NBA Thoughts 12/23/16 (Premium)
“Leap of Faith” Players
Most DFS players, when making cash game teams or GPP teams, hunt relentlessly for reliable minutes from every spot on their roster. Makes sense, right? Our players can’t score fantasy points on the bench, and if you dig hard enough, you can usually find a roster full of people that are more or less locked into 30+ minutes. The true studs of the NBA, guys like Westbrook, Harden, LeBron, Kawhi, KAT, etc. are in little to no danger of being benched due to poor play or because their backup is playing well. We all love rostering these types of players, and for good reason. So we take as many of these studs as we can, then try to fill in our roster with lower priced options who seem primed to see an uptick in minutes due to a changing role, typically because someone on their team is injured for the game. This article isn’t meant to dismiss that strategy, it is one that I (and anyone who is any good at NBA DFS) utilizes heavily. But it’s not the only approach one should take when constructing rosters, especially for GPP play.
The problem with filling out your roster with as many locked-into-minutes studs as possible is that those players typically have their consistent minutes priced into their salary, making it difficult for them to exceed their value threshold. That’s fine, if you can find cheaper players who you are confident can smash their value threshold to make up for the steady, predictable production of your studs. But sometimes those plays aren’t available, and even when they are, typically that’s the route everyone playing GPPs will go. If we want to differentiate, we need to find players whom we can take a leap of faith on.
I define leap of faith players as players who can be high point-per-minute performers but don’t necessarily always get the minutes. Most of these players can be found in the mid-range of salaries, and their minutes can fluctuate for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they have are coming off the bench and will only see heavy minutes if they perform particularly well; or they are a starter but with a backup who has a similar level of skill and the coach will ride the hot hand. Or maybe they are prone to foul trouble and can only see big minutes if they are able to avoid hacking people. Perhaps they are coming off an injury and haven’t played big minutes yet, but don’t have a specified minutes limit and could bust out for a big game at any time. These players can be among the most frustrating to invest in because we can’t be sure what we are going to get from them, but they often have the MOST ability to thoroughly crush their salary based expectation (value threshold). A great example from last night that I used was Jeremy Lin, who had played several games coming back from a serious hamstring injury but had yet to play more than 25 minutes. We hadn’t heard of any hard minutes limitation, and he was playing in a game with the highest total of the night against the run-and-gun Warriors who were missing their best defender in Draymond Green. We also knew Jeremy Lin has been a monster per-minute performer for the Nets, had a salary that was priced for 20-25 minutes of production, and was playing in a game that exactly fit his style. Sure enough, Lin was unleashed for 32 minutes and despite shooting just 4-12 from the field scored 44.5 DK points at roughly 10% ownership. It required somewhat of a leap of faith to roster him, but it was fairly easy to forecast he would see more minutes at some point soon.
A couple Leap of Faith players for tonight:
Elfrid Payton — It’s difficult to pay ~$6k in salary for a player that is coming off the bench, does not have guaranteed minutes, and can have volatile production anyway. The Magic point guard certainly has a low floor of his salary, and if he performs particularly poorly tongiht against the Lakers, could see his minutes reduced. But he also has two 50+ fantasy point performances in his last 10 games, and gets 30+ minutes in almost any game where he is playing well. He has a truly tremendous matchup against a banged up Lakers team that is awful defensively but will be even worse tonight especially in the second unit when Timothy Mozgov is off the court. The Lakers are also coming off a back to back and should be gassed with nearly everyone in the rotation playing big minutes last night. This is an eruption spot for Elfrid Payton if things go right for him, which in this matchup seems pretty likely.
Emmanuel Mudiay — Like Elfrid Payton, Mudiay is a young point guard who can struggle with his shot and turnovers and can find himself riding the pine if he’s not performing well or he’s getting outplayed by the other point guard on his own team. Mudiay starts, but can quickly find himself on the bench if things go poorly. His floor is even lower than Payton’s and he’s squandered some truly incredible matchups even in just the past 10 games. Mudiay scored just 17 fantasy points as his team put up 132 against the Blazers, 10.25 FP as his team scored 121 against the Magic, and THREE POINT TWO FIVE FANTASY POINTS in a 106-98 victory against the Sixers. Good lord. But those woeful games are priced in as he sits right around $5,000 on both DraftKings and FanDuel with two 35+ fantasy point games in his last three. The Nuggets are playing better recently, Mudiay has been better at home this season, and he gets a pristine matchup against a Dwight Howard-less Hawks team where Dennis Schroder, for all his offensive game, really struggles defensively against opposing point guards. Mudiay could totally bust in this game, but he also has the ability to score 8x his salary threshold and will be low owned in GPPs as people are scared off by his fluctuating minutes and production. It requires a leap of faith to invest in Mudiay tonight, but that investment has the potential to pay off handsomely.