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How Should Potential Blowout Games Influence DFS Lineups? (Fantasy Basketball)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Jul 3, 2020

Whether you’re new to daily fantasy basketball or a seasoned professional, be sure to check out our Daily Fantasy Basketball Glossary. You can get started with Why “Points Per Minute” is the Single Most Important Stat in DFS or head to more advanced strategy — like How to Select Core Players in Multi-Entry Tournaments — to learn more.

Blowout games are a regular part of the NBA, and they occur frequently. If you play NBA DFS, you know that one-sided affairs can certainly impact the production of the players you want to include in your lineups, so how should potential blowout games influence DFS lineups?

Stars

For the purpose of this article, I wanted to get an idea of how well some of the top stars in the NBA performed in blowout wins. This is a small sample, but the results reinforce some widely-held notions regarding blowouts. I selected these players based on Net Rating, which measures the difference in offensive rating and defensive rating. A positive net rating means you’re scoring more points than you’re allowing, and higher ratings typically correlate to higher margins of victory in wins.

The top-5 teams for this metric, in theory, would have the most blowout wins, making the data fairly easy to come by. In 2019-20, the top-5 teams in regard to Net Rating were the Bucks, Lakers, Clippers, Raptors and Mavericks. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis were excluded because they were absent for stretches of the season and played without one another so frequently in blowouts that the results would not have been useful for the purposes of this study. A blowout win is defined here as a win of at least +20, while a blowout loss is a loss of at least -15.

Games played from January to March, 2020 were used for this research. Giannis and the Bucks were the best team in terms of Net Rating by a comfortable margin in 2019-20, which is why he has seven games under Blowout Wins and only two games under Blowout Losses.

Player Points in Blowout Wins Season Average Difference Points in Blowout Losses Difference 
Giannis Antetokounmpo 53.6 (7 games) 57.3 -3.7 49.5 (2 games) -7.8
LeBron James 48.1 (5 games) 52.3 -4.2 42.6 (3 games) -5.5
Anthony Davis 42.0 (5 games) 52.0 -10.0 40.2 (4 games) -11.8
Kawhi Leonard 45.9 (5 games) 47.6 -1.7 37.9 (3 games) -9.7
Paul George 27.3 (5 games) 36.4 -9.1 26.1 (3 games) -10.3
Pascal Siakam 35.5 (5 games) 41.3 -5.8 39.6 (2 games) -1.7

 
Here, we see that all of these players scored less than their season averages in blowouts. Unsurprisingly, all of the players except Pascal Siakam fared better in blowout wins than they did in blowout losses. In both cases, stars are likely to see a decrease in minutes (particularly in the fourth quarter) when the game has already been decided. A blowout victory usually means the winning team has played very well (or at least competently against a struggling team), which accounts for the increased fantasy points in those instances.

So, what practical application can we give to this data? If stars score fewer fantasy points in blowout wins, then we can use Vegas over/under and point spread information to guide our lineup-building decisions. If you’re playing NBA DFS, you should be paying attention to those numbers already, but here we can apply them to stars. Say the Lakers are playing Cleveland on a Wednesday night and the spread is LAL -12.5. Vegas is already telling you that the Lakers are heavy favorites in this matchup and there is big blowout potential. If you’re making lineup decisions and are forced to choose between two players who have otherwise equal outlooks, it’s a smart idea to choose the player who is projected to play in a more competitive game, such as one with a point spread of just a few points.

This is not an exact science, though, and the superstar who may find himself on the winning side of a dominant victory could erupt for a massive game. His team could also be winning big due to others on the team stepping up, a mismatch, injuries or uncharacteristically-poor play from the opponent. There is a lot more variance for superstars in blowout wins, so be sure to keep that in mind.

On the flip side, Vegas won’t predict Milwaukee getting its doors blown off the hinges. The best teams in the NBA are favored more often than not, so you’ll have to use your own knowledge to guess when a top-tier team might lose big. A bad team matchup or an individual matchup for a star might come into play, lingering injuries, back-to-back games, or cold streaks can all be important factors here. Teams like the ones listed above rarely get blown out, so it’s much harder to predict this one on the surface. Stay informed, and do your homework.

Scrubs

Here, I used the same criteria as I did above, but I selected “scrub” players from the same teams to measure their effectiveness in blowout wins and blowout losses. I defined “scrubs” as guys who saw less than 20 minutes per contest. None of these players were starters except for JaVale McGee who was the “starting center” in 61 games for the Lakers, despite playing only 16.8 minutes per game and splitting time nearly evenly with Dwight Howard.  I removed instances of the starters being inactive or limited to go for the most accurate results possible. For example, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson‘s fantasy point total from March 1 was not counted here, as Serge Ibaka was inactive, providing extra opportunity for RHJ outside of the score.

Player Points in Blowout Wins Season Average Difference Points in Blowout Losses Difference 
Pat Connaughton 16.9 (5 games) 14.2 +2.7 12.8 (2 games) -1.4
JaVale McGee 21.7 (5 games) 19.8 +1.9 19.2 (3 games) -0.6
JaMychal Green 17.7 (5 games) 16.8 +0.9 15.1 (2 games) -1.7
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 21.5 18.6 +2.9 17.4 (2 games) -1.2

 
As we can see, the scrubs fared better in blowout wins, actually seeing a boost in fantasy points. In blowout losses, however, these players saw a decrease in production. We can note a big difference here between stars and scrubs, as the stars listed above produced fewer fantasy points in any type of blowout. The scrubs only played better in blowout wins. We can glean that scrubs are far more likely to see an uptick in playing time when the game is already decided. In wins, the team as a whole is usually firing on all cylinders at the expense of a reeling opponent. In blowout losses, scrubs should still see a bump in minutes, but at this point, the team as a whole is probably struggling, accounting for the decline.

An oft-favored team, such as the ones listed above will nearly always find itself in a blowout loss thanks to a bad game, an excellent game from the opponent, or a combination of both, which is why scrubs from the favored team perform worse in blowout losses. Taking this same thought process into account, we can safely say that scrubs from underdogs will perform just the opposite – better in blowout losses and the same or worse in blowout wins. Underdogs are expected to lose because they are an inferior team, so plugging scrubs into the game for more minutes in a blowout loss is not indicative of an off-night. Scrubs from underdogs who go on to win the game in blowout fashion are not often utilized more than usual because those script-flipping wins are almost always due to strong performances from stars.

Conclusion

  • Stars from the favored team are less valuable in blowout wins and blowout losses
  • Scrubs from the favored team are more valuable in blowout wins and less valuable in blowout losses
  • Scrubs from the underdog are more valuable in blowout losses and less valuable in blowout wins.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck in your DFS contests!

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

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