Daily Fantasy Basketball Salary Movements: Rajon Rondo Is Ridiculous

Watching daily fantasy pricing swings to find bargains and players not worth their new price.
"Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful" - Warren Buffett

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.

The aim of this column is to figure out which players are fixable, which will likely break down and which aren't likely to come back at all. 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.

Almost a month has passed and injuries are mounting while rotations are taking shape. 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 19?

Rajon Rondo, Sacramento Kings

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 19) Change
FanDuel        PG     $5,200          $7,600    $2,400
DraftKings        PG     $5,800     $8,700    $2,900

Rajon Rondo is ridiculous (Rondonkulous?). Has Rondo found the fountain of youth? Is he finally happy after his previous breakup in Boston and nasty divorce in Dallas? Is redonkulous so 2005? Does that make me old and out-of-touch? How many more questions can I ask without answering any of them? Two? Six? 17?

Rondo is playing like it’s 2012-13 all over again, his last All-Star campaign with the Boston Celtics when he put up a statline of 13.7 points, 11.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 37.4 minutes per game. This year, he is at 12.6 points, 10.2 assists, 7.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 35.5 minutes per game. Rondo leads the NBA in assists, is sixth in steals and places just outside the top 20 in rebounds.

Rondo was actually out-played early on by Darren Collison to the extent that there were some rumblings that Collison would knock Rondo out of the starting lineup. Instead, Collison strained his hamstring and Rondo began a string of four triple-doubles in seven games, missing a fifth with "only" nine rebounds. Slacker. Conventional wisdom was that Rondo would lose some playing time (and thus become a poor value at his elevated price) when Collison returned, but all he did was put up another triple-double on Wednesday and 18 assists on Thursday. Ho-hum.

His minutes may decrease, but with two big-time scorers to dish off to in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, there is little reason Rondo can't continue to assist on a high percentage of his teammates' field goals while he is on the court, as it has been as high as 52.5% in his career. His Rebound and Steals Rate are in line with careers marks as well. It appears Rondo and Collison will play together in spells, so it won't be an either/or thing. 

His price is getting scary, but especially when the matchup and Vegas lines are in his favor, Rondo should continue to be an excellent GPP play. You might consider fading him in cash games, though, as his salary is quickly approaching other more trustworthy "chalk" point guards. Or maybe you don't wanna fade a guy as Rondonkulous as Rajon.

Will Barton, Denver Nuggets

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 19) Change
FanDuel SG $4,900 $5,000 $100
DraftKings SG $3,000 $5,100 $2,100

Here’s nominating Will Barton for Sixth Man of the Year. Barton plays 26.8 minutes off the bench, more than some starters, and averages 19.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks and 1.8 three-point field goals Per-36 Minutes. If you are like me, you don't feel great about placing a bench player in your daily lineup. We're always looking for that last-minute injury replacement to find value and relieve cap space. But don't overlook Burton in your quest; he's proving that a guy can consistently put up big numbers off the bench.

The initial pricing discrepancy is interesting, as Will Barton quietly had several strong games to finish last season, including a 25-point, 9-rebound, 3-assist, 3-steal and 1-block effort -- good for nearly 50 fantasy points. In fact, he finished with at least 20 fantasy points in half of the 28 games last year after arriving in a midseason trade from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Part of what is propping Barton's stats is the mediocrity of his team. Denver is 6-6 overall but has won or lost 9 of 12 games by 11 points or more. Blowouts like these ensure playing time for the second unit, of which Barton is lead dog. However, "The People's Champ" fills the stat sheet, and all his current Assist, Rebound, Steal and Blocks Rates are consistent will his career averages. Barton is effective when he takes the ball hard to the hole, taking nearly half of his attempts from within 10 feet and converting on over 55%. He is taking .256 free throws for every field goal attempt, so he isn't reliant on three-pointers (but does shoot 44.4% from long range).

Barton is the complete package and pretty darn consistent off the bench from a daily perspective, hitting four times his value 67% of the time and six times value 33% based on his elevated salary. Barton's can score in bunches and provides a solid floor of peripheral stats. He plays more minutes than starter Gary Harris and is more effective, so he may supplant him in the starting lineup, giving him hidden upside.

On any given night, especially when Vegas calls for a blowout, Barton can provide your daily tournament lineups with a thrill, and you could do worse than roster him in cash games.

Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 19) Change
FanDuel PF $4,800 $5,400 $600
DraftKings PF $4,200 $5,900 $1,700

Do you like Kristaps Porzingis now, Knicks fans? What do you think about this draft pick now, Carmelo Anthony?

Starting all 12 games for the New York Knickerbockers, Porzingis has made a much larger impact than expected right away. His averages of 12.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 25.3 minutes are nice, until you extrapolate them to 18.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks Per-36 Minutes. Zinger has reached double-digit points in 10 of 12 games, with 5 games of 10 or more rebounds. Porzingis is putting up these fat stats with a 25% Usage Rate and an elite Rebounding Rate, placing 9th in Offensive Rebounding Percentage and 18th in Total Rebounding Percentage. 

It's really difficult to say whether he can keep this up in such a small sample size for a rookie. At 7'3", he should continue to rebound. Perhaps he increases his 49.3% True Shooting Percentage. Maybe he hits the rookie wall. Enjoy the highlight real dunks as we wait to see how the rest of his rookie year plays out.

Play him in tournaments for his upside, but he will be prone to too many up-and-downs to count on for cash games.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 19) Change
FanDuel PG $10,800 $11,500 $700
DraftKings PG $9,900 $12,200 $2,300

Just a friendly reminder that Russell Westbrook is good. The one stat you need to know: since last year, Westbrook has a 41.4% Usage Rate when Kevin Durant is not on the court. For reference, DeMarcus Cousins currently leads the NBA with a 36.2% Usage Rate. Also related: Kevin Durant has a bad hamstring and will miss at least one more game. 

Westy had 10 games over 70 DraftKings points last year and has 3 this year, while he had 3 such games on FanDuel last year and 1 this year.

Ok, I guess I've gotta throw out some more stats. Two triple-doubles in 12 games this year. Nine double-doubles. Three games of 40 or more real points this year. A 17-rebound game -- for a 6'3" point guard. Yeah, he's good.

Advice: you probably don't want fade Westbrook while Durant is on the shelf. Russ won't be quite so ridiculous when KD comes back, so you likely would be better off letting his price come back down a bit before you queue him up again. But, the fact is few players have as high a floor and even fewer can approach his ceiling.

Ersan Ilyasova, Detroit Pistons

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 19) Change
FanDuel PF $5,200 $4,200 $1,000
DraftKings PF $5,700 $3,800 $1,900

Ersan Ilyasova
is the poster boy for why this column exists. If you took a look at Ilyasova's salary and rostered him in your GPP's on Wednesday you gave yourself a great chance to win some money when he posted a statline of 20 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 4 three-pointers.  

Baron Rothchild, an 18th century British nobleman banker is credited with saying, "The time to buy is when there's blood in the streets." And boy, did "Turkish Thunder" look beaten and bloodied to start the season. After a solid season opener Ilyasova followed up with six of seven games with single-digit real points, while only reaching as many as five rebounds once as well. However, he has countered with scoring 20 points in two of three games (with a 6-point dud in the middle).

Ilyasova is averaging 25.5 minutes per game, only slightly below his best seasons in Milwaukee. He is shooting more from deep than ever with more success than ever with a 45.5% three-point field goal rate, good for 14th best in the NBA. However, Ersan is now at best the fourth option on offense after Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and the newly acquired Marcus Morris with a 16.1% Usage Rate, far below his career norms. Furthermore, that Drummond guy is snagging all the rebounds, leaving the 6'11" Ilyasova with a miniscule 7.8% Total Rebound Rate (almost half his career rate of 14.1%).

So what do we do now? Tread carefully as Ilyasova should almost definitely not be a cash game staple. But, he can score and drain the threes. It's just going to be rather sporadic, so don't be afraid to sprinkle him in to your tourneys when the matchup dictates with the knowledge that he could just as easily bust as go boom.

Goran Dragic, Miami Heat

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 19) Change
FanDuel PG $6,500 $5,700 $900
DraftKings PG $6,600 $5,200 $1,400

Acquired at the trade deadline last year, Goran Dragic was thought to be a major foundational block for the Heat.  After the trade, Dragic basically held steady with the stats he produced in the first half of the year with the Phoenix Suns, averaging 17.5 points, 4.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals Per-36 Minutes before and 17.2, 5.5, 3.5, 1.0 after.

So far early this year, the results have been a bit more mixed. You could say "The Dragon" has been tamed. Dragic has seen his scoring and Assist Rate drop from his first season with the Heat, though his Rebound Rate is unchanged. Poor shooting and decreased Usage are the main culprits. 

His shooting woes are two-fold: less success at the rim and trying to create his own shots from long range. Always a strong finisher at the rim with a career 67.1% Rate within 3 feet, Dragic's success rate has dropped to 58.8%. That's still pretty good (and better than some big men I've profiled) but a significant decrease. Also, Goran has been a career 36% three-point shooter but is only finding success on 25.9% this year. Dragic has been assisted on only 57.1% of his makes from downtown as opposed to 75.6% last year. As a result, he is getting fewer open looks and finding less success.

Dragic really didn't get a chance to play with Chris Bosh before Bosh was forced out for the year with a blood clot. Dwyane Wade also missed time resting or injured. These absences may have led to Dragic having an artificially inflated 22.2% Usage Rate with the Heat. With the two mainstays back and healthy, The Dragon is being used on 19.4% of the team's possessions along with a slight decrease in playing. The combination of lessened opportunity and worse shooting has led to less production.

Perhaps we are seeing a new normal with Dragic. His shooting should regress upward to his career mean, thus leading to a bump in scoring. It's going to be hard to trust Goran unless either Bosh or Wade get hurt or we see an even bigger decrease in price.

Ty Lawson, Houston Rockets

Site Position Price (Game 1) Price (As of Nov 19) Change
FanDuel PG $7,500 $6,000 $1,500
DraftKings PG $6,200 $5,300 $900

Ty Lawson
has struggled fitting in thus far in his first season with the Rockets. No offense Houston, but I saw this coming. 

Anyone in Houston is competing with lead dog James Harden for the ball, and Lawson is suffering with a 15.4% Usage Rate, down from his career 20.8% norm. Per-36 Minutes, Lawson is averaging 8.6 points and 5.4 rebounds with a 41.0% True Shooting Rate, down from 15.4 points, 9.7 assists and 52.6 True Shooting last year. Blech. Never a good defender, Lawson has seen a steady decrease in playing time and now finds himself firmly planted on the bench to start games.

To be effective, Ty Lawson needs the ball in his hands, and it's just not going to happen with Harden as ball-dominant as he is. Much of Lawson's value in the past comes from distributing the ball, but his Assist Rate has plummeted from 43.0% last year to 23.2% this year. Instead, he was asked to be a spot up three-point shooter on the receiving end of Harden's drive and kicks, and that just ain't Lawson's thang. 88.9% of his long range makes have been assisted on this year as opposed to 61.3% the previous two years, making only 25.7% from downtown.

Trying to find the right entry with Lawson's dropping salary would be like trying to catch a falling knife. A move to bench might be a good thing for him, as he could spend more time on the ball dishing off to Houston's talented second-unit shooters. It's probably a good idea to leave this one alone until his role becomes more settled.