Good Process, Bad Outcome (04/06/16)

By Tom W. Brewer @Tom_W_Brewer
NBA DFS: From Theory to Practice

The nature of this column is to give you big-picture NBA daily fantasy advice. I wouldn't change that. The weekly rhythm of these posts lends itself to fantasy strategy, philosophy, and long-term thinking. This is a place to read about the forest, not the trees. I've tried my best to make this column educational, not merely informational, and I hope you've picked up a good idea or two along the way.

This being my last column of the NBA season, I thought it would be fun for me to step into the forest, to put strategy into practice. For my final piece of the 2015-2016 NBA season, I am putting my money where my mind is and sharing how I draft, how I use our NBA Optimizer, and the results of my choices. I'm inviting you over for a regular Friday night at the Brewer house.

The Details

My platform of choice is FanDuel, because it's the official daily fantasy partner of the NBA (Translation: They wrote the Association a big check), and because FanDuel's lineup restrictions make it just a bit more challenging than DraftKings or Yahoo.

The Strategy

Playing fantasy sports at the end of a season takes a nuanced draft approach. My preference this time of year is to use players on teams that need to win to get in the playoffs or to solidify their playoff position. Lucky for me, there's like 19 teams that still have something to play for, including the Warriors who are chasing the Bulls' regular season wins record (or were when I played last Friday).

While it's my preference to only use players from teams with something on the line, it's not a hard and fast rule. Carmelo Anthony, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ish Smith, Victor Oladipo, all these guys put up numbers despite being on mediocre teams. But if I wanted to eliminate players from non-playoff teams, I could have done so easily.

The Optimizer grants you the power to blacklist teams so you can avoid coaches with unpredictable rotations or teams you plain don't believe in. Plus, using the blacklist tool makes me feel ten feel tall. Every time I blacklist a team, it's like I blocked 15 dunks at once.

The Squad

I built my team around two cornerstones. I chose this pair of guys because I thought they would have big nights for completely opposite reasons.

The first was Utah small forward Gordon Hayward. The Jazz were coming off of a loss, so I knew they'd be motivated to win given that they haven't secured a playoff spot just yet. Plus, Utah was hosting a young Minnesota team that is just good enough to push them, but just bad enough to give up big points. Hayward is the engine of the Utah offense and with Derrick Favors out last Friday, the Butler kid with the hipster hair was carrying an even heavier offensive burden.

The second pillar of my team was Miami's Hassan Whiteside. Unlike Hayward, Whiteside was playing a road game, but he was doing so against a Sacramento Kings team that wouldn't have DeMarcus Cousins, who was out due to suspension. I had visions of Whiteside grabbing every rebound like a god snatching the moon from the sky and pulverizing Kostas Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein with merciless dunks. Boogie or no Boogie, Whiteside was hot last week, putting up over 40 fantasy points in three consecutive games.

With my two picks ready, I let the Optimizer do its thing and choose the rest of my lineup. The results had me dancing (poorly) in my kitchen. Just look at this murder's row.

I was gifted the reigning MVP Steph Curry and his stat-stuffing bulldog Draymond Green, who were playing at home. I also got Washington's Bradley Beal, a potent offensive weapon, and Boston's Evan Turner, who was expected to carry more of the load with Jae Crowder sidelined. Then there was Avery Bradley, a tremendous value play who can rack up assists and steals.

The only two guys who I considered dumping were Derrick Williams and Shane Larkin. Williams because he's inconsistent, and Larkin because he plays in that factory of basketball sadness in Brooklyn. But I talked myself into them. Jose Calderon and Kristaps Porzingis were out for the Knicks, and under the same conditions in the previous game, Williams played over 30 minutes. I'll take my chances with that kind of opportunity. I figured Larkin could give me enough production to justify his low salary. Besides, someone in Brooklyn has to play offense, right?

The Results

I'll spare you the labor pains and show you the baby: I finished 65th in a 100-player league, about 10 points out of the money.

I wouldn't say I went wrong anywhere—my reasoning was solid—but a couple things didn't go my way. Hassan Whiteside didn't have quite the monster game I'd hoped. He scored over 28 points, but I was thinking he'd be in the 40s. Same goes for Curry, who finished up a loss to the Celtics with 37 fantasy points. Don't get me wrong, 37 points is a lot, just not for Steph Curry. Hayward scored just shy of 35, so I was spot-on there.

The Optimizer hooked me up, I must say. Beal had almost 30, and Turner and Bradley, two guys I probably would have passed over because they were playing a roadie against a superior opponent, combined for over 66. No complaints there.

The Lesson

Looking back, I probably should have trusted my instincts and found replacements for Larkin and Williams. They each had okay games, scoring around 20 points. Problem was, I needed 25. But that's how it goes. The Optimizer is a tool, like a rear camera in a car; it's meant to supplement human thoughts and reactions, not replace them. Keep that in mind when you place your bets.

That's a wrap on my column for the 2015-2016 season. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Until next time, play smart and get money.