Don’t lie: If you’re a DFS player and Stephen Curry is ruled out, the first thing you check is Kevin Durant‘s price tag and the matchup. If you’re a bettor, the first thing you check is the spread. But what you should also be checking is the Vegas total, as some players — Curry is a perfect example — have an outsized impact on the pace of the game and thus the over/under.
Because of the nature of the sports, a star player in basketball is likely worth less to the spread than, say, a star quarterback. Our friends at SportsInsights have found that star QBs are likely worth six to seven points to the spread, although this season the injury to Aaron Rodgers possibly swung the line around 10 to 11 points in his first game out. According to this piece from SportsInsights, a star NBA player is likely worth only around three to four points to the spread. Here’s what Scott Cooley, an odds consultant for Bookmaker.eu said in that piece:
Our shop places Curry’s value to a point spread at three to four points, depending on the opponent. [Curry] is not worth the most points in the league, as that designation still belongs to the King. We’d put LeBron’s value at five to six points, depending on the opponent. The reason being is that James brings a broader asset range than Curry given his rebounding and defensive acumen. You also have to assess the complementary players and depth of the bench. Obviously, the Cavs are a completely different team without James, while the Warriors can still compete at a high level without Curry.
That’s certainly true: The Warriors are still a juggernaut without Steph. They’ve won each of the past three games without him in the lineup. And while they’ve danced around the adjusted spread, the raw numbers in terms of offensive scoring and game total is drastic:
- 23 games with Curry: 119.4 points per game, 226.7 average game total
- 5 games without Curry: 106.0 points per game, 205.8 average game total
Of course, that is a small sample size, but the numbers are quite shocking. On average, the Warriors score 13.4 fewer points per game without Curry, and the game totals have been 20.9 points under the Warriors’ typical average. While Steph may have just a three to four point swing on the spread, his affect on the total is much, much bigger.
In the five games Curry missed, here’s how the Warriors performed against the opening and closing totals:
The one game the Warriors went over — 11/27 against the Kings — Durant was also out, which certainly changed the dynamic. The first game you can see the swing in the total with Curry gone (from 231.5 to 223.0); unfortunately for oddsmakers that wasn’t close to enough of a drop.
The reason is quite simple: The Warriors have drastically decreased their pace of play without Curry on the floor this season. In fact, among all main players this season (minimum 250 minutes), Curry has had the second-largest impact on his team’s pace. With Curry on the floor, the Warriors have averaged 107.3 possessions per 48 minutes; with him off, they’ve averaged just 98.4. For reference, the Lakers rank first in the league this year with a 104.7 pace. With Steph playing, the Warriors are way faster than the fastest team in the league, and without him they’re tied for 20th with Chicago.
I compiled all players’ on/off pace data in a sortable table:
There are other very notable pace differential situations. For example, when D’Angelo Russell was playing for the Nets before his injury, they were playing at one of the fastest paces in league history, averaging 111.0 possessions per 48 minutes. Without him on the court, they’re averaging 101.9 — still fast, bordering on a top-10 mark, but nowhere near the speed with their new PG. Russell’s fill-in, Spencer Dinwiddie, predictably has the most negative pace differential in the league, as the Nets have averaged -6.87 fewer possessions per 48 minutes with him on the floor compared to when he’s off. Considering this is a back-up situation, those are likely correlated numbers. When Russell returns, watch if the game totals for the Nets jump back up.
Devin Booker and T.J. McConnell are guys who have had a sizable impact on their team’s pace and have been in and out of the lineup for the Suns and 76ers, respectively. On the other side, two Clippers players — DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers — have had a very negative impact on their team’s pace while on the floor. It will be interesting to monitor whether Milos Teodosic — the Clippers’ pass-first point guard who got injured in the second game of the season — can increase their pace of play. He got 20 minutes of action in his first game back, and the Clippers played at their exact season pace against Toronto. If Teodosic takes more control of the offense as he gets healthy, their 98.8 number should increase.
Team dynamics like that are important to note, and I’ve created an interactive graph to show the pace differential for each player and team:
Using this table and graph, along with our awesome NBA on/off tool, you can absolutely find an edge when it comes to DFS production without a player and how a team’s pace of play is affected. But act fast: The Clippers’ total on Wednesday night has already jumped by a point. Good luck out there.