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Impact Percentage: A New NBA Fingerprint

No two teams in the NBA are alike when it comes to the mixture of player tendencies, lineup combinations and styles of play. One metric that tells a story of player involvement (and furthermore, can serve as a team’s fingerprint) is usage percentage. This estimates the portion of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor. In other words, it shows us how often a player ends his team’s possessions. Players like Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins, and DeMar DeRozan currently lead the league in usage percentage.

Using our revolutionary STATS SportVU data, we have recently developed an improvement upon traditional usage percentage. Now, not only can we tell how frequently a player terminates a possession (with a FGA, FTA, or Turnover), but we can also quantify how often they impact a possession (with a drive, a ball screen, an isolation or a post up). We’ve appropriately named this value impact percentage.

Why is this valuable? Consider players like Goran Dragic and Mike Conley, who rank 38th and 49th, respectively, in usage. Although a glance at these numbers might persuade one to think that these two aren’t chief possession-influencers, they are both among the top 10 in the league in impact percentage.

This new statistic was mentioned in ESPN the Magazine’s newest analytics issue, which hit the stands on March 17. Today, we are going to use it to analyze Monday’s matchup between Oklahoma City and Golden State.

As mentioned earlier, Russell Westbrook leads the NBA in usage percentage – but he also sits at the top of the leaderboard in impact percentage. When you look at OKC exclusively, no one comes close to the amount of impact that Westbrook has on their possessions.

ImpactPercentage

Usage plays a part here, but when you break down OKC’s SportVU plays – drives, isolations, post ups, and ball screens – it’s evident that these are where the bulk of Westbrook’s impact lies. Westbrook accounts for over 51 impactful plays per game on average. The next closest Thunder player is Victor Oladipo at 16.

ImpactPlays_OKC

Let’s talk about variability. In statistics, standard deviation measures how spread out a distribution is. A low standard deviation tells us that most of the numbers in a sample are close to the sample’s average – in other words, there isn’t much spread. A high standard deviation tells us that the numbers are more scattered. Unsurprisingly, due to Westbrook’s outlandish numbers, OKC has a very high standard deviation when considering impact percentage.

The Thunder’s standard deviation comes to a whopping 15 percent. In comparison, Golden State, before Kevin Durant’s MCL sprain on February 28th, had a standard deviation of 8 percent.

ImpactPercentage_standard-deviation

The biggest and most obvious takeaway here is that these are two completely diverse teams when it comes to how the ball is facilitated, and further, who the offense revolves around. Yet, a deeper dive into the Warriors’ Impact numbers reveals that they’ve had to adjust their strategy in KD’s recent absence.

ImpactPercentage_KD-Table

Steph Curry’s impact percentage has increased from an already team-leading 49 percent to an even higher 55 percent while Klay Thompson’s has shot from 31 to 37. This is all expected. What’s more compelling, though, is how a guy like Ian Clark is doing exponentially more with his limited minutes.

In his first eight games* since Durant’s injury, Clark has nearly doubled his ball screen usage (2.6 to 4.8 per game) and increased his drives (1.2 to 1.9 per game). On top of that, his minutes slightly decreased – even with him playing 34 minutes March 11 against the Spurs as Steve Kerr rested all his stars.

It’s important to mention that impact percentage is not necessarily a reflection of efficiency. Just because a player is influencing his on-court possessions doesn’t mean that he’s influencing them positively. It’s no secret that the Warriors are struggling to fill Durant’s shoes, especially when it comes to productivity – but it does appear as if guys are at least stepping up to the challenge and getting involved.

With all of this in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how OKC handles a Golden State team that finally seems to be adjusting to Durant’s absence.

*all numbers are as of 3/17/17

Photo By: AP Photo/Alonzo Adams
Illustration By: STATS/Andrew Skweres

STATS March Madness 2017 Primer

East

The Favorite: Villanova (Seed: 1, Final 4 Probability: 29.5%)

Last years’ champs have a pretty tough road ahead of them in the East bracket but obviously have the best chance at advancing to the Final 4 out of the group. Wisconsin in the 2nd round is clearly a bump in the hypothetical road – Wisconsin is STATS #21 team and easily the best 8 seed. We rank Villanova as the #1 team in the nation, though, and we expect them to pass that early test.

Darkhorse:  SMU (Seed: 6, Final 4 Probability: 7.2%)

SMU is a team that can shake up the region. The AAC’s best team is led by the conference’s player of the year, Semi Ojeleye (19.9 ppg on 49.1% FG), and features several other versatile and productive players. The Mustangs are a tougher test for Baylor, Duke, and Villanova (if they happen to make it that far) than people realize. One of those teams could very well be upset, too, which would open up an easier road for SMU to reach the Final 4. There’s a 7.2% chance of that happening – the Elite 8 is a more realistic ceiling.

Bracket Buster: Baylor (Seed: 3, Final 4 Probability: 9.6%)

It’s possible that too many people will have the Bears (who were ranked #1 In the AP Poll at one point this season) going a bit too far. If they get past the dangerous New Mexico State and into the Round of 32, they face a tough path through SMU and potentially Duke, which caps their upside.

Cinderella Team: New Mexico State (Seed: 14, Final 4 Probability: 0.0%)

The top teams in this region are so good that it’s tough to identify any Cinderella candidates. Instead of looking for a Final 4 contender, we look for a team that can a game or 2, and of all the top teams, Baylor is the most vulnerable. New Mexico State beat the only major conference team it faced this year (Arizona State), and they very well could keep it close against a Baylor team that lost to Yale in the 1st round last year. We give them a 13.1% chance of winning that game – very nice for a 14 seed.

West

The Favorite: Gonzaga (Seed: 1, Final 4 Probability: 35.4%)

This could be the year the Zags break through and win a National Championship. Being a #1 seed helps set up an easier path for them, but they will surely be tested as soon as the Sweet 16 against West Virginia (our highest ranked 4 seed). If you don’t think Gonzaga can get it done, look at 2 seed Arizona, who have a 23.4% chance of making it out of the region.

Darkhorse: West Virginia (Seed: 4, Final 4 Probability: 16.4%)

They can certainly knock Gonzaga off in what will be closer to a coin flip matchup than people realize. We see the Mountaineers as a top 10 team, with impressive wins over Virginia, Baylor, Kansas, and Iowa State this season. Potential 2nd round opponent Notre Dame can certainly beat anybody (as proven by wins over Florida State and Virginia), but we still see them as one of the weaker 5 seeds, looking at their overall body of work.

Bracket Buster: Gonzaga

If there were a #1 seed to strategically fade this year it might just be Gonzaga. Unexpected and crazy things will happen this year, just as they do every year. Don’t be surprised if they’re knocked out in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8, as their bracket is stacked with one of the toughest 2/3/4 trios, not to mention 7-seed Saint Mary’s, who beat Gonzaga twice last season. This may just be the quadrant of the bracket that gets flipped on its head.

Cinderella Team: Florida Gulf Coast (Seed: 14, Final 4 Probability: 0.0%)

Dunk City has one thing going for them that no other 14 seeds do: a relatively neutral 1st round location. That’s the silver lining with drawing Florida State, a contender ripe with NBA talent, as the game will be played in Orlando, just about a 3 hour drive from campus. If FGCU does win that game – and we think they have a 13.1% chance to do so – they’ll have some home court advantage against the winner of the underwhelming Xavier/Maryland matchup. These guys could very plausibly make another run to the Sweet 16.

South

The Favorite: North Carolina (Seed: 1, Final 4 Probability: 35.3%)

They’re not only the clear favorite to win the South Region but also a sneaky pick to win it all this year. Why is it sneaky? They aren’t getting as much attention as conference tournament winners, yet we see them as the mathematical favorites. The Tar Heels have a high floor, with the easiest path to the elite 8 – only the bottom half of their region is stacked, meaning they will only have to just face just one top team on its way to the Final 4.

Darkhorse: Wichita State (Seed: 10, Final 4 Probability: 4.2%)

No double digit seed has a better chance of making a run than the Shockers. STATS’ #20 team in the nation should be a much higher seed, and they’re heavy favorites (72.3%) in their 1st round matchup against Dayton. They started slow this year after losing Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker to the NBA, but then they steamrolled through the Missouri Valley Conference, winning their final 15 games by an average of 22.3 points. The fact they still have decent Final 4 odds despite drawing (potentially) Kentucky, UCLA, and UNC, is a testament to how good this 10 seed is.

Bracket Buster: Kentucky (Seed: 2, Final 4 Probability: 24.7%)

Of course we see them as title contenders, and if they get to the elite 8, they’re a virtual coin toss against UNC. This is about value and perception, though – people may just automatically slot them into the Elite 8 simply because they are the #2 seed, which is a very risky proposition. They may have to face the best #10 seed in tourney history in Wichita State in the Round of 32. After that, they would likely have to face UCLA (another team much better than their #3 seed indicates). They may be a good team to pick to lose early, simply considering their tough path.

Cinderella Team: Middle Tennessee State (Seed: 12, Final 4 Probability: 0.9%)

It’s not often that a 12-seed has anywhere near a 1% chance of making the final 4, but MTSU isn’t your average 12 – they are more like a 10 seed, as STATS’ #41 team in the tournament. It also helps that their 5-seed opponent is relatively weak, with Minnesota ranking as STATS’ #31 team. It all adds up to a very winnable game – MTSU has a 44.6% chance of advancing. Beware, though – the public may be all over the Conference USA champs and winners of 20 of their last 21, but they’re still more likely than not to lose in the 1st round, so Minnesota actually poses the better value.

Mid West

The Favorite: Kansas (Seed: 1, Final 4 Probability: 35.9%)

The Jayhawks just might have the toughest path to the Final 4 of all the #1 seeds. Having said that, they are still the clear favorites and the best bet to come out of the Region on top. Don’t be overly turned off by their Big 12 tourney loss to TCU, as they were missing star freshman and future top 5 pick Josh Jackson for that one, due to suspension.

Darkhorse: Oklahoma State (Seed: 10, Final 4 Probability: 2.7%)

The top 3 seeds here are so good, and they all have 15%+ probabilities of making it to the Final 4. We like the value Oklahoma State presents, though, as the public will be all over their opponent, Big 10 tourney champs Michigan. Michigan is a dangerous 7 seed capable of winning at least a couple games, but Oklahoma State is a good team in its own right, and we see that game as a virtual toss-up. After losing their first 6 Big 12 games, they won 10 of their next 14 games overall, including wins over West Virginia and TCU (twice). The backcourt trio of Jawun Evans (19.0 ppg), Jeffrey Carroll (17.4 ppg), and Phil Forte III (13.3 ppg), are all capable of lighting it up, and they could overwhelm Michigan in the 1st round and break Louisville’s press in the 2nd round.

Bracket Buster: Louisville (Seed: 2, Final 4 Probability: 21.0%)

After their cupcake first round matchup – the Cardinals are likely to face stiff tests the rest of the way. Michigan is one of the best 7 seeds, Oklahoma State is one of the best 10 seeds, and Oregon is one of the best 3 seeds. This is likely an ideal #2 team to short in order to try to get ahead of the field, in case they can’t even reach the Sweet 16. Of all 2-seeds, we give them the lowest probability of reaching the Final 4.

Cinderella Team: Vermont (Seed: 13, Final 4 Probability: 0.2%)

We swear this one all comes down to the numbers and is not influenced by Vermont’s magical win over 4-seed Syracuse in 2005 (“T.J. Sorrentine hit that one from the PARKING LOT!” –Gus Johnson). This version of Vermont is also very good, coming in with the nation’s longest winning streak (21 games). They’re deep and balanced (10 players who average at least 10 minutes; 7 players who average at least 6 points), and they hung in there against Butler in December, losing by 12. No team seeded 13 or higher has a better chance of winning a game than Vermont’s 22.0%.

Cavs’ Korver lights up league with historic February

The most impactful trade made in the NBA in 2017 didn’t take place on deadline day. Or during the week of the deadline. Or even in the same month.

Kyle Korver became a Cavalier just a week into January, joining Cleveland for the 1-3 conclusion of a .500 West Coast trip in a month that seemed to see the NBA champions transition from slight hangover to full-on malaise. The Cavs’ 7-8 mark in the first 31 days of 2017 was LeBron James’ first losing month as an NBA player since February 2006.

Korver arrived three weeks after J.R. Smith went down with a fractured thumb, but the beginning of his 2017 looked a lot like the end of Smith’s 2016 – underwhelming. He shot 40.7 percent from 3 in his first 11 games with Cleveland after shooting 40.9 percent in his last 32 with Atlanta, and suddenly a guy who was a 45-percent marksman from downtown over the previous seven seasons seemed to be looking very much like a 35-year-old on the decline. Remember how mediocre the Cavs were in January? They were still plus-3.8 per 100 possessions when Korver sat. They were a minus-9.5 when he played.

Shooters go through slumps all the time, but we seemed to be heading toward enough of a sample to see that Korver’s best days were, in fact, behind him. So, naturally, he responded with one of the best months for a shooter since the 3-point line was introduced. And the man who was largely responsible for it had one of the best months of his illustrious career.

Korver had four 20-point games in February, exactly twice as many as he’d put up over his previous season and a half combined, but a few big nights only tell the beginning of the story. Korver shot 58.9 percent from 3-point range in February on 73 attempts, a connection rate no player to take that many 3s has topped in a single month since 1985-86. If we lower our minimum standard to 50 attempts, it’s still a 3-point percentage no one has topped in one month in 15 years.

MON YR PLAYER 3PM 3PA PCT3
Mar 2002 Eric Piatkowski, LAC 33 55 .600
Feb
2017
Kyle Korver, Cle
43
73
.589
Mar 2016 Josh Richardson, Mia 33 56 .589
Nov 1988 Trent Tucker, NY 30 51 .588
Feb 1990 Craig Hodges, Chi 31 53 .585

So, what caused Korver to suddenly remember he’s one of the best 3-point shooters who’s ever played basketball? It’s hard to say. Korver played 187 minutes with James in January and Cleveland was outscored by 66 points – the worst two-man combination on the team (Korver was plus-8 in 79 minutes without James). Let’s flip to February. James and Korver together? Plus-68 in 190 minutes, the best two-man unit on the team (Korver was minus-5 in 114 minutes without James).

That’s a pretty stark difference. But consider this: the Cavs rarely had time to practice after acquiring Korver. He spent four and a half seasons as a major focal point in an Atlanta motion offense that worked to get him open looks off of screens. When you think of those first 11 games as his indoctrination into a new system, it starts to make more sense. As teammate Channing Frye – himself a Cavaliers deadline acquisition a year ago – told Fansided just before February began, joining a new team isn’t just an adjustment for the player but for his teammates as well.

“That just takes time, man,” Frye said. “Whenever someone goes out or comes in, it’s weird to kind of get your rhythm. What works? How much do I work out? Who am I going in with? When am I going in? What are the plays I’m going to play?”

Korver immediately got more open looks in Cleveland than he did in Atlanta. With the Hawks this season, 67.1 percent of his 3-point attempts were deemed either open (nearest defender 4-6 feet) or wide open (6+ feet). That percentage ticked up to 74.1 with the Cavs in January, when Korver shot 16 of 40 (40 percent) on those looks. Almost all (87 percent) of his 3s were of the catch-and-shoot variety.

He got slightly more open/wide open looks in February (75.3 percent), and he rarely missed. Korver was 34 of 55 (61.9 percent) on those shots, and when you single out the wide-open looks he shot a startling 72.0 percent. What changed? For one, he wasn’t catching and firing all the time. This time, one in five of his 3-point attempts came after taking a dribble, perhaps an indicator of being more comfortable in his new surroundings and not feeling the need to let it fly upon the catch.

That’s not to say Korver isn’t still happy to come off a screen and unload. Darting right off a brush screen to drill a 3 from the top of the left wing remains Korver’s most common shot.

His most, effective, though, comes from the left corner. Korver’s 17 of 25 from that spot since joining the Cavs.

Let’s get back to James for a second. Fifty-eight of Korver’s 61 field goals in February were assisted, and a team-high 26 of those were off feeds from James. Korver went 19 of 28 from 3 on passes he received from James last month, and you better believe that’s a combination that will terrorize opposing coaches come playoff time – particularly because most of those Korver/James minutes comes against second units. You can see below where James expects Korver to be, and it’s a safe bet that wherever Korver sets up, James can be found on the opposite side of the floor.

Korver

Playing on a team with a player who sees the floor the way James does is almost certainly a dream for Korver, but that can go both ways. James has played with some terrific shooters in his career – Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Damon Jones, and at least for a time, Mo Williams and Boobie Gibson – but statistically Korver is by far the best.

And that was reflected in James’ play in February. The 25.9/10.6/7.2 line for a month is good but hardly spectacular by James standards, but the efficiency with which he got there is something the league has almost never seen. Prior to February, there were three players since ’85-’86 to shoot 60 percent overall and 55 percent from 3 (min. 20 attempts) in a single month. Now, there are five after James posted the only month in his career in which he topped 50 percent from long distance (perhaps we should have seen this coming after this shot went in).

NBA, .600+ FG Pct and .550+ 3PT Pct in a Single Month – Since 1985-86 (minimum 100 FGA)

MON YR PLAYER FGM FGA FG_PCT 3PM 3PA PCT3
Feb
2017
Kyle Korver, Atl-Cle
61
101
.604
43
73
.589
Feb
2017
LeBron James, Cle
100
157
.637
21
37
.568
Nov 1995 Arvydas Sabonis, Por 68 105 .648 15 26 .577
Jan 1995 John Stockton, Uta 80 126 .635 20 36 .556
Mar 1986 Brad Davis, Dal 68 113 .602 14 24 .583

The Cavs have won 11 of 15 since James’ Jan. 23 plea for help to Cleveland’s front office, imploring GM David Griffin that the team needs a playmaker. There’s assistance on the way in the form of Deron Williams, enforcement in the form of Andrew Bogut, and the eventual returns of J.R. Smith and Kevin Love should serve as a pre-playoff boost to an already impressive array of shooters.

But James already had been given the piece that could make a difference between a successful title defense and being outmatched by the Warriors come June. He just needed some time to find out.

Brett Huston is a Senior Editor at STATS LLC. Contact him at bhuston@stats.comor on Twitter @BHuston_STATS.

Photo By: AP Photo/Nick Wass
Illustration By: STATS/Andrew Skweres

Kingdom of Kevin: Why Durant is the NBA’s first-half MVP

If it seems like a basketball lifetime ago that Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden all shared the same hardwood, that’s because it was.

It’ll be five years this June since one of the most talented Big 3s we’ve ever seen disbanded before the NBA would truly grasp the potential that Oklahoma City trio had, none having reached his 24th birthday prior to getting the little brother treatment from LeBron James and friends in the 2012 Finals. Harden was shipped to Houston before the following season began, and after four years of not quite getting over the hump together, the Durant/Westbrook duo broke up with the former’s decision to bolt for the Bay Area.

Each finally has a franchise to pilot on his own, and in the case of Westbrook and Harden, that’s being taken quite literally. Jilted at the altar by Durant, Westbrook has channeled his manic on-court energy into a one-man show the league has rarely seen. His 41.1 usage rate is the highest since the league started keeping track in 1997-98 – Michael Jordan’s swan song from relevant hoopdom (sorry, Wizards). The season Kobe averaged 35 for a mediocre Lakers team? The era of Iverson’s “practice” rant? Both positively passive compared to what Russ is doing.

Harden is just three spots behind, using 34.3 percent of the Rockets’ possessions while leading the league in minutes. As he continues to rack up assists in his new role as Houston’s point guard, Harden has touched the ball 5,730 times this season. Only Westbrook (5,504) is within 1,000.

Either has a perfectly good case as the league’s MVP. Westbrook has kept the Thunder firmly in the Western Conference playoff picture by himself. He’s averaging a triple-double. He’s pulling down basically the same number of rebounds per night as DeMarcus Cousins while carrying a team that scores 106.6 points per 100 possession with him on the court and just 97.2 – think last season’s 10-72 Sixers level – when he’s on the bench.

Prior to New Year’s Eve, no player in NBA history had recorded a 50-point triple-double. Before the end of January, Harden had done it twice. Until 2016-17, there had been five seasons in NBA history where a player had averaged double figures in both assists and free-throw attempts – all by Oscar Robertson in the 60s. Westbrook and Harden are on pace to give the Big O company for the first time in a half century.

And neither should be the NBA’s midseason MVP.

Durant left a good situation in Oklahoma City for a historically great one in Golden State, and while there’s not going to be a follow-up 73-win season for the Warriors, make no mistake – this is a better team than the regular-season juggernaut of 2015-16. They’ve been 12.6 points better than their opponents per 100 possessions, a full point above last year’s 9-loss squad and 3.6 ahead of the league’s next-best team (San Antonio) this season. For as incredible as Golden State was last season, the Spurs had a better point differential.

It wouldn’t have taken a fortune teller to figure out that Durant would score less for the Dubs than he did with the Thunder, but he’s still leading Golden State by averaging 25.8 points – just 2.4 fewer than he did last season on 2.2 fewer shots. Durant is producing 1.52 points per field-goal attempt, second best in the league other than the DeAndre Jordan/Rudy Gobert/Dwight Howard troika which rarely takes a shot outside the restricted area.

Who’s the only one ahead of Durant? That would be Harden (1.55), but the Rockets’ star is getting there with a 52.5 effective field-goal percentage. Durant’s at 59.5. His true shooting percentage of 65.2 is the best of his career, better than any non-big other than the Wizards’ Otto Porter.

Durant’s shooting 37.4 percent from 3-point range, which while far from a bad number is his lowest since 2010-11. But consider what he’s doing from inside the arc. As NBA.com’s John Schumann points out, he’s finishing at an elite level both inside the paint and from mid range.

Schumann_graphic

What Durant has done when he drives to the basket separates him from any MVP candidate, LeBron James included. Seventy-five players in the league have driven toward the hoop at least 200 times. The only player scoring more than one point per drive is Durant, and he’s nearly a full quarter of a point (1.14) ahead of No. 2 Tobias Harris. Last season, no one was higher than 0.88 per drive – Durant himself.

Perhaps an even better measure is team points per drive, which takes into account more than just the individual’s finishes. Durant’s head and shoulders above the rest of the league here, too, with a top eight that’s basically a who’s who of NBA megastars.

Drives Team Points Per Drive
1. Kevin Durant (GSW)
235
1.55
2. Chris Paul (LAC) 212 1.36
3. LeBron James (CLE) 490 1.35
4. James Harden (HOU) 628 1.32
5. Stephen Curry (GSW) 336 1.32
6. DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 520 1.31
7. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 565 1.30
8. Jimmy Butler (CHI) 473 1.29

In the two years STATS SportVU data on drives has been fully available, the top finishers were Harden (1.37 in 2014-15) and Curry (1.38 in 2015-16).

Durant is shooting 72.4 percent when meeting resistance at the rim, tops in the league among 108 players with at least 100 contested field goals. Finishing in the restricted area overall? 78.1 percent, 2.7 above LeBron James at No. 2 and miles better than any big (Howard, Jordan, Whiteside, et al) who makes his living inside the few feet around the basket.

It only seemed logical that moving to Golden State’s ball-movement favoring, constant motion offense and leaving behind Oklahoma City’s ISO-heavy sets would decrease Durant’s need to create by himself once a play breaks down. And it has. Durant had the seventh-most ISOs in the league last season, going at his defender 1-on-1 on 9.2 percent of his possessions. That percentage is down to 6.8 with the Warriors – 19th in the NBA – but he’s been even a tick more effective, scoring 1.00 points per ISO after putting up 0.99 with the Thunder. Westbrook (0.90) and Harden (0.88), who ranked first and fourth in total ISOs, are considerably behind.

They’re not as far back of Durant there as they are in transition, however. Let’s start by pointing out that the three teams we’re looking at are the three who most frequent the fast break. Let’s continue by mentioning that there are 36 players in the league, as of the All-Star break, to attempt at least 100 field goals in transition. Durant happens to cash in more often than any of them, averaging 1.34 points per transition bucket while Westbrook (0.99) and Harden (0.97) sit at 31st and 32nd. Part of the reason? Durant rarely coughs up the basketball.

Transition turnover percentage Rank (out of 36 qualifiers)
Durant
9.4
25th
Westbrook 21.1 2nd
Harden 29.2 1st

Neither Durant, Westbrook nor Harden has the reputation as a lockdown defender, and it’s still difficult to find a reliable all-encompassing defensive statistic to go by. ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus, measured in net point differential over 100 offensive and defensive possessions while adjusting for teammates and opponents, has Durant ninth among small forwards (1.89), Westbrook 19th among point guards (-0.09) and Harden 72nd among shooting guards (-1.72), a position he doesn’t even really play. A lot of noise there, too hard to draw a huge conclusion.

But remember how effective Durant is when he drives to the basket? He’s been nearly as good when he’s the one defending the drive. Last season, of the 126 players to stand in front of at least 200 drives, Durant ranked 106th while allowing 1.22 team points per drive. As we inch toward the three-quarters mark of the 2016-17 season, let’s use 150 as a minimum threshold. With the Warriors, Durant is seventh of 117 qualifiers at 1.04.

That’s just one example, but Durant has taken on the challenge of protecting the rim after going from a team that had multiple great defensive options inside to one without any particularly good ones. His 1.7 blocks per game and easily a career best and he’s accounted for 36.4 percent of the Warriors’ blocks overall. He’s defending slightly more post plays per game than he did in OKC and he’s doing it well. Durant’s limiting the player posting him up to 0.40 points per post, ninth best in the NBA of the 60 players to defend at least 75. And consider the company. Marc Gasol is giving up the exact same number. Teammate Draymond Green is at 0.41. Likely defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert is at 0.59. Does that mean Durant is a defender on par with those three overall? No. He’s had roughly two-thirds of the amount of post-up defensive opportunities as Gasol, Green and Gobert. But does it mean Durant can hold his own on key possessions down low against the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and James come late May? Quite possibly.

Consider one other part of his game that doesn’t get a ton of credit. The Warriors are the league’s third-best team from behind the 3-point arc, shooting 38.8 percent. Golden State is shooting 41.2 percent on 3s off passes from Draymond Green, 39.9 percent from Curry and 37.7 percent from Andre Iguodala, their first-, second- and fourth-ranked assisters overall. On passes from Durant, they’re shooting 47.9 percent. Curry’s percentage on passes from other Warriors is 40.3, and on Durant dishes it kicks up to 49.5. Klay Thompson goes from a 41.7 percent shooter from deep on passes from non-KD teammates to a 53.7 deadeye when firing off a feed from No. 35.

Westbrook and Harden have been fantastic this season, the NBA’s two most overwhelming forces lifting what are likely lottery teams without them to playoff squads (and, in Houston’s case, home-court advantage) with them. But Westbrook has the ball in his hands more than a quarter of the time he’s on the floor. Harden’s a smidge under the 25 percent mark.

Sure, that’s their job. Ball dominance shouldn’t preclude a player from being the league’s MVP. But Durant is finding a way to take over games while having the ball in his hands just 7.5 percent of the 34 minutes a night he plays. He’s been the best player on a team with the two-time reigning MVP, a team that’s statistically even better than last season’s regular-season behemoth.

Durant won’t lead the league in scoring, rebounding or assists and he won’t turn in lines every night that would make Oscar Robertson blush. The Warriors don’t need him to. What they do need from Durant has been delivered on a higher plane than any other player in the league. And that’s why he’s the NBA’s midseason MVP.

Brett Huston is a Senior Editor at STATS LLC. Contact him at bhuston@stats.com or on Twitter at @BHuston_STATS.

Photos By: AP Photo/George Bridges/Sue Ogrocki/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Illustration By: STATS/Andrew Skweres

Week 10: Who We Like

In conjunction with Sean Koerner’s “Week 10 Tiers” piece, I’m highlighting some players at each position that we particularly like or dislike. The methodology is: I compare our ranking for standard scoring to the expert consensus ranking, as of the TNF game (https://www.fantasypros.com/nfl/rankings/qb.php). Remember that everything is relative! If we “dislike” an elite WR, it doesn’t mean you should bench him, just that we like him a little bit less than a couple other elite WRs. Also, I won’t discuss David Johnson, as he’s already consensus #1 this week, but be aware that we project him for 3.7 more points than the #2 RB – yeah, you may want to roster him.

QB We Like

Aaron Rodgers, GB (@ TEN)

  • STATS Rank: 1
  • Expert Consensus Rank: 2

I just wanted to point out that we have Rodgers, and not Brady, as our #1 QB. Seattle struggled against Buffalo but still present Brady with a tougher matchup. Tennessee’s defense is below average in both yards per attempt and passing yards per game allowed. Both Rodgers and Brady are 20+ point machines right now, and Rodgers simply has the easier matchup.

Carson Palmer, ARI (vs. SF)

  • STATS: 5
  • ECR: 8

Palmer has the best matchup of any competent QB this week, and we rank him below only the elite, Hall of Fame type guys. San Francisco has been so bad lately, that even in a blowout, Palmer has a high floor. We project him to put up 276 yards, 2nd highest among this week’s QBs, despite attempting only the 14th most passes. He’s one of four passers we project for over 2 TD (along with Rodgers, Brady, and Roethlisberger). Unless you have an elite QB1, consider streaming Palmer.

Joe Flacco, BAL (vs. CLE)

  • STATS: 11
  • ECR: 15

Yes, we know Flacco hasn’t thrown 2 TD passes in a game since week 2. That week, he was facing Cleveland, the same inept team he faces this week. Despite usually trailing in games, Cleveland is still allowing 275 pass yards per game, 10th most in the NFL. This is due to an NFL worst 8.5 yards per attempt allowed. They essentially make every QB look like Tom Brady. Feel free to stream Flacco as a replacement for Carr, Luck, or Stafford.

QB We Don’t Like

Matt Ryan, ATL (@ PHI)

  • STATS: 6
  • ECR: 3

Of course, Matty is an every week QB1 these days and a must-start in season-long. We just don’t like him as much as other elite QB this week and he’s not the top 3 option that he usually is. Philadelphia has a very solid pass defense, ranking 11th in yards per attempt and 5th QB rating against. Eli hit them for 4 TD, but if you look closer, 3 were due to a short field after interceptions and a blocked field goal. Assuming Philly can avoid these disastrous plays at home, Ryan could have a tough time putting up 2 or more TD, even if he throws a ton of passes.

Philip Rivers, SD (vs. MIA)

  • STATS: 10
  • ECR: 6

This is another guy we see as a season-long starter but a sub-par option in DFS this week. He’s only exceeded 20 points twice this season, and not since week 5 at Oakland. Miami has an average pass defense and bad run defense – they’re one of 7 teams to allow 1000 yards on the ground already this year (on 4.6 yards per carry). Look for both teams to try to control the clock with their Pro Bowl RBs, which will limit Rivers to around 35 attempts. There are plenty of other QB out there this week who will get higher volume, in the air and/or on the ground.

Russell Wilson, SEA (@ NE)

  • STATS: 15
  • ECR: 12

He looked himself against Buffalo last week, but consensus rankings have readjusted a bit too high. Only Kaepernick can be projected for fewer pass attempts, and New England (coming off a bye) should have a good gameplan to defend against his runs. He hasn’t been good enough and doesn’t get enough volume to ignore that New England has a top 10 pass defense, by any measure. If he is on your waiver wire, feel free to pick him up for the future, but you may want to avoid starting him this week.

RB We Like

Darren Sproles, PHI (vs. ATL)

  • STATS: 10
  • ECR: 18

This is one of our calls of the week – that Sproles is an RB1 even in standard formats. He has become the clear lead back in Philly, getting over 80% of snaps and out-touching Mathews 3-to-1 over the last 2 weeks. Any lead back who also catches passes has a very high floor and ceiling. In recent weeks, Atlanta allowed 6 catches (and a TD) to Melvin Gordon, and 10 (!) catches to Tampa running backs. They are clearly susceptible to short passes, so we may see how high Sproles’ ceiling really is.

Christine Michael, SEA (@ NE)

  • STATS: 18
  • ECR: 21

I mentioned New England’s great pass defense – well, their run defense is much closer to average, allowing over 4 yards per carry and 100 yards per game. If Seattle wants to move the chains and keep Brady off the field, they’ll need to get the run game going. Just based on sheer game plan and volume, Michael is a good bet for 12+ carries and 50+ yards, which is enough to be a top 20 RB right now.

Paul Perkins, NYG (vs. CIN)

  • STATS: 25
  • ECR: 32

I was wrong about Perkins here last week – he overtook passing down duties from Bobby Rainey, while also replacing Jennings in late-game clock-killing mode. He split touches with Jennings 50/50, and out-produced him on those touches. If he gets 50% of the touches again against a weak Cinci run defense, he’s at least an RB3/Flex option. His upside is higher if his share of touches trends even higher.

RB We Don’t Like

Jonathan Stewart, CAR (vs. KC)

  • STATS: 15
  • ECR: 11

Speaking of TD dependent… Stewart doesn’t catch passes, so he needs rushing TD in order to justify being ranked as an RB1. Kansas City has allowed just 3 rushing TD this year, tied with Dallas for the fewest in football. TDs in general could be tough to come by in this game, with the 4th lowest over/under of the week. There’s just not enough TD potential here to love the matchup for JStew, as his floor is awfully close to 0.

Jeremy Hill, CIN (@ NYG)

  • STATS: 22
  • ECR: 18

The Giants have a quietly great rush defense – they allow 3.6 yards per carry (6th fewest in NFL), with 4 good-to-great run defenders on the defensive line. They’re more susceptible to short passes and plays to the edge, which could mean this is more of a “Gio game” than a “Hill game”. If Hill gets, say, 10-12 carries at under 4 yards per carry, he won’t help you. We like Michael and Gio more than him this week.

WR We Like

Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (vs. SF)

  • STATS: 5
  • ECR: 8

We like all of Arizona’s big guns this week, including Larry. The old man surely could have used last week’s bye to get healthy, and he’ll take it out on the soft middle of the 49ers defense. Few WR have higher reception floors (he has 5+ in every game), and he also has a high TD probability with Arizona expected to surpass 30 points. High floor + TD upside = Elite play.

Ty Montgomery, GB (@ TEN)

  • STATS: 7
  • ECR: 27

This is where we have Monty ranked assuming Starks is still a week away. If Starks plays and takes, say, 20 projected total yards directly from Monty, he’d drop to around consensus. Therefore, we see only a bit of upside to consensus projections, with potentially a lot of upside depending on Starks’ status. This makes him a savvy Thursday-Monday GPP play in DFS. If you need more encouragement, Mike McCarthy said he sees Ty as a 3-down back, which is pretty nice for a WR-eligible player in standard leagues.

Julian Edelman, NE (vs. SEA)

  • STATS: 25
  • ECR: 28

Edelman doesn’t get dinged much by this Seattle matchup. Richard Sherman could stay on the outside left and/or cover Gronk, but he certainly won’t follow Edelman all over the field. Brady will find Edelman in mismatches all day and all over, much like Tyrod Taylor did with Robert Woods. Edelman is a fine WR2 or Flex even in standard scoring, and of course an even better option in PPR.

WR We Don’t Like

Dez Bryant, DAL (@ PIT)

  • STATS: 16
  • ECR: 10

We had Dez here last week, and he saw 4 targets and 1 reception. This takes his stats for the year to: 7.6 targets per game to go with a 42% catch rate. This isn’t WR1 volume or WR1 efficiency, and you’re relying on big plays only in order to get production. He’s a TD dependent WR2 (much like fellow disappointments, Allen Robinson and Brandon Marshall), and he’s facing a defense that has allowed just 9 passing TD this year. He’s a GPP play, not a cash play.

John Brown, ARI (vs. SF)

  • STATS: 44
  • ECR: 31

He’s the only Arizona skill position player we are relatively low on. His snaps and targets are down with J.J. Nelson on the rise, which is not a good sign on a day when Arizona may not have to pass much, and may not have to go deep. We project him for just 3.2 receptions, 62nd most among WR, and his big play and TD potential can only take him so high in the rankings. He’s the definition of boom or bust, so you should only start him if you feel you need the big play upside in order to win your matchup.

Others We Like

C.J. Fiedorowicz, HOU (@ JAX)

  • STATS: TE9
  • ECR: TE14

He quietly has 4+ receptions and 40+ yards each of the last 5 games, with 3 TD over that span. Outside of the top 5 or so guys, there aren’t any safer TEs. We consider him a permanent TE1 with his consistent volume, and he gets a bit of a bump if Will Fuller sits. Don’t start him over Jimmy Graham or anything, but if you’ve been searching for a consistent TE all season and he’s on the wire, give him a shot.

Caleb Sturgis, PHI (vs. ATL)

  • STATS: K6
  • ECR: K11

Have you figured out yet that we like Philly this week? Wentz and co should move the ball against an Atlanta defense allowing the 7th most yards per game, but they lack Red Zone weapons. This could lead to a few FGs for Sturgis. He had 4 attempts last week in New Jersey, even though Doug Pederson attempted four 4th down conversions in Giants territory. He easily could’ve had 20+ fantasy points.

Washington Defense (vs. MIN)

  • STATS: DEF5
  • ECR: DEF14

With Bradford struggling and Norv Turner out of the building, Minnesota’s offense is clearly struggling right now. Bookmakers expect that to continue, implying under 20 points scored on the road in Washington. Washington also has 22 sacks (7th most in NFL) and could dominate Minnesota’s make-shift offensive line. There’s a lot of potential here for points via low scoring game plus big plays.

Others We Don’t Like

Kyle Rudolph, MIN (@ WAS)

  • STATS: TE14
  • ECR: TE10

While Fiedorowicz has been consistent, Rudolph has only eclipsed 40 yards once over the last 4 games. His only touch last week was a 1 yard score, one play which may be inflating his ranking. He appears to be a TD-dependent TE2, and that TD will be hard to come by in a low-scoring game. We prefer Fiedorowicz, Brate, and Witten.

Cairo Santos, KC (@ CAR)

  • STATS: K23
  • ECR: K8

Santos is coming off two big fantasy games in a row, with 7 FGs against Indy and Jacksonville. The Panthers are much better than those teams, as reflected by KC’s expected 20 points. You never know with kickers, but there are better options out there this week.

Seattle Defense (@ NE)

  • STATS: DEF27
  • ECR: DEF12

This Defense got shredded by Tyrod Taylor at home, and now they get Tom Brady on the road. Kam Chancellor is probably to return, but the defensive line is still banged up – if they don’t pressure Brady, he’ll pick them apart. They’re not a matchup-proof defense without Michael Bennett, and the matchup doesn’t get any worse than this.

STATS Preview: Massive Wednesday Slate

Here at STATS, the same predictive analysts that produce award-winning NFL projections also produce top notch NBA projections, with applications to daily fantasy. With the election over on Tuesday, and no football again until Thursday, tonight (November 9) is the perfect night to play the 11-game NBA slate on DFS. I put together a comprehensive preview of all tonight’s matchups, citing value plays and GPP picks using Fanduel’s scoring and pricing. I tried to highlight all injuries to watch and some backup plans, but please be aware that surprise news WILL come out before or after lock. Good luck and enjoy the monster slate!

Minnesota Timberwolves at Orlando Magic

Minnesota:

  • Cash and GPP: Karl-Anthony Towns
  • GPP only: Gorgui Dieng
  • Fade: Andrew Wiggins, Kris Dunn
  • Injuries: Ricky Rubio (out)

Orlando:

  • Cash and GPP: none
  • GPP only: Serge Ibaka, Elfrid Payton
  • Fade: Evan Fournier
  • Injuries: Evan Fournier (questionable)

Minnesota Roundup: This is one of the lowest team totals of the day (99 expected points), playing at Orlando the day after a loss in Brooklyn. Orlando plays at one of the slower paces in the league, as you’d expect from a Frank Vogel team with 2 traditional bigs sharing the floor. That being said, Karl Anthony-Towns is still a great play with his high usage (3rd among starting Centers) and matched up against Nikola Vucevic. He’s the only center we have projected for 40+ Fanduel Points (FDP) tonight, and at just $500-600 pricier than Drummond and Howard, he’s a fine choice to build a lineup around. Gorgui Dieng is also a decent play at PF, projected for around 30 FDP at only $6000, with little value at the position today. No other TWolves should be in play, even Kris Dunn at $4800.

Orlando Roundup: Despite the nice matchup, no Orlando players stand out as great plays, largely due to the depth they have and pace they play at. Elfrid Payton is a decent cheap PG, but his production is so sporadic you may want to utilize him only in GPPs. Evan Fournier is okay (if he plays), but at his price, we prefer Bradley Beal and Rodney Hood. Serge Ibaka at $5400 may be the best play – he could put up similar production to Trevor Booker at the same price, while being lower owned. Keep in mind, Frank Vogel hinted at changes to his starting lineup, which could mean fewer minutes for Payton, Aaron Gordon, or Vucevic.

Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks

Brooklyn:

  • Cash and GPP: Sean Kilpatrick, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
  • GPP only: Brook Lopez
  • Fade: Isaiah Whitehead
  • Injuries: Jeremy Lin (out)

New York:

  • Cash and GPP: Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis
  • GPP only: Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah
  • Fade: None
  • Injuries: None

Brooklyn Roundup: The Knicks have the lowest rated defense in the NBA and have yet to hold an opponent under 100, so Brooklyn could put up some points. Rondae-Hollis Jefferson and Sean Kilpatrick are thus both very solid plays. Kilpatrick at $4900 is a good bet for 25-30 FDP, as he’s played at least 20 minutes and scored at least 13 points in every game this season. Hollis-Jefferson has had two solid, more active games in a row (handling the ball more with Lin out), and he doesn’t have to do much at all to provide value at $3900. Brook Lopez is a GPP play only at $6900, as he’s always a minutes risk, and we project similarly-priced DeAndre Jordan and Myles Turner to produce more.

New York Roundup: Brooklyn’s defense is surprisingly average so far, but they play at a fast pace, and the Knicks are favored. The usual Knicks are great plays tonight. The Nets allowed 37 real points to Andrew Wiggins last night, and Carmelo should produce like a $8000-9000 player while priced at $7500. The Knicks have made more of a conscious effort to feed Kristaps Porzingis, and he’s the best PF you can roster for under $8000 (well under in fact). Nobody else on the Knicks is both valuable and reliable, but Courtney Lee ($3900) and Joakim Noah ($4400) are both decent and cheap GPP plays.

Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards

Boston:

  • Cash and GPP: Marcus Smart
  • GPP only: Jaylen Brown, Tyler Zeller
  • Fade: Amir Johnson
  • Injuries: Al Horford (out), Jae Crowder (out)

Washington:

  • Cash and GPP: Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, Otto Porter
  • GPP only: John Wall
  • Fade: None
  • Injuries: None

Boston Roundup: This should be a high scoring affair, as Boston plays at a fast pace, can score, and also can’t defend without Horford and Crowder. Marcus Smart is the best play here – he’s playing 30+ minutes a night and scoring in double figures to go with his usual high volume contributions (rebounds, assists, steals). We project him at 27.5 FDP, making him a great cash and GPP play for under $5k. Isaiah Thomas is our #6 PG at 36.6 FDP, but your best lineup will probably feature a slightly more expensive Curry or CP3, and/or a much less expensive Smart. Jaylen Brown and Tyler Zeller are decent GPP dice rolls at $3700 and $4100, respectively. Avery Bradley’s hot start led to an upward price adjustment, so he’s an okay but not great value at $6900. Kelly Olynyk is expected to make his season debut, so Amir Johnson is no longer a solid play at PF.

Washington Roundup: For the second straight game, Washington has a doozy of a matchup and all of their starters are decent-to-great plays. Avery Bradley will probably guard John Wall, leaving Beal to light it up – his projected 28.8 FDP would more than exceed his $5600 value. Markieff is a great play in both cash and GPP at projected 28.7 FDP, and he may even be low owned after disappointing the 60% of players who owned him for his dud against Houston. Otto Porter is shooting the ball well and is a fine play at $5200 if you decide to go cheap at SF rather than rostering Carmelo, George, Butler, or Barnes (we wouldn’t). Matched up against Bradley, and at $9100, Wall is probably the worst value in the starting lineup – as mentioned, we like Curry and CP3 among expensive PGs.

Utah Jazz at Charlotte Hornets

Utah:

  • Cash and GPP: None
  • GPP only: Derrick Favors
  • Fade: Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, George Hill
  • Injuries: Alec Burks (out), George Hill (questionable)

Charlotte:

  • Cash and GPP: Nicolas Batum
  • GPP only: Marvin Williams
  • Fade: Kemba Walker, Cody Zeller (if most of the front court plays)
  • Injuries: Roy Hibbert (questionable), Frank Kaminsky (questionable), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (questionable)

Utah Roundup: Utah has the lowest team total of the day, playing at a slow pace against a good defensive team. Rodney Hood ($5300) and Rudy Gobert ($6500) are decent plays, but they’re priced at about where they should be, and not too low. A Derrick Favors GPP play may be the best one here – he’s on the verge of playing 30 minutes and putting up 30 points, and if he does, he’ll provide surplus value at $5800. Hill and Gordon Hayward are too expensive, and Shelvin Mack isn’t in play even if Hill sits.

Charlotte Roundup: Even in a low-scoring affair, Nicolas Batum is a good play at SG. Beal provides better value, but if you fade the inconsistent Beal in cash, Batum provides the next best value at $6400 and 29.8 projected FDP. Most of the frontcourt is questionable, so it’s tough to project minutes and declare any SF/PF/C as more than GPP plays. Marvin Williams at $4900 is the best one – he could play 30+ minutes and put up 25-30 points if any of the questionable SF/PF sit. MKG is a decent but not great value (if he plays), while Kemba and Zeller are both a bit too expensive.

Philadelphia 76ers at Indiana Pacers

Philadelphia:

  • Cash and GPP: None
  • GPP only: Robert Covington
  • Fade: Sergio Rodriguez, Jahlil Okafor
  • Injuries: Joel Embiid (out)

Indiana:

  • Cash and GPP: Paul George
  • GPP only: Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young
  • Fade: None
  • Injuries: None

Philadelphia Roundup: With Embiid resting, there are no good DFS plays on the 76ers. Normally Sergio Rodriguez and Robert Covington are decent cheap options at PG and SF, respectively, but there is enough other value at those positions today. I could understand using Covington in GPPs, with his ability to get hot from 3, and he could see 1 or 2 extra minutes as a small-ball 4 with Embiid out.

Indiana Roundup: Indiana has one of the highest team totals today, playing a fast pace against a bad team. There is certainly blowout potential to be wary of, making them more comfortable as GPP plays. The obvious plays are Paul George and Myles Turner. George has to put up 40 FDP or so to hit value, which may be possible even in a blowout, making him the best cash play on the team. Turner is a great “fade Towns” play at Center, matched up against Okafor’s matador D. Thaddeus Young is another sneaky play as a guy who can put up 30 FDP for just $5500 at PF – we project him for just 23.6, though, and would fade him in cash.

Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks

Chicago:

  • Cash and GPP: None
  • GPP only: Jimmy Butler
  • Fade: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Taj Gibson
  • Injuries: None

Atlanta Significant Injuries:

  • Cash and GPP: Dennis Schroder, Paul Millsap
  • GPP only: Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore
  • Injuries: Kyle Korver (questionable)

Chicago Roundup: This game could be one of the lower scoring of the day. Chicago’s slow pace plus Atlanta’s top 5 defense could make it particularly tough to rack up points. Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Taj Gibson are all too expensive, and there’s no reason to use Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez, and their low upside, in a large slate with so much other value. Jimmy Butler is the best play of the bunch – he’s a top 6 SF and comes cheaper than Durant, Kawhi, and PG13. Unfortunately, we like the cheaper Carmelo and Barnes more, as cash options.

Atlanta Roundup: Chicago’s mediocre defense presents a few good plays in Atlanta. We like Millsap to put up around 36 FDP, putting him in play as a PF to build around at just $8000. We like him more than Draymond, but less than Blake Griffin. Dennis Schroder at $6000 is a fine choice at PG – Rondo and Chicago have defended point guards decently well, but he only needs around 30 points to hit value, and we project him for 30.8. Dwight Howard is a GPP play only – in cash, I prefer the cheaper Drummond or Turner. If Korver misses a 2nd game due to the birth of his child, Kent Bazemore should play a couple extra minutes and will certainly be in play with around 25 projected FDP at just $4400.

Toronto Raptors at Oklahoma City Thunder

Toronto:

  • Cash and GPP: None
  • GPP only: None
  • Fade: entire matchup
  • Injuries: Jonas Valanciunas (questionable)

Oklahoma City:

  • Cash and GPP: None
  • GPP only: Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams
  • Fade: Victor Oladipo
  • Injuries: None

Toronto Roundup: Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan should both have their hands full guarding Westbrook and Oladipo, and neither provides good value today. The only other relevant player is Valanciunas, who could struggle to put up his usual 30 points (all in the first half) against Steven Adams. There’s really not much to like here, as well as no popular picks to fade, from a top heavy team expected to score under 100.

Oklahoma City Roundup: Toronto’s a slow and good defensive team, so this could be a low scoring matchup, even for Russell Westbrook and co. We project Westbrook for 48 points, and he’s not worth his price-tag at anything below 50. There is better value at SG than Oladipo, and Enes Kanter isn’t priced like a guy who struggles to get 24 minutes. Steven Adams is a decent GPP play at $5100, but in cash we prefer going expensive with Towns or cheap with Bogut. I’d fade this whole matchup, unless you’re dying to get Westbrook into a lineup or two.

Detroit Pistons at Phoenix Suns

Detroit:

  • Cash and GPP: Ish Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris (all okay but not great)
  • GPP only: Andre Drummond
  • Fade: Marcus Morris
  • Injuries: Reggie Jackson (out)

Phoenix:

  • Cash and GPP: None
  • GPP only: Marquese Chriss, Alex Len
  • Fade: Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, TJ Warren
  • Injuries: Tyson Chandler (questionable)

Detroit Roundup: Detroit is favored in a somewhat high-scoring matchup, so there should theoretically be decent plays here. Ish Smith is an okay cash play at PG (we prefer cheaper Marcus Smart), and KCP is the best SG you can pick for under $4.5k. Tobias Harris is another good cash play, although we prefer the slighty cheaper Markieff Morris. Markieff’s brother has gotten too expensive, so he’s a fade. Drummond may be the best GPP, but not cash, play here. He’s $600 cheaper than Towns, almost as likely to put up 40+ points, and potentially lower owned – not good enough value for cash, but capable of winning a GPP.

Phoenix Roundup: Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and TJ Warren are the only guys guaranteed minutes, and they’re all bad values today against a good defensive team. Marquese Chriss is starting at PF while priced at the minimum. We don’t know what he’s capable of, so he’s definitely a GPP play, but he fouls too much to be trusted in cash, even at the minimum. If Chandler returns to the team, both he and Alex Len are irrelevant. If Chandler misses the game, Len could see a ton of minutes against Andre Drummond and makes for a very intriguing GPP play. He averages 36.3 FDP per 36 minutes so far this year, and Drummond plays matador D.

Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs

Houston:

  • Cash and GPP: None
  • GPP only: James Harden, Clint Capela
  • Fade: Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson
  • Injuries: Patrick Beverley (out)

San Antonio:

  • Cash and GPP: None
  • GPP only: Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills
  • Fade: None
  • Injuries: Tony Parker (out), rest of team (always questionable)

Houston Roundup: The tough matchup makes Harden a poor value at $11,100, although he’ll probably prove that wrong with more Magic Johnson numbers. Nobody else on the team produces enough to provide value in this matchup, aside from maybe Clint Capela at $4600. Between the matchup and the number of choices in the slate, this is the rare day where Capela is not a recommended cash play.

San Antonio Roundup: Danny Green’s probable return throws even more uncertainty into the swingman picture here. It’s tough to roster any of those guys. Patty Mills is a cheap option in GPP – we project him for a 24.2 FDP with Tony Parker out. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge are top 5 options at their positions based on projected FDP, but they are priced out of our cash lineups. We prefer cheaper PG to Kawhi, but feel free to GPP Kawhi in case he goes off against the Rockets defense.

Portland Trailblazers at Los Angeles Clippers

Portland:

  • Cash and GPP: None
  • GPP only: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Mo Harkless
  • Fade: Lillard and McCollum (in cash)
  • Injuries: Al-Farouq Aminu (out)

Los Angeles:

  • Cash and GPP: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin
  • GPP only: DeAndre Jordan
  • Fade: None
  • Injuries: None

Portland Roundup: The Clippers are firing on all cylinders right now, especially on defense, with a ridiculous 90.3 rating. Chris Paul shuts down backcourts, and could slow down either or both of Lillard and McCollum, who are too pricey. They are both hot and are permanently good GPP plays (contrarian tonight), but avoid in cash. Mo Harkless is the only other decent GPP play, getting 30 minutes a night and priced at just $4400. If you go cheap at SF in cash, we prefer Brooklyn’s RHJ (yikes).

Los Angeles Roundup: They should put up 110+ tonight, as Lillard and McCollum do most of their All-Star caliber work on the offensive end. Chris Paul is our #3 player (behind Westbrook and Harden) at 44.6 FDP, and he’s worth building your team around at $9400. Our best projected lineups today have Paul at that price plus two other stars. One of those stars could very well be Blake Griffin, the day’s top PF, although we prefer the value guys at that position (Porzingis, Dieng, Markieff, Booker). DeAndre Jordan is in the same tier as Myles Turner at the same price – he’s a very solid “fade KAT” option. Nobody else is relevant in a large slate.

Dallas Mavericks at Golden State Warriors

Dallas:

  • Cash and GPP: Seth Curry
  • GPP only: J.J. Barea, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes (revenge), Andrew Bogut (revenge)
  • Fade: None
  • Injuries: Dirk Nowitzki (out), Deron Williams (out)

Golden State:

  • Cash and GPP: Steph Curry
  • GPP only: Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green
  • Fade: None
  • Injuries: None

Dallas Roundup: Blowout watch! Dallas is decimated by injuries and played last night, so they could easily lose by 30 and rest their few remaining starters. This makes their 4 main guys GPP-only plays. Those guys are J.J. Barea ($5700), Wesley Matthews ($4600), Harrison Barnes ($5700 – REVENGE NARRATIVE!), and Andrew Bogut ($4500), all of whom are priced quite low, yet not low enough to be trusted in this matchup. The only cash play is Seth Curry, who is finally seeing 20+ minutes (by necessity) and also finally shooting well. Priced at the minimum and due for playing time even in a blowout, you can confidently roster him in any lineup. He may even go off in a fun matchup against his brother.

Golden State Roundup: As mentioned, this game has blowout potential, and by Golden State’s standards, a relatively low over/under. Steph is a decent all-around play any time he’s priced under $9k, but we prefer Chris Paul. The rest of the big 4, particularly Kevin Durant, are permanent GPP plays, but poor cash values tonight. Of course, nobody else is relevant.

Currie Cup Final Features Two STATS Rugby Union Clients

Longstanding STATS rugby union clients, Toyota Free State Cheetahs and Vodacom Blue Bulls will go head- to-head in the 2016 Currie Cup Final, South Africa’s premier rugby union competition this weekend.

Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein will host the Free State Cheetahs, who have won their last 9 matches and are favourites playing the ever consistent Blue Bulls.

Established in 1891, The Currie Cup is one of the oldest rugby competitions and is regarded as the cornerstone of South Africa’s rugby heritage. The winner of the Currie Cup will be rewarded with the coveted gold trophy – the most prestigious prize in South African domestic rugby.

The Free State Cheetahs and Blue Bulls and both been STATS clients for multiple seasons, utilising a range of STATS Rugby Union performance solutions to improve player and team performance.

Both teams will be using STATS Portal – a global video library to support match preparation and opposition scouting along with STATS Gamelens – a self-coding and video-editing platform to deliver customized analysis and streamlined performance feedback to their teams.

Best of luck to both teams this weekend!

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Delivering Data-Powered Competitive Advantages

The STATS Player Performance-to-Value Statistic

When does sports data move beyond just the numbers and become meaningful insight that can change the way that teams are constructed and how games are won? When STATS is involved in the process, bringing a deeper data set combined with football data architects who can turn data into meaningful performance-based insight. The result is the STATS Next LVL NFL Performance Data Index, producing context-based data that: 1, provides an outcome story beyond the box score; 2, can be used to predict future performance; and 3, be tied to financial costs to provide a view to the player value he brought to the team.

How is STATS doing this to help NFL teams make better personnel decisions and win more games? We deploy three levels of data capture against each player on each play to ensure we accurately map player performance. (We do it right @gregolsen88!)

GregOlsenTwitterScreenOur football data architects understand what a chip block, protection shift, or overload blitz means to offensive line play. It is our understanding of the game coupled with the rigor in recording performance outcomes that leads to STATS data being the deepest and most accurate there is.1

That sounds impressive – but complicated. Here is an example of how we turn data into personnel decisions that win games.

The STATS Next LVL NFL Performance Data Index breaks down player and team performance to expected value for individual players playing at least 200 snaps during the 2015 season. Focusing our analysis on the 63 Offensive Tackles (OT) who qualified for our Index last year, we assess each OT through the rigorous STATS data capture process outlined above, providing us with a library of data sets to use. What should been seen as success for an OT? Simply: protect the QB on passing plays and move defenders on running plays. We combined meticulously captured and weighted data sets to create the STATS OT Performance Statistic, allowing us to quantify and order the 63 OTs based on their 2015 performance.

Yet we did not stop there. We took the median OT profile as a baseline, allowing us to contextualize every player that hit the 2015 Cap, providing a prediction on how they should have performed based on how they were paid. Taking the difference between their actual performance and their cost-predicted performance shows how each player either over or under-performed against their contract.

That is how STATS delivers performance-to-value data stories. NFL teams – and agents, fans and anyone else – now have quantifiable ways to grade General Managers on the value of the investment decisions they make.

The Cincinnati Bengals’ Andrew Whitworth graded out as the best performing Offensive Tackle in 2015. With a cap hit of $8,000,000 Whitworth should have been expected to perform at an 80.10% level per the STATS OT Performance Statistic. However, Whitworth actually performed at a 98.53% level, meaning that he over-performed in comparison to his contract while also adding $1,841,176 of value above expectation in performance to the Bengals.

Ryan Schraeder of the Atlanta Falcons had a measly $585,668 cap hit in 2015, yet he had the third best Performance Statistic among the 63 OT’s who qualified for assessment, adding an incredible $9,202,572 of performance value above expectation to the Falcons on the way to being recognized for his solid 2015 by the Associated Press and others. Schraeder is a restricted free agent this year and, at age 26, is entering his prime. NFL General Managers would therefore be wise to pursue Schraeder and should be willing to value him as an $8M+ per year asset to their team. GM’s using our Performance Statistic are equipped with a quantifiable value point in pursuing his services, a massively insightful advantage over other teams who negotiate based on the eyeball test.

Sample STATS Next LVL NFL Performance Data Index

Sample STATS Next LVL NFL Performance Data Index

The STATS Next LVL NFL Performance Data Index equips team with performance and value points for each position on the roster. That differentiating insight will enable teams to win the personnel game off the field, which in turn will allow the team to win more on the field.

Stop by and visit us at the upcoming NFL Combine if you would like to learn more about how STATS is changing the way teams are built and compete.

The STATS team will be available for meetings in the Monument Room at the Marriott Downtown Indianapolis. Click here to schedule a meeting.

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David Ladd is an AVP at STATS leading the Teams & Leagues practice. Prior to joining STATS David was a technology consultant building data-driven enterprise solutions for Fortune 500 companies. David works out of STATS Worldwide headquarters in Chicago and is a lifelong Chicago sports fan.



 

STATS LLC Partners With ClassX to Integrate Tracking and Event Data

CHICAGO – January 29, 2016 – STATS LLC, the world’s leading sports technology, data and content company, has partnered with ClassX, a renowned developer of high-performance software and complex systems for the management of broadcast graphics based in Italy.

STATS will provide live tracking and event data for soccer, which ClassX will integrate into its solutions and make available to Italian broadcasters. The integration will be presented to representatives of all major Italian broadcasters at the ClassX Broadcast Meeting at its headquarters in Calcinaia, Italy on February 1.

“STATS is delighted to partner with ClassX to bring industry-leading statistical content to broadcast through innovative graphical engines,” said Federico Winer, Business Development Director for STATS Europe. “This deal will benefit both fans and broadcasters. Fans will get new perspectives on sporting action, while TV producers will have access to a turnkey solution that will enable them to deploy real-time information without depending on time-consuming graphical queues.”

“From our first contact with STATS we have been enthused by the opportunity to integrate live tracking data with our powerful graphics engines,” said Giovanni Pallesi, ClassX CEO. “The integration will result in exceptional real-time graphical representations of complex data streams for instant deployment in broadcast.”

About STATS LLC
STATS LLC is the world’s leading sports technology, data and content company. Our mission is to revolutionize the ways sports contests are viewed, understood, played and enjoyed. STATS provides real-time scores, historical sports information, Associated Press editorial content, a turnkey fantasy sports operation, brand activation solutions and SportVU technology. STATS is headquartered in Chicago with offices globally. For more information: www.stats.com.

About ClassX
ClassX is an IT company that develops high-performance, reliable software and complex systems for graphics content management. With more than 20 years’ experience, the technology developed by its team of engineers has provided solutions to meet the needs of more than 1,000 customers worldwide. ClassX’s applications are specialized in the broadcast industry by helping to ensure the complete management of media and graphics for live events, automated audio-visual content workflows and other critical environments. Learn more at www.classx.it.

STATS NFL Fantasy Projections: Week Sixteen Targets

We are letting you know the players you should be targeting this week in daily fantasy at each skill position based on STATS’ award winning fantasy projections*! Below each player rationale, you will see what STATS’ projections are predicting for each player in Week 16.

A “cash” recommendation is a player who is a safe play for head-to-head, 50/50, or double-up contests. These tend to be players who are going to be highly owned since they offer a high floor and are at a good price. It is usually not ideal to fade them in cash games. A “GPP” (Guaranteed Prize Pool) play is a player who is more under the radar who will likely be fairly low owned but offer upside which is what you want to target in top heavy payout structures like the tournament format.

Quarterback

Cash Play: Blake Bortles – Bortles is enjoying a breakout season and has been one of the more consistent QBs week to week making him always in play in Cash games. This week he gets to face a historically bad defense in the Saints. Hopefully Drew Brees can play through his foot injury to keep the game close in order to ensure Bortles has to throw for 60 minutes.

Projection: 283 passing yards, 2.0 Pass TD, 1.0 Pass Int, 21 rush yards, 0.1 rush TD

GPP Play: Sam Bradford – Bradford is quietly heating up and looking more and more comfortable in the offense. I think most people don’t realize how long it actually takes for a QB to thrive in a new system. The fact that the Eagles have pretty much given up on Demarco Murray has lead to them airing out more. Bradford is incredibly cheap on most sites and is usually only 1-2% owned making him a good GPP option.

Projection: 258 passing yards, 1.7 Pass TD, 1.0 Pass Int, 4 rush yards, 0.0 rush TD

Running Back

Cash Play: Deangelo Williams – The Steelers should be playing with a lead for most of the game against the Ravens. There is still no real threat to start taking carries away from Deangelo meaning he should see roughly 20 carries and be involved in the passing game as well. DWill also sees any goal line carries and the Steelers love going for 2, all of these factors make him one of the few true workhorses and one of the safest plays around.

Projection: 73 rush yards, 0.7 rush TD, 3.7 rec, 28 rec yards, 0.1 rec TD

GPP Play: Antonio Andrews – With Mariota out for the season it’s very likely the Titans get Andrews an above average amount of carries this week. David Cobb has not been a threat to him at all since it appears they are just trying to get him some work in this year but will get him more involved next season. Although the Titans haven’t had many goal-line situations this year, Andrews is in theory their goal-line back so he could get you a cheap TD or 2 this week and will surely be less than 2% owned.

Projection: 51 rush yards, 0.4 rush TD, 2.4 rec, 16 rec yards, 0.1 rec TD

Wide Receivers

Cash Play: Rueben Randle – It’s no secret that Odell Beckham Jr. is out this week and it’s also no secret that Randle will be one of the main beneficiaries of his absence. I think a mistake some people may make is to look at his game log and see a TD dependent inconsistent player which is not ideal for cash. You have to have forward thinking with him this week though, his floor is very high for someone at his price and should be 90% owned in cash in order to spend up elsewhere this week.

Projection: 5.1 rec, 65 rec yards, 0.5 rec TD

GPP Play: Kamar Aiken – Aiken has been one of the better under the radar players ever since Steve Smith Sr. had his season ending injury. I think with Mallett under center and being the 4th QB he’s had to gel with this season people may stay off him this week keeping his ownership % low once again. The Steelers have allowed monster games from WR nearly every week and with the Ravens likely playing catch up all game I can see Aiken getting a ton of garbage time points.

Projection: 5.3 rec, 69 rec yards, 0.5 rec TD

Tight End

Cash Play: Greg Olsen – Olsen has been as steady as they come this year and this week should be no different with the Panthers saying they are not going to be taking their foot off the gas this week. With Jonathan Stewart out this week again I see Cam Newton relying on Olsen in order to move the chains.

Projection: 5.3 rec, 66 rec yards, 0.5 rec TD

GPP Play: Travis Kelce – Kelce has slowly crept off of most people’s radar at this point in the season. With all the attention being directed to other TE’s in his tier this week I see Kelce being very low owned and he is always a threat for a possible multiple TD game making him an ideal option for a GPP.

Projection: 4.7 rec, 56 rec yards, 0.4 rec TD

*These award-winning projections have won the FSTA Most Accurate Projections award each of the last two seasons (2013-2014) and were the #1 most accurate weekly projections on FantasyPros the last 2 seasons (2013-2014) combined.

Make sure to check back next week for our Week 17 Target Picks!

By: Sean Koerner, @the_oddsmaker

Photos By: AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack/Don Wright/Julie Jacobson/Marcio Jose Sanchez