5 Similarities Between NBA and NFL DFS

Mar 02, 2016
5 Similarities Between NBA and NFL DFS

NFL DFS is awesome, but it's gone until September. NBA DFS is in full swing, though, and if you've at least dabbled in it, you've probably -- consciously or unconsciously -- drawn comparisons between these two popular DFS sports at some point.

Psychology teaches us some people compare things by picking out the differences between them, while others are more likely to notice similarities between each. If you're on the former side of the spectrum, 7 Differences Between NBA and NFL DFS probably resonated with you, aiding your transition from NFL to NBA. And if you're on the latter side? This article will give you an alternative perspective on the changeover.

Editor's Note: Early Bird Rates for our 2016 NFL DFS Subscription are available NOW! Sign up HERE.

1. Opportunity is Paramount in NBA Just Like in NFL

Volume is a stronger indicator of fantasy success than efficiency is for RBs, WRs, and TEs. The only of the four major fantasy football positions where efficiency takes precedence -- QB -- is the only position that tends to receive 100% of the available opportunity in a given game (barring an injury or benching).

Opportunity is just as important in the NBA. The correlation between various player statistics and their FanDuel points per game during the 2015-16 season is shown in the table below.

Stat Correlation to FanDuel Points
Points 0.93
Field Goal Attempts 0.91
Minutes 0.88
Free Throws Attempted 0.84
Turnovers 0.78
Defensive Rebounds 0.76
Total Rebounds 0.70
Steals 0.68
Usage Rate 0.65
Assists 0.64
Fouls 0.55
Offensive Rebounds 0.46
Blocks 0.44
3 Point Attempts 0.39
Field Goal % 0.26
eFG% 0.21
Free Throw % 0.11
3 Point % 0.09

Field goal attempts and minutes -- in other words, scoring opportunity and playing time opportunity -- have the highest correlation to FanDuel scoring of statistics that don’t actually figure into the calculation of FanDuel points,

What does this mean to you as an NBA DFS player?

  • In cash games, players seeing the most minutes are the safest.
  • Cheap starters slated to play a normal starter's allotment of minutes (30 or more is ideal) should be on your radar.
  • In GPPs, you can operate with the reverse of your cash game thought process, taking chances on highly efficient players who you think will see an uptick in minutes due to a particular matchup, potential blowout, etc.

2. Playing at Home Provides an Advantage in NBA Just Like in NFL

Savvy NFL DFS players know that home field is important, especially when it comes to QBs, RBs, Ks, and DSTs.

There’s a ton of statistical data to back up this assertion, but let’s keep it simple: Last season in the NFL, home teams scored 12% more TDs and gained 6% more yardage than visiting teams. Over the last three seasons, 60% of players who scored 35 or more FanDuel points did so while playing at home.

There is a similar trend in the NBA, and it translates directly to the bottom line of player value. At home this season, NBA players projected for 24 or more minutes averaged 28.55 FanDuel points per game and reached their salary-based expectation 59% of the time. On the road, those numbers fell to 27.55 and 55%, respectively.1

3. How You Approach Cash Games vs. GPPs is Generally the Same in NBA as NFL

4for4 DFS subscribers are probably familiar with CV, which is a volatility metric that we use to measure how consistent players are on a game-by-game basis. CV factors heavily into our floor and ceiling projections (which will be even more accurate next year thanks to an extensive offseason study we’re doing on the accuracy and volatility of our own projections). You want consistent players (low CVs, high floors) in cash games and volatile players (high CV, high ceiling) in GPPs in order to optimize your lineup by contest type in NFL DFS.

In NBA DFS, this strategy remains unchanged.

Points, rebounds, and assists are the most consistent stats on a game-to-game basis, and you want to get players in cash games who do well in these categories.

In GPPs, you want to gravitate to players capable of putting up huge numbers of steals, blocks or 3-pointers. These stats most closely resemble TDs in that they are worth more fantasy points than other stats and even the players who do the best in these categories will have plenty of nights where they post a zero in the category. But on a good night, filling up the box score with steals, blocks or 3s will usually result in a huge upward swing in fantasy points that greatly outperforms the player’s salary-based expectation.

Take Trevor Ariza for instance. As of this writing, Ariza averages a mediocre 24.99 FanDuel points per game through 59 games. In over a third of his games, he’s made one or less 3s, but has made four or more in 14 games, scoring over 35 FanDuel points in 64% of those games. Similarly, he’s posted one or fewer steals in 41% of his games, but has swiped four or more steals eight times, averaging 31.5 FanDuel points in those contests.

4. Certain Positions are More Reliable than Others in NBA Just Like in NFL

All five positions in NBA are more consistent than any position in the NFL on a game-by-game basis in fantasy. QBs, Ks, and RBs are the most consistent NFL positions.

Even though NBA players are more statistically consistent than NFL players as a whole, there are positional differences unique to the sport as well.

Point guards and centers tend to be the most consistent options. During the 2015-16 season, PGs hit their salary-based expectation 61% of the time and Cs hit their salary-based expectation 59% of the time, while the other three positions were between 55-56%.2

5. You Need Good Projections and a Lineup Optimizer in NBA Just Like in NFL

4for4 prides itself on John Paulsen’s projection model, which -- after he finished top five overall again in 2015 -- has led him to an unprecedented five top-five accuracy finishes in the last six years, including top overall accuracy in 2010 and 2014.

Combined with our Lineup Generator (which will be even better in 2016 -- including having built-in floor/ceiling optimizing ability and much more), it’s no wonder our first-year DFS subscription product was a big hit last season (thank you guys!) -- great projections are a huge advantage in a sport that is inherently tough to predict.

Due to the aforementioned consistency (read: predictability) of NBA players, having good projections is basically a prerequisite for success -- it’s a bit easier to create accurate NBA projections, so you’ll be way behind the eight ball if you don’t have access to good ones.

The impact of late-breaking news in the NBA makes a good lineup optimizer essential. Many times, projections need to be quickly updated at the drop of a hat, and lineups need to be quickly re-optimized. It’s not as simple as just inserting the point guard slated for 36 minutes due to a late scratch of the starter -- he’ll probably be cheap, which could in turn change up your entire lineup construction.

Whether you’re creating your own projections in Excel and optimizing using Solver (hardcore) or using one of the many NBA DFS products out there (practical), accurate, frequently updated projections and a first-rate optimizer are essential pieces to the winning NBA DFS puzzle.

If you have any questions about NBA DFS, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter: @ChrisRaybon.

Editor's Note: Early Bird Rates for our 2016 NFL DFS Subscription are available NOW! Sign up HERE.

1. Data courtesy of FantasyLabs

2. Data courtesy of FantasyLabs and uses FanDuel scoring.

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