The importance of minutes played in relation to fantasy production has been debated and discussed plenty over the past few years. While an uptick in minutes is certainly a good thing for a player’s chances at producing additional fantasy stats, the extent of the impact that is felt by a change in minutes varies greatly from player to player.
Certain players have a strong correlation between an increase in minutes and fantasy points, while others may see a minimal increase in fantasy production when given a few extra minutes per game. Looking even deeper, an increase in minutes can be more meaningful from player to player based more on the team that they play for than the player themselves.
For example, a four-minute increase per game could be extremely meaningful for a player on a team that plays at a fast pace and has a greater amount of possessions each game, while that same four minutes may not produce a noticeable impact on the fantasy production of a player on a slower-paced team – give this article a read if you’re looking to dig into this idea further.
Taking all of this into account, any time we see a player receive a change in playing time over a stretch longer than a game or two, we should be taking note. Each week in the space below I’ll take a look at a few players that have had a noticeable change in playing time – whether positive or negative – throughout the past week or two. I’ll attempt to flesh out the reason(s) behind the change, determine if this change has been correlating into an increase or decrease in fantasy production and how long we can expect this change in playing time to continue.
In addition to this, I’ll go through the leaders in minutes by position, based upon DraftKings player position eligibility, and examine what these huge minute totals mean for some of the league leaders at each position.
If you’ve been paying any attention to the NBA DFS landscape over the past few weeks, you’re likely well aware of the value Leuer has been offering lately due to his new role. Having taken over the starting power forward spot after Markieff Morris’ fallout with the team, Leuer has been a bit of a revelation. As a fan of the Wisconsin Badgers, I followed Leuer’s college career fairly close and can honestly say I missed on him. Leuer’s a player I envisioned as an end-of-the-bench guy in the league, at best. Having spent the past few seasons practicing against Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis seems to have had a positive effect on Leuer though.
Over his previous eight games – the point at which he took over as a starter – Leuer has averaged 29.70 DK points, meeting or exceeding his expected point total on 87.5% of these occasions. This is in line with his production this season whenever he’s seen increased minutes – regardless of if he started or came off of the bench.
Using Fantasy Lab’s Trends tool, we’re able to query all of the games this season that we had projected him to play at least 25 minutes per game. As we can see above, Leuer has returned great value in such contests, with an average Plus/Minus of +8.08. Building upon this success, we’ve seen him actually increase his production of late, averaging roughly one DK fantasy point per minute played over the past four contests.
There was some concern regarding his role with Tyson Chandler returning to the lineup from injury, but Leuer’s playing time has appeared to be unaffected – he has averaged over 30 minutes per night in the two games that Chandler has been back in the lineup. His price has seen a bump due to his continued success, but at $5,900 currently on DraftKings his implied point total of 25.85 DK points is still well within his reach.
Those of you that are a bit more perceptive than others may have noticed the quotation marks around Bad in the title above; don’t worry if you didn’t, I would have missed them as well. Oladipo’s situation isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just different. His playing time has taken a hit after having been moved to a bench role after struggling upon his return from injury. However, this situation has actually been a positive in regards to his fantasy value. Prior to his injury, Oladipo was extremely productive, but saw his price increase so rapidly, that it became difficult for him to return value.
Despite averaging 37.44 DK points per game, Oladipo only exceeded his expected point total in two of his final five contests prior to injury, as his price ballooned up to the high $7,700 at one point.
His injury, struggles after his return, and being relegated to the bench have allowed his price to drop to only $6,200. And while the natural inclination is to assume that this new role and lessened playing time is bound to lead to a decrease in production, it hasn’t occurred at a great enough rate for him to warrant the degree of the associated price drop.
Oladipo has largely been able to maintain his value despite the decreased court time. Much of this can be attributed to being the unquestioned leader of this second unit. His usage rate has increased to 23.8% coming off the bench, compared to 21.5% in his time as a starter. While many of his peripherals are down due to simply not being on the court as much, his scoring, field goal shooting percentage, and assists are actually up. While the sample size isn’t huge, it’s reasonable to attribute at least some of this success to his increased usage rate combined with the decreased talent level that he often faces on the second unit.
If and when his price begins to creep back up its possible this new role will begin to cause us to question whether the value is there – he’s lacked consistency, with the flow of the game seeming to impact his minutes more on the second unit – but until that time, Oladipo is a nice tournament option (he has two games over 44 DK points off the bench) and fringe cash option depending upon the matchup.
The Minutes Leaders
LeBron James continues to lead all small forwards in playing time this season by a full minute per game. When asked about his playing time being up from last season, James didn’t appear to have any worries. With only two games under 33 minutes all season – both of which were blowouts – there shouldn’t be any immediate concerns over playing time for him. At his high price tag, there’s some comfort in knowing he’ll be out there to pile up his peripherals. We’ll need to monitor how Kyrie Irving’s return will affect his playing time moving forward though.
With Memphis turning to a small lineup the past two games, we haven’t seen any effect on Marc Gasol’s playing time. The veteran Center has averaged 38 minutes per game in these two contests, so his role should be safe. If anything, we may see his rebound rate get a slight bump, as Zach Randolph won’t be on the court with him nearly as often in this newly configured lineup.