The Slate Starter was all over it yesterday talking up the likes of Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and Domantas Sabonis from the get-go (not that any of those calls deserve victory laps at their eventual ownership, but still). It was also locked-in on the elite value options in Taj Gibson and Alex Caruso, making for a very profitable night. Unfortunately, small forward pivots such as Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram didn’t come close to meeting expectations, making it impossible to take down a tournament despite a core that mostly went off. But it’s positive momentum nevertheless, so let’s get to work finding a few more NBA DFS picks and strategies to improve ever so slightly on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Be sure to check out the Slate Starter podcast, featuring yours truly and Rynpak, to get the first look at the slate and make NBA DFS picks for DraftKings and FanDuel!
NBA DFS Slate Starter: Picks & Strategy | May 4
Setting Ourselves Up for Late-Swap Success on Tuesday
We’ve got seven games on tap for Tuesday’s main slate with six starting within an hour of the 7 p.m. EST lock time. The Clippers then face the Raptors in the late-night hammer two hours later, which means we obviously need to be on high alert for the potential of Tyrone Lue’s typical late-scratch madness. But even more so, we should all be prepared to swap our plays around based on how our lineups are doing in the early window of games.
If you’re new to this column, it is very late-swap-centric, as it can routinely be the difference between taking first or finishing 20th in any random NBA DFS tournament. Sure, both results probably yield nice returns no matter what stakes you’re accustomed to playing at. But due to the top-heavy nature of tournaments in 2021, first place is an outrageously different outcome, so taking every measure to help your lineups get there should be the goal. And to that point, it really doesn’t matter if you’re a cash game player, single-entry specialist, 20-max type or 150-lineup regular: There are very specific late-swap edges to be had beyond simply reacting to late news, so long as you know what you’re looking for.
With all of that in mind, look at this potential scenario for Tuesday. After the absolute shelling Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry laid on the Lakers this Sunday, something tells me they will most likely be the most popular pieces to roster from the nightcap game (even if they’re not, let’s roll with it for this example). So here’s a lineup on DraftKings with these two as your last pieces left to play:
With Siakam in your forward spot and Lowry in the utility, we’ve got $15,300 to work with in those two spots assuming all $50,000 of salary is being used. If this is a large-field tournament and this lineup is smashing with a clear path to the top, go ahead and roll with the chalk without thinking twice. Likewise if it’s a mediocre lineup that’s missing one or two top-performing pieces from the early games, as the two highest-projected plays are the ones most likely to secure the minimum cash the lineup would only be good for.
But let’s say there’s only or two players ahead of you that are utilizing the same two roster spots and appear to have Siakam and Lowry being rostered there as well (add up their currently-active players to check). If that’s the case, bad news: you most likely have nowhere to go without leaving way too much salary on the table. Here’s why:
Having only the forward and utility spots open does you next to no good if you’re looking to late-swap in this game. Going to Kawhi Leonard in the forward spot requires leaving at least $700 on the table for whomever you decide to roster in the utility (try it if you don’t believe me). And keeping Siakam but trying to pivot off Lowry is even worse, as the next listed active play for Tuesday would be Marcus Morris at $5,600. That means you’d be leaving a whopping $1,600 on the table, which is a disaster in NBA DFS where salaries accurately reflect expected production more than just about any other sport.
So what can you do differently? For starters, if you’re building a ton of lineups, the previous type of build is inevitably going to happen in at least a handful of them. But if you’re tinkering with builds after lock or hand-editing lineups that may be crushing early on, there’s one simple change to lineup construction that could make a huge difference come the end of the night:
No, this is not me telling you to play Giannis Antetokounmpo over Curry tomorrow. But rather if you’re going to make Lowry and Siakam your only two pieces left for the last game of the night, try to put Lowry in your guard spot and Siakam in your utility spot. Why? Because even though this lineup has utilized the full $50,000 of salary just like the first example, it has access to exponentially-better late-swap combinations:
By playing what should be a very low-owned Paul George in your guard spot (who still comes with a massive ceiling), there are a number of options from $5,000-$5,400 to pair him up with that won’t leave a crazy amount of salary on the table. Additionally, if there’s some fluky late-scratch for one of the Clippers studs like we’ve seen all too often in 2021, this build gives you the best chance at playing the major beneficiary that will certainly come in way under-owned. But on the whole, this type of lineup construction gives you access to builds you have no chance of getting to by playing Siakam in the forward spot. That can be very handy whether you need to pass someone to win, or even for terrible lineups that need some sort of differentiation to try for the miracle min cash.
For all you FanDuel-specific players, we can cover a similar scenario to this over there another time. But be aware that this sort of swap is made exponentially-more difficult on your site due to the strict positional rules for players. In other words, it’s harder to turn Lowry and Siakam into something else without leaving even more salary on the table than you would on DraftKings. And since you’re forced to roster another point guard and power forward only (of which there are none in that late-night hammer game), you could be in a lot of trouble. That’s where having another roster spot open in the event you’re anticipating some sort of news would come in handy.
Anyways, this was a very specific example, but hopefully it helps you see just how far down the rabbit hole of late swap can go. In summary, don’t just utilize it to react to late news, nor to make pivots based what you can do with what you have left. But try reverse-engineering your lineups on slates going forward, starting with the latest game on a slate and moving backwards, as small edges like this will add up over time.
Final Thoughts for Your NBA DFS Lineups
- Today’s article was obviously very strategy-based, but with the abundance of news that’s bound to come out for this slate, it felt appropriate. We’ll get back to some more picks for Wednesday’s nine-game slate.
- The Awesemo NBA DFS projections have been on a torrid run of late, so if you’re not behind the paywall updating those as news is rolling in, you’re giving up a massive amount of ROI at this point. So head to Awesemo.com/join if you haven’t already in order to stop guessing and start winning.
- Just play Kevin Durant.