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NBA DFS winners and losers

Taking a deep dive into ROI vs Price so far in the 2019-20 NBA DFS season.

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

In the last DFS column I wrote a few days ago after the NBA announced the suspension of the season for 30 days, you learned about how Aron Baynes and Boban Marjanovic broke the game of DFS basketball. I was moderately entertained researching that piece, so I wanted to dig a little bit deeper into the whole concept of ROI to try and find the most valuable players (fantasy points per dollar) of the season so far. So I went back to the spreadsheet.

I didn’t want to lose any time, and I don’t want you to lose it either, so I just plotted data in the most straightforward of ways: average ROI vs average price, limiting the population to players with at least 20 games played and 15+ minutes of playing time per game, which are often those fantasy-relevant.

In order to differentiate between valuable and truly-valuable players, I color-coded the dots ranging from red (lowest ROI/Price) to green (highest ROI/Price).

There are 309 dots, or players, in that chart (there are 574 players in the data set, that is, 574 players to play at least a second in at least one game this season). I have divided them into three groups given their average price on the season.

  • Cheap players: 181 have had an average price ranging from $3K to $5K on the season.
  • Mid-range players: 78 have had an average price ranging from $5K to $7K on the season.
  • Expensive players: 50 have had an average price ranging from $7K to $11.5K on the season.

Now, let’s break those groups down by ROI.

  • Of the 181, 31 cheap players have averaged ROIs over 5.0.
  • Of the 78, 43 mid-range players have averaged ROIs over 5.0.
  • Of the 50, 44 expensive players have averaged ROIs over 5.0.

Those results are already interesting in that we can start to point to some names who are clearly playing over/under the expectations. The easiest way to start finding those players would be by looking at the top-tier kind of players first. At the end of the day, only six of the 50 “expensive” players are averaging fewer than 5.0 ROI, so that is a very little sample to highlight. These are the underperforming expensive players of the 2019-20 season.

Underperformers of 2019-20

Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have ended the season (at least to this point) on a rather bad streak of performances, and the same has happened to Malcolm Brogdon. Kevin Love had it rough earlier on the year, and Paul George is not doing a lot (mostly due to his low minutes) for his price, and Kemba Walker has had up and downs all year long.

For the mid-range players we can lower the bar a little bit in terms of ROI to shorten our data set a bit. It makes sense: those players are going cheaper because they aren’t reliable top-producers of fantasy points, so their ROIs shouldn’t be expected to be that high. Let’s take a look at some mid-range players with ROIs under 5.0.

Some highly-coveted names appear in the chart, although they are underperforming a bit. Ja Morant is about to be the Rookie of the Year, and just on pure name he’s probably a little bit overpriced. Lou Williams is a premium reserve and his off-the-bench production is great but perhaps a bit overpriced too. Other players such as Draymond Green are doing a little bit of everything, but not a lot of anything, which is definitely lowering their returns on investment.

Overperformers of 2019-20

Of those in the cheap range, expectations can’t be high at all. Those are bargains every day, so anything they give you in return should be considered almost a gift. That is why doesn’t make much sense judging them on the negative side of things. Let’s move on to those actually providing value over expectations, instead. Here are the only four cheap players yielding ROI-marks over 5.35 on the season.

Shabazz Napier has played 51 games for the Wiz and lately was ramping up his minutes while playing as a starter and averaging 26 DKFP since the start of February. Josh Hart is not starting, but on a bench-role he’s averaged 25 DKFP in his last 15 games logging four double-doubles. Jordan McRae has only played 37 games but he hasn’t been bad for Washington, getting into the 20+ minutes of playing time lately. Finally, Jordan Clarkson has become one of the stories of the season after being traded to Utah, and somehow he’s still flying too much under the radar.

Only three players have posted ROIs over 5.35 while in the mid-range price clip.

And speaking of under-the-radar, undervalued players, I have to mention Lonzo Ball. Ball is doing it all for the Pelicans and it’s showing in his average DKFP since the flip of the calendar page: 41 DKFP per game. Gordon Hayward has been a starter for the Celtics in every single game he’s played, and although his role has been relegated a lot (20.9% usage rate) with the presence of better players in the lineup, he’s still averaged 34.3 DKFP on the year. Finally, Alec Burks has played for both the Warriors and the Sixers, and although he’s played only an average of 20 minutes since the trade he’s still keeping up an average of 28 DKFP per game.

And just four players of the expensive group have provided ROIs over 3.4 on the year.

Instead of commenting on them individually, you can see how all four dots are colored in different shades of red, which if you remember means they don’t have the best ROI/Price relations of all the players in the data set. Think about it. We have covered much cheaper players yielding virtually the same ROI values for way lower prices, so it makes all of the sense!

Best and worst ROI/Price of 2019-20

Finally, here are the best and worst ROI/Price players on the season.

Praise Mr. Patty Mills. Condemn Mr. James Harden.

If you have any comment or question about the daily column, tonight’s games, players involved in them, or even season-long fantasy NBA topics, just drop it below or reach out to me on Twitter at @chapulana and I’ll get back to you as soon as I grab a keyboard!