• Stephen Curry

    The most common mistake made by DFS players is allowing factors like consistency, match up, narratives, recent play, or preset opinions on a player’s skill level to take precedent over opportunity.  These factors influence efficiency.  While both opportunity and efficiency are important, opportunity plays a much larger role than efficiency in NBA DFS.

    In the NBA, opportunity comes in two different forms:

    1 – Opportunity based on time.  Fantasy production is directly correlated to the amount of possessions a player sees on the floor.  In general, a player who sees a 20 percent uptick in possessions will see a 20 percent uptick in fantasy production.  We measure time-based opportunity using Minutes and Pace.

    2 – Opportunity based on role.   Different roles provide different opportunities to accumulate fantasy production.  We measure role using statistics such as usage rate, rebound rate, assist rate, and play type data.

    This article is the first of a four part series looking at opportunity in NBA DFS.  In this article we will look at ways to project pace and how it influences fantasy value.

    Overview of Pace

    Below is the average pace for NBA teams as of March 21st:



    Pace is simply the amount of possessions a team plays in 48 minutes.  Teams who play at a high pace tend to push the ball quickly up the floor after rebounds, run more of their offense though perimeter players and run actions such as high screen and rolls and quick pin downs that can create shots early in the shot clock.

    Low pace teams are more likely to set up a half court offense in lieu of transition play, run offense though big men and run offenses that use more of the shot clock to create a good look.  Good defensive teams can also force a lower pace by denying good shots to an opposing team early in the shot clock and forcing them into more late clock situations.

    Pace varies based on matchups.  When a team plays a fast paced opponent, their pace for that particular game will be higher than their season average.  This situation is called “playing pace-up”.  When a team plays a low paced opponent, their pace for that particular game will be lower than their season average.  This situation is called “playing pace-down”.

    Playing pace up results in 4 benefits:

    1 – Higher fantasy point projection.  As discussed before, fantasy production is directly correlated to the number of possessions a player sees.  If a player is expecting to see a 10% increase in pace from the season average, they can expect a 10% increase in fantasy production.

    2 – Higher absolute ceiling.  Every possession has a limited amount of fantasy points a player can score.  There will only be 1 made shot, rebound, or steal in most possessions.

    3 – A higher floor.  Players in high paced games are safer.   By seeing more possessions, a player will get more opportunity to regress to their mean production if they get off to a rough start.

    4 – A more stackable game.  With only 1 player usually accumulating fantasy points in a single possession,  more possessions make it much easier for multiple players to have a great fantasy game.

    Estimating Pace

    Now that we know what pace is and why it’s important, we need a way of estimating the pace a game will be played at.  A common mistake would be to take the pace of the two teams playing each other and take the average.  Whether a game is pace-up or pace-down does not depend on if the opponent’s pace is lower or higher.  Instead, it depends on if the opponent’s pace is lower or higher than the league average.

    For a more accurate way of estimating pace, we can assume the average time per possession is the average of each team’s average time per possession.  After doing a bit of algebra we arrive at the following formula for estimating pace:

    While not perfect, this formula is the quickest way to get a good estimate of the pace a game will be played out.

    Below is the matrix for each match up (click to embiggen):


    Incorporating Pace into Projections

    Incorporating pace into our projections is very easy.  Because pace is directly correlated to possessions, and possessions are directly correlated to fantasy production, all we need to do to do is increase a player’s fantasy production based on the increase of pace.

    Now let’s use Andre Drummond vs. the Brooklyn Nets as an example.  Brooklyn has the fastest pace in the league.  Therefore, this is the most pace-up matchup Drummond will face all year.  After plugging in Detroit’s season average pace of 97.0, Brooklyn’s season average of 103.5, and the league average of 98.8, we get a estimated pace of 101.6.  That’s a 4.7 percent increase in pace – but what does that mean in terms of actual fantasy production?

    All other factors equal, we should expect a 4.7 percent increase in fantasy production for all the Pistons.  This means an increase from 1.29 FPPM to 1.35 FPPM is expected from Drummond based on pace adjustment alone.  If Drummond plays his season average minutes of 30 minutes per game, this 0.06 fantasy point increase will equate to a 1.87 extra fantasy points over the course of the full game.

    An increase of 1.87 fantasy points may seem small, but in terms of projections it’s quite significant.  It can turn a good play into a great play or a poor play into a mediocre play.  Consider that an phenomena that increases fantasy production this much throughout an entire 8-man DK roster would result in nearly a 15 fantasy point increase in our final score.  For comparison, most players’ home/road splits affect projections less than one fantasy point.

    Pace is extremely important when playing DFS and projecting fantasy points.  It is not the most important, however.  Next week we will explore a factor so critical that it’s arguably more important for DFS than all other factors combined.

Fantasy News

  • Dwight Howard
    C, Los Angeles Lakers

    Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported that Dwight Howard remains in his Atlanta-area home and the Lakers hope he will eventually join them in Orlando.

    The Lakers do not plan to replace Howard on the roster. They are being patient with Howard, but if he decides to not play in Orlando the Lakers will likely look to sign another center.

    Source: Dave McMenamin on Twitter

  • Luc Mbah a Moute
    SF, Houston Rockets

    Shams Charania reported that the Houston Rockets plan to sign Luc Mbah a Moute for the Orlando restart.

    Thabo Sefolosha announced on Wednesday that he will not participate in the Orlando restart, leaving the Rockets with a need for an additional three-and-D wing. Mbah a Moute played 61 games for the Rockets in 2017-18 and averaged 25.6 minutes per game, so he is familiar with their system. Mbah a Moute will be a low-usage player that the Rockets can plug in at the end of their rotation and will provide them more depth, which could be imperative for teams given the COVID-19 concerns surrounding this Orlando restart.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Dwight Powell
    PF, Dallas Mavericks

    Dwight Powell has advanced in his rehab from a torn Achilles as he has been able to do some light shooting, agility work, and has been able to do some jogging on the treadmill.

    Powell suffered a torn Achilles in January and has no chance of participating in Orlando's restart. However, it is always good news to hear a player reach a milestone in terms of their rehab. Powell may not play an NBA game until the 2021-22 season as he continues to recover from one of the toughest injuries in basketball. This is a situation that will continue to evolve over the next year or so.

    Source: Callie Caplan on Twitter

  • Jaren Jackson Jr.
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Head coach Taylor Jenkins told the media that they are "looking good, feeling good" in regards to the health of Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee), Brandon Clarke (right quad) and Justise Winslow (back soreness).

    Jackson and Clarke missed nine and eight games respectively prior to the shutdown while Winslow has yet to play a game for the Grizzlies due to an ongoing back injury. This appears to be great news for the young team as they will be at full strength when the league does resume. Clarke and Jackson definitely have fantasy appeal as they both finished inside the top-80 on the season. Winslow has potential but he is the riskiest of the three based on a brand new situation and the back injury that has caused him to miss 53 games so far this season. It is probably best to avoid Winslow for the league resumption and re-evaluate his fantasy value prior to the 2020-21 campaign.

    Source: Michael Wallace on Twitter

  • Thomas Bryant
    C, Washington Wizards

    Wizards center Thomas Bryant told the media that he is "100 percent healed" from a stress fracture in his foot and is doing everything on the basketball court ahead of the NBA resumption in Orlando.

    Bryant struggled to stay healthy prior to the league suspension as he played in 38 out of 64 games while the team also had him on a strict minutes limit for several of the contests that he was able to play. He is an intriguing fantasy option for the NBA restart but his recent injury history should be considered at draft time.

    Source: Fred Katz on Twitter

  • Caleb Swanigan
    PF, Portland Trail Blazers

    Blazers forward, Caleb Swanigan, has opted out of the resumption of the NBA season in Orlando.

    Swanigan averaged 13.3 mpg for the Blazers across 20 contests and is off the radar from a fantasy perspective. He will join Trevor Ariza who will also be sitting out the NBA restart. There was very little likelihood that Swanigan would have been part of the rotation in Orlando with Jusuf Nurkić and Zach Collins returning from injury.

    Source: NBC Sports Northwest

  • Thabo Sefolosha
    SF, Houston Rockets

    Thabo Sefolosha will not participate in Orlando when the league resumes.

    Sefolosha was a deep rotation piece for the Rockets as he only eclipsed the 20 minute mark once this season. There isn't much of a fantasy impact here as Sefolosha played in just two of the team's final nine games.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Jusuf Nurkic
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    In regards to the health of Jusuf Nurkić and Zach Collins, head coach Terry Stotts said that "they both look great" and will be available for the restart of the NBA season in Orlando.

    Nurkić was close to returning when the league was suspended while Collins was further away from playing basketball in March. However, the additional three months allowed Collins to recover as he has no limitations heading into the restart in Orlando. It is likely that they will find themselves in the starting unit while Nurkić is the more proven player in terms of fantasy production.

    Source: Sean Highkin on Twitter

  • Marvin Bagley III
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    The Kings training staff believes that Marvin Bagley (left foot sprain) will be available for game action shortly.

    Bagley hasn't appeared in a game since January. While Bagley would likely have a bench role, his return may cut into the playing time of teammates like Harrison Barnes and Harry Giles.

    Source: Jason Jones on Twitter

  • Nikola Jokic
    C, Denver Nuggets

    Nuggets coach Mike Malone said that Nikola Jokic "feels great" after suffering from the coronavirus and is expected to join the team in Orlando.

    It was reported in late June that Jokic tested positive for COVID-19. However, he was said to be feeling fine and could potentially play in games when they resume. The center has averaged 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 1.2 steals in 2019-20. Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee would see more playing time if Jokic is held out of action.

    Source: Mark Medina on Twitter