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Which Team Stats Should You Target When Building DFS Lineups? (Fantasy Basketball)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Jun 29, 2020

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Building a winning NBA DFS lineup involves selecting the best collection of talent within a constrained budget. Individual statistics make up fantasy points, and all you need to do to win is score more fantasy points than the rest of the entrants in your contest. Simply put, your lineup needs to consist of the highest-scoring players of the night in order to cash, but what can team stats tell us about individual performances? Can we use them to influence our choices in DFS contests and improve our chances of winning? Here are three important team stats you should target when building NBA DFS lineups.

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Pace

Pace is arguably the most important statistic to keep in mind when building NBA DFS lineups. This stat refers to how fast a team plays, measured by the number of possessions per game. It’s easy to see why a faster pace is positive and a slower pace is negative. More possessions mean more shot attempts, more chances for a rebound, more chances to dish an assist, more chances to… well, you get the idea. A slower pace means less chances to rack up point-scoring statistics due to less opportunities.

Pace is a highly valuable statistic to keep in mind when setting your lineups, and if we take a look at the top five teams in that category for the 2019-20 season (Bucks, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Rockets, Wizards), we can illustrate why. All five of those teams have provided us some very useful DFS players, including D’Angelo Russell and Lonzo Ball among others. It’s important to keep in mind how much pace plays a role in fantasy production, as guys like Ball and Russell get a bump in value due to the teams they play on. Superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden would stand out in any locale, but it’s tough to say that they don’t benefit from a fast pace. This is true of bench players and lesser starters as well, who all become more valuable additions to a DFS lineup when playing on teams with a fast pace.

In that regard, it’s a great idea to build your lineups around players on fast-paced teams. On the flip side, it’s also a good idea to target players facing opponents with a high pace and devalue players facing teams with a slower pace. The increased opportunity that come from facing a fast-paced team is called a “pace-up” spot, and it’s a term that crops up frequently in DFS circles. Conversely, facing a team with a slower pace is called – you guessed it – a “pace-down” spot. Guys like Ball or Russell lose some of their luster when facing slower teams. Be aware of both terms and keep up with the matchups for a given slate based on pace. This statistic should be used in conjunction with other statistics and research when building NBA DFS lineups, though just understanding pace and using it as a basic rule of thumb can make a big difference.

Defensive Rating

You might be inclined to target teams with excellent offenses in NBA DFS, and that’s for good reason. But what about defensive rating? Defensive rating can be a great team stat to target or avoid when setting daily fantasy basketball lineups for several reasons:

  • Targeting the opponent: When setting your DFS lineups, a great place to start your research is with players facing poor defenses. The worst teams in terms of defensive efficiency in 2019 were Washington, Atlanta, Cleveland, Portland and Golden State, and utilizing players facing those teams was often a boon, especially if targeting specific positions that were particularly potent.
  • Pace: While not foolproof, poor defensive rating can often indicate a lofty pace of play based on missed shots, opponents’ ease of scoring and point chasing. Two of the five teams mentioned above were top-6 in pace in 2019, while four of the five were inside the top-13. Any time a fast pace is involved is a positive for NBA DFS lineup building. A poor defensive rating is a double whammy.
  • Score: Matching up against a team with a poor defensive rating may lead to a noticeable shift in over/under and present a blowout opportunity. Starting a stud against a bad defense is a no-brainer, right? Sure, but chances are, plenty of other entrants in your contest have the same idea, making for an extra chalky selection. Blowouts can also lead to a decline in production from superstars if their minutes are cut due to a comfortable lead. This is true for the favored team and the underdog.

Shot Proximity

Close to the Basket

Paying attention to close shot proximity is a smart idea if you’re looking for teams susceptible to blocks. While there are outliers, generally there is a strong correlation between shots taken close to the basket and blocks allowed to opponents. For example, the Nets, Bulls, Raptors and Timberwolves attempted the most field goals inside of five feet in 2019, and all four teams were in the top nine of blocks allowed to opponents. It’s a simple numbers game that if a team takes more shots within range of an opposing defense’s big men, more blocks are likely to occur. Two of the four teams mentioned were also in the top nine of free throws attempted for the 2019 season, and though the correlation here isn’t as strong, it’s still something to keep in mind.

Three-Pointers 

Three-pointers attempted per game can give us plenty of useful NBA DFS information. For starters, teams that shoot more threes typically give up more defensive rebounds and more total rebounds as a whole because three-pointers are lower percentage looks. Teams that shoot a lot of threes typically play at a faster pace and give players on that team more opportunities to rack up valuable fantasy points. Teams with a high amount of threes taken usually have at minimum, a handful of reliable shooters in the starting lineup and on the bench. This increases the odds of finding a cheap, value play among the ranks of that team’s roster. A shooter can get hot at any time, or a bump in minutes due to the injury of a teammate could lead to production down the line.

Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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