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Building NBA DFS Lineups with the FTN NBA Optimizer




With a lot of help from the awesome staff at FTN, I’ve been finding some NBA DFS success for the first time with the 20-max format on DraftKings lately using the FTN NBA Optimizer. Below, I’ll give an outline of the plan of attack so that hopefully, we start to see even more FTN members finding success. Let’s start with a couple of basics and then we’ll touch on the settings themselves. 


Start Small 

I’ll be the first to say that if you’ve never done 20-max before, start by not risking much. There are contests on DK that are as low as a dime per entry, so it’s only $2 to max out the contest. I made plenty of mistakes (and still do) when I was learning how to attack this format. There is no shame in starting small and giving yourself some practice as you get used to things. 

Don’t Enter Contests You Can’t Max Out 

I say this all the time, but DFS is hard enough that you shouldn’t make it any harder on yourself. Just because you can cook up 20 lineups in under five seconds, don’t enter it into contests that are 150-max. You want to be on the same footing as every other player in the contest. 

Set the Salary Cap to $49,900 

Most folks will allow this to be at the limit of the salary cap at $50,000. Putting in a setting that doesn’t allow any lineup to use up the full cap is one way to be somewhat different before you generate your first batch of lineups. 

Set a Rule of “At Most Six Players” from Two Teams With Low Totals

To start the lineups, the optimizer requires you to set a minimum/maximum or like/dislike for at least two players. My goal in the first run is to get a batch of lineups that is purely based on the projections. To do that, I pick two teams with low implied totals or teams that are fully healthy that I can feel confident I wouldn’t get a lot of players from. This is set in the “Per-Team Players” tab. 

Once that is set, that gives me the “cleanest” run of lineups that don’t have any of my bias involved in them. 

Leave the “Randomization” Rate at 5% 

This one is personal preference. but I don’t change how random my lineups will be. I’m perfectly fine using a lower number of players in the pool and going with what the optimizer feeds me, which leads me to the next point. 

Be Careful About Going 100% into Many Players 

One of the reasons to play this format is to give yourself options. There are times when Zac Graham or I will say we’re going to have 100% of a player in our lineups, but that’s not something that happens every night. Normally, I will set a limit of 85-90% if the optimizer is giving me 100% of a player. It’s the NBA — anything can happen. Players can have a poor night shooting or twist an ankle, and it’s wise to keep that in mind. 


My Pool Normally Includes 20-25 Players 

That can be different depending on the size of the slate, but if I somehow find myself with 30-plus players, I have to reset and start again. Others might say that they want that many players and that can be where the randomization comes into play, but for me, that’s not what I’m after. When my core group in the player pool hits, it tends to be a good night. 

Be Aware of How the Optimizer Stacks Certain Players 

This is a bit more broad than the other rules, but it is an important one. Sometimes it will stack players like James Harden and Joel Embiid or LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Make sure you’re looking at the player pool and it makes sense about who’s playing with whom. In general terms, you don’t want Embiid and Harden together, because they won’t both hit their ceiling outcome in the same game very often. That’s an expensive example but you just need to be aware and set a rule against stacking players together if needed. 

Make Decisions on Bad Chalk and Good Chalk 

Obviously, this one is tough to narrow down, because it’s different for every slate, but the staff does a great job talking about being “under” or “over” the field. The best example from recent slates has been Jarred Vanderbilt. He’s been wildly chalky for the past couple of games but we’ve consistently been under the field, meaning we have less than the 50-60% the field has been playing. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about each slate in Discord, and we’ll always do our best to help.

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