• 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

  • Mychal Mulder
    PG, Miami Heat

    The Heat have announced the signing of guard Mychal Mulder.

    Mulder played last season with the Windy City Bulls of the G-League and averaged 8.8 points in Summer League this year. He has good range but is unlikely to contribute much at the NBA level in 2019-20.

    Source: Miami Heat

  • Vincent Poirier
    C, Boston Celtics

    Nicolas Batum praised the play of Celtics center Vincent Poirier at the FIBA World Cup.

    According to Batum, Poirier "is a center that can block shots and control the paint." A native of France, Poirier has performed well over six seasons in Europe. Nevertheless, he should only be a depth option for the Celtics with Enes Kanter starting.

    Source: NBC Sports Boston

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Zach LaVine has been fine tuning his playmaking skills in the offseason, according to an interview with FanSided.

    LaVine enjoyed the best field goal percentage of his career for the Bulls last season. He also scored a career best 23.7 points per game. However, LaVine averaged 3.4 turnovers and his fantasy value will increase if he can take better care of the ball.

    Source: FanSided

  • Tyler Herro
    PG, Miami Heat

    According to Ira Winderman, rookie Tyler Herro is unlikely to start for the Heat at the beginning of the season.

    The Heat drafted Herro out of Kentucky with the 13th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. Dion Waiters should be the primary shooting guard at the outset. However, expect Herro to get plenty of opportunities to contribute.

    Source: Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

  • Jordan Murphy
    PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Forward Jordan Murphy will be in training camp with the Wolves after signing an Exhibit 10 deal, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

    Murphy averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds for the University of Minnesota last season. Murphy could join the Iowa Wolves of the G-League if he does not crack the NBA roster.

    Source: Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic on Twitter

  • Semi Ojeleye
    PF, Boston Celtics

    Semi Ojeleye could compete with Grant Williams for more minutes at forward for the Celtics, according to Jay King of The Athletic.

    Ojeleye only played 10 minutes per game for the Celtics last season but improved his field-goal shooting to 42 percent. He has shown some defensive prowess but could use more consistency in his perimeter shooting. Ojeleye is unlikely to contribute much for standard league owners.

    Source: Jay King of The Athletic

  • Mohamed Bamba
    C, Orlando Magic

    The Magic exercised their team option on Mo Bamba, signing him through 2020-21.

    Bamba averaged 1.4 blocked shots during his rookie season in just 16 minutes per game. However, the #6 overall pick in 2018 is firmly behind starting center Nikola Vucevic on the Magic's depth chart.

    Source: Orlando Magic PR on Twitter

  • Jonathan Isaac
    PF, Orlando Magic

    The Magic exercised their team option on Jonathan Isaac, signing him through 2020-21.

    Isaac started 64 games in his second season, scoring 9.6 points per game to go with 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Isaac also improved his free-throw shooting, finishing at 81.5 percent. He certainly has the potential to do even more going forward if he can stay healthy.

    Source: Magic PR on Twitter

  • James Ennis III
    SF, Philadelphia Sixers

    James Ennis should be the first wing off the bench for the Sixers, according to Rich Hofmann of The Athletic.

    Ennis, who averaged 6.7 points in 21 minutes per game last season, will provide depth behind Tobias Harris. His fantasy value isn't terribly high, but head coach Brett Brown trusts his defensive game. This report could mean a slight uptick in playing time for Ennis.

    Source: Rich Hofmann of The Athletic

  • Markelle Fultz
    PG, Orlando Magic

    The Magic have exercised their team option on Markelle Fultz.

    That will keep Fultz under control through the 2020-21 season. While Fultz is a former No. 1 overall pick, this was not a slam-dunk decision for the Magic given his health record and all the mystery that's clouded the first couple years of his career. With current starter D.J. Augustin set to hit free agency following the upcoming season, Orlando could be preparing to hand Fultz the reins. We want to know that he's healthy before endorsing him as a fantasy selection but the upside is enough to at least consider a deep-league flier.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter