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DraftKings Fantasy Basketball Preview: Ownership Comparison Between NBA DFS Tournaments

Matt Meiselman looks at instances where ownership varied to the greatest degree in DraftKings fantasy basketball tournaments last season.

No two DraftKings DFS contests are created the same, and that’s especially true when it comes to the NBA. There are always differences in ownership quantities across contest types in all sports, but because of the news-dependent nature of the NBA, that effect tends to be even more true in fantasy basketball. Over the course of an NBA season, there will be plenty of days where unusual players wind up as popular DFS plays as the result of absences of other players, and the reactions to these situations seem to vary across the different contest types.

For this analysis, we’ll take a look at the instances in which ownership varied to the greatest degree in DraftKings NBA GPPs, focusing on the $4 and $44 tournaments as benchmarks.

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5. Aaron Holiday, Indiana Pacers, 12/7/2019

Salary: $3,000

$4 ownership: 40.3%

$44 ownership: 67.9%

Difference: 27.6 percentage points

Score: 24.5 DraftKings Fantasy Points

The Pacers faced the Knicks on December 7 of last year without Malcolm Brogdon or Victor Oladipo in the lineup, and Holiday got the start with a price tag at the flat-minimum. OIadipo was still dealing with a longer-term absence, but Brogdon played the night before and the move into the starting lineup for Holiday was somewhat of a surprise. Holiday was a relatively popular play for the day’s slate overall, but he wound up being owned by more than 23 of the field in the $44 tournament compared to just 40% in the $4 tournament. The theme for this list is that higher stakes players tend to gravitate more towards the low-priced role upgrades, and a starting point guard priced at just $3K is as clear of an example of that as you can get.

4. Elie Okobo, Phoenix Suns, 12/21/2019

Salary: $3,200

$4 ownership: 28.8%

$44 ownership: 56.5%

Difference: 27.7 percentage points

Score: 29 DraftKings Fantasy Points

Okobo has made just 19 starts in his NBA career, but with Ricky Rubio out of the lineup he was called upon for a big role-upgrade on December 21 against the Rockets. Okobo was priced just above the minimum, but with seven games on the slate — compared to just three in Holiday’s case — his ownership stayed below 30% in the lower stakes contests. Okobo managed to climb above 50% in the $44, however, and the results were extremely strong for his low price tag. Okobo scored a season-high 17 points and managed 29 fantasy points at just a $3,200 salary.

3. Ish Smith, Washington Wizards, 12/5/2019

Salary: $3,600

$4 ownership: 48.3%

$44 ownership: 77.3%

Difference: 29.0 percentage points

Score: 33.25 DraftKings Fantasy Points

Ish Smith was no stranger to high ownership in 2019-20, with the Wizards having tons of roster turmoil throughout the season. On this particular day, the Wizards faced the 76ers with Isaiah Thomas and Thomas Bryant out of the lineup (in addition to John Wall of course), so Smith and a few others were asked to fill a significantly increased role. Smith would up getting 34 minutes in the start, and predictably smashed relative to his price tag with all of that increased responsibility. He was actually the highest owned player in just about every contest for this four-game slate, but the entrants at higher stakes benefited to a much greater degree with Smith making it into more than 34 of the lineups in the $44 contest.

2. Brandon Goodwin, Atlanta Hawks, 1/12/2020

Salary: $3,100

$4 ownership: 49.7%

$44 ownership: 81.9%

Difference: 32.2 percentage points

Score: 20 DraftKings Fantasy Points

The three previously mentioned players were well worth the popularity jumps that they made up the entry fee ladder, but here we get into some egregious ownership disparities that didn’t have the same degree of results. For the five-game slate on January 12, Hawks backup guard Brandon Goodwin was nearly 50 percent owned at low stakes, and topped 80% in the $44 GPP. Trae Young was out for this matchup with the Nets due to a hamstring injury, and the Hawks predictably struggled and lost by 22 points. Goodwin struggled through 27 minutes and finished with 20 fantasy points — which was probably just fine for his price but nothing to be overly excited about.

1. Rudy Gay, San Antonio Spurs, 12/1/2019

Salary: $4,900

$4 ownership: 35.8%

$44 ownership: 73.4%

Difference: 37.6 percentage points

Score: 20.75 DraftKings Fantasy Points

The Spurs’ game against the Pistons on December 1 created the largest ownership disparity, with LaMarcus Aldridge getting the night off. This was a different set of circumstances compared to the previous examples, as Rudy Gay was generally an integral part of the rotation anyway, but there was an expectation that his role would increase for this game with Aldridge out. This did sort of hold true as Gay tied for the team lead in field goal attempts for the game, but he and the other starters all had their minutes limited due to the blowout. The Pistons beat the Spurs 132-98 and Gay finished with 20.75 fantasy points — a pretty weak effort for his $4,900 price tag. These are just five examples, but they do paint a pretty clear picture of entrants in higher-stakes contests being more willing to take chances on unproven players with increases in minutes. Whether that’s a wise strategy or not is a more complicated question.

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All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests.