If you're new to Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), the WNBA, or both, it can be intimidating trying to dive right in. I was in the second group prior to last season, as my knowledge of the league was sparse. But with just 12 teams and rarely more than three games in a night, it's easy to find yourself quickly becoming familiar with players and their roles. Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) itself can also be picked up relatively quickly, especially if you're an experienced fantasy player already.
What is DFS?
Traditional fantasy sports last an entire season, with a draft to determine who gets which players. There are many different formats, but that general principle remains the same.
In DFS, a salary system is implemented rather than a draft, with the player pool limited to those participating in games that day. And, unlike year-long fantasy, both you and I can have the same player(s) on our respective rosters.
What does this look like?
On FanDuel, you're allotted $40,000 to create a seven-player team of three guards and four forwards. As expected, better players are more expensive. For example, if you want last season's MVP, Sylvia Fowles (18.9 PPG, 10.4 RPG, a combined 3.1 blocks/steals per game), on your team, you'll have to to shell out $8,100 on this particular day, sacrificing depth. On the other hand, if your top-paid player is $6,100 Chiney Ogwumike (12.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.7 combined steals/blocks per game), you'll have more salary remaining to help eliminate risks on the back-end of your team.
The scoring works as follows:
Points: 1 fantasy point
Assists: 1.5 fantasy points
Rebounds: 1.2 fantasy points
Blocks and steals: 3 fantasy points
Turnovers: -1 fantasy point
Some basic strategy
I begin my team-building process by identifying if there are any key injuries on the slate. It's important to note that FanDuel does not change players' prices once they are set, so a backup can end up outpacing her expected value if she ends up starting. For instance, if Brittney Griner, the starting center for the Mercury (20.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.2 BPG in 33.6 MPG), ends up spraining her ankle during pre-game warmups, Sancho Lyttle (9.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.0 APG and 1.2 SPG in 21.8 MPG) could end up drawing the start. But Lyttle would still cost only $4,800, giving her high upside and allowing you to save some salary.
Pace is also something worth looking into. A faster pace results in more possessions, which, in theory at least, equals more stats. In general, it's safer to avoid players who are on a slow-paced team. However, if they are going up against a fast-paced team, they have a greater chance of outplaying their averages and returning good value on their price. The opposite goes for players on fast teams facing off against slow teams – there's less of a chance they'll reach their averages. There are obviously nuances based on matchup, but looking at pace can help be a deciding factor if you're trying to choose between multiple players for one roster spot.
On the topic of matchups, exploiting teams' weaknesses is also important in DFS. Don't be afraid to dig a bit into the WNBA's Advanced Stats page to to find advantages. It doesn't take long to discover that the Mercury allow their opponents to grab the highest percentage of available rebounds. If they happen to play the Wings, it makes sense to deploy Liz Cambage, who is the WNBA's second-leading rebounder (12.0 per game).
Finally, the RotoWire optimizer is useful. You can lock in players, exclude players and apply filters to help construct a hopefully winning lineup.
What kind of contests are out there?
There are two primary types of DFS contests to join: Tournaments and 50/50s. Tournaments have fewer winners, but those with higher scores are rewarded with more money. 50/50s reward the top half of scores with double their entry fee, but the highest scorers don't net any additional money. Tournaments and 50/50s are often referred to as GPPs (Grand Prize Pools) and Cash Games, respectively.
Experienced DFS players often build different lineups based on contest. Theoretically, it makes more sense to build a safer lineup with a higher floor for 50/50s, and a riskier lineup with a higher ceiling for tournaments.
Ultimately, beginners should explore all the various types of contests to find something that fits their preferences. The safest way to go about things is to get your feet wet with some low-cost 50/50s to minimize risk and get used to DFS.