Daily Fantasy Basketball Salary Movements: The Fall of Marc Gasol

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 company's 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 more than 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 12?

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 12) Change
Fanduel     C     $8,400     $7,100     - $1,300
DraftKings     C     $8,300        $6,700     - $1,600

It's been a rough start to 2015-16 for the Gasol brothers. Big brother Pau is seeing less court time on a clogged front line in Chicago. Little brother Marc has been limited by neck spasms and a suddenly beatable Grizzlies team. Marc has seen his minutes decrease thus far as a result, down to 30.9 minutes per game from 33.2 minutes last year. The Grizzlies have lost four of nine games by 16 points or more, including a 50-point blowout to the almighty Warriors. That helps explain his decrease.

However, Gasol's rates are down, a tell that something is wrong with his play, not just his team. While the Grizzlies' pace ranks 27th, they are actually averaging 2.0 more possessions per game than last year. Meanwhile, Gasol's per-36 minute averages are down to 17.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 0.8 blocks, a decrease across the board. His Usage Rate is down slightly, from 24.6% last year to 23.7% this year. Gasol's Block and Rebound Rates are down, which could be explained by his neck issues.

Gasol is scoring less this year, and that is due to inefficiency. He has a True Shooting Percentage of 51.1% this year compared to his 56.5% career norm. Gasol is spending less time in the low post, attempting only 13.3% shots from within 3 feet and making 57.1% of them, pretty mediocre for a 7-footer. Attempting 29.2% shots within 3 feet for his career should tell us (and Gasol) that the key to his turnaround will be getting away a bit from his love affair with the mid-range jumper.

The good news for us daily gamers is that he may have noticed this flaw in his game. In the past two games, Gasol has 26 free throw attempts. It's not like he's DeAndre Jordan either, as he makes 76% from the charity stripe for his career. Free throws come from dirty work down below, so maybe Gasol is getting it. Also, he has played no fewer than 37 minutes in each of his past three games. Maybe the time is now to buy low.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 12) Change
Fanduel     C     $6,100     $7,100     $1,000
DraftKings     C     $6,200     $7,500     $1,300

Karl-Anthony Towns
is off to a historically hot start in his rookie season, placing him among a select group of NBA legends. As the first overall pick, that's just what he was expected to do, right? It was actually pretty tough to know how good he would be this year, as KAT only played 21.1 minutes in his one-and-done year at the University of Kentucky. All anyone could do is project how his talent would translate, his ability to shoot three-pointers, block shots and rebound. No one expected this much, this year.

And, yes, that talent sure did translate. Towns ranks fifth in Block Rate and eighth in Total Rebound Rate. Did I mention that he's a rookie? Combine those rates with a 25.4% Usage Rate that ranks just outside the top 20, an 88.9% Free Throw Rate and a 54.3% True Shooting Rate, all while playing 29.1 minutes per game and you have a sparkling per-36 minute stat line of 19.9 points, 13.0 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. For a rookie. Sure, it's only a very small sample, but it looks like we have a superstar in the making.

Towns is reaching value (five points per $1,000 in salary) on both FanDuel and DraftKings, so he makes for a decent cash game play most nights, even at this elevated price tag because of the high floor his rebounding, blocking and free throw shooting provide. He as high a ceiling as almost any center, and that's with only attempting four shots from downtown thus far. Temper your enthusiasm a little for KAT but not too much.

Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 12) Change
Fanduel     C     $4,900     $4,100     - $800
DraftKings     C     $5,600        $3,800    - $1,800

What goes up, must come down. Unfortunately for Gorgui Dieng, he is the big loser in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Last year, the fragile Nikola Pekovic played 26.3 minutes per game in only 31 contests, allowing Dieng to average 33.6 minutes as a starter in 49 games and 23.6 minutes of court time off the bench. While much of Dieng’s value last year came when starting in place of the injured Pekovic, the pair did share the court for five minutes per game and Gorgui was able to help us in DFS as a salary-saving play with 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. As a starter, Dieng's stats bumped to 10.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.1 steals.

Thus far, coach Sam Mitchell has chosen to play Dieng exclusively at backup center to Towns, leaving Dieng to pick up the scraps. Dieng's stats have dipped as a result: 6.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.6 blocks and 1 steal. The good news is his per-36 rates are basically unchanged from last year and his Usage Rate is up to 17.0% from 15.0%. He just needs to play. Why won't you play him next to Towns, Coach? Why?

Really there is no reason to touch Dieng at this point, not even as a GPP dart throw. He has reached value in only two of seven games on DraftKings and none on FanDuel. It appears the only upside with Gorgui at this point would if Mitchell changes course and plays him alongside Towns or if KAT misses games due to injury. We all know what to do when Dieng gets starter's minutes. Let’s be smart and know not to play him until then.

Al-Farouq Aminu, Portland Trail Blazers

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 12) Change
Fanduel     SF     $5,200     $5,800     $600
DraftKings     SF     $4,600     $6,100    $1,500

Al-Farouq Aminu gave us a preview of things to come in last year's playoffs when he averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.6 blocks in 30.0 minutes of action per game. Signed away from Dallas in the offseason, Aminu has picked up right where he left off with per-36 marks of 13.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.8 blocks and 0.6 steals in 33.3 minutes per game for the Trail Blazers.

Aminu stuffs the stat sheet, but only got to do so in 18.5 minutes last year with Dallas. He is now the third option on offense behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, resulting in a career high Usage Rate of 18.4%. He is scoring more, shooting more threes and doing it all rather efficiently with a tidy 52.6% True Shooting Percentage.

At his elevated price tag, Aminu is now hitting four times value 89% of games and five times value 44%, so for the most part he makes for a better cash game play than GPP play. However, he may see more useful minutes with Meyers Leonard out with a dislocated shoulder, and his Block and Steal Rates have room for improvement, so upside is still there to help you win that big tourney.

P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 12) Change
Fanduel     SF     $5,000     $4,100     - $900
DraftKings     SF     $5,000     $3,400    - $1,600

For the last two years as starting small forward for the Suns, P.J. Tucker has sorta been fantasy grout for us homegamers -- never spectacular, but always solid contributions across the board while playing 30 minutes per game at a modest salary. Tucker was often a good option for cash games because we always knew what we could expect and he allowed us cap space to fit an extra stud into our lineups.

This year, we are quickly finding out what we can expect from Tucker. In case you don’t know this one, the answer is not much. His is playing six minutes fewer than the previous two years due to the presence of the emerging T.J. Warren. In 24.6 minutes per game, he is averaging 5.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.1 steals. His per-36 rates are at career lows, and he is a virtual afterthought on offensive with a miniscule 9.1% Usage Rate. When you factor in the threat of Tucker losing his starting gig to Warren, none of this adds up to much expected production for our daily purposes.

Right now, there is very little evidence that P.J. Tucker is on the verge of a breakout performance. At his near minimum salary, it won't take much output for him to reach value, but your guess is as good as mine as to when that might happen.

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 12) Change
Fanduel     C     $9,000        $9,900     $900
DraftKings     C     $8,200     $9,400    $1,200

Last but certainly not least, I finally get to write about Andre Drummond. You might just think I'm late to the party, but I've been patiently waiting for the daily sites to catch up to Drummond's production so that I could include him in this column. Who knows why it's taken this long for his price to rise, but now that it has, we need to figure out what to do next.

I shouldn't need to fan the flames for you to know Drummond has been red-hot. So far, Drummond has almost twice as many offensive rebounds as the guy behind him in the category. He outpaces DeAndre Jordan by a whopping 6.6 total rebounds per game. It's still early of course, but no one has averaged the 19.25 rebounds that Drummond has since Wilt Chamberlain in 1971-72. And, though it's early, only Drummond's Defensive Rebound Rate is well above his career norms.

Offensively, Andre is scoring 18.8 points per game, 5 more than his previous season high from last year. Due in part to his 18.9% Offensive Rebound Rate, 91% of Drummond's field goal attempts are from within 10 feet, converting at 53.3% in total. He is also used more than ever at 23.8%. 

Can he keep it up? Probably not quite at this level but at age 22, his career rates have steadily risen every year. He is unlikely to continue playing 37.1 minutes per game though. A winning strategy in DFS this year has been to lock in Drummond at center and worry about the rest. Even now that his salary has finally begun to catch up to his production, with three games of 20 points and 20 rebounds already, his floor is higher than most people's ceilings, and his ceiling is out of the gym.