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  • Notorious's Blueprint to Daily Fantasy Basketball, Volume 2

Breaking Down a Matchup – Team vs. DvP

Derek Farnsworth (Notorious)

Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in RotoGrinders.com’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Premium members on a daily basis during the NBA season and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards.

One of the most common questions in daily fantasy basketball is why did you play a certain player in what looked like a bad matchup. While Defense vs. Position (DvP) can be a useful tool in DFS, it doesn’t carry as much weight as it does in other sports. DvP shouldn’t be your only source of research because it has its flaws.

Let’s start with the fact that all DvP statistics are not created equal. Each fantasy site has their own calculation for DvP and if you compare them, you will see some similarities, but a lot of differences as well. How can we trust a set of statistics that looks vastly different on RotoGrinders than it does on DraftKings, or Rotowire, or any other fantasy site?

For instance, on RotoGrinders, DvP is calculated by taking the fantasy points scored against each team, broken out by the position that the players are listed at on each site. So if Matt Barnes draws the start at power forward, but is listed as a small forward on FanDuel and DraftKings, his production is going to go against his opponent’s DvP ranking against small forwards. Ideally, we would like to see DvP based on the actual positions played while on the floor.

The second issue with DvP is that basketball is a very fluid sport that features interchangeable positions. If you watch any NBA game, you will see that matchups are constantly changing, whether it’s from substitutions or switches on defense. DvP fundamentally assumes that the same opponents on will defend the same players on every possession.

The third and final issue is that the gaps in production between the best and worst defenses against a position aren’t as big as you might think. For example, at the moment of writing this, the Kings are the worst team in the NBA against shooting guards, allowing 39.5 fantasy points per 48 minutes. Conversely, the Spurs are the stingiest defense against shooting guards, allowing only 30.2 fantasy points per 48 minutes. However, since players don’t play all 48 minutes, we should look at the difference on a per-36 minute basis. In the example above, the difference in fantasy points allowed to shooting guards between the Kings and Spurs is only 6.9 fantasy points. If you look at the difference between the 5th and 25th-ranked defenses against the position, it is only three fantasy points per 36 minutes.

While DvP certainly has its flaws, I still use it in my daily research routine. I’m certainly not advocating that you can completely ignore DvP, but just that you may want to put a little less emphasis on it. DvP is obviously a great tool to quickly analyze matchups as a whole and at each position. For instance, if you look at any DvP chart, you will quickly see that the Lakers, Sixers, and Kings struggle to defend all five positions on the floor and are therefore strong matchups.

There are a couple of pointers that I’d like to make when it comes to using DvP rankings. First, and most importantly, is sample size matters. Whether you are looking at season long or recent DvP statistics, you want to make sure that the sample size is large enough that the information actually has value. Generally, I like to use samples of at least five games, and preferably more.

The second point ties into what I was talking about earlier – how positions can be interchangeable in the NBA. When it comes to shooting guard and small forwards, I generally like to combine the two DvP rankings, unless that opponent has a shutdown defender that we know is going to be defending the same player all game. In general, point guard and center DvP rankings have the most predictive value, because point guards almost exclusively defend point guards and the same with centers.

So, if DvP rankings aren’t as important as we originally thought, how do we determine which matchups are the most favorable?

I tend to place a bigger emphasis on the matchup as a whole, rather than the matchup for individual players. There are a number of statistics that I use to accomplish this task, but I always start with the Vegas team totals. I’ve covered Vegas lines and totals in another course, so I won’t spend too much time on them here. However, Vegas must set accurate lines in order to be profitable. They put a massive amount of research into the lines and they are basically a free source of research for those of us that play daily fantasy sports. Let Vegas do the heavy lifting for you.

Now, when looking at team totals, I don’t just target the teams with the highest totals. I like to compare each team’s total to their average points per game on the season. If we only look at the totals, we will often overlook the slower-paced teams, even when they are in favorable matchups.

For instance, if the Jazz (who is the slowest-paced team in the NBA) are projected to score 102 points against the Sixers, their team total may not stand out if you just compare it to the rest of the teams on the schedule that night. However, if you compare that to their average points scored per game on the season (97.7), you will see that the Jazz are expected to score 4.3 points over their average. If you compare that to the rest of the teams on the schedule, it would likely be one of the biggest differences that night. So when looking at team totals, look at them compared to the other teams in action as well as each team’s average points per game.

In addition to the team totals, I also look at five more statistics to see if there are any glaring weaknesses of each opponent. I look at each opponent’s points allowed per game, defensive efficiency, rebounding differential, and blocks allowed per game. These statistics are all featured in the Grind Down every day if you don’t want to compile them yourself. The last two – rebounding differential and blocks allowed per game – can really help you identify favorable matchups for elite rebounders or shot blockers.

The final piece of advice is to learn who the best defenders are in the NBA and try to avoid players that are expected to match up against them. This is more of an art than a science, but if you immerse yourself into the game, you will quickly learn who the best defenders are at each position. Examples include: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, and Marc Gasol to name a few. Defense vs. Position rankings will generally point you in the right direction, but a lot of times teams will move their best defender around to defend their opponent’s best player. When Jimmy Butler moves over and defends a point guard, that’s not going to be reflected in the DvP rankings.

To sum it up, start each day’s matchup research by looking at team totals and comparative team averages. Then, look at the DvP rankings and individual matchups to see which players are in the best spots to outperform their respective salaries.

One of the most common questions in daily fantasy basketball is why did you play a certain player in what looked like a bad matchup. While Defense vs. Position (DvP) can be a useful tool in DFS, it doesn’t carry as much weight as it does in other sports. DvP shouldn’t be your only source of research because it has its flaws.

Let’s start with the fact that all DvP statistics are not created equal. Each fantasy site has their own calculation for DvP and if you compare them, you will see some similarities, but a lot of differences as well. How can we trust a set of statistics that looks vastly different on RotoGrinders than it does on DraftKings, or Rotowire, or any other fantasy site?

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About the Author

  • Derek Farnsworth (Notorious)

  • Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in RotoGrinders.com’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Premium members on a daily basis during the NBA season and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards.

Instructor

Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in RotoGrinders.com’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Premium members on a daily basis during the NBA season and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards.

RotoGrinders.com is the home of the daily fantasy sports community. Our content, rankings, member blogs, promotions and forum discussion all cater to the players that like to create a new fantasy team every day of the week.

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