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Ryan Knaus

The Numbers Game

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Daily Fantasy Deep Dive

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


Today's column takes an in-depth look at fantasy value specific to daily fantasy sports. We'll approach season-long outcomes from a variety of angles, such as: Which elite players have exceeded their expected value most consistently this season? Paul George and Nikola Vucevic. Which players have averaged the most fantasy points overall, relative to expectations? Derrick Rose is near the top. Which teams have been the best targets for value-added production? No team has been more lenient than Atlanta.

 

To arrive at these conclusions, I'm manipulating season-long FanDuel data from RotoGuru. If you're a season-long fantasy owner and unfamiliar with DFS, don't fret! A player's value is calculated with a very simple points-league formula which is the NBA's "official" scoring system and the default for Yahoo! leagues.

 

Points = 1.0

Rebounds = 1.2

Assists = 1.5

Steals = 3

Blocks = 3

Turnovers = -1

 

And when I referred to 'expected value' above, I was referring to player salaries -- tonight, for instance, Bradley Beal will cost $10,000 to have on your roster, whereas Jeremy Lin can be had for $4,400. If Beal produces 50 fantasy points, we can shorthand that by saying he had '5x' value (five points for each $1,000). To hit the same 5x value, Lin would only need 22 fantasy points.

 

Even after eliminating thousands of individual games from the data (see below for more on that), there's simply too much to fit in a column. Instead, I'll highlight some of the most pertinent/interesting cuts. Let's begin with teams. The list below shows how many points-per-dollar (PTS/$) each team itself has scored, as well as how many PTS/$ they've allowed to opponents.

 

Editor's Note: Looking for an edge when it comes to fantasy hoops? Our new NBA DFS Toolkit has a Lineup Optimizer, Customizable Projections, Next Man Up tool and more for FanDuel, DraftKings and Yahoo! And for season-long, the NBA Season Pass provides weekly projections, rankings, Pickups of the Day and more.
 

Remember, this isn't simply how lenient they've been -- it's how lenient they've been relative to expectations. Everyone knows the Hawks are an easy mark in fantasy, and FanDuel often bumps up opponent salaries to account for the matchup. Despite that premium, they're still giving up 4.88x value to opponents on a season-long basis. Compare that the Celtics' league-low 4.08x allowed, and it's a massive disparity.

 

DFS Value by Team (FanDuel totals through Jan. 8)
PTS/$ ALLOWED PTS/$ SCORED
Atlanta 4.88 4.71 Miami
Washington 4.67 4.60 Brooklyn
New Orleans 4.64 4.58 Sacramento
Charlotte 4.57 4.58 Charlotte
Sacramento 4.54 4.57 Washington
New York 4.53 4.55 Indiana
L.A.Clippers 4.50 4.54 Atlanta
Phoenix 4.49 4.53 Denver
Detroit 4.49 4.53 Minnesota
L.A.Lakers 4.48 4.52 San Antonio
Chicago 4.46 4.49 Phoenix
Milwaukee 4.42 4.47 Boston
Minnesota 4.41 4.44 New York
Cleveland 4.39 4.41 L.A.Lakers
Oklahoma City 4.39 4.40 Philadelphia
Portland 4.38 4.38 Golden State
Dallas 4.36 4.38 Dallas
Miami 4.31 4.38 Cleveland
Orlando 4.31 4.35 Toronto
Toronto 4.30 4.32 Milwaukee
Brooklyn 4.29 4.31 L.A.Clippers
Philadelpia 4.29 4.24 New Orleans
Denver 4.27 4.23 Utah
Golden State 4.27 4.23 Houston
Indiana 4.26 4.23 Chicago
San Antonio 4.23 4.21 Memphis
Houston 4.23 4.19 Oklahoma City
Memphis 4.23 4.18 Orlando
Utah 4.14 4.15 Portland
Boston 4.08 4.12 Detroit


In theory, when the Heat play the Hawks it should be a night to stack your roster with Heat players. Miami has provided the most bang for the buck this season, though you'd have to guess which guy in their deep lineup will go off on a given night. There are position-specific nuances that get washed away in this analysis, of course, but the massive sample-size has its own benefits -- there's no room for doubt about which teams have and have not produced the most added value in FanDuel. For specific team-vs.-position data, check out my feature in the Rotoworld Season Pass (the next update is coming Thursday)!

 

Next up is a look at the top-30 players as gauged by sheer PTS/$ value. It's important to remember that this excludes all DNPs and games under 10 minutes -- if those were included, many of the top players like Boban, Zubac and Kornet would plummet.

 

PlayerFanDuel PTS/$Total Minutes
Boban Marjanovic 5.82 243
Ivica Zubac 5.78 218
Luke Kornet 5.62 202
Robert Williams 5.60 101
Derrick Rose 5.50 948
Emmanuel Mudiay 5.39 876
Derrick Jones Jr. 5.39 465
Tristan Thompson 5.33 896
Shabazz Napier 5.33 469
Pat Connaughton 5.27 459
Jeff Green 5.26 1018
Iman Shumpert 5.18 798
Noah Vonleh 5.16 1076
Tyler Johnson 5.15 773
Bam Adebayo 5.15 798
Daniel Theis 5.10 414
Jeremy Lin 5.10 620
Alex Len 5.09 678
Thomas Bryant 5.07 516
Richaun Holmes 5.07 571
Harry Giles 5.07 225
Nerlens Noel 5.07 503
Taj Gibson 5.05 996
Bojan Bogdanovic 5.04 1246
Paul George 5.04 1343
Nikola Vucevic 5.02 1199
Trevor Ariza 5.01 1273
T.J. McConnell 5.01 656

 

Credit is due to those players whose presence on the list doesn't rely on low-minute flukiness. Derrick Rose and Emmanuel Mudiay are perfect examples of players I'll go nowhere near in 8-cat and 9-cat leagues (roto or H2H), but for daily-league purposes...why not? If they're inefficient it won't hurt you and they've been priced low enough to be sustained value-added options. Jeff Green and Taj Gibson also deserve attention as often-overlooked DFS plays -- they're quite boring, frankly, but consistent stats are winning stats. The elite tier features Nikola Vucevic and Paul George, but I'll pivot instead to Bojan Bogdanovic. The Pacers' sharp-shooter has scored double-digit points in 31 straight games, which is currently the 12th-longest streak in the league. For perspective, of course, LeBron James is sitting on 412 consecutive regular-season games in double-figures.

 

Now it's time to look at which players among the elite have most consistently hit value, as judged by average FanDuel salaries. We already know that Paul George and Nikola Vucevic will top the list. I'm using the top-50 players ranging from a high of Anthony Davis ($12.6k) to a low of John Collins ($7.3k). Let's take a look.

 

Player

PTS/$

Salary

Fantasy PTS

Anthony Davis

4.95

$12.6

62

Giannis Antetokounmpo

4.60

$12.1

55

James Harden

4.75

$11.8

56

Russell Westbrook

4.62

$11.6

53

LeBron James

4.39

$11.5

51

Joel Embiid

4.76

$10.9

52

Kevin Durant

4.61

$10.6

49

Kawhi Leonard

4.62

$10.0

46

Karl-Anthony Towns

4.78

$9.9

47

Stephen Curry

4.64

$9.8

45

Nikola Jokic

4.65

$9.8

46

Andre Drummond

4.60

$9.7

44

John Wall

4.31

$9.7

42

Ben Simmons

4.50

$9.6

43

Paul George

5.04

$9.6

48

Damian Lillard

4.43

$9.6

42

Blake Griffin

4.68

$9.2

43

Kemba Walker

4.58

$9.2

42

Nikola Vucevic

5.02

$8.9

45

Victor Oladipo

4.64

$8.8

41

Jrue Holiday

4.82

$8.8

42

DeMar DeRozan

4.79

$8.8

42

Rudy Gobert

4.71

$8.7

41

Kyrie Irving

4.93

$8.6

42

Jimmy Butler

4.41

$8.6

38

Chris Paul

4.27

$8.6

37

Marc Gasol

4.54

$8.5

38

Clint Capela

4.76

$8.5

40

Bradley Beal

4.81

$8.5

41

Devin Booker

4.74

$8.4

40

Kyle Lowry

4.49

$8.3

37

LaMarcus Aldridge

4.49

$8.3

37

Mike Conley

4.48

$8.3

37

Kevin Love

4.92

$8.2

40

Hassan Whiteside

4.50

$8.2

37

Zach LaVine

4.45

$8.2

36

Jusuf Nurkic

4.63

$8.0

37

Donovan Mitchell

4.15

$7.9

33

Tobias Harris

4.46

$7.9

35

De'Aaron Fox

4.90

$7.9

38

Luka Doncic

4.65

$7.7

36

Nikola Mirotic

4.48

$7.7

34

Aaron Gordon

4.21

$7.6

32

Julius Randle

4.81

$7.6

36

DeAndre Jordan

4.54

$7.5

34

Deandre Ayton

4.88

$7.4

36

Khris Middleton

4.37

$7.4

32

Eric Bledsoe

4.33

$7.4

32

Steven Adams

4.81

$7.4

35

John Collins

4.68

$7.3

34

 

The first thing I'll mention is something most fantasy values already know, and which was hinted at earlier -- a baseline of '5x' value (that is, five fantasy points scored for every $1,000 in salary) can't be universally applied. You hope your low-end guys reach the 6-8x range, but getting those numbers from a guy priced consistently at +12k isn't realistic. Anthony Davis' sky-high price has him just under 5x value on the year and he's been a destroyer of worlds in fantasy, so that tells you plenty.

 

LeBron James hasn't been very FanDuel-friendly this season but it's not for lack of productivity -- his price is simply too high. It hasn't fluctuated much to reflect his play, but is instead pinned in the $11-$12k range no matter what -- he's been nearly $2,000 higher than Paul George on a season-long basis, which is wild to me.

 

Kevin Love has only played in a handful of games, sure, but I'll still point out his near-5x production with a reasonable price tag. Keep in mind, he shot 32.3% from the field in his four appearances -- if he shot better he'd have been a monster until his price spiked. Love hinted recently that he may not play until after the All-Star break, and he'll inevitably get shut down, but there could be a solid month where he's averaging 25 & 12 with usage around 30%. Whenever he's finally ready to return, I plan to play him aggressively (for a few games, at least) since his price-to-ceiling ratio should be very low.

 

The most disappointing high-priced player thus far? Donovan Mitchell, who is averaging a mere 4.15x value through Utah's first 41 games. His stats have plateaued or dipped in most categories as an NBA sophomore -- he has warmed up shooting the ball lately, but is still at just 40.9% on the season (30.9% from deep). I've chased him a few times in DFS, to my chagrin, but there's really no incentive with so many dependable 'elites' to choose from.

 

There are so many interesting specifics in the data, so here are a few more that especially caught my attention:

 

Daniel Theis owns the highest-value game so far this season, in terms of fantasy points per minute -- 16.1x value! If you played him vs. the Bulls on Dec. 8, you might remember him going off for 56.5 FP despite being as cheap as it gets ($3,500). That was the game Boston won by 56 points, in Chicago, with Theis dropping 22 points, 10 boards, five dimes, four blocks and one steal as a starter for Al Horford. Fun times.

 

The other top-10 individual performances for sheer FanDuel value have belonged to Nerlens Noel, Shabazz Napier, Iman Shumpert, Bam Adebayo, Omari Spellman, Alex Len, Harry Giles, Lance Stephenson, Bryn Forbes and Mason Plumlee.  I won't list when they occurred, or the circumstances that led to each eruption, but it's a safe bet that teammate injuries and garbage time were a common narrative. For what it's worth, Shumpert and Derrick Rose are the only two guys with two of the top-20 value-added games this season.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, there have actually been 22 games in which a player costing more than $3.5k finished with negative fantasy points. A few quick turnovers and a rest-of-game benching, a few quick turnovers and an injury...these were the cause in a few instances. However, they can't explain Allonzo Trier's negative game in 16.4 minutes of action, or teammate Frank Ntilikina's negative game in 14.8 minutes. The only other players with double-digit minutes but negative value have been Jonathon Simmons, Andrew Harrison and Royce O'Neale. You've been warned.

 

A note on methodology:  In past analyses, and for personal use, I was pulling data from multiple sources to get what I needed. That became easier with RotoGuru's master-data file which puts it all in one place -- if you like doing your own stat-crunching deep dives, give it a look. The initial data set included something like 14,000 individual games, and once I'd culled incomplete listings we had 12,685. Clearly, this is not a small sample size. Thousands of those games are irrelevant for this analysis, of course, belonging to guys who weren't played anywhere. It doesn't matter that DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell finished with -1.0 fantasy points for the Nuggets in mid-December, because he wasn't an actual DFS option.

 

To limit 'noise' in the data, I eliminated DNPs and games with under 10.0 minutes. That took care of thousands of games -- almost entirely scrubs, with random games from stars who got hurt. I'm fine with that. Fantasy owners may have been burned by someone like Jordan Bell early in the season, hoping he'd get a big opportunity only to watch him play six minutes off the bench. Those valid fantasy scenarios, though, are vastly outweighed by lousy performances from low-minute guys we all knew to avoid in the first place. I trimmed further by eliminating all games from players who haven't logged at least 200 minutes total this season.

 

I'll be following up this column with more deep-dive looks about DFS -- maybe not next week, but soon. For instance, I might look at topics like DraftKings multi-position eligibility; whether PTS/$ correlates to overall points scored; and which teams give the most value-added per position. If you have specific questions you'd like to see answered, or have insights or observations, you can always send me an email or a message on Twitter! Good luck this week.

 

Oh, and here's a bonus table I forgot to include, showing how many PTS/$ each position has averaged this season. I'm using positions assigned by FanDuel. Make of it what you will!

 

PositionAverage of PTS/$
C 4.66
PF 4.47
PG 4.36
SG 4.32
SF 4.26


Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.
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