The Top 3 Pace-Killing Teams in the NBA
If you happen to be new to the whole NBA DFS scene, you're in luck. There's an abundance of educational information -- in the form of numbers, print and even sound -- going up here at numberFire on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
No matter which way you prefer to consume content, you'll always find some sort of reference to pace in daily fantasy material. Pace is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes a team plays at, on average.
This number can be found in our everyday DFS heat map and indirectly linked to the Vegas totals and implied team totals in our DFS Starting Lineups & Game Info. It's also present in a multitude of daily articles and in the weekly Heat Check Fantasy Podcast.
In fact, in Week 3 of the Heat Check, the duo of Brandon Gdula and Jim Sannes do a great job at explaining the ins-and-outs of pace here. In a nutshell, pace is possessions, and more possessions mean more points scored in the game, and more points mean more DFS points. It's about capitalizing on the opportunity that is high-paced games.
However, we shouldn't just target high-paced teams and matchups. We need to be cognizant of those teams that really drag down the pace and limit a game's possessions on a regular basis. Sure, in and of itself, it's not all that difficult to distinguish between fast- and low-paced teams.
|3||Golden State Warriors||100.5|
|4||Los Angeles Lakers||99.7|
|27||San Antonio Spurs||92.9|
That's useful knowledge all the same, but we're here to see which NBA teams' snail-like style of play has been most effective in killing pace.
More importantly, why and how have they been able to do that?
This shouldn't catch anyone off guard because the Utah Jazz are distinctly the slowest team in the NBA. Along with that title, the Jazz are also one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, allow a league-low 94.7 points per game with a defensive rating of 103.9, which ranks sixth in the league.
Their methodical approach and efficient defense make it nearly impossible for teams to play up to their usual pace. In 20 games so far this season, the Jazz have restricted all but three teams to a pace at least three possessions below their season average. What's even crazier is that only the Denver Nuggets managed to play at a pace any higher than 93.9 possessions per 48 minutes -- and they did so at a pace of 98.3.
If a team's goal is to score more than 100 on Utah, good luck. It takes an off night defensively for the Jazz to allow triple digits, something opposing teams have accomplished just 50% of the time this season. Every single time that's happened, Utah's defensive rating has climbed to at least 108.7. If you don't catch them on a lazy night, you can forget about 100 because their pace just doesn't allow it.
It has the same effect on a few peripheral stats as well. The Jazz rank in the top eight in opponent blocks (4.2), steals (6.6), and three-pointers (8.0) surrendered per game. If you're counting on assists from a point guard, that's an especially bad bet, as the Jazz rank first in the league in assists against per game.
If we're comparing the two, the Dallas Mavericks are only like the Jazz in one way: at 92.0 possessions per 48 minutes, they play at the league's second-slowest pace. Other than that, the 3-15 Mavs are completely unlike the 11-9 Jazz.
The Mavericks, riddled by injuries and lacking adequate depth, have had a rough go of it to start out the 2016-17 campaign. They're giving up only 99.8 points per game, but that has everything to do with their pace and nothing to do with their defensive efforts. In possession of a 107.2 defensive rating, they've struggled to keep opposing teams from scoring in bunches. For that reason, the Mavericks have lost six games by at least 16 points.
That blowout potential, in conjunction with Dallas' slow pace, has held opposing teams to an average of 78.3 field goal attempts, 8.1 offensive rebounds, 21.1 assists, and 3.7 blocks a game. In the first two categories, the Mavericks rank first in the Association while they rate fourth and third, respectively, in the last two.
Regardless of whether the contest was a lopsided one or not, the Mavs have killed pace and fantasy production with the best of them, allowing just five of 18 teams to place at or within three possessions of their season-average pace.
In their four games played at pace of at least 95 possessions per 48 minutes, Rick Carlisle's group has given up an average of 121.8 points, but in the other 14 they've given up 93.6 per game. It's a little bit of feast or famine with Dallas just because of the way they and their reserves bog down the flow of the game.
As you can see above, the Memphis Grizzlies operate at the third-slowest pace in the league, which is happening in spite of head coach David Fizdale's intent to break the grind-it-out mold in Memphis. But, it's their fifth-best defensive rating that makes them that much more of an unfriendly daily fantasy matchup, as they allow a mere 98.2 points per game -- also fifth in the NBA.
As sad as it is for Grizzlies fans, their defensive rating and pace are subject to change after Mike Conley suffered fractures to his back in a game this past week. Their star point guard will be on the mend for somewhere around six to eight weeks, and until his return, Fizdale will look for younger players to step up in his stead. That could go one of two ways: either the team stays steady in pace to avoid blowouts or they allow the young guns to pick up the pace a little and take advantage of their fresh legs.
However, the latter will leave them susceptible to blowouts and a drop in defensive efficiency.
For the time being, we should operate under the assumption that nothing will change. In the two games since Conley's injury on Monday, Memphis has played at a pace of 90.8 and 93.2 in matchups with the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic, respectively. The two games were very dissimilar, though, in that they gave up 120 points to Toronto (on a season-worst 132.1 defensive rating) and 94 points to Orlando (on a solid 100.9 defensive rating). So, depending on the opponent, we might see a lot of each from the Grizz.
If things are to hold steady (at least, by the averages), don't expect players with a propensity to turn the ball over to outperform value in DFS. The Grizzlies rank second in the league, turning their opponents over on 14.6% of possessions. As for big men, don't hope for rebounds against the Memphis frontline. Marc Gasol and company, at 80%, own the league's second-highest defensive rebound percentage.
Others to Consider
The Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, and aforementioned Orlando Magic have at least seven games in which they've kept the pace of the game three possessions lower than their opponents' season average. The Kings -- surprisingly enough for a team that was first in pace a year ago -- lead the pack with eight such occurrences in 18 games.
Of these five teams, the Kings are the only team not to fall within the top half of the league in defensive rating, suggesting that they're the only one to slow teams down with a more deliberate style of play. The others hinder fantasy opportunity with a relatively slow pace but also solid fundamental defense. The Pistons are particularly good defensively, with the league's fourth-best defensive rating.