Importance of Minutes
The NBA is different from most other fantasy sports in that opportunity typically results in fantasy production. The same is not true in the other major sports such as daily MLB or weekly NFL. In baseball, a player could easily go 0-4 and strikeout three times. In the NFL, a backup player making a spot start doesn’t always lead to production either. But in the NBA, minutes are king.
If you can predict minutes and opportunity on a nightly basis, you can really start to predict fantasy performance in the NBA. There are quite a few factors that determine a player’s minutes each night and I will cover each of them, then discuss how you can use minutes as a factor when building your lineups.
Injuries are one of the most important aspects of daily fantasy basketball. If an injured starter goes down, the backup for that player will immediately see a huge boost in playing time, which directly leads to a boost in fantasy production. There are obviously cases where the backup doesn’t play well, but for the most part, when there is an injury in the NBA, it’s a good strategy to target that player’s backup because you will be paying a discounted price for a starter.
In addition to the backup seeing an increase in time and production, you’ll often see the surrounding players on the team see a boost as well. If a big-name player gets hurt and has to sit out a game, you can expect other players around him to pick up both extra minutes and extra production.
For example, Eric Bledsoe had been in and out of the lineup during the 2013-14 NBA season. While his absence directly impacted the value of Gerald Green, it also indirectly increased the value of Goran Dragic because he then shouldered more of the load offensively and became more responsible for making plays.
There is a complete lesson on the importance of checking injuries. Make sure to read it and to apply those concepts into your daily routine.
While the matchup doesn’t affect minutes as heavily as injuries do, it’s important to factor in if you want to take your game to the next level. Sometimes the matchup just doesn’t line up well for a specific player and it will adversely affect his playing time.
A great example of this is when a team faces the Cleveland Cavaliers. Often, the Cavs play LeBron James at the power forward spot and force other teams to play small ball with them. If that team has two bigs that aren’t used to defending much smaller, quicker players, it is likely going to hurt their minutes because only one of them will be in at the same time.
This one is pretty straightforward. Take a look at game logs and look at how many minutes players have been getting recently and how each player has been performing. Look for trends of increased minutes from bench players. Those types of players provide great value when you can find them and are often under-owned because most DFS players don’t go that in-depth with their research.
The important thing to take away from this lesson is the importance of minutes in the NBA. If you can predict minutes, you will be much closer to predicting fantasy production. Knowing who is going to play and how many minutes to expect from them will really give you an edge on your opponents. This starts with researching injuries, but it also takes the ability to read between the lines and to factor in how the injuries affect the rest of the team.
When you are building lineups, keep that in mind. If you are deciding between two players that are the same price and have an equally favorable matchup, but one player is averaging significantly more minutes than the other, take the latter player every time because he will have more opportunities than the player who will see fewer minutes.