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NBA Strategy: Injury Impact Part 1 – Team Dynamics

In daily fantasy NBA, one of the biggest predictors of fantasy performance is how injuries have impacted any given team. Injuries will cause team dynamics to change, sometimes drastically. These changes mean changes in how each player on that teams’ fantasy points should be projected. In this article, I will go over how injuries impact team dynamics and how you can advantage of that impact to make great daily fantasy NBA picks and lineups.

How Injuries Affect Point and Assist Projections

This is an obvious concept, but very important to understand. For a player to score a point or record an assist, they must control the ball, as well as attempt to create a scoring opportunity. Therefore, the more a player is expected to control the ball and attempt to score ( in other words, the larger a players offensive role), the more we can expect them to score and record assists.

The most drastic way an injury can impact a players point and assist projection is when an offensive minded starter is replaced by a poor offensive player. If you put Player A on the floor with a lot of defensive minded role players, Player A will probably have a much larger role in the offense than if he was on the floor with a bunch of offensive superstars. This larger offensive role means an expected increase in points and assists.

One of the best ways to measure a players offensive role is a statistic called USG%, which you can find on basketball-reference.com. The actual formula for USG% is a bit complex, but it’s simply a measure of how much a player is used offensively when he’s on the floor. If a player attempts a shot, gets to the free throw line, or turns the ball over, his USG% increases.

In January 2015, the month I’m writing this article, Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic went on a torrid streak. In the past 3 games, Oladipo has averaged 41 fantasy points per game, while Vucevic has scored over 50 fantasy points in the same period. Why did this happen? Mostly because Tobias Harris was injured during those 3 games, who has the 2nd highest USG% of the team at 23.8. He was replaced by rookie Roy Devyn Marble, who is mostly a defensive minded role player, with only a 13.8% USG. During this 3 game streak, Vucevic’s USG% went up to 30 from 25, and Oladipo went from 23.8 to 28.2, both up about 5%. Both Vucevic and Oladipo’s offensive roles greatly increased, earning them an increase in fantasy production.

How Injuries Affect Rebounding Projections

Another statistic that is impacted by team dynamics is rebounding. Team rebounding is not really a skill, but rather something that happens when the opposing team misses a shot (assuming their isn’t an offensive rebound). An individual players rebounding skill is mostly how good he is at “stealing” a rebound from his teammates. A player on a team with a lot of skilled rebounders is going to have less rebounds than if he was playing with a lot of rebounding impaired teammates.

The best way to measure rebounding skill is rebounds per 100 possessions, which can also be found on basketball reference. This measures how many rebounds a player records without considering minutes or the pace a team plays at, both of which are large drivers in rebounding production.

In general, when an injured starter who is a good rebounder is replaced by a player who is a poor rebounder, you should bump your rebounding projections for the rest of the starters, especially the skilled rebounders. This is part of the reason why Paul Millsap of the Atlanta Hawks was a good play on January 15th, 2015. Center Al Horford was rested and replaced by Pero Antic, who is one of the least skilled rebounders in the league at his position. Millsap ended up pulling down 10 rebounds, 2 above his season average. The impact of good rebounders being replaced by poor ones isn’t as large as the impact of a high USG player being replaced by a low USG player, but is still worth considering.

Summary

  • Basketball is a team sport, and the fantasy output of any given player is highly dependent on the attributes of the other 4 teammates on the floor.
  • A player must control the ball and create a shot opportunity to score points and record assists.
  • When a player with a large offensive role is replaced by a player with less offensive aggressiveness, other teammates must step into a larger offensive role, which means a larger expectation in points and assists.
  • When skilled rebounders are replaced by unskilled rebounders, rebounding projections for other starters increase.
  • The inverse of these relationships are also true. If a bad starter is replaced by a high USG% player or skilled rebounder, projections for points, assists, or rebounds should be adjusted downward for his teammates.

 

 

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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