The scope of NBA DFS has taken a turn in recent days with no actual basketball being played, and simulated contests taking over. The strategies are potentially much different than typical DFS, since live games have been swapped out and existing results have been swapped in. These potential results are already fully known from a partial season of games, so even though scoring is assigned at random, all of the possible outcomes are available to be identified.
One of the key markers to account for when piecing together a lineup for a DFS simulation is average production. A player’s average fantasy point score gives you a reasonable estimate of what you can expect that player to produce in a given simulation, but it also doesn’t tell the whole story. Two players can have the same average score, for example, but have variations in their ranges of outcomes. With your standard DFS this variance is largely a guess, but with simulations, all the possible outcomes are actually known because those outcomes have already occurred.
With all of that in mind, here’s a look at this season’s five best fantasy producers (by DraftKings scoring) and how their scoring distributions compare to one another.
There’s a clear distinction to be made with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lebron James compared to James Harden and Luka Doncic. The 10th percentile outcomes for Giannis and Lebron are actually higher than they are for Harden and Doncic, even though the 90th percentile outcomes for them are lower. In simpler terms, the two MVP frontrunners have generally been much more consistent DFS producers this year while Harden and Doncic have had wilder swings.
So why is this the case? Well, James Harden has played several games without Russell Westbrook, so he’s had substantially different contexts depending on whether or not his high-usage teammate has been out on the court with him. Luka Doncic has seen a similar effect with the inconsistent health of Kristaps Porzingis, though to a lesser degree, but it’s clear that both players have had up-and-down fantasy seasons no matter how you slice it.
Speaking of volatility, Karl-Anthony Towns has only played in 35 games to this point (compared to 50+ for the rest of top 5) so his shortened season is quite a bit shorter than everyone else’s shortened season. Towns’ mid-tier games compare respectably to the rest of the group, but he’s had a lower floor as well as a lower ceiling.
And here’s one more chart showing each of these players’ most extreme games.
All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS contests.