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The Numbers Game

Elite Fantasy Consistency

by Ryan Knaus
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Today's column discusses consistency as it relates to elite fantasy players. There are certain guys who seem boom-or-bust -- they can have a terrific game one night, only to bomb a few days later. One player might struggle against opponents with small-ball lineups, another might struggle in the second of back-to-back games. A player could look lethargic while shooting 4-of-16 simply because he didn't get his pre-game nap.

 

Then there are the fantasy metronomes, players who give you steady production night in, night out, seemingly oblivious to changing circumstances. Which players fall in the first category, and which in the latter? Rather than rely on anecdotal examples or a 'sense' of which players are most consistent, I'll be using standard deviations as a stand-in metric for consistency.

 

That isn't enough, though, as raw standard deviations are inevitably higher for players with higher fantasy-point totals. For a more accurate measure, I'll divide a player's standard deviation into their average output, arriving at what I'll call a ratio of volatility -- the higher the percentage, the higher the volatility/lower the consistency.

 

Below is a list of the top-50 players in the NBA's official points-league scoring system. It's the same scoring used by FanDuel, and is now the default for Yahoo, but if you're not familiar with it you can read more here. Ideally, I would have gone into the top-150 players, but I ran out of time -- I must aggregate boxscores for each individual before running the numbers.

 

Here are the results:

 

 

You can follow me on Twitter @Knaus_RW.

 

 

Raw standard deviations can be misleading. For instance, James Harden and LeBron James have SDs above 12.0, which is comparable to Devin Booker or Bradley Beal. Since Harden and LeBron average so many more fantasy points, though, their actual volatility isn't as great as Booker or Beal with the same SD.

 

For that reason, I've added the more accurate column "SD as % of Fantasy Points." The lower the percentage, the less that player veered from their personal average (i.e. the more consistent that player has been). On the other hand, players with high percentages have veered widely from their personal means so far this season.

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a remarkable case, with a standard deviation (8.11) less than 15% of his average points-league scoring (54.5 points per game). As a result, you can generally expect him to be within the range of 46.4 to 62.6 points on any given night. For a less consistent option like Lonzo Ball, however, we find a wide range of 20.8 to 43.7.

 

Players can be inconsistent through no fault of their own, of course. Blowouts can lead to sharply reduced minutes for veterans and starters. A coach might abruptly change a player's role from night to night (whether they're riding the hot hand or simply being capricious). It might be situational, but that doesn't make it any less important -- this column is limited to quantifying consistency, not explaining the 'why' behind it. Perhaps Ball is more susceptible to the factors discussed -- bad matchups, coach's whims, off nights -- but whatever the cause, we can say confidently that he's a very volatile player to own.

 

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A few notes...

 

1) To be clear, I'm only interested in how consistent players are when they're active. As such, these numbers don't include DNPs, whether due to injury or precautionary rest. Joel Embiid would look far more 'volatile' if you include his random zeroes, obviously, as would anyone who missed extended time with an injury.

 

2) I did eliminate a handful of games in which players were injured after just a few minutes...but I did not eliminate games in which a player was ejected. For instance, Draymond Green had two very poor games in which he was ejected early. I consider that an inherent part of his volatility.

 

3) Eric Bledsoe's numbers are only from Milwaukee...I'm only interested in his current role, not whatever happened while he was on the Suns to begin the season.

 

4) D'Angelo Russell and Paul Millsap would have been on the list of top-50 players, but I bumped them due to lack of games played.

 

5) Finally...the most consistent players aren't necessarily better, and the most volatile players aren't worse. If you're swinging for the fences in a DFS league, you might prefer a player whose volatility will scare away other owners, in the hopes that he 'hits' that night. On the other hand, you might trade for more consistent players if you're looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs and don't want to risk an off-week from your one mercurial superstar. You can't make those decisions, though, until you know which player is which.

 

I hope to run this analysis for more players in the coming week -- if you have a few guys you're curious about, or even a full team you'd like me to run the numbers for, send me an email or find me on Twitter @Knaus_RW. I'll do my best to reply. I'm also hoping to put out updated "Team Matchups vs. Positions" data soon. With a big assist from Rotoworld reader Oleg Feygin, it should be easier to produce those charts more frequently.

 

I’ll leave you with a chart showing the top two games this season for each player listed above, using the NBA official points-league/DFS scoring system. My assumption was that the majority of them would have come at home, and indeed 57 of these 100 performances were home games. Thanks for reading, and good luck this week!

 

Player

NBA 'Official' Fantasy Points     (per game)

Opponent

Joel Embiid

93.5

@ Lakers

LeBron James

92.7

@ Wizards

DeMarcus Cousins

83

Mavs

James Harden

80.7

Cavs

DeMarcus Cousins

79.6

@ Kings

Aaron Gordon

78

Thunder

James Harden

76.9

Jazz

Kevin Durant

74.5

@ Pistons

DeMar DeRozan

74

Bucks

Nikola Jokic

73.9

Nets

Russell Westbrook

73.5

Mavs

Victor Oladipo

73.3

@ Magic

Karl-Anthony Towns

72.3

Kings

LeBron James

71.7

Hornets

Kevin Durant

71.2

@ Lakers

Russell Westbrook

71.1

@ Sixers

Marc Gasol

71.1

Pacers

Dwight Howard

71

Bulls

Andre Drummond

70.4

@ Celtics

Victor Oladipo

69.4

Nuggets

Paul George

69.3

Clippers

Anthony Davis

69.2

Nets

Lonzo Ball

68.7

@ Bucks

Anthony Davis

68.5

Warriors

Kristaps Porzingis

68.1

Pacers

Bradley Beal

67.3

Bulls

Giannis Antetokounmpo

67.1

Jazz

Karl-Anthony Towns

66.8

Thunder

Kristaps Porzingis

66.7

Lakers

Giannis Antetokounmpo

66.6

Blazers

Chris Paul

65.8

Spurs

Nikola Vucevic

65.6

@ Hawks

Stephen Curry

64.7

@ Nets

Ben Simmons

64.6

Wizards

LaMarcus Aldridge

64.5

Mavs

Joel Embiid

64.4

Lakers

Khris Middleton

64.3

@ Suns

Nikola Vucevic

63.2

Hawks

Devin Booker

63.1

@ Sixers

Kevin Love

62.7

Bucks

Damian Lillard

62.5

Thunder

DeMar DeRozan

62.5

@ Sixers

Jrue Holiday

62.3

@ Rockets

Kemba Walker

62.2

Magic

Tyreke Evans

61.9

Clippers

T.J. Warren

61.5

@ Wizards

Rudy Gobert

61.4

Mavs

Lou Williams

61.4

Sixers

Paul George

61.3

Wolves

Damian Lillard

61

@ Jazz

Ben Simmons

60.8

@ Lakers

Kemba Walker

60.7

@ Bulls

Aaron Gordon

59.8

Nets

Kyrie Irving

59.6

@ Mavs

Khris Middleton

59.5

@ Hornets

Tyreke Evans

59.4

@ Cavs

Jimmy Butler

59.2

Blazers

Andre Drummond

59

@ Bucks

Chris Paul

58.9

Hornets

Nikola Jokic

58.4

Magic

Dwight Howard

57.1

@ Warriors

Clint Capela

56.5

Jazz

Lou Williams

56.4

Hornets

Draymond Green

56.3

@ Pelicans

Clint Capela

56

@ Sixers

Eric Bledsoe

56

Hornets

Hassan Whiteside

55.9

@ Magic

DeAndre Jordan

55.9

@ Cavs

Marc Gasol

55.8

Warriors

Bradley Beal

55.6

@ Blazers

DeAndre Jordan

55.5

@ Magic

Jimmy Butler

54.9

Kings

Hassan Whiteside

54.9

@ Clippers

Kevin Love

54.8

Heat

Lonzo Ball

54.7

@ Suns

Stephen Curry

54.5

@ Pelicans

Kris Dunn

54.4

@ Bucks

Kyle Lowry

54

@ Pacers

Devin Booker

53.8

Wolves

John Wall

53.7

Bulls

John Wall

53.7

@ Hornets

Draymond Green

53.7

@ Pistons

Al Horford

53.6

Mavs

Kris Dunn

53.2

@ Hornets

Blake Griffin

52.9

@ Cavs

LaMarcus Aldridge

52.5

@ Bulls

Jrue Holiday

52.3

Sixers

Kyle Lowry

51

Nets

Kyrie Irving

50.7

Nuggets

Blake Griffin

50.2

Grizzlies

Eric Bledsoe

49.6

Wolves

C.J. McCollum

49.2

@ Bulls

Rudy Gobert

48.5

Sixers

C.J. McCollum

48.4

Sixers

Dennis Schroder

48.1

Mavs

T.J. Warren

47.8

Nets

Dennis Schroder

46.5

@ Grizzlies

Al Horford

44.7

Jazz

Klay Thompson

43.8

Pelicans

Klay Thompson

43.5

@ Nets

 

Ryan Knaus
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.