Your lineup creation process should always begin with checking the upcoming slate of games and the associated Vegas Odds. Examining the Vegas Odds allows you to observe how the games are expected to play out, as predicted by experts. It’s important for bookmakers to be accurate in their predictions considering the vast amount of money involved in sports gambling.

The Vegas Odds, or game projections, are an exceptional tool for fantasy players because it means that some of the difficult projection work has been done for us already. We can quickly discover who is expected to win, by how much, and whether it will be a high-scoring game or not, and all of these factors can be valuable in the player selection process.

You can find Vegas Odds almost anywhere, whether it’s your usual bookmaker, or on a site that lists all of the available Vegas Odds such as Scores and Odds.

Let’s look at an example:

Away Home Favorite Line Total
Philadelphia 76ers San Antonio Spurs Spurs -18 195
Los Angeles Lakers Sacramento Kings Kings -5 220

So how do we use these projections?

The Spread

Firstly, let’s look at the spread (line), which details the expected winning team and margin. The team that is predicted to win (the favorite) has a minus (-) value next to their team name and the amount suggests how many points they are predicted to win by. In the case of the San Antonio Spurs, they are considered 18 point favorites, meaning that they are expected to win by 18 against the 76ers. In the Lakers vs. Kings game, the line suggests that the Kings will be victorious by a margin of 5 points.

The spread acknowledges teams coming off back-to-back games, home or away advantage, up-to-date injury news, and other necessary components that are needed to predict a game’s outcome. Fantasy players can use this information in many ways, but there are general rules to follow when observing the spread for the game.

Games that are expected to be relatively close will provide more fantasy potential for superstars as they are used deep into the fourth quarter and the teams find ways to get them the ball. Although it’s a rare occurrence, and you can’t possibly predict it, games that head to overtime result in massive fantasy scores too.

Blowouts, however, generally mean that superstars are rested as the game progresses and coaches will experiment with different lineup rotations. Although this seems like a game to avoid, there is potential to find speculative player selections in these games as coaches look to give more minutes to players who don’t normally get the opportunity.

A blowout will also result in a slower pace in the final minutes of the game. If the Spurs are leading by 20 heading into the final quarter, for example, they are likely to start working the clock and slow down their possessions, and less possessions equals fewer fantasy points.

The Total

The total (over/under), is the envisioned final game score from both teams. The over/under allows fantasy players to recognise which games will have more scoring and often a faster pace. A high scoring game means that shooters, or those players that usually score a significant percentage of a team’s points, will be more successful. Pace is a more valuable tool in predicting games with higher fantasy scoring potential, so I’ll discuss the benefits of pace analysis in a separate article.

The total can also be used in conjunction with the spread to predict an individual team score quickly. For the Lakers vs. Kings game, you can find individual team projections by halving the expected game total (220/2 = 110), then adding half of the spread to that new amount (5/2 = 2.5), (110 + 2.5 = 112.5). The Kings are expected to score 112.5 points, and the Lakers are expected to score 107.5 points (112.5 – 5).

Now that we have a basic understanding of Vegas Odds, it’s time to analyse the above example and find fantasy value from the Vegas Odds.

First Glance

76ers @ Spurs (-18) (195)

Risk of Blowout

A team that is favorited by 18 points is obviously a threat to completely blow out the other team.

In this case, it is likely that the Spurs will rest some of their star players, especially older players like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. If elite players or aging players are announced as active, they can be a risky selection considering the potential for restricted time on the court.

At the same time, however, this opens up a great opportunity to find excellent bargain selections. If the Spurs rest key players, it means that rookies, or players that usually limited, will see additional game time. A good example of this was when Spurs backup center Boban Marjanovic played 22 minutes of game time against the Suns because the Spurs were winning by close to 30 points. Marjanovic went on to score 17 points and grab 13 rebounds and would have been an exceptional play for those that selected him.

It’s important to keep an eye on lineup changes all the way until lockout because you can gain significant advantages over the competition.

Low Scoring Game

The total (195) is a relatively low expected game score. This is a representation of San Antonio’s pace (95.9), which is 6th slowest in the NBA. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be less total fantasy points in this game, but it is a quick indication of relative pace, which is the defining factor.

Lakers vs. Kings (-5) (220)

Close Game

The Kings are favored by 5 points in this hypothetical game against the Lakers. The Lakers, who are playing away from home, should manage to keep this game competitive.

A close game will result in the elite players from both teams maximising their time on the court, which results in higher fantasy scores. Speculative player selections, similar to the Boban Marjanovic example above, won’t be in play here because they might not get sufficient game time.

This is expected to be a high-scoring game (220), meaning that elite players or mid-range players with high scoring upside have incredible fantasy potential in this game. Once again, it’s important to look at relative pace differentials before jumping to any conclusions, but at first glance, this game looks like an excellent fantasy option.

Lineup Creation

Recommended Strategy

Now that we’ve had a look at the two games and understand what they each mean for NBA Daily Fantasy, we can start using our knowledge to construct a hypothetical roster.

The Lakers vs. Kings game is the one that we want exposure to, considering the competitive nature and high-scoring. The first player I’d be locking in on this slate would likely be an elite player from Sacramento Kings, so Demarcus Cousins is the first I’d choose. I’d also look to run with another high-scoring player, or player with a high assist ratio, such as Rajon Rondo, because there are plenty of buckets in this game.

An elite player from the Lakers would be a great option as well, but there aren’t any this season, so I’d look to grab an in-form point guard who can benefit from this high-scoring and competitive game.

I’d also be looking to grab bargain options from the blowout game, the 76ers vs. Spurs because there is a definite chance that Patty Mills might be starting in place of Tony Parker, or something similar. There are normally plenty of speculative options to consider in a matchup similar to this.

Outside of those speculative options, it would be hard to trust any player worth over $7,000 or so, because of the uncertainty of game-time.

There we have it! That’s a (very) basic piece regarding how to understand and analyse Vegas Odds so that you can use these to start constructing amazing fantasy lineups on Moneyball when playing Daily Fantasy NBA.