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Intermediate NBA DFS: Minutes

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

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry dribbles the ball ahead of Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles during the first half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Russell Isabella-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 minutes, which we will discuss below.

Minutes

Definition

Minutes are the amount of playing time a player has in one game. This was an obvious definition as long as you went to school and know how to tell time. If you don’t, my bad.

Strategy

Minutes might be the most important statistic in all of daily fantasy basketball. The amount of minutes a player plays helps map out the scoring for pretty much everyone. The more minutes a player is expected to play the more fantasy points we can safely project for said player. In any given game, a player can accumulate up to 48 minutes — being as that’s the length of a basketball game. There are pretty clear tiers when it comes to how many minutes each type of role player is given in a game. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Upper Tier — 40+
Mid Tier — 28-40
Low Tier — 18-28
Bottom Tier — 0-18

So players who would fall into the upper tier are your Giannis Antetokounmpo’s, your LeBron James’s of the world. These are the superstar starters who are going to be given a ton of minutes in games that are relatively competitive. Mid Tier is reserved for mostly starters and high-end bench players. Almost every starter is going to average around 28-36 minutes per game. Low end is for lesser-used starters and most bench mobs. Bottom tier is end of the bench players and seat warmers.

Using per Minute Stats

Knowing which role each player plays on his respective team can be a good way to predict how many minutes that player could play on a given night. There are plenty of models that can help you predict this stat but it’s a lot easier to just do it yourself. Most of the time it’s easy to get a gauge on how many minutes a player will play simply by looking at the matchup and betting info. I like to use examples, so let’s do that here:

The Lakers and Clippers are playing on Primetime. The spread of the game is -1.5. Let’s just say it’s Christmas Day again. With both teams close in the standings and the spread tight, the odds of a blowout seem less likely. A blowout is always possible, but chances are this game goes down to the wire (which it did). If that’s the case, we can safely expect LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard to play around 38-40 minutes. Knowing this, it helps us project floor and ceiling for both players.

Injuries

I’d never advocate for rooting for injuries but in NBA DFS they are really the one thing that gives us value. When a player is injured and ruled out for a game, their minutes need to be reallocated throughout the rotation. This is when players start to get bumped up into new tiers. The Bucks are a great example for this exercise. Let’s say Giannis is ruled out. Right off the bat, who are the players who benefit the most? Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. Giannis’ usage needs to go elsewhere and Middleton and Bledsoe will carry the offense.

Wait a second though, what about Giannis’ minutes? Well, Middleton and Bledsoe already play big minutes, so who steps up? Ersan Ilyasova is a player who has started for Giannis this season and would become a viable value play. Ilyasova would move from the low tier into the mid tier. That’s just one player who would benefit. Realistically 3-4 new DFS plays would open up.