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Anthony Davis
The Numbers Game

Matchups by Position

by Ryan Knaus
Updated On: November 7, 2019, 9:15 pm ET

Most teams have played six or seven games this season. That's enough data to begin examining matchup tendencies -- should you stream a low-end guard like Derrick White against the Thunder on Thursday? Probably not, since OKC has been a rough matchup for point guards this year, and they've allowed the second-fewest 3-pointers and second-lowest FG% to opposing PGs. Would it be wise to play Nerlens Noel in DFS vs. the Spurs? Doubtful, as the Spurs have been very tough vs. centers and aren't giving up many boards or blocks to that position.

Going forward, this matchup data will be exclusive to the Rotoworld Season Pass! There’s a ton of data contained in these half-dozen charts, and a few performances (good or bad) can re-align the matchups this early in the season, so it’s worth checking for updates every week or two. Matchup data is particularly critical for DFS lineups and owners with a 'streaming' mentality in season-long. You can get a huge advantage with the Season Pass and Rotoworld’s DFS Toolkit, which provides optimized lineups, next-man-up projections for injuries, and a host of customizable tools. It’s really helpful.

One other note is that in future versions of these charts, I will be weighting values for positions. Which is to say, assists, 3-pointers and FT% will count more for matchups vs. guards, while blocks, rebounds and FG% will be count more for PF/C. I will determine how much value each position is deriving from each category and weight them accordingly. For now, just be aware that the 'total value' might give a false impression -- if you're trying to win rebounds, it doesn't matter that Philly is giving up 1.3 triples to PFs this season. It does matter that they've been stingiest on the boards with a league-low 10.0 rebounds allowed to the position. Data below is from HoopsStats and NBA.com!


NOTE: These charts express z-scores, not raw stats. This allows me to weight FG%, for instance, and allows for comparison across categories. Higher numbers mean more value allowed in a category, and vice versa. I’ve color-coded them to make it easier to understand at a glance. If you have any questions, you can find me on Twitter @Knaus_RW.


Point Guard

pg table

For the point guard table, focus on assists, 3-pointers, points, FG% and FT attempts. Unless you own Russell Westbrook, Dejounte Murray or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (who lead all true guards in boards), you probably don't care too much about rebounds from the PG spot. Teams have been lighting up the Pistons with 27.1 assists overall, including 12.6 from the PG position. That's easily the highest mark in the league. The emergence of Bruce Brown could change the equation, but Kyrie Irving dropped 10 assists as part of a triple-double in Brown's first start at PG this season, and Isaiah Thomas had six more dimes in his first start in ages on Monday. I'm into Brown as a pickup, given that he's averaging 18.0 points, 7.0 dimes, 2.0 steals, 1.5 blocks and 4.5 rebounds in two starts. You might as well grab him and see if he continues to get massive minutes when Derrick Rose (hamstring) and Tim Frazier (shoulder) are healthy.

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Part of the fun of making these tables is being surprised by the results. I did not anticipate Washington to be limiting PGs to a mere 17.7 points per game, with just 1.3 made 3-pointers on 26.7% shooting from deep. That's unlikely to last, and I'm still fine targeting the Wizards if they're starting Isaiah Thomas full-time going forward. The Grizzlies are at the other end of the spectrum, simply hemorrhaging value to opposing PGs. Rookie Ja Morant has been as-advertised and his willingness to attack the paint has him shooting 53.4%, which is fantastic for any point guard, especially a rookie. Still, he's giving up just as much on the defensive end and that will be an area of focus all season long.


Shooting Guard

sg table

The swingmen categories are tricky for these matchup tables. NBA.com, for instance, only provides 'Guard', 'Forward' and 'Center' categories, which aren't particularly useful for the SG/SF area. HoopsStats does a good job separating players into specific positions. In any case, we see that shooting guards have been lighting up the Wizards this season. Here's a list of some opposing SGs and how they've fared vs. the Wizards:

James Harden - 59 points

Luke Kennard - 24 points

Andrew Wiggins - 21 points

Jarrett Culver - 20 points

Bryn Forbes - 16 points

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - 28 points (you can argue PG here, but he was next to CP3...)

James Harden going off isn't a surprise and that game was a wild, defense-free affair in which almost everyone who played had a gaudy line. Still, the Wizards are just consistently giving up strong lines to SGs. This table speaks for itself.


Small Forward

sf table

Atlanta has been trounced by small forwards, but they're not far behind the Grizzlies, Spurs and Blazers. Small forwards are an eclectic group with different statistical strengths, so you'll want to home in on categories specific to your players. Rodney Hood does little beyond scoring, so a team like Cleveland or Memphis would likely be a good matchup. Jimmy Butler is averaging a ridiculous 3.8 steals in his first four games, so his game on Nov. 12 vs. the Pistons could be lucrative in DFS - the Pistons are giving up the third-most steals to small forwards. Sometimes it's as simple as looking at overall matchups and realizing that you probably don't want to play a middle-tier small forward vs. the Pacers or Knicks. Is it fluky that New York has been so stingy against SFs through seven games? Probably, yes.


Power Forward

pf table

Anthony Davis stated before the season that he wanted to be the best defensive player in the league this season. He's on his way there based on how well the Lakers have defended PFs this season, which is wild when you consider the effort he expends to score 26.6 points with 11.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists. The Lakers, Jazz and Kings (surprisingly) have allowed the fewest rebounds to opposing PFs, while the Jazz and Pacers are allowing the fewest blocks. I still find it wild that Utah had the worst Defensive Rating of any team in the preseason, yet they're leading the league in that category through seven games. The Lakers are second in Defensive Rating, followed by the Thunder, Heat and Magic. Part of this is a small sample size and luck-of-the-draw for matchups, but you don't rank top-5 by accident -- these teams' defense has been impressive.



c table

If you have a center like Aron Baynes or Brook Lopez, you should pay more attention to the 3-point category here. The Magic, Jazz, Nets and Raptors have been particularly shredded by big men from beyond the arc this season. Seeing Utah and Toronto on the list is interesting since Rudy Gobert is a defending two-time Defensive Player of the Year, while Marc Gasol is also a former DPOY who was lauded already this season for "shutting down" Nikola Vucevic. Both are at their best as interior defenders, of course, which might be the point -- teams are attacking them from the arc and trying to draw them away from the paint.

For those hunting blocks, you might want to avoid the Mavericks -- opposing centers have averaged just 1.0 swats per game vs. Dallas this year. Compare that to the Bulls, who are getting rejected a league-high 3.6 times per game. In fact, there are seven teams which have been blocked 3+ times per game this year, tripling the stingy Mavs. Maybe when you're matched up vs. a 7'3" center in Kristaps Porzingis, who is comfortable from the perimeter, it's not easy to block his shot? Just a theory.

Enjoy digging through these numbers, and remember that I'll provide frequent updates in the Rotoworld Season Pass all year long. Send me a message on Twitter with any insights or questions.

Ryan Knaus
Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.