The Importance of Team Pace in Fantasy Basketball

I don’t hate advanced stats as much as Charles Barkley, nor am I making it my mistress like Daryl Morey.

I like to think that I’m a reasonable guy– a balanced one if you will– but if you dig fantasy basketball, you have to be more Morey than Barkley. If you think like Sir Chuck in fantasy, you might as well draft up until the third round and leave. On the other hand, if you’re Morey, you find specialized value up until the last pick, which can potentially help you out in the long run.

As much as it is true about season-long leagues, it can also be applied in daily fantasy basketball, too. It’s very important to use stats like Defense vs Position (DvP), Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%), Usage Rate , and Pace.

This piece is dedicated for PACE and it’s easy to see why.

What is Pace?

According to one dictionary, pace is “the speed in which something happens”. In basketball, teams are not created equal, and therefore, the pace in which they prefer to play also varies. For example, Golden State likes to run opponents to the ground with an offensive onslaught from all angles, mainly relying on Steph Curry to set the table and create shots for himself and his teammates. Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies lean heavily on a bruising frontcourt and because they have Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, it doesn’t make sense if they’d play fast.

Pace in Fantasy Basketball: The Memphis Grizzlies play with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph making them one of the slowest teams in the league. Photo Source


Why is it important?

There’s a reason why the “7 seconds or less” era in Phoenix made so many fantasy stars in Arizona. Or George Karl-coached teams having the best fantasy sources in all of basketball. Conventional wisdom suggests the more offensive possessions a team has in 48 minutes, chances for accumulating stats go up.

And stats, my dear friends, is what fantasy basketball is all about.

NBA’s Fastest Teams

The aforementioned Warriors currently leads all teams with 101.1 possessions per 48 minutes, followed by Phoenix (99.4), Houston (99.1), Boston (98.8) and Denver (98.4).

The last two, being very young squads, are a bit too inconsistent to be relied upon, especially on a daily basis, but their roster construction and PACE give us some fantasy surprises here and there. The first trio is where you can bet your money, be it on season-long and daily fantasy leagues.

It’s no coincidence that over the past 15 days, Houston boasts three players in the top 21 in ESPN’s Player Rater (James Harden, Terrence Jones, and Trevor Ariza) while another three sneaks into the top 100 (Donatas Motiejunas, Jason Terry, and Josh Smith).

During the same span, Steve Kerr‘s wards had three representatives in the top 13 (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green) and Phoenix has three in the top 31 (Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, and Alex Len).

That now makes nine players between three teams playing the fastest pace in the league at the top 31 in the rater. To put that in perspective, Memphis, Brooklyn and Washington– teams among the lowest PACE in the league today– has no players cracking the top 31.

(Statistics are as accurate as of Feb. 27, 2015)