Fantasy Basketball 2014: Breaking Down Pace Factor
Ricky Bobby said it best.
“I wanna go fast.”
When determining strong plays each and every night for fantasy hoops, pace is a major factor, at least for me. It’s a fairly simple concept. The faster a team plays, the more possessions each player will receive, which, in result, will equal better fantasy prospects. So, now that we are just about halfway through the 2013-13 campaign, I thought it’d be a good time to highlight some of the fastest and slowest teams in the league, considering we now have a large sample size and all.
The most heavenly team in all of fantasy hoops, the 76ers play at a faster pace than anyone in basketball. According to Hollinger stats, their pace factor (102.3) is almost three points higher than any other team in the league. I live in PA, so I watch the Sixers quite often, and it seems every time they grab a defensive rebound, they literally just all start running. Because of this, players on Philadelphia such as Evan Turner and Michael Carter-Williams are seeing their fantasy numbers spike, especially MCW. Turner is averaging 16 shot attempts per game, while Carter-Williams is shooting the ball 15.7 times per contest. The Sixers as a unit are averaging 88.5 shot attempts per game, which is the second-most in basketball. The constant running is also allowing this team to score an average of 17 fastbreak points per game, the third-most in basketball. It’s been great for the fantasy values of their key players, but if a guy like Turner or Thaddeus Young get traded (which could happen anytime now), you have to think their value will take a hit.
But this is also great for the Sixers’ opponents, too. The opposition will see more possessions per game than usual (most of the time), which equals better fantasy numbers. I mean, besides their atrociously atrocious defense, the reason you want to target the Sixers is the fact that their uptempo style of play creates more opportunities for other teams, too. Not to mention it’s sometimes reckless, which creates steals and easy baskets. The Sixers are leading the league in turnovers per game, coming in at 17.4.
If the Sixers are 1, consider Minnesota 1A, for sure.
The Timberwolves play at the league’s second-highest pace, coming in at a strong 99.9 rating. However, they do lead the NBA in shots attempted per game (89). Point guard Ricky Rubio literally RUNS the offense, and too many times have we seen Kevin Love grab a defensive rebound and sail a long outlet pass all the way up court. Minnesota was made to run, and playing in a high-paced Western Conference, there are so many games were we see scores along the lines of 114-110 or something. I mean, they are scoring the second-most points per game in basketball, averaging 106.5 per contest. However, it also helps the opposition when the Timberwolves play at the second highest pace AND have two putrid defenders in Rubio and Kevin Martin on the floor together.
That’s my reaction to the Grizzlies. Do they have good players? Of course. Mike Conley is one of the league’s bright young point guards, Marc Gasol is one of the league’s best centers and Zach Randolph continues to produce. But are they an exciting team?
No. No they are not.
With the league’s lowest pace of 92.4, the Grizzlies are never really a team that you target, unless, of course, they are playing against a team like the Sixers, Wolves or Lakers, who will usually force them to play at a higher pace. The Grizzlies are only scoring 95.8 points per game on the season (7th-fewest) and are averaging 10.1 fastbreak points per contest, which is the third-lowest in basketball. You typically don’t want to play many guys against the Grizzlies because they play at the slowest pace, but are also tough defensively, allowing just 96.5 points per game, which is the fourth-fewest in the league.
The Bulls are very similar to the Grizzlies. A slow team that doesn’t wow you by any means, but has a very good frontcourt.
Chicago plays at the 3rd-slowest pace in the league (93.1). They don’t really have any exciting wing players on the outside, especially with Derrick Rose sidelined. Chicago is taking just 80.9 shots per game on the year, which is the fifth-fewest in basketball right now and are also turning the ball over 16.1 times per game (4th-most). There isn’t a ton of offensive firepower on this unit, unless you are playing a guy like Joakim Noah who seemingly posts 10/20 every single time he steps on the court.
Note: Pace numbers = number of possessions a team uses per game.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.