If I know one thing about basketball, it is that the more points a team scores, the higher its chances to get that coveted W. It’s simple. Score more than your opponent, and you’ll go home to sleep while hugging that sweet win. The problem with scoring in high numbers, though, is that there is only one ball, a small number of shots to spread between teammates, and something called “percentages” that fall short of 50 percent more often than not. Sure, this is not baseball and even average players hit more than 30 percent of the shots they shoot, but even with that only a bunch of very elite players can drop 20+ points on a nightly basis.
During this now-paused season, in fact, there have been only 36 players with scoring averages over 20+ points. 36, that is, of a grand total of 515 to step on an NBA court until the hiatus started. Yes, you read that right: just a bit less than 7 percent of pro-players at the biggest of stages are able to score more than 20 points nightly, and even in that group there are quirks such as Kyrie Irving playing only 20 games, Zion Williamson 19, and more than anything Steph Curry five of them.
When it comes to fantasy basketball, it is normal to find points as the less valued stat out there. In DraftKings, the system rewards players with one fantasy point per one scoring point, which is the smallest amount of goodies the algorithm hands out to players for any counting cat. Rebounds are 25% more valuable (1.25 DKFP), assists 50% (1.5), and steals and blocks a whopping 100% valued at 2 DKFP each!
With that in mind, I was interested in looking at who’d be the best in a non-points fantasy world, so I removed scoring points from the DKFP scores each player put up this past season and looked at the results. Let’s explore this new scenario!
Introducing No-Points Fantasy Basketball
Before I start crunching the numbers and plotting random charts, let me explain what I have done. I have a spreadsheet containing all daily DraftKings scores for every player on every game. It has the stats broken down in different categories, so it was easy to calculate a No-Points DKFP score, which I’ve called NPDKFP. To get it I’m just using the simplest of formulas: DKFP - PTS - 0.5*3PM. I know, I know. Double-doubles and triple-doubles by virtue of points are still factored in NPDKFP marks, but I don’t care that much about that.
In our real DraftKings fantasy basketball world we have been able to witness magnificent scores during the time the season was running. No later than Nov. 1 LeBron James put on a freaking show against the Mavs reaching all of 92.5 DKFP for the best individual fantasy game of the season to the tune of 39 points, 12 boards, 16 dimes, 4 steals, and a block to round it all. He hit four triples that night. Just half a DKFP behind him in the season-long leaderboard, Dame Lillard reached 92 DKFP himself on Jan. 20 when he went off the charts and dropped 61 points on the Warriors including 11 triples (!) and paired that with 10 rebounds, 7 assists, and a steal. No other player broke the 90-DKFP barrier.
Neither LeBron or Dame would have done so without those massive scoring explosions. It is really simple to spot both of them in the upper plot of the next image.
In the bottom one? Not that easy. LeBron would have still led the slate on Nov. 1 with 51.5 DKFP but those would have been 41 fewer fantasy points on the night! That is already a sizable drop in production, but nothing when compared to Lillard’s change in this new world where points are worthless. Lillard’s 92 DKFP would turn into a measly 25.5-fantasy point tally, a ridiculous 66.5-DKFP drop! He would have been just the 13th-best player of the slate in this new environment—already accounting for the rest of performers not scoring points either.
So, who has had the best games without much scoring? Who’s been the best on average? Let’s take a look!
Best No-Points DKFP Fantasy Performances
Whether or not a player has been able to keep up a season-long level of production without relying much on pure scoring, we don’t care about in this section. What I first looked for was the most booming players in at least one single game. It is not that anybody can end a game with 15+ blocks or 25+ rebounds, but the chances are high to pull it off at least once over the course of the season than doing it nightly so the odds are a little more leveled.
Here are the players to put up 45+ NPDKFP games this year, which has happened 13 times through the 2019-20 season.
No wonder at the top of the leaderboard with Giannis not only leading it, but blasting his way to the no. 1 spot to the tune of 56.52 NPDKFP facing Portland on Nov. 21. That day, Giannis finished with 80.75 DKFP counting points (24, with one triple) but he was contributing stats all across the board finishing with 19 boards and 15 dimes to go with 3 steals and a block to close the circle. That was such a great performance that it ranks first almost five full DKFP points over second-place LeBron and his already covered game against Dallas (39 points, 12-16-4-1 in the rest of the cats).
It is not surprising finding bigs (Andre Drummond, Nikola Jokic, Hassan Whiteside) in the rankings too, but perhaps you weren’t expecting the likes of Ricky Rubio and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to make it there. I wasn’t, either. Russell Westbrook is a monster of a player and Ben Simmons can do it all—excepting shooting threes, which actually helps him here—while Luka, well, you better get accustomed to his trip-dub ways. But Rubio and SGA were pleasing findings. Rubio went absolutely bonkers versus the Bucks with a 13-13 boards-dimes game in which he also stole 3 rocks, and SGA broke for 45.5 NPDKFP facing the Timberwolves and achieving the rare 20-20-10 (with a block) triple-double.
Steadiest NPDKFP Fantasy Performers
One-games are cool and all, but what we should be interested in is in those who can put up numbers nightly on a steady basis. What’s good in having someone not drop a bucket one night but make up for it with a 15-15 dub-dub if he can’t keep up those percentages in the long run? That’s what we’re here for now.
I have coded the chart so the players less reliant on points appear on a darker green color and those that rely more on points (wider gap between DKFP and NPDKFP) tend to be colored in yellow. I wouldn’t have any problem getting me some shares of LeBron, Giannis, Luka, or even Trae, but there is an obvious dependence of scoring among all of them. Strip their game of their high-scoring prowess and their numbers would drop a tad bit in this new fantasy world.
The aforementioned Drummond (2nd), Whiteside (5th), and Jokic (7th) are at the top of the NPDKFP leaderboard on the season average, and they’re joined but a plethora of biggies ranking near them, in order: Bam Adebayo, Domantas Sabonis, Rudy Gobert, and Clint Capela. All of those players have averaged more than 24 NPDKFP per game this season.
Russell Westbrook is the only “true-guard” ranking high (although he’s still overly reliant on his points), with Luka a few spots over him but also with some more centimeters to his advantage. In fact, Rubio is the second point-guard ranked (19th overall) followed by Zo Ball at 21st. Jrue Holiday (24th) and Kyle Lowry (25th) are the only other two point guards inside the top-25 in NPDKFP.
If we look exclusively at fantasy-relevant players (I’ve set the threshold at 20 NPDKFP per game), the less scoring-dependent players are Rubio (35.5 DKFP, 21.8 NPDKFP, +13.7 difference), Lonzo (+13.8), Capela (+13.9), Gobert (+15), Bam (+16.2), Whiteside (+16.3), and Ben Simmons (+16.7).
When looking for sweet bargains, both Rubio (average $6.7K) and Ball ($6.3K) are definitely the go-to plays. Some players are a little bit more expensive but still worth considering: Deandre Ayton ($8K, +19) and Jrue Holiday ($7.8K, +20.6).
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!