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DFS NBA: Best Matchups By Position

A few weeks ago, I created one of my favorite tools on DFW, NBA Adjusted FP Allowed. The gist of this tool is it takes the difference between actual fantasy points (FP) allowed by position and expected FP allowed by position, which is based on FP per 36 minutes on the season of opposing players. A quick example of this methodology would be a team playing against Russell Westbrook. Westbrook averages about 50 FP per 36 minutes. If a team facing the Thunder allowed 55 FP per 36 minutes to Westbrook, that team has allowed 5 FP per 36 minutes “above average” to the PG position. If the opposing team allows 40 FP per 36 minutes to Westbrook, they have allowed 10 FP per 36 minutes “below average.”

The advantage this tool has over other defense vs position (DVP) tools is it factors out “strength of schedule.” Some teams have high FP allowed at various positions simply because they have faced a lot of great players at that position. This makes those teams look like good matchups, when in reality they could be average or below average. This is especially true in small samples. It should be noted in the Russell Westbrook example that the quality opponent gave up 40 FP per 36 to the PG position. This is higher than the FP allowed per 36 of any team against any position this season. A normal DVP tool would consider this team opposing Westbrook as a bad fantasy defense (high FP allowed) against PGs in this particular game. Our tool would consider this team as a very good fantasy defense against the PG position, as it should.

Another advantage this tool has is it only looks at players who played over 25 minutes in previous games. Sometimes teams have awful benches which allow a ton of fantasy points, but that is not very relevant for starters, which tend to be the players you want to play in DFS 99% of the time. Looking at only players who played greater than 25 minutes ensures we are looking at how teams matchup against starters (or high minute players), and not bench players. Philadelphia is a perfect example of this red herring. They have one of the worst benches in the league, but aren’t nearly as bad at their starting 5. Consequently, other DVP tools tend to overrate Philly as an extremely good matchup against all positions. They are still a good matchup, just not as good as they may look on other DVP tools.

To see the best matchups on the season, you could just sort by the FPAllowedAboveAverage column in our NBA Adjusted FP Allowed tool. Using this method, we see the following teams as the best matchups for each position (This is at the time I am writing this article, these numbers will be different at later dates).

 

PG: LA Lakers, 3.42 FP Allowed Above Average

SG: Washington, 3.31 FPAllowedAboveAverage

SF: Philadelphia, 3.65 FPAllowedAboveAverage

PF: Houston, 4.22 FPAllowedAboveAverage

C: Portland, 4.04 FPAllowedAboveAverage

 

The problem with looking at a whole seasons worth of data is teams can get much better or worse because of injury impact and acquisitions. The FPAllowedAboveAverageL10 (last 10 games) column can help us identify when this may be occurring.

If a key starter is out for a long time, a team may give up more fantasy points against that players position in his absence, as worse players tend to be worse “fantasy defenders.” Once that starter returns, that team probably won’t be as bad against that position. I think that’s true to a degree with Washington at SG. Starting SG Bradley Beal has been out for most of the season, and subsequently Washington has played a lot of undersized, bad players at the SG position, making them more vulnerable.

Sometimes a team may change up its rotation, which can cause FP allowed to be misleading. The Lakers are a good example of this at PG. They switched their starting lineup from D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson at the guard positions to Clarkson and Lou Williams. Williams is really undersized at the SG position, and since the switch the Lakers have been getting torched by SGs instead of PGs. So it seems like the Lakers may be waning as a matchup for PGs.

I think the real best matchup for PGs and SGs right now is Phoenix. Phoenix has been one of the worst teams in the league this year, but they have gotten a lot worse losing their best player Eric Bledsoe for the season. Since then, Phoenix has been playing awful players at the guard positions. They were already bad against guards, but L10 is at a whole new level. Currently for PGs, Phoenix is at 7.56 FPAllowedAboveAverageL10, which is highest for any position by a mile. For SGs, they are at 4.68, which is much worse than Washington. I suspect the last 10 game trend should continue for the rest of the season.

For SF-C, there isn’t a very convincing argument that other teams have surpassed Philly, Houston, or Portland at their respective positions. Although it’s worth noting that Houston and Philly are both about as bad as each other against SFs and PFs, and New Orleans and the Lakers are about as bad against Centers as Portland.

Our FP Allowed tool is better than similar tools you will find on other sites for two reasons: It factors out strength of schedule and it factors out bench players. While FPAllowedAboveAverage on the season tends to be a good way to evaluate the best matchups, FPAllowedAboveAverageL10 can give us an idea of how injuries are impacting fantasy defenses. Use both columns to evaluate good matchups at different positions for the rest of the season.

View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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