Daily Fantasy Basketball Salary Movements: Evan Fournier for the Win

Watching daily fantasy pricing swings to find bargains and players not worth their new price.

Identifying swings in salary (both up and down) for individual players, determining whether the change is justified by digging into advanced stats, and formulating actionable ideas based on the findings is vital process to success in daily fantasy sports.

As savvy daily fantasy players, we are always looking for value. Value is always more attainable as a player's salary goes down -- or is it a value trap? On the flip side, as salary increases, it becomes more difficult for a player to reach value -- or is the rising price actually a sign to buy? The answer: it depends.

Intuitively, we like to buy low and fade high. Jim Cramer, of Mad Money fame, likes to invest in broken stocks, not broken companies, when a given stock price moves down. A "broken stock" means that circumstances beyond the companies control caused the price to go down. This is what we are digging to find in our NBA daily games -- tough matchups, slow pace, poor game flow causing misfortune to a player through no fault of his own.

These are situations that can create hidden value going forward, ones we should be looking to take advantage of. We are trying to avoid the broken player who is not worth the price to play him no matter how low it goes. 

After almost two weeks of games, we now have more data and can see more trends forming, all of which are starting to lead to some more drastic price swings. That's the good stuff this column thrives on, so let's get at it. Whose prices have dropped or increased from opening day to November 8?

Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 8) Change
FanDuel SG $4,100 $5,500 $1,400
DraftKings SF $3,900 $5,800 $1,900

In Evan Fournier's last four games, he has averaged 25.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.8 three-point field goals in 42.1 minutes. Wow. Fournier is only 23 years old and been in the league for four years. The former first-round pick from France had a very nice stretch as a starter last year, scoring over 20 in 6 of 58 games. But this year, given all the minutes he can handle on a youthful Magic team, Fournier is thriving. 

While Fournier shoots well from downtown at a 37.5% clip (career 37.9%), he is really getting it done from within 10 feet, making 63.8% of his attempts from within that distance. His teammates seem to trust him more (as does his coach), as his Usage Rate of 21.3% reflects. What's better is that he is not just a scorer, adding a respectable 5.9% Rebounding Rate and 10.7% Assist Rate for a shooting guard.

People in the know have long been clamoring for Fournier to get a longer look since his days in Denver, and now that coach Scott Skiles has surprised us by choosing Fournier instead of the presumptive starter Aaron Gordon, we just might be witnessing a breakout. Fournier is athletic and can shoot; as long as he continues to rack up the minutes, he certainly oozes with the potential to keep this up. Reaching six times his value (his fantasy points relative to his salary) in 43% of games, he is evidencing a high ceiling, so he is absolutely a tournament play, but as his dud on Saturday shows, the Flying Frenchman is a little shakier for cash games given his new price.

Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 8) Change
FanDuel PF $7,900 $7,600 -$300
DraftKings PF $8,000 $6,900 -$1,100

Pau Gasol
was daily fantasy gold last year, but anyone inserting them into their lineups so far this year has been feeling pretty foolish if prior results were expected. Now, his salary is beginning to reflect that. So what happened? This year, Gasol is averaging 28.2 minutes per game, down from 34.4 previously. The reason: the Bulls frontcourt is healthy. Last year, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson both missed extended periods of time, and Pau was the main beneficiary, with Tom Thibodeau giving Gasol all the minutes he could handle.

If minutes were the only issue, it would be one thing. However, Gasol’s per-36 minute rates are also down from 19.4 points and 12.3 rebounds to 16.1 and 10.0. The roster hasn’t changed per se, but again, health and changing roles are the factor here.

First, Derrick Rose is back and loves to have the ball in his hands. Also, Nikola Mirotic has emerged as the new starting power forward, shifting Gasol to man the center position and Noah to the bench. From the start of last year to current, without Rose, Gasol’s Usage Rate is 26.7% and Rebound Rate is 18.1%. With Rose on the court, his rates become 23.8% and 17.7%. Finally, with Rose and the offensive-minded Mirotic, Gasol’s Usage Rate drops to 22.8% and a 14.7% Rebounding Rate.

Maybe at 35 years old, his age is catching up with him. Yet, one closer look shows us the big hit to his stats and rates came in the season opener. If we back out the game against the Cavaliers, his Usage Rate jumps to 25.1% and a 18.0% Rebounding Rate. So, it appears minutes (as he proved Saturday with 21 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in 40 minutes) are the key because he is averaging 1.05 FanDuel and 1.11 DraftKings points per minute. With all his teammates healthy, his minutes could be fairly unpredictable, and he will likely only be worthy of a tournament play, but if one of the bigs gets hurt, Gasol should see a bump in on-court time and becomes a value at his current depressed price tag.

Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 8) Change
FanDuel C $5,700 $4,200 -$1,500
DraftKings C $6,000 $4,400 -$1,600

Noah can't hustle on the bench. Last year, Noah started 67 of 82 games, but his playing time was reduced from 35.3 minutes to 30.6 in 2013-14. This year, head coach Fred Hoiberg has moved Noah to the bench in search of more offense, further reducing his minutes to 20.6 per game. Overall, his game has really suffered while playing with the second unit, specifically his scoring output. Jo is only scoring at 4.2 points per-36 minutes, down from 12.9 points 2 years ago, while shooting an ugly 31.8% from the field. Perhaps Noah is missing the easy looks he got as a result of playing with offensive talent on the starting five.

Love him or hate him, Noah's benching hasn't affected his hustle though (nor his ponytail). Phew, right? Noah's other per-36 stats are near his career norms, with 12.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.2 blocks and steals. We especially love those assists out of a big man from a daily fantasy perspective. Encouragingly, Noah's minutes off the bench have risen to 23 minutes per game (with 11 boards and 7 dimes Saturday), mainly due to foul trouble and general ineffectiveness from Mirotic. Noah is no better than a blindfolded tournament dart throw right now, but with some patience, we may be rewarded at this price if a promotion to the first unit happens.

Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 8) Change
FanDuel PF $4,200 $5,100 $900
DraftKings PF $3,100 $5,400 $1,900

Marvin Williams
is perhaps best known as the guy the Atlanta Hawks drafted instead of Chris Paul. Bummer. While his career has been a disappointment in comparison, he has become a surprisingly effective and reliable DFS star for us early this season. After Thursday night's game, Williams was averaging a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, along with 1 block and 2.3 three-pointers per game. He was a bit of a surprise starter this year for Charlotte, as it was assumed that Cody Zeller would be the power forward on the first unit.

Besides the bump up to 32 minutes per game, what's changed? Williams has seemed to embrace his role as a rebounding machine. Williams has increased his Rebound Rate substantially, from a career rate of 10.3% up to 15.1% this year, which would have placed him just outside last year's top 20 in the category. It's certainly possible that his fast start will regress back to his career norms, but could it be that Marvin is just a late bloomer?

As the team's fourth offensive option, his Usage Rate is only 14.8%, and he doesn't contribute much in other categories. If his Rebounding Rate regresses more to his career average, so would Williams' value. Because of that lack of versatility, his floor could get treacherous for cash games if his price rises any from here, especially if he loses any minutes to Zeller.

Chandler Parsons, Dallas Mavericks

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 8) Change
FanDuel SF $7,000 $6,000 -$1,000
DraftKings SF $6,500 $4,200 -$2,300

This kind of feels like cheating, but hey, the point of this column is to spot price swings, and Parsons' stock is currently in bear market mode. So far, Chandler Parsons has averaged 13.9 minutes in four games since returning from offseason knee surgery. His playing time will be restricted for at least the next two weeks as he regains strength, stamina and confidence in his newly repaired knee. 

The good news for Parsons is that he will be expected to fill the scoring void left by the departure of  Monta Ellis, and the spike in his Usage Rate to 26.4% reflects the Mavs' reliance on Parsons to return to form. Thus far, his per-36 minutes 12.4 scoring average is well below his career average of 17.1. The bad news is that he is scoring less with more volume; he has averaged 2.5 more field goal attempts in that time, sporting an inefficient 38.4% True Shooting Percentage, down significantly from his career rate of 56.2%. Discouragingly, Parsons' Rebound Rate has fallen to 7.4% from 8.1% while his Assist Rate is down as well.

As with any surgery, there is no guarantee he is the same player or will return to that form this year. For now, pointing out his salary downtown is merely for informational purposes. He can be avoided in daily leagues until his minutes restriction is lifted. Even then, he may sit out back-to-backs. File this away because if Parsons does regain his form, be sure to jump at this price.

Marcus Thornton, Houston Rockets

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 8) Change
FanDuel SG $3,700 $4,100 $400
DraftKings SG $3,000 $4,800 $1,800

Marcus Thornton
is now playing for his sixth team in seven years, but he seems to have found a home in Houston. While he didn't even play in the Rockets' first two games this season, Thornton was thrust into the starting lineup when Terrence Jones took a shot above the eye, requiring stitches. In his place, Thornton has thrived, scoring 16.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 3 three-point field goals per game (a boon to DraftKings scoring). He's done this in 35.4 minutues on average with an impressively efficient 55.3% True Shooting Rate and an improved Assist Rate of 11.3%, so while the playing time is there, these stats aren't just the result of volume.

Even though he's bounced around of late, Thornton previewed his scoring prowess from 2010 to 2012 in 78 contests with 19.6 points per game. His journeyman status may disguise it, bit Thornton's production appears to be legit.

Savvy daily fantasy players have taken advantage of the minute increase and salary cap savings. In his four starts, Thornton has easily eclipsed value in every game, with a low of 22.9 FanDuel points and 24.75 DraftKings points. Alas, the fun is nearing an end for Thornton, as Jones is nearing a return. This will likely result in a move back to the bench for Thornton, but he probably has earned himself plenty of time with the second unit. For now we can look towards him as matchup dictates, but watch your news feed for Jones' return.