• The most common mistake made by DFS players is allowing factors such as 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 second of a four part series looking at opportunity in NBA DFS.  Part 1 discussing pace can be found here:

    In this article we’ll look at minutes, how playing time affects fantasy scoring and ways to predict minutes.

    The Importance of Minutes

    There is a direct linear relationship between how many minutes a player plays and how many fantasy points they score.  Every minute a player plays equals extra opportunity to score points, dish assists, grab rebounds, and create steals and blocks.  Nothing in NBA DFS is more important than minutes.

    Below is the scatter plot for all NBA players this season who have averaged 1 fantasy point per minute as well as the line of average points per minute.

    The relationship between minutes with a higher floor, a higher average, and a higher ceiling is evident and linear.  A player being in good or bad form tends to affect average fantasy scoring by less than 1 fantasy point in either direction.  Matchups, independent of pace, tend to affect fantasy scoring by 1 to 3 fantasy points on average.  A bench player receiving a spot start, however, can affect expected fantasy scoring by 20 fantasy points!

    The rise of Nikola Jokic can be attributed to an increase in minutes.  Early in the season, it was not uncommon to roster Jokic at a sub 5K price tag.  Now he can cost over 10K.  While his rates have gone up, he has always been a very efficient fantasy producer since his rookie season.  What made the difference was an increase in playing time – over the course of the season his minutes have risen from under 20 a game to the 30 to 37 minute range.

    Breadley Beal is another great example of the power of minutes.  Beal’s season saw streaks of playing close to 40 minutes per game along with streaks of playing less than 34.  The minutes increase from 34 to 39 very predictably affects his fantasy output by a whopping 5 fantasy points per game.  This is a large enough increase to warrant paying an extra $1,000 to roster him.  For a player like Beal, we cannot begin to judge his fantasy value without first accurately predicting his minutes.

    More than any other factor in DFS, minutes are gold.

    There are a variety of factors to consider when projecting minutes for a player.  They are in order of importance:

    1- Injuries and news: Staying up to date with the news is the most important step to accurately predicting minutes.

    2- Recent game logs: A very simple way of predicting minutes is to simply monitor a player’s minute load in recent games.

    3- Blowout and overtime concerns: When a game blows out or goes into overtime, their minutes and fantasy production are greatly affected.  This is a topic I discussed in greater detail here.

    4- Foul trouble or matchup concerns: A player can see a dramatic decrease in minutes if they get into foul trouble.  They can also see a change in minutes based on how well or poorly they match up with a given team.  Understanding when these factors come into play can be difficult and nuanced.  The best way to grapple with this challenge is by following the NBA closely and reading daily articles by the experts here at Hoop-Ball.

    Using Injuries and News to Predict Minutes

    Keeping up to date with injuries and news is the most important part of being a successful NBA DFS player. Unfortunately, in the NBA news can be trickier than it is other daily fantasy sports.  Teams aren’t required to release their actives and inactives or their starting lineups before lock.  As a result we are very dependent on beat writers, who have access to the team before and after games, after shootarounds, and after practices.

    Expect a wave of information in the early afternoon as teams wrap up their shootarounds and practices as well as one to two hours before the game starts.  Teams playing the second game in a back to back do not usually have a shootaround, which means we’ll be left a little blind on the news front until an hour or two before the game.  This can be after lock if the team is playing in a western time zone.

    When an injury occurs or a player is rested, his minutes must be distributed among the rest of the team.  It can be tricky to figure out exactly how many minutes players will play after an injury, so the more opinions you can find about what the new rotation may look like the better.

    If it is a starter who gets injured, the bulk of the minutes will usually go to the direct backup at that position.  If a player who was not a large part of the rotation before the injury gets a spot start, chances are the new starter will not actually see a large uptick in minutes.  Many coaches, most notably Luke Walton and Steve Kerr, like to keep their best bench players in the same role even if a starter goes down.  When this situation happens, the more talented bench player at the position will see the biggest uptick in minutes while the player receiving the spot start can see as little as 10 minutes.

    Finding previous games where the injured or resting player has missed along with getting reliable expert analysis here at Hoop-Ball and throughout the DFS industry is the best way to not fall into the Useless Starter trap.

    Using Game Logs to Predict Minutes

    Looking at a player’s recent fantasy scoring is obviously helpful for charting past production, but it’s not very predictive of future performance.  Searching through game logs is very dangerous if done wrong, but can be the most effective use of research time when done correctly.  One must look for predictive data in the game logs.

    If a player has been seeing an uptick in minutes but not an uptick of fantasy production, you can very reliably predict the increase in fantasy scoring is coming.  Maybe the player has seen a series of bad matchups or just had some bad shooting performances that have overshadowed his playing time increase.  Searching for a player receiving extra minutes under the radar is a great way of finding a strong contrarian play.

    It’s important to remember a player’s context when looking at game logs.  Fouls can throw a wrench into any coach’s rotation, so be on the lookout for any situations that’ll misrepresent a player’s situation going forward. The same can be said for game state, as certain players are more likely to play when a game is out of reach.  It is easy to over-project the minutes of a bench player because he has recently gotten extra run in a series of blowouts.  Alternatively, a starter can be under-projected or over-projected if they have recently played in overtime or blowout games.  And of course, there’s the aforementioned case where a mismatch between a player’s skillset and a particular opponent keeps him stuck to the bench.

    Conclusion

    The importance of minutes cannot be overstated.  It can only take two minutes to turn a bad play into a good play and a good play into a great play.  Minutes are more important than all other factors in NBA DFS combined.

    So far in this series we have looked at time-based opportunity.  In the final two articles we will transition to role-based opportunity.  We will define the different types of roles NBA players can have and what they mean for NBA DFS.  We will also look at how to use statistics such as usage rate, rebounding rate, and assist rate to quantitatively measure players roles and predict fantasy scoring.

Fantasy News

  • Kawhi Leonard
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    The Clippers closed their practice facility in a precautionary move after a member of their Orlando traveling party tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

    This seems like something that will continue to happen as we prepare to move teams into the Orlando bubble. We'll keep an eye on whether any specific player is infected and how that will impact the restart plans for this team.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Stephen Curry
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, the NBA is close to signing off on a secondary bubble location in Chicago for the eight teams left out of the league resumption with a target date of September.

    They went on to say that this bubble would allow those eight teams who were not invited to Orlando to have an opportunity to have mini-training camps as well as games. It has been reported throughout the last few months that the teams that were not invited should have an opportunity to prepare for next season. Many of the teams who were not included would benefit greatly from additional practice time and game reps as most of these teams have young players who need to continue to develop their skills. There will still be a lot of logistics that need to be ironed out so this a situation to monitor as we learn more.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Marvin Bagley III
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    Marvin Bagley confirmed that he is "ready to go" for the NBA restart in Orlando after rehabbing from a left foot sprain.

    It was previously reported in early July that the Kings' training staff believed that Bagley would be available for game action soon and this report confirms that Bagley will in fact be available for the league resumption. Bagley has yet to live up to the hype of the second overall pick in 2018 as he has only been able to play in 75 out of a possible 146 games (51.3 percent). It is unclear what role Bagley will have in Orlando but it appears that his injury woes are behind him and we will learn more about his ability during the league resumption. Bagley's return would likely cut into the playing time of Nemanja Bjelica, Harry Giles, Jabari Parker and Harrison Barnes.

    Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter

  • Jusuf Nurkic
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    In a conference call with Portland media, Terry Stotts revealed that Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are likely to return to their starting jobs and won't be under minutes restrictions when the NBA resumes.

    It should be a huge defensive lift for a Blazers squad that gave up points like crazy, though this will throw a wrench into plans for DFS players. Stotts mentioned that he's considered starting Nurkic next to current starter Hassan Whiteside, though that fit would likely only be tenable in certain matchups. This, plus news of Trevor Ariza's absence during the restart, also has big effects on the wing rotation, where it sounds like Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. are competing to start with Nassir Little and Mario Hezonja also in the mix off the bench. This is a big blow to Hassan Whiteside's fantasy appeal — a top-15 player in 31.3 mpg this year– as his minutes should sink into the mid twenties. Anyone participating in a short league that covers the restart may want to view Whiteside as more of a middle-round, blocks specialist type, though this all obviously hinges on how Nurkic and Collins look when games begin.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Devin Booker
    SG, Phoenix Suns

    Monty Williams said that he wants to play Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio less than their typical minute allotment when the NBA resumes in Orlando.

    The Suns have extremely slim playoff hopes and Williams doesn't want to risk one of the team's starting guards sustaining an injury in what amounts to a meaningless game. Expect similar moves from plenty of teams who realistically have no shot at the playoffs, even if they don't declare as much publicly. Anyone playing fantasy games for the eight-game restart should familiarize themselves with the depth charts on such teams and maybe downgrade some of the bigger names in case their minutes are limited.

    Source: Valley Tales

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Out of 344 players tested between June 24-29, nine have tested positive for COVID-19.

    That brings the NBA up to 25 positive cases among players since June 23 testing began, a positive rate of 7.1%. 10 out of 884 staff members have also tested positive. How the NBA handles any potential spread of the virus inside the Orlando bubble will make or break their entire plan.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Jontay Porter
    C, Memphis Grizzlies

    Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said that rookie Jontay Porter may be available for games in the Orlando bubble.

    Porter missed the entire 2018-19 college season after suffering a knee injury and hasn't suited up as a pro, so if he accompanies the Grizzlies to Orlando it'll be more for the experience than actual playing time. His college numbers were intriguing but Porter is only of consequence in deep dynasty formats for now.

    Source: Daily Memphian

  • Grayson Allen
    SG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Grayson Allen (left hip) may be able to play when the NBA season resumes in Orlando.

    Allen has been sidelined with left hip soreness since leaving a game in late January, and his ailment would've ended his season had things finished as scheduled. While he hasn't received the all-clear yet, the Grizzlies will evaluate him after he gets through some practices in the Orlando bubble. He's unlikely to play much even if he can, as the Grizzlies currently boast a fully healthy roster.

    Source: Daily Memphian

  • 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