NBA Thoughts 12/21/16 (Premium)

NBA Funnel Defenses?

If you play a lot of NFL DFS, you are likely familiar with the concept of a “funnel defense” or a “reverse funnel defense” which simply refers to NFL defense that are much stronger in one aspect than the other with regards to run and pass defenses. If an NFL defense is extremely stout vs. the run but mediocre or poor against the pass, we often make the assumption that the opposing offense will choose to attack the weakness of the defense more frequently than perhaps there normal run/pass ratio would suggest. Sometimes this turns out to be true, and sometimes not, but it is true often enough that this kind of analysis is in fact useful in making DFS selections for NFL.

Good NFL analysts and DFS players will take it a step further. Some NFL teams are particularly strong at taking away one position or side of the field (typically with a lockdown corner), which typically results in offenses funneling their offense to a different receiver, tight end, running back out of the backfield, etc. Opportunity is everything in the NFL, and if we can figure out where the offense will “funnel” their attack, we can gain an edge on our competition.

I have been toying with the idea of funnel defenses in the NBA, and in certain situations I think there is real merit to it. While it is more complex than in the NFL as there are not simply “run defenses” and “pass defenses” if we break it down carefully we can still often accurately project how an NBA offense might choose to attack an opponent based on the matchup at hand. Of course, this can be both difficult and, if we are wrong on our projections”, dangerous to our bankroll. NBA coaches can choose to match up players on whichever one of the opposition they so choose, so if we project one matchup and get it wrong, we may end up rostering a player who we thought had a great “funnel matchup” but instead actually got the short end of the stick. Let’s take a look at one situation for tonight’s games:

Patrick Beverley has returned to his dominant ways on defense for the Rockets, snuffing out opposing point guards at an elite level. Despite not having a great defense overall and operating at a decent pace, opposing point guards have scored the fifth-fewest fantasy points in the NBA over the last month. Opposing shooting guards against the Rockets are fairing much better, scoring the 10th most fantasy points per game over that same period. Makes sense, right? While Beverley locks down opposing point guards, teams elect to attack James Harden with the easier matchup. It is important to note that we can’t always take advantage of this. There are certain teams that are going to run their offense through their point guard no matter what (OKC Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, to name just a few), but there are other teams that have two capable ball handlers/scorers in the backcourt, and these are the teams where we can try to take advantage of what should be a funnel situation. The Phoenix Suns are one such team, who get to face the Houston Rockets coming off a back to back and at home in Phoenix. The Suns, of course, start Eric Bledsoe at point guard and Devin Booker at shooting guard. We have seen the production of these two fluctuate as they operate somewhat of a “my turn, your turn” offense, with both capable of running the pick and roll and acting as scorers/distributors. It seems a fairly safe bet that Beverley will spend most of this game guarding Eric Bledsoe, presumably leaving Devin Booker to go to work on James Harden and whoever else might guard him. I’ll personally be watching this game extra carefully to see if the Suns do indeed operate this way (and to see if I am correct about Beverley guarding Bledsoe), and I will have a lot of exposure to Devin Booker in hopes that I am correct in these assumptions.

Make sure to turn into the Deeper Dive with Manny, Loughy and myself for more analysis and picks. It should be a fun night of hoops! #LetsGetIt