Finding Daily Fantasy Basketball Matchups That Fit: Post Up

A deeper look at how players have performed in the post provides some eye-opening information.

A big key to success in daily fantasy sports is finding exploitable matchups when targeting players. At this point, daily fantasy sports are so mainstream that almost everyone constructing rosters takes matchups into account. Regardless of which site you prefer, the average daily fantasy player is going to be equipped with a Defense vs. Position Chart (or DvP) of some sort to help their research process.

To maintain consistent success, you need to be one step ahead of the average player, though. DvP can definitely offer some insight into finding advantageous matchups, but it can also be misleading. To put it simply, not all players are the same. Anthony Davis and Paul Millsap both are incredibly talented power forwards, but one is shooting 52.7 percent in the post while the other is shooting 34.8 percent in the post. DvP would depict a matchup against a team that struggles to defend the low post as equally beneficial to both power forwards, when clearly it is not.

So, instead of blindly plugging players in when they draw a matchup with green numbers against their position on the DvP chart, let’s examine how team defenses defend against certain skills.

In this series, I will take you through and examine how to find matchups that fit players’ skill sets, rather than their position. I’ll use analytics to provide a more accurate look at the types of players teams struggle to defend, and then examine how players who fit that mold have fared against them.

The first two skills we looked at were how certain players and teams performed in and against transition and the pick and roll.

Next, we’re going to examine which players have been the most effective in the the low-post, and how teams have defended against the post up.

The Best Matchups for Low-Post Scorers

To begin, let’s examine which teams have been the least effective at defending the low-post this season. These numbers are up-to-date as of March 13, and are subject to change as the season goes on. If you’re curious, the most recent data can be found here.

The teams are listed in order, followed by their league rank in terms of points allowed (PA), points per possession allowed (PPP), and Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) allowed.

The formula for the ranking is as follows, with total points allowed and eFG% slightly weighted: [Rank (Total Pts allowed * 1.5) + Rank (PPP) + Rank (eFG%) * 1.5] / 3 = Score

1. Philadelphia 76ers -- PA (4th), PPP (1st), eFG% (1st)
2. Denver Nuggets -- PA (1st), PPP (3rd), eFG% (4th)
3. Portland Trail Blazers -- PA (2nd), PPP (4th), eFG% (7th)
4. Miami Heat -- PA (7th), PPP (2nd), eFG% (3rd)
5. Dallas Mavericks -- PA (3rd), PPP (6th), eFG% (6th)
6. Detroit Pistons -- PA (10th), PPP (5th), eFG% (2nd)
7. New Orleans Pelicans -- PA (6th), PPP (10th), eFG% (14th)
8. Los Angeles Clippers -- PA (11th), PPP (11th), eFG% (11th)
9. Brooklyn Nets -- PA (14th), PPP (12th), eFG% (10th)
10. Boston Celtics -- PA (5th), PPP (16th), eFG% (19th)

The biggest thing to note from this list is that there are two teams who have defended posts very well this season, which will scare the average daily fantasy player off because the DvP chart displays it as a negative matchup. Here are the teams who have defended power forward or center well this season but struggle to defend the post up:

The teams are listed followed by their DvP rank against power forwards (PF) and centers (C).

Miami Heat -- PF (5th), C (6th)
Detroit Pistons -- PF (13th), C (9th)

The Heat is the team that immediately jumped off the page when I was studying this data because most daily fantasy players religiously avoid targeting players against the Heat.

I went through and tracked how well the elite low-post scorers have fared against Miami and Detroit. The power forwards collectively outscored their season average by 2.2 FanDuel points against Miami and 6.3 against Detroit (It helps when Anthony Davis averages 68.2 FanDuel points against Detroit). The centers collectively outscored their season averages by 1.5 FanDuel points against Miami and 3.9 against Detroit.

Another thing worth noting is that there are some teams who will attract the average daily fantasy player because the DvP chart displays it as a positive matchup, but have done well against the post up. A matchup with one of these teams will likely result in a boost in ownership to the post but may not actually fit their skill-set all that well. Keeping this in mind will allow you to avoid high ownership in tournaments.

The stats are listed from 1 to 30, with 1 being the most points allowed and 30 the least.

Team PF DVP C DVP Points PPP FG%
Atlanta Hawks 13 6 19 22 18
Chicago Bulls 7 5 13 18 25
Houston Rockets 1 13 26 14 23
LA Lakers 6 3 21 23 22
Sacramento Kings 2 11 20 17 15

Using this information when targeting players who excel in the low-post gives yourself a nice edge in tournaments, as most will not look further than the DvP chart.

The Most Effective Low-Post Scorers

To begin, let’s examine which players have been the most effective scorers in the post this season. These numbers are up-to-date as of March 13, and are subject to change as the season goes on. If you’re curious, the most recent data can be found here.

The tables will show each player's post up field goal percentage (FG%), points per possession (PPP) in the post, and their total post up points (Pts). Also displayed is the percentage of times the player executes a post-up, represented by (Frequency).

Below are the power forwards who have been the most effective low-post scorers this season.

Player Games Frequency Points PPP FG%
LaMarcus Aldridge 60 33.8% 344 0.99 48.0%
Dirk Nowitzki 59 29.3% 309 1.04 48.7%
Zach Randolph 57 37.8% 286 0.87 45.2%
Carmelo Anthony 60 21.6% 266 0.89 41.6%
Paul Millsap 64 16.0% 195 1.07 52.7%
Kevin Love 61 23.7% 232 0.98 46.4%
Anthony Davis 57 18.5% 184 0.75 34.8%
Derrick Favors 48 24.0% 172 0.89 44.3%

LaMarcus Aldridge
's 344 points in the post ranks second among all players and has accounted for 32 percent of his total points this season. While many view Tim Duncan as an dominant low-post scorer, Aldridge has clearly been the more effective player in the post for San Antonio this season. Aldridge has 271 field goal attempts in the post, as opposed to only 96 for Duncan this season. He's also been more efficient, averaging 0.99 points per possession with a 48 percent field goal percentage, compared to Duncan's 0.85 and 41.7 percent marks. Duncan, on the other hand, has been more effective in the pick and roll game.

Dirk Nowitzki's 1.04 points per possession ranks first in the league among players with at least 150 shots in the post, and he is the clear beneficiary of matchups that fit, as Zaza Pachulia has just 24 points in the post this season.

Zach Randolph makes his living in the post and now doesn't have to compete with Marc Gasol for low-post touches.

As alluded to earlier, Paul Millsap has been one of the most proficient low-post scorers this season, with a 52.7 percent field goal percentage. Atlanta posts up the sixth-most infrequently in the league though, and Millsap has to compete with Al Horford for touches, which slightly negates the boost he would get from matchups that fit. If Horford were forced to miss time, Millsap would likely see a big boost in post-up opportunities.

Anthony Davis, on the other hand, has been incredibly inefficient in the post, for his standards. A heavy workload and lack of a viable scoring center on the Pelicans roster has led to Davis putting up decent numbers from a volume perspective though.

Below are the centers who have been the most effective low-post scorers this season.

Player Games Frequency Points PPP FG%
Brook Lopez 64 29.2% 366 0.94 50.0%
Marc Gasol 52 40.2% 334 0.89 41.3%
Greg Monroe 63 34.4% 296 0.86 45.7%
Nikola Vucevic 58 29.1% 293 0.92 49.6%
DeMarcus Cousins 54 19.8% 295 0.94 47.3%
Jahlil Okafor 53 32.1% 270 0.85 47.1%
Andre Drummond 65 27.8% 250 0.74 41.1%
Robin Lopez 67 30.3% 195 0.94 51.3%
Pau Gasol 61 20.7% 187 0.81 40.7%
Dwight Howard 54 29.8% 198 0.83 47.0%
Jonas Valanciunas 46 27.6% 130 0.87 48.7%

The first thing worth pointing out is the difference in frequency between players. Several posts saw frequencies of over 30 percent, while DeMarcus Cousins and Pau Gasol both hovered around 20 percent. A player with a higher frequency is more likely to be reliant on a matchup that fits, while players such as Cousins and Gasol are safer to target regardless of the situation.

5 Names That Will Surprise You

So, we know the players who have been effective while posting up this season. Not everyone is able to convert their low-post opportunities into points, though. Here are five players who have been surprisingly inefficient while posting up this season.

Player Games Frequency Points PPP FG%
Roy Hibbert 65 30.0% 88 0.63 33.6%
Julius Randle 65 13.1% 83 0.70 34.1%
Nerlens Noel 56 11.5% 58 0.73 42.9%
Kristaps Porzingis 65 14.7% 120 0.82 39.1%
Marcin Gortat 58 14.3% 92 0.83 43.2%

Hopefully, you never find yourself in a situation in which you are considering targeting  Roy Hibbert in daily fantasy, but here is your reminder to never do so. He has shot a putrid 33.6 percent in the post and has easily the lowest points per possession. To put Hibbert's struggles in perspective, Julius Randle has been almost ineffective as Hibbert, yet has just five fewer points on 25 fewer shots attempts.

Nerlens Noel has been one of the least efficient low-post scorers this season, so the loss of Jahlil Okafor and his 240 shot attempts in the post might not benefit Noel as much as you may have envisioned.

If you couldn't already tell from Carmelo Anthony and Robin Lopez being featured, Kristaps Porzingis has not done much with his limited post touches. He clearly isn't someone to target against teams that struggle to defend the post.

The average NBA fan probably wouldn't expect it, but  Marcin Gortat has struggled to convert his low-post opportunities this season, instead being much more effective in the pick and roll. Nene Hilario actually has more shot attempts in the post this season. Gortat perfectly exemplifies the importance of finding matchups that fit.

Putting It All Together

This is all interesting, but how do we actually use this information to improve?

I went through and tracked how each player performed against the best matchups for low-post scorers. The table displays the player's average FanDuel points (Post Up Ave) in games against the teams just mentioned, as well as how their average in those matchups compared to all other games (Post Up +/-).

Player Games Post Up Ave FanDuel Ave Post Up +/-
LaMarcus Aldridge 60 34.5 30.9 3.6
Dirk Nowitzki 59 34.0 29.7 4.3
Zach Randolph 57 32.7 26.8 5.9
Carmelo Anthony 60 38.0 38.0 0.0
Paul Millsap 64 33.9 36.9 -3.0
Kevin Love 61 31.5 32.7 -1.2
Anthony Davis 57 48.5 44.2 4.3
Derrick Favors 48 38.2 33.1 5.1

Player Games Post Up Ave FanDuel Ave Post Up +/-
Brook Lopez 64 36.3 36.0 0.3
Marc Gasol 52 34.1 32.9 1.2
Greg Monroe 63 34.2 32.9 1.3
Nikola Vucevic 58 37.0 36.6 1.2
DeMarcus Cousins 54 48.3 47.3 1.0
Jahlil Okafor 53 32.3 28.6 3.7
Andre Drummond 65 43.9 40.4 3.5
Robin Lopez 67 23.9 21.9 2.0
Pau Gasol 61 41.9 38.9 3.0
Dwight Howard 54 35.6 34.0 1.6
Jonas Valanciunas 46 27.9 26.7 1.2

Going forward, don’t just blindly plug players in according to the DvP charts. That’s what everyone is doing. Use these defensive profiles to find matchups that fit the players to give yourself an edge.

As you can see, 17 of the 19 posts examined reached or surpassed their season average when playing against matchups that fit, while several exceeded expectations by three-plus points. While a matchup that fits doesn't guarantee that the player will exceed their season average, an 89.5 percent success rate for these players is certainly worth taking note of.

Part four of the "Finding Matchups That Fit" series will focus on the posts who are most effective at stretching the floor with their outside shot and which teams to target them against.