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Your NBA DFS Primer Part II: Determining What Positions Matter

Now that you know the basics to playing NBA DFS, let’s delve a little deeper. After all, that’s what we do here at RotoViz. Today I’d like to discuss the different NBA positions, and give some insight as to which ones you should pay up for, where you should look to save, and more. This should bring us one step closer to NBA dominance.

What Positions Must You Play?

Before talking about the value of each position, it would make sense to discuss first what positions you are actually required to roster on both FanDuel and DraftKings. On FanDuel, you must roster two each at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, and power forward, along with one center. On DraftKings, you must start one at each position, and then there is also a generic guard spot, forward spot, and utility slot in which you can play any player. These differences will be important for lineup construction, but also when determining what positions are the most valuable.

What Positions Score the Most Points?

Fantasy sports and DFS is all about scoring points right? So let’s take a look at what positions scored the most fantasy points last season. Aggregate totals for teams are hard to find, but we can find points ALLOWED by position relatively easily across the industry. RotoGrinders provides Defense vs. Position rankings and numbers for NBA, and the 2014 numbers are what I used to create the following chart.1

Position30th15th1st
PG45.3341.7137.17
SG40.936.0132.19
SF38.2135.9432.43
PF45.4742.0937.72
C49.6145.0138.1

This should give us a fairly accurate snapshot of what positions score the most points overall since points against is based on 82 games of matchups. As you can see, the clear top scoring positions are center, power forward, and point guard. Small forward and shooting guard, on average, score far fewer fantasy points. Does this mean that you should automatically go hunting for the best players at those three positions, punt the other two and call it a day? Of course not. But it is a quality starting point.

What Positions Should You Spend Up For?

We know what positions score points, but where have fantasy owners had to spend to be successful? In the world of DFS, where a salary cap is the basis for lineup construction, dollars spent is a good barometer of value and importance. The lovely folks at The Daily Audible gave what they consider to be an idea salary distribution for FanDuel.

Point Guard 1 – $9,000
Point Guard 2 – $5,500
Shooting Guard 1 – $7,000
Shooting Guard 2 – $5,000
Small Forward 1 – $7,000
Small Forward 2 – $5,000
Power Forward 1 – $9,000
Power Forward 2 – $5,000
Center – $7,500

Based on dollars spent, it would seem that PG and PF are incredibly important when playing on FanDuel. Bryan Mears of NumberFire did some great work analyzing what the “perfect lineup” consisted of for both FanDuel and DraftKings. This is easily the essential lineup and positional value piece, and a must read for aspiring DFS’ers. There were a couple of trends for both sites. Similar to The Daily Audible, Mears work valued the PG spot on both sites, and had this to say specifically about PFs on DraftKings.

Only 9% of the perfect lineups had a value player at the power forward spot. It had the highest percentage of Super Saiyans at 38% and Studs at 29%. Lots of value could be found at the small forward, center, or utilities positions (G/F/Util), but often the perfect lineup had a high-scoring power forward.

I’ll talk more about lineup construction in a future entry, but I think we can see the difference in positional allotments on either site having an impact on value. DraftKings provides more flexibility than FanDuel does, and that brings out the importance of the PFs.

Small Forward: Find Some Value

There is one obvious position that seems like a place to save cap space at on both sites: small forward. Again, I will defer to the exquisite Mears piece. Here is what he had to say.

Look at that pie chart for the second small forward spot. Such a higher number of the perfect lineups — 86% of them — included a low-priced value at the small forward spot. While it seems like it would be a good idea to fit both KD and LeBron in your lineup, the perfect lineup data says no. In fact, only the point guard spot had any perfect lineup where there were two SS ($9,800-plus) guys at the same position.

Again, this was written about FanDuel lineups, where you must start two SFs. The data doesn’t suggest having a player like Kevin Durant or LeBron James in one slot would be a bad idea, but that spending on both would be detrimental to your expected result. On DraftKings, SF is given even less value since you are only required to start one (instead of two on FD), and the elite players cost a larger percent of your salary cap.

But What About Center?

You’ll remember that earlier on, I mentioned that centers were actually the top scoring position. So why haven’t they come up with respect to value and importance? The answer is simple: roster requirements. On FanDuel, you need exactly half as many centers as you do any other position. On DraftKings, you can play two centers, but have the capability to play three at every other position. I would say centers are a little more valuable there, especially since you get bonus points for double-doubles, but overall they seem to be less important despite the obvious scoring prowess of the position.

  1. Numbers based on FanDuel scoring  (back)

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