This article is one in a series that uses the FantasyLabs Tools to build daily fantasy scouting reports for the NBA’s brightest stars.
The Milwaukee Bucks are playing at a similar pace this year as they did last year, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 35.5 minutes per game in 2016-2017 represents an increase of only 0.2 over his 2015-2016 mark. That said, improved shooting (+.021% in FG% and +062% in FT%), along with a significantly increased usage rate, has led to huge fantasy gains for Giannis this year in his age-22 season. Let’s dive into the numbers of indisputably the best player to ever be given the PG/SF designation on DraftKings.
Although Giannis’ numbers have risen across the board, he is accumulating a higher percentage of his fantasy points from scoring than ever before. Giannis’ dramatic improvement in shooting this year has led to an increase in points per game of 6.5. After entering the league with an unpolished offensive game, Giannis has quickly become one of the top scorers in the league.
His all-around production has netted him 23 double-doubles on the year at the time of this publication, which is good enough for 17th in the league. Throw in his steals and blocks per-game averages, both of which approach 2.0, and it’s difficult to envision where the ceiling is for Giannis, who should still be years away from his prime based on his age.
Giannis’ 2.1-point difference in home/away game scoring over the past three years (above) has remained intact in 2016-2017: He is averaging 50.5 points at home this year compared to 47.95 on the road.
Generally, I skip over this trend, but there are a couple of notable results to look at this time. You probably already felt good about playing Giannis against the Brooklyn Nets, but his overall numbers against them are outstanding: a +11.2 Plus/Minus on 90 percent Consistency over 11 games. As good as he’s been against the Nets, he’s been almost as bad against the Detroit Pistons, exceeding his implied point total against them only twice in 11 tries with an overall -5.0 Plus/Minus (DK).
Opponent Win Percentage
Given Giannis’ baseline Plus/Minus on DraftKings currently sits at +1.86, the below splits when playing the best and worst teams in the leagues are modest:
However, although the effects on Plus/Minus are moderate, Giannis’ ownership has risen nearly 10 percentage points when he is facing a weak opponent. Looking at the “Avg Actual Pts” figures above, Giannis averages 35.99 DK points when facing the league’s top teams and a near-identical 36.00 points when facing the worst teams. In large guaranteed prize pool contests, it may be beneficial to play the ownership percentages knowing that actual fantasy performance has been largely flat regardless of the opponent’s overall talent.
It’s hard to read too much into salary change trends for players like Giannis, whose price has sharply increased along with his role in the Bucks’ offense over the past two seasons. However, we can look at Bargain Rating, which compares a player’s salary on one site to his salary on another site in the same matchup.
Over the past two seasons, Giannis’ DraftKings Bargain Rating has exceeded 90 on 31 occasions, indicating he was significantly cheaper on DK than on FD in these games. Within the result set, Giannis’ Plus/Minus has been an impressive +8.62 on 71 percent Consistency:
We see the Opponent Win Percentage trend above further extended when we look at Vegas trends for Giannis. Although he has scored more fantasy points when the Bucks are favored, the more important numbers — Plus/Minus and Consistency — are nearly identical whether Milwaukee is the favorite or underdog.
It isn’t until you get to the extremes – Vegas Scores above 90 and below 10 – that you start to see meaningful splits:
Giannis is seemingly unaffected by playing in back-to-back sets. He has historically performed the best in island games (games that are not part of a back-to-back series), and his numbers within back-to-back sets are all over the place. Perhaps the only takeaway here is that Giannis should not be downgraded when playing in the second game of a back-to-back set on the road — a scenario in which most players struggle.
One related trend of note I did find involved Giannis’ performance on extended rest. He has not fared well when the Bucks have had at least three days off between games:
Below, I break down Giannis’ past games into groups based on pace differential between the Bucks and their opponents. Unsurprisingly, Giannis conforms to the league-wide trend of struggling in slower-paced games and excelling in faster-paced ones:
Salary Sweet Spot
Based on Giannis’ average of 49.25 DraftKings points per game, we would expect him to cost $10,300. In fact, he has been priced over that level in 15 of 57 total games this year, including his most recent set of games. When he has been priced over his average estimated price this season, the results have been pretty unremarkable:
On FanDuel, Giannis averages 46.2 points per game, which lines up with an expected salary of $11,000. When Giannis is not in a tough matchup, he is generally priced right around this level. The one caveat is that Giannis may warrant a more expensive price tag with Jabari Parker on the shelf. We’ll look at that in the next section.
Skipping past Parker, Greg Monroe has seen the biggest boost when Giannis has been off the court this season with a +2.8 usage differential and a +1.6 Plus/Minus differential. Conversely, Monroe takes the largest usage and Plus/Minus hit when sharing the court with Giannis, followed by Michael Beasley. Coach Jason Kidd has chosen to keep two of his high-usage players in Monroe and Giannis separated in the starting lineup, and it’s possible the next time Giannis misses a game, Monroe will be the biggest beneficiary.
In seven games that Parker has missed this season, Giannis’ average salary has been $10,471, which is around $600 more than his overall average salary. Surprisingly, Giannis’ usage has not increased in these games. As a result, his Plus/Minus in games without Parker is 2.2 points lower than his season average.
Looking past Parker again, Giannis’ splits are fairly neutral when Milwaukee’s higher-usage players are off the court (meaning Beasley, Khris Middleton, and even Monroe, who as we saw was fairly dependent on Giannis). The takeaway here is that you probably should not expect Giannis’ role to increase the next time another Buck is declared out. This may change depending on what Middleton’s role within the offense grows to as he continues to ramp up following his long-term injury — so keep running those On/Off queries!
Stacking the Bucks
Below is the average production among Bucks players during Giannis’ 10 best fantasy performances of the past two seasons, first on FD and then on DK.
Excluding Parker, Middleton has posted an impressive collective Plus/Minus in Giannis’ best games. Middleton’s salary may be a bit of a moving target for the rest of the season, so I don’t know that we can say he is a no-brainer stack candidate. Depending on his price and role within the offense, he is certainly someone to consider pairing with Giannis moving forward.
On DK, we see more of the same. But again, note that Middleton’s average price in these games has been only $4,333, which is over $1,000 cheaper than his $5,500 salary on the date of this publication. A difference in salary of that magnitude would have significant Plus/Minus implications.
As with any player whose salary and role within his team’s offense has increased at rates similar to Giannis’ over the past couple of years, you need to make sure you are putting past performance in the correct perspective. You’ll often find excellent Plus/Minus and Consistency numbers for Giannis in different trends, but that Plus/Minus may be based on a much lower salary threshold. Based on Giannis’ current price tag, he may be a little bit overpriced, even after adjusting for Parker’s absence in the lineup.