NBA All-Star - Lesson 01 - Minutes and Usage

Fantasy production is all about opportunity and ability. The two offer a lethal combination in daily fantasy basketball. If we can predict a player’s minutes, as well as his usage within the offense, then we can predict his fantasy output on a consistent basis. This article will focus on predicting minutes and usage rates and how the two can be used in conjunction to predict fantasy production.

Predicting Minutes

Basketball is a sport where five players from each team are on the court at the same time. Each of the five positions plays 48 minutes per game. That leaves each team 240 minutes of playing time to allocate between their players (unless, of course, the game goes into overtime). Being able to predict team’s rotation patterns can extremely beneficial in daily fantasy basketball, as minutes are a key indicator of fantasy production. The three factors to consider when predicting minutes are recent minutes per game, injuries and the expected outcome of each game.

Each team’s rotation pattern constantly changes throughout the course of the season. Due to this, we want to make sure to factor in recent rotation patterns, rather than season-long averages. Using a player’s season-long averages can be misleading, especially if that player is no longer a big part of the rotation. When predicting minutes, use a player’s recent playing time, with an emphasis on the last few games. For example, let’s say that a player has averaged 20 minutes per game on the season, but he has averaged 30 minutes per game over his last five. If we look at his recent playing time, we should expect him to see closer to 30 minutes in his next game.

Remember, minutes equal more opportunities to score fantasy points.


Injuries and Expected Outcome

Injuries play a huge role in daily fantasy basketball. When a key player in the rotation is unable to play, it can open up anywhere from 30-40 minutes of playing time for his teammates. The most obvious uptick in minutes will go to the player that draws the start, but the other players in the lineup can also see a boost in playing time as well.

The final piece of the minutes’ puzzle is to factor in the expected outcome of each game. It’s never easy to predict blowouts in the NBA, but the game projections can give us a good idea of which games we want to avoid players from, especially on nights that feature a large slate. Blowouts hurt the fantasy appeal of both teams involved, as the starters from both sides will typically see fewer minutes than they would otherwise. It’s all too common for a team to rest their starters for the entire fourth quarter of a game that is already in hand. My general rule of thumb is to avoid high-priced players in games that feature a spread of 10 or more. The risk outweighs the potential reward, especially in cash games.


Usage Rate

After determining how many minutes a player is expected to see, the next step is to look at his usage rate. A player’s usage rate is defined as the percentage of a team’s offensive possessions that he uses while on the court. This statistic is a great indicator of fantasy production (at least on the offensive end of the floor). If a player has a very low usage within his offense, it’s not going to make a big difference in production whether he is going to play 25 or 35 minutes.

Ideally, we want to target players with a high usage rate and a high minutes expectation. That can’t always be the case though, as we do have the constraint of a salary cap to deal with. I tend to favor players with a higher usage rate in lieu of those that see more minutes but are not as involved offensively. With all other factors equal, players that have a higher usage rate have more upside, at least on the offensive end of the floor.

 


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Notorious) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.