Wednesdays in the NBA are usually big days for daily fantasy, and today is no exception. Tonight, FanDuel is running a rare $1,000,000 Slam. Entry is only $25, the prize pool is a cool million, and 1st place will receive $100,000. There are also 13 NBA games, which means there is a ridiculous amount of viable plays to choose from tonight.
It’s important to find only those very compelling plays that will shoot us to the top of the tournament leaderboard.
Before I get into my picks tonight, I want to talk about a stat called Usage Percentage (USG%). USG is an equation (you can find that exact equation here) that evaluates how often an individual player controls the ball for his team on offense. More simply, it shows how small or large his offensive role is on the team.
Most daily fantasy players look at matchup factors like ‘DvP’ (Team Fantasy Defense vs a specific position) to evaluate whether a player is a good play, but DvP is really only useful when the matchup is exceptional. The rest of the time, we’re lost. That’s why using other stats like USG can be so important.
In an article written just a few days ago, my brother Danny — a former bond trader and a statistical genius (objectively, of course) — analyzed some data from this NBA season in an effort to evaluate how much USG correlates to fantasy production. You can read the article here. Danny found that USG has a correlation of .867 to offensive fantasy points (points and assists), a ridiculously high correlation.
To put this into context, the correlation between how hot it is outside and how much you sweat is about the same. If we can guess decreases and increases in USG from game to game, we can safely predict increases or decreases in offensive production. And for guards especially, who score fantasy points with almost all offensive stats, we can predict their fantasy output very accurately.
So the question becomes: how do we predict USG increases?
Sometimes a coach decides he wants to run his offense through a player more often. Or a key injury to an offensive player turns a player who once had a secondary role in the offense into the #1 option.
There are many factors. But one easy way to do it is to look at the USG of individual players in their past few games and to compare it to their USG over a longer period. If a player has a higher USG in his past few games than he’s averaged this season, we can safely assume he’ll continue that trend and outperform his salary.
Over at my daily fantasy strategy site, DailyFantasyWinners.com, we have a tool that does this evaluation for you, and it updates every day. Just look for the USG Trends page under the tools tab.
With all this said, making a great lineup is all about weighing all the relevant data, so along with USG, we will also factor in player price, matchup, and minutes.
The picks below are for both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Under the Radar Picks
Trey Burke should be the #1 option for the Jazz tonight
Trey Burke ($5,100 on FanDuel, $4,900 on DraftKings) —
With Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood doubtful to play against the Blazers, the Jazz have very few offensive options on their team aside from Derrick Favors. Even though he doesn’t start, Trey Burke’s USG has been a sky high 31.5% over his past 3 games, and it should increase even more playing without Gordon Hayward. Hayward was out for the Jazz’s last game vs the Minnesota Timberwolves, and despite only shooting 18.2% from the field, Burke had 16 points and 6 assists in 38 minutes — plenty of production for his low salary.
He also has the benefit of playing at home against a Portland team that is the 6th worst team against PGs this season. Burke has a lot going for him tonight, and at the same price-point as Zach LaVine, he should be significantly underused.
C.J. Miles ($4,300) — Rodney Stuckey has been ruled out, which means the Pacers don’t really have a backup SG. Miles’ minutes should increase significantly and he should have a small bump in USG with such a prolific scorer in Stuckey on the bench. His price is also $300 lower on Fanduel than it is on DraftKings, making him already a great value at SF.
A couple of others to watch are C.J. Watson and Luis Scola, who will be the #1 options in the 2nd unit. If Roy Hibbert gets into foul trouble, Scola could see big minutes, and C.J. Watson could see some time about SG toward the end of the game.
Enes Kanter has been an exceptional scorer for the Thunder
Enes Kanter ($6,900 on FanDuel, $7,200 on DraftKings) — Kanter is getting comfortable in Oklahoma City’s offense, and he’s starting to thrive. His USG is up to 30.2% in his last 3 games from 22.7% in his past 15, and his rebounding numbers have been fantastic.
The Thunder are thin at PF and C with Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka out, which means Kanter will have to play big minutes in a big game, jockeying for playoff seeding against the Spurs. His price simply hasn’t caught up to his production, either — his price certainly should be in the low $8,000s.
And don’t fear the Spurs’ defense, they have actually been in the bottom half in Fantasy points allowed to centers.
Demar DeRozan ($7,600 on Fanduel, $7,700 on DraftKings) — With Kyle Lowry now out indefinitely, the Raptors need DeRozan’s offense more than ever. Grevis Vasquez is a solid backup, but DeRozan’s role and USG should increase in Toronto’s first unit that lacks offensive firepower. But what I like most about DeRozan is his consistency — he’s averaged 37 minutes a game over the last five games and rarely has a bad performance, and he has the upside to score 30+ points on any given night.
Chris Andersen ($3,000) – Chris Andersen should assume the starting role with Hassan Whiteside doubtful, and he draws a great matchup against the Celtics who struggle against Centers and are 5th worst in Defensive Fantasy Points allowed per game. At the minimum salary, he can free up salary to play a big name like Anthony Davis.
But watch for Andersen’s injury status, he’s questionable with a calf contusion.
If you have any questions or comments, shoot me a tweet @maxjsteinberg. Good luck tonight!