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

Importance of Pace and Projecting Possessions in NBA DFS

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.

Pace is an important and often underrated aspect of daily fantasy basketball. A team’s pace is measured by the number of possessions that they use per 48 minutes. It’s important to use pace per-48 minutes, so that the pace numbers aren’t skewed by overtime games.

When it comes to daily fantasy, the faster the pace of the game, the more possessions a team has. Every single possessions leads to some form of fantasy production, whether it be points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, or turnovers. Therefore, the more possessions that a team has, the more opportunities each player has to score fantasy points.

Makes sense, right?

When people try to predict pace, most take the easy way out. If you are short on time, this is obviously the best route to take. Looking at the Vegas lines and looking for the games with the highest totals will give you a general idea of which games are expected to be the highest scoring. However, a team’s implied total doesn’t tell the entire story when it comes to pace.

For instance, if the Sixers and Lakers square off against one another, the total for the game is not going to reflect the pace at which it will be played. These are two of the least efficient offenses in the NBA, which is why the total won’t be particularly high. However, both teams rank in the top 10 in pace of play and both are ranked in the bottom five of most defensive categories.

Does this mean that we should avoid targeting players in a game between two of the worst defenses in the NBA? Of course not! Just because the teams may not be projected to score the most points that night, both teams are still in excellent matchups. The fast pace of the game will provide opportunity for more rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals.

So, while the Vegas lines are always a great place to start, I don’t factor them into my pace equation. If you want to take your analysis to the next level, you can project the pace of each game and use that as one of your inputs for your projections model. The common thought is that to find the projected pace, all you have to do is add the two team’s paces together and then divide that by two. This makes sense on the surface, as the expected pace should fall somewhere in between of the two team’s pace of play. If we have a fast-paced team and a slow-paced team, the expected pace should be somewhere is the middle.

However, after putting a lot of thought into it, I have found that simply taking the average pace of the two teams doesn’t give us an accurate projection of pace. Think about this – the two fastest-paced teams in the NBA squaring off. As of now, that would be the Warriors and Kings, who both average 102 possessions per game. If they play against one another, would we only expect the pace of the game to be 102 possessions (adding the two paces together and dividing by two)?

The Warriors’ and Kings’ average pace of play on the season were both comprised against opponents that basically combined to play at the average pace of the league. Or in other words, the Warriors’ and Kings’ average pace of 102 possessions per game came against a number of different opponents – some that played at a slow pace and some that played at a quick pace.

When the Warriors and Kings play against one another, we should expect the pace to be well above 102 possessions.

I’ve created a solution to this problem. Comparing both team’s pace to the league average and combining the differences will allow us to come up with a more accurate projection for pace. Here is the formula:

Projected Pace = (Team 1 Pace – League Average Pace) + (Team 2 Pace – League Average Pace) + League Average Pace

To get the statistics needed for the formula, I use John Hollinger’s team statistics on ESPN. Here is the link:

http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/teamstats

This shows each team’s pace and you can quickly find the league average by running a quick average function in Excel. Generally, the league average for pace is just under 98 possessions. At the time of writing this, is it 97.8 possessions per game. Now, using this formula on the Warriors and Kings example above, we project the pace of that game to be 106.4 possessions.

Projected Pace = (Warriors Pace (102) – League Average Pace (97.8)) + (Kings Pace (102) – League Average Pace (97.8)) + League Average Pace (97.8) = 106.4 possessions

Since each team trades off possessions, we can use this pace projection for each team. Now that we have the projected pace of the game, I like to compare that to each team’s average pace for the season and look for any glaring differences. This is similar to the last lesson when we compared team totals to each team’s average points per game.

Comparing the projected pace with the team’s average pace of play will allow us to see which teams are expected to see a pace boost and which teams are expected to be playing in a pace-down situation. Using this new method of projecting pace places a higher emphasis on targeting the fast-paced games and a lower emphasis on targeting the slow-paced games. As always, this should just be one part of your daily research routine. Combine pace with matchups, team totals, and salaries to make informed lineup decisions each and every night.

Pace is an important and often underrated aspect of daily fantasy basketball. A team’s pace is measured by the number of possessions that they use per 48 minutes. It’s important to use pace per-48 minutes, so that the pace numbers aren’t skewed by overtime games.

When it comes to daily fantasy, the faster the pace of the game, the more possessions a team has. Every single possessions leads to some form of fantasy production, whether it be points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, or turnovers. Therefore, the more possessions that a team has, the more opportunities each player has to score fantasy points.

Makes sense, right?

When people try to predict pace, most take the easy way out. If you are short on time, this is obviously the best route to take. Looking at the Vegas lines and looking for the games with the highest totals will give you a general idea of which games are expected to be the highest scoring. However, a team’s implied total doesn’t tell the entire story when it comes to pace.

For instance, if the Sixers and Lakers square off against one another, the total for the game is not going to reflect the pace at which it will be played. These are two of the least efficient offenses in the NBA, which is why the total won’t be particularly high. However, both teams rank in the top 10 in pace of play and both are ranked in the bottom five of most defensive categories.

Does this mean that we should avoid targeting players in a game between two of the worst defenses in the NBA? Of course not! Just because the teams may not be projected to score the most points that night, both teams are still in excellent matchups. The fast pace of the game will provide opportunity for more rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals.

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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