Correlation In NBA DFS
One of the biggest things to understand when applying NFL DFS knowledge to the NBA is that the importance of correlation is far less in NBA DFS. Counting the four major US team sports (NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL), correlation matters the least in NBA. In NFL DFS, you generally want to stack your quarterback with one to two of his pass-catchers. The success of these players directly correlates since both get points as passing yards are racked up, and touchdowns are scored.
You also deal with prominent negative correlations, such as a running back who doesn’t catch many passes with his quarterback. You’d tend to be sure not to play these players in the same lineup. You’d also generally “run it back” with a player from the opposition, hoping for a shootout-type game environment.
Positive Correlation In NBA DFS
In the NBA, you approach correlation entirely differently. Positive correlations are not something to take into account much at all. Negative correlation does matter considerably, yet even still, not as much as some might think.
Of course, there may be a slight positive correlation between certain players on the same team in the NBA. For one, a player can get credited with an assist while one of his teammates gets a bucket. There can also be a positive correlation if a game is very high scoring or goes into overtime. Suppose an offense is working efficiently and/or playing against a poor defense. In that case, multiple players from the same team stand to benefit. Yet, when looking for the ceiling scores needed to win large field NBA DFS tournaments, for the most part, you are going to get more negative correlations between players. This is where correlation is more of a factor in NBA DFS.
Negative Correlation In NBA DFS
You need every player on your roster to have an outlier ceiling game to win big GPPs, and the NBA is a game of usage. If one player utterly goes off, it is likely at the expense of another teammate having an unusually high fantasy score. If you are dealing with expensive “stud” players, it is all the more unlikely that more than one of them on the same team reaches their respective ceiling. You’d be more likely to avoid playing too many high-usage players from the same contingent than to “stack” them up.
Picture LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook on the Lakers, for example. What are the chances that two, let alone three of them, all reach a ceiling game in the same contest and far exceed value at their salaries? In a game where one takes over and goes ballistic, the other two likely take a backseat.
You will also deal with some very overt negative correlations you want to avoid. Examples would be a center and backup center or a strict starting point guard and backup point guard situation. If one is getting minutes, the other is certainly not, so you are biting yourself in the foot if you play the two together. You will want to consider negative correlations far more than positive in GPPs.
Game-Stacking In NBA DFS
Another element of correlation to look at is “game-stacking,” which is a popular concept in NFL DFS. If a football game goes off for 70 combined points, you will likely want some of both sides of it. One team scoring and playing at a fast pace directly benefits the other. You want the game to stay close, so both teams keep the pedal to the metal.
This is far less of a thing to focus on in NBA. Indeed, there are game environments with high totals and close spreads. Some games are projected to play at a faster than average pace. There are good and bad defenses. You don’t want blowouts when playing starters, as this may cut into their minutes. Games can go into overtime. Intentionally “bringing it back” with a player from the opposing team in NBA DFS is a concept that you can use to good effect. Particularly in certain situations.
A good example would be playing an expensive star player like Giannis in a game that could potentially blow out. You may want to play a key player from the other side since you want the game to remain close for Giannis to get his full allotment of minutes.
You might also see a very high-total game with a tight spread and intentionally play players from both sides hoping for a shootout and possible overtime. There are also situations where a particular game just happens to offer a ton of value with key pieces out from both sides.
All of this is to say that game-stacking is a somewhat viable concept in NBA DFS. Yet, it is far more a game of selecting all the individual players who do well that night. It is primarily not advisable to force game-stacks or positive correlations in terms of long-term success.
While it can work occasionally, it may be more likely to hinder you as you are causing certain players to be in lineups with others. This can kill good lineups when one player/side of the game does well, and the other does not. I would use intentional game-stacking as a sparing part of your NBA DFS arsenal if using it at all. Using players from both sides of the same game will inherently happen at times. It may be best to let that be the extent to which “game-stacks” occur in NBA DFS lineups.
Experiment with what works best for you. You can certainly intentionally play both sides of a game and a considerable number of players from one game, and this is not an inherently bad strategy and can be quite beneficial under certain circumstances. I would just keep in mind that this is not anywhere near as integral of a strategy as it is in NFL DFS.
NBA DFS is a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. Unlike NFL, you can play every day instead of waiting all week for another full slate. This two-part article highlights some of the most significant differences between NFL and NBA DFS approaches. It should help anyone transitioning into NBA DFS. Good luck out there, and win some money!