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Intermediate NBA DFS: Usage Rate

We continue our breakdown of the basics for NBA DFS. In this section, we look at usage rate, with definitions and some basic strategy.

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young dribbles the ball past Washington Wizards guard Gary Payton II during the second half at State Farm Arena.  Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In daily fantasy basketball, like in most things, getting the fundamentals down is integral toward laying a foundation of knowledge to build from as you progress as a player. For DFS, that means understanding statistics and which ones will help you most in building your lineups. One of those is Usage Rate, which we will discuss below.

Usage Rate

Definition

Usage Rate is basically the percentage of plays a player is involved in. Well, a rough estimate of the percentage of those plays. It’s not an exact science because basketball is a fast-paced game. Usage rate essentially tracks how often a player has the ball in his hands and is involved in the offense.

Strategy

This is a pretty simple formula. The more a player has the ball in his hands, the more likely he will be involved in a play that results in fantasy points. While this is a good indicator for players who score at a high clip, it doesn’t always tell us the whole story. Players can have a high usage rate but also be incredibly inefficient. The key is to look at usage rate as one piece of a larger puzzle. It can give us a good idea of a player who should see a high number of shots and opportunities for assists.

When I called Usage Rate one piece of the puzzle I meant that it can be paired with other stats to give us a good gauge of a players projection. If a player with a high usage rate is in a prime matchup, we can reasonably expect that player to perform well in DFS. Players with high usage rates are usually reserved for ball-dominant guards and forwards. If we look at the top usage rates from the regular season (min. 50 GP), there aren’t too many outliers. Here’s a look at 2019-20 pre-Coronavirus Pandemic.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 36.2%
James Harden: 35.8%
Luka Doncic: 35.8%
Trae Young 33.9%
Bradley Beal: 33.8%
Russell Westbrook: 33%
Kawhi Leonard: 32.8%
Zach LaVine: 31.2%
LeBron James: 30.8%
Donovan Mitchell: 30.5%

That’s the top 10, which features seven players who would be considered guards. Doncic is a fringe case but the amount of time the ball is in his hands makes him a PG. We only see three players who we’d put in the “Forward” group — Kawhi, LeBron and Giannis. All three aren’t technically guards but all are ball-dominant players. The further down this list we get the most normalized usage rate gets. We see more average fantasy performers join the ranks with some of the stud players.

So what we’ve learned about usage rate is that it can help us sift through plays in daily fantasy basketball. If we’re up against a tough decision and need to decide between two similarly priced players, we can look at usage rate — and other useful stats — to help us decide which to play in our lineups.