DFS, new sites and game formats seem to pop up on a daily basis. Yahoo’s Daily Fantasy platform stands alone due to one significant advantage: It provides all the variety and excitement that comes with playing fantasy sports, but unlike other sites it’s backed by a reputable company with a 22-year track record of internet offerings.

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As a result, it’s no surprise that Yahoo’s Daily Fantasy Basketball has all the things you’d expect in a DFS experience, but also offers some unique formats and interesting challenges. Best of all, it provides a safe and secure experience for players who might be wary of other DFS providers.

Let’s look at some of the aforementioned differences, and delve into some strategy to help you tackle Fantasy Basketball on Yahoo this season.

LINEUP

The most striking difference between Yahoo’s standard lineup and lineups on many other sites is the inclusion of a utility player. It is similar to the “flex” position you often see in Fantasy Football lineups, except the “UTIL” spot can be filled by any available player.  Yahoo’s standard lineup is as follows:

PG, SG, G, SF, PF, F, C, UTIL

SALARY

Yahoo’s most significant deviation from the norm relates to the salary available for player selection.  While other popular sites deal with denominations in the tens of thousands, Yahoo elects to use a salary cap of $200.   The size of the cap doesn’t really impact play if the player’s salaries are proportioned accordingly, but Yahoo implements these salaries in a way that dictates a change of thought when assembling a lineup.  More on that below.

SCORING

Scoring in Yahoo DFS is fairly standard, awarding 1.2 points for rebounds, 1.5 points for assists, 3 points for steals and blocks, and negative-1 point for turnovers.

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GAME SELECTION

Yahoo offers a wide assortment of GPP’s, 50/50’s and Head to Head games at price points for $0 to $10.500.  The major difference between Yahoo and other sites is its policy on multi-entries.  Yahoo caps the maximum number of entries by the same player at 10 entries, and it’s often capped at lower levels or single entry in other tournaments.

Yahoo also enables you to create your own contest, or create your own league, which can span over as many weeks as you choose, including the whole season. You can also join already-constructed leagues. Personally, I think the highlight of the site is the NBA Yahoo Cup, which is a weekly freeroll that spans the entire season. Yahoo offers this for all major sports, and this year the grand prize after 26 weeks is a whopping $10,000. Prizes are also awarded for each weekly freeroll.

STRATEGY

I’m going to elaborate on a few topics that are elementary to most people with any experience in DFS.  Better players cost more.  You can’t fill a lineup with all elite players, and if you try, you’ll run out of money.  As a result, you have to analyze mid-level players with upside, look at favorable matchups, and check to see who might be getting extra production due to rest or injury to fill out the rest of your lineup. While you might fill a roster with these kinds of players in a GPP or even a cash game, you need some elite players to keep pace with the overall game flow of that evening’s slate. The big question is – how many of these top-tier players can I afford?  Here is where Yahoo makes it interesting.

If you consider a $200 salary cap with a roster of 8, you have an average of $25 to spend on each player.  But let’s look at some prices for the Opening Day slate on Yahoo.

James Harden $48

LeBron James $48

Kevin Durant $46

Steph Curry $44

Chris Paul $40

These totals are actually a little lower than normal. As the season progresses you’ll often see the top 2-3 players go for $50 or more.  For the sake of argument, we’ll say that in order to acquire a Top-5 player on any given day, you need to spend $48.  This means that if you elect to do this, you’re spending 24% of your salary to get Harden or James.  Why is this important?  If you have experience with other DFS sites, the chart below will illuminate you.

DraftKings FanDuel Yahoo
SALARY CAP/# OF STARTERS $50,000/8 $60,000/9 $200/8
AVERAGE COST PER PLAYER $/% $6,250/12.5% $6667/11.1% $25/12.5%
TOP 5 PLAYER AVERAGE COST 10,000 10,000 $48
TOP 5 PLAYER SALARY UTILIZATION % 20% 16.6% 24%

FanDuel’s percentages are slightly lower as they field more players on a roster, but DraftKings and Yahoo deploy the exact same structure.  As you can see, rostering an elite player costs you about 4% more than the nearest competitor.  Now, a 4% difference might not seem like much, but as you attempt to build a roster, that percentage can certainly add up.  On the surface, it basically means that you can’t field the same lineup on Yahoo and DraftKings if you’re using the same number of elite players.

What does all this mean for you?  It means that if you enjoy the intricacies of picking players with upside, keeping track of trends for undervalued players while minimizing elite talent, Yahoo would certainly be the way to go! Sure, putting up all elite players would be fun, but also a bit boring.  There’s nothing more satisfying than picking one sleeper on the slate who explodes with 1% usage, putting you over the top in a huge GPP. You can certainly feel the crunch as you build a lineup on Yahoo, but the information above illustrates why. With that in mind, here are four strategy pointers to help you cash in this season.

1. PICK ELITE PLAYERS WITH CARE

As illustrated above, elite players are at a premium on Yahoo, so it’s best to get the most volume as possible from them.  There are three good ways to determine this. A popular model used by many DFS grinders is looking at a player’s performance with a Point Per Dollar Amount stat.  You are basically taking the player’s scoring average and dividing it by their salary. The higher the number, the more value you are getting from that player. You can use this for any player, but it is especially useful for high-priced players. If you want to dig deeper, you can adapt this formula according to how a given player has performed versus a certain team, or even another player.  NBA.com is an excellent source for finding statistics like these.

Another good way is to look at the Vegas odds for the game. Is the spread close?  Is the over/under number higher than average?  There’s nothing worse than taking LeBron James and seeing him sit the fourth quarter in a blowout.  While Vegas isn’t perfect, it is usually a good indicator of gameflow.

Finally, use your brain!  Who will be guarding that player?  Has it been a historical mismatch?  How far did they have to fly to get to this away game? The devil is in the details – it’s up to you to find them.

2. CHECK BEFORE THE SLATE CLOSES

While Yahoo employs late swaps, if you want to be serious about DFS, check and make sure all your players will be on the floor. Coaches rest players more often than ever and it can often happen last-minute. Depending on how much time you have, it also becomes important to see who will get more playing time instead.  Even if you check quickly on your phone (Yahoo has a Daily Fantasy App), it is worth the effort.

3. FIND VALUE IN THE $20-$30 RANGE

While I did make a fuss about the cost of elite players, you’ll find a ton of value at this price point on Yahoo. While it might be appropriate to spend up on two studs and play $10 speculative players on some nights, you can find value if you look hard enough. Keeping in mind that you have an average of $25 per player to spend, you’ll be able to keep costs down here. Scroll, scroll and scroll some more!

4. HAVE FUN!

Whether you are a hard-core grinder or a casual player, you’re wasting your time if you aren’t enjoying it.  Yahoo gives you every opportunity to enjoy DFS all season long, with everything from daily tournaments to season-long leagues, so what are you waiting for?  Making a deposit is safe, quick and easy.  Good luck everyone!