DFS NBA: With Injuries, Be Cautious With Big Men Minutes

Minutes are a huge part of Daily Fantasy NBA. When players who get a high amount of fantasy points per minute see a large expected minute increase, they tend to be awesome DFS picks. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my experience doing DFS NBA, it is that big men don’t always see big minute increases when a teams are thin at the PF or C positions.

Let me explain my point with a scenario that happened several days ago. Memphis was facing the LA Clippers on January 4th, 2017. Their starting PF, JaMychal Green, was announced out that night. Memphis already had key reserves in their front court out, so there were only 3 active players who had played PF or C before: Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Jarell Martin. Since there are a total of 96 minutes to divide up between the PF and C positions for each team on a given night, you might expect all three of these players to easily get 30+ minutes. Jarrell Martin is a low fantasy points per 36 minute player, so as a fantasy play, he wasn’t viable. However, Randolph has high fantasy point production, and seemed like a spectacular play that night.

As you can see from the box score, Randolph only ended up playing 18 minutes and only received 15 fantasy points, which made him a total dud. Martin only played 12 minutes, making him a complete waste.

What happened in this game and what can we learn from it? This isn’t the first time I have played DFS on a night where a team is woefully thin in the front court. From my experience in these situations, I have learned two big heuristics.

1. When a team is thin in the front court, only established big men starters are locks for minute increases.

2. When a team is thin in the front court, teams will often play small, meaning Small Forwards will play the Power Forward position.

Pretty much everything that happened in this Memphis game is what I’ve experienced with other teams in this same situation. We see that Marc Gasol, who normally receives 32-33 minutes, did in fact see an increase in minutes, playing about 36. This may not seem like a big increase, but for someone like Gasol who has extremely high per minute fantasy point production, this could mean a 3-5 fantasy point increase in his projection. It doesn’t sound like much, but its enough to take someone from a good play to a great play.

The second heuristic I find to be the more interesting one. In this Memphis game, Vince Carter, James Ennis, and Tony Allen all saw more minutes than expected. Ennis is a SF while Allen and Carter are tweener SG/SF. All of them had greater fantasy points than expected from my projections. But they mostly outperformed their projection in one statistical category: Rebounds. All of them had 6 rebounds or more. I don’t think this was a fluke. Rebounds are partially a function of opportunity. If a player is guarding someone who tends to be close to the basket, mostly Centers and Power Forwards, they tend to get more rebounding chances, and consequently they get more rebounds.

When a team is thin in the frontcourt, it’s actually bigger wing players that benefit the most. We can expect them to play more minutes, which of course means we can expect them to get more fantasy points. But we can also expect them to have higher fantasy point per 36 minutes production because of increased rebound opportunities. Those are two big factors in favor of playing SFs when a team is thin at the PF and C positions.

Injuries in NBA give DFS opportunities in the form of expected minute increases for some players. Expecting big minute increases from big men on teams with an extremely thin frontcourt often seems reasonable, but it doesn’t always go the way you would expect. While we can expect big minute, key starters to get even more minutes, we should also expect teams to play small to make up for their lack of depth. When there are injuries to big men, the real opportunity is finding players who will play small-ball Power Forward or Center. These players will not only see increased minutes, but also should get more rebounds than expected, making them sneaky good plays in DFS NBA.


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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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