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Beginner NBA DFS: Sportsbook lines

We continue our breakdown of the basics for NBA DFS. In this section, we look at sportsbook lines, with definitions and some basic strategy.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love goes for a rebound against Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid during the first half at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.  Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In daily fantasy sports, we need to use as many resources as humanly possible to give us an edge against the field. One of those mediums is Sportsbook odds and lines. Let’s go over how we can use odds and lines to make better DFS decisions.

Sportsbook Lines


Chances are if you’re checking out daily fantasy basketball, you’re familiar enough with Sportsbook lines and odds. If you aren’t familiar, don’t worry, that’s why we’re here. There are odds and lines for each game on any given night, the most common being money line, spread, and over/under total. All three of these give us a good sense of how the books perceive a matchup. Meaning, if a team is favored by 10 points on the spread, the books feel that team could blow out its opponent.


Point Totals

Every NBA game has a projected point total and the highest totals are where we’re going to find our best fantasy basketball options. If a game has an O/U ranging from 230-245 points, that game should have plenty of DFS scoring as well. Be careful though, there are instances in which an O/U is very high, but it’s because of the matchup. Either one team is that good on offense or the opponent is that poor on defense. If this is the case, we’d want to target the team with the higher implied total.

Line movement

Every NBA game opens with a spread and that line can move throughout the day leading up to tip-off. The more a line moves, the more we can gather about expectations for that contest. If a line moves a few points in favor of one team during the course of a day, that means the public believes said line was too low. For example, if the Lakers open as a 5.0-point favorite (-5) over the Clippers and the line closes at Lakers (-1), we know the public expects a close contest. This is favorable for all Lakers starters, the players who play the most minutes.

Player Props

There are websites all over the place that try to project how many fantasy points a player will score on a given night. Another way to get a gauge on what a player will do is by looking at player props prior to the game. Prop bets are wagers on individual events within the broader event, and often revolve around player performances. If James Harden’s points prop is set at an O/U of 42.5, that means the books think Harden is more likely to score around that amount of points. If this is the case, it may be time to roll out The Beard in a lineup.