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Showdown Slant 🏀 Week 4

Weekly Showdown Data Exploration And Training From Top Showdown Mind Xandamere

In this article I’ll be reviewing the prior week’s Showdown contests, trying to spot trends and see what we can learn to take advantage of this still-soft format. Because of how many games are going to be included, the format will be some bullet-point notes on each game, followed by a wrap-up with learnings so far (both in the most recent week as well as season to date). 

First, keep in mind that NBA is chalky. Massively so. Because of how robust projections are, that leads to overconfidence in outcomes – which is where edge comes from, both in cash and in tournaments. While projections are very good at capturing median outcomes, some of those projections have a greater range to them than others (more variance or volatility) – in cash, we can take advantage of this by sacrificing some median in order to limit our range of outcomes, while in tournaments we can take advantage by sacrificing some median in order to increase our range of outcomes. That, at the end of the day, is what DFS is all about (no matter the sport), and in some ways NBA is the easiest for this because we don’t have to worry about random outliers like a 90 yard touchdown or a grand slam from a backup catcher.

WEEKLY WRAP-UP

I’m excited that we’re finally getting to a point of having a meaningful sample size of data with 85 contests tracked so far this season. This wrap-up is just going to summarize some of the key data points:

  • Average captain ownership of winning rosters is 21.8% and median is 17.8%, while chalk captains (defined as 20%+ captain ownership) are winning at a 49.4% rate. Now, since chalk captain doesn’t mean “the highest owned captain,” there can be multiple chalk captain options on a given slate – but overall, so far it makes sense to go overweight on the chalk captain options.
  • 3-3 constructions are winning at a 51.8% rate and 4-2 constructions at a 43.5% rate. At the very least it makes sense to avoid 5-1 constructions, and there’s (slightly) positive leverage in focusing more heavily on 3-3 builds.
  • Average captain salary is $13,352 and median is $14,100. This goes hand in hand with the chalk captain data – overall it makes sense to focus your captain exposure on the studs.
  • Average salary remaining is $1,085 and median is $300. There are occasional rather obvious exceptions (such as when a team is incredibly thin due to Covid or other injuries), but overall it doesn’t make sense to try to differentiate by leaving a lot of salary on the table, which is very different from NFL Showdown where differentiating in that way makes a ton of sense.
  • Players under 10% owned showed up in 31.8% of lineups. But, given how many sub-10% players there are on each slate, overall this is a negative leverage spot – you don’t need to find that sub-10% guy to have success in NBA Showdown.
  • 83.5% of winning lineups had at least 1 bench player. That said, note that there are different types of bench players in the NBA (Caris LeVert and Chris Boucher are very different from bench players from, say, Bryn Forbes). But, overall it makes sense to force at least 1 non-starting player in your lineups.
  • 71.8% of tournaments had between 1-5 lineups in 1st place (with 35.3% seeing a solo winner). When I first started looking at NBA Showdown I figured it would be chalk city with massive splits for 1st place, but that hasn’t really been the case at all – only 17.6% of tournaments have been won with 10+ lineups tied for 1st place. Note here that these tournaments come in very different sizes and they aren’t as big as the NFL island game Showdowns, but overall I’m encouraged to see this – it tells me that there’s opportunity in NBA Showdown tournament play. 
  • In cash I had a good week and my season-long cash ROI for Showdown slates is up to 10.5% (which you can see tracked at https://bit.ly/3qEc0In – I didn’t track buy-ins at the very start of the season but started to track that as of 12/29). I mentioned last week that I felt there was an edge here but that I had made some bad decisions early on as I was learning the format – I feel like I’m getting into the swing of it now and have seen good results. 
1/12 HEAT @ SIXERS
  • With two shorthanded teams this lineup built itself: Embiid captain, Simmons, and then Herro, Olynyuk, Robinson, and Achiuwa for the Heat, who were running with only 8 guys active. This lineup was super chalky but smashed for a nicely positive ROI. 
  • The tourney here was a weird one with both teams so shorthanded. The winning lineup had Embiid captain at 43.2% ownership (I’m surprised it wasn’t higher), Herro, Olynyk, Green, Robinson, and Achiuwa. It left $3,600 on the table and was an 8-way tie. I’m surprised we only saw an 8-way tie in this one given how short both teams were, and I’m also surprised Embiid wasn’t like 70-80% owned in the captain spot given how easy it was to get him. The differentiator here was Danny Green, who burned everyone the last Sixers slate when he was chalk, but he was still a starter and came in at just 21.4% ownership. That was the main factor that allowed this lineup to win in a relatively small tie despite a massively chalky slate.
  • This was a rare game with no bench player in the winning lineup (which makes sense given how thin both teams were).
  • Chalk captains now 29 of 62.
1/12 NUGGETS @ NETS
  • This one felt pretty straightforward with Bol Bol starting. I wanted KD/Joker/LeVert for sure. I was able to make it work better with KD captain instead of Jokic, so I went that route. I then had room for two lower mid-range plays. Barton was the obvious choice at $6,800, and then I had to pick between Jamaal Murray and Jarrett Allen. I chose Allen for the floor that a center brings, while Murray has been in more of a shooting guard role than a traditional point guard – he’s not getting rebounds or assists, so he needs to make a lot of shots, which introduces volatility. Murray ended up making a lot of shots in this one while Allen flubbed. 
  • The tourney winner here was a 7-way tie with Durant captain at 41.8% ownership, Jokic, Murray, Barton, Harris, and Bruce Brown. This was only a 2v2 off of the most common cash lineup (Harris/Brown vs. LeVert/Bol), but was still just an 8 way tie. Bruce Brown was a sneaky play here – he was starting at point guard at just $3,000 and was just 7% owned! We’ve seen Brown start before and not get much run, which explains why people shied away from him, but man…7% ownership for a $3k starting point guard is just bonkers. Brown played 26 minutes and ran well in them, and frankly it was just silly that more people weren’t on him here.
  • Another one with no bench player! Weird to have 2 in a row!
  • Chalk captains now 30 of 63.
1/12 PACERS @ WARRIORS
  • Didn’t play cash
  • Tourney had a solo winner (in a giant tourney for $100k!) by a lineup with Turner captain at 4.5% ownership, Sabonis, Brogdon, Wiggins, Green, and Aaron Holiday. This was a super sharp lineup – we know that Turner has a high ceiling when he runs into one of his stocks games (he had 7 in this one), we know he was going to be low owned. Aaron Holiday came in at 14.9% ownership despite being the best bench option in this game – he was expected to start but didn’t, meaning he was going to be the primary ball-handler on the second unit (he was actually a better play off the bench than he would have been if he’d started, as his rates when starting are pretty awful). Despite that, Holiday was just 14.9% owned. 
  • Chalk captains now 30 of 64.
1/13 BUCKS @ PISTONS
  • In cash I ran Giannis, Middleton, Grant, Wright, Jackson, and Stewart. With Derrick Rose out Wright’s minutes and usage were expected to climb. Giannis was the obvious captain choice here since nobody else could come close to matching him, while Stewart had a safe floor (for a punt play) as the backup center.
  • The tourney was won in a 9-way tie by a lineup with Giannis captain at 44% ownership, Grant, Holiday, Lopez, Wright, and Stewart. BroLo as a starting center at 24.5% ownership was surprisingly low, but Stewart at 6.3% was pretty shocking to me (after all, I used him in cash, I thought he was a great punt option). 
  • Chalk captains now 31 of 65.
1/13 NETS @ KNICKS
  • After trading away half their roster today this one got weird. Cash was straightforward – I played Durant captain, Randle, Barrett, Payton, Jordan, and Brown (with Jordan and Brown both expected to see significantly increased roles). My debate here in cash was Elf vs. Robinson – I chose Elf, because there were 2 new bigs active behind Robinson so I thought he would lose minutes. I chose poorly here.
  • The tourney was won in a 16-way tie by a lineup with Randle captain at 21.6%, Durant, Barrett, Robinson, Jordan, and Brown – so basically like my cash lineup except flip-flop the captains (Randle’s captain ownership was ⅓ Durant’s!) and then swap Elf to Robinson. Nothing fancy here – just a slight pivot from the chalk got a win (though in a large split). Worth noting that the version of this lineup with Durant captain instead of Randle finished just a couple of points behind….and had about 3x the duplicates. 
  • Chalk captains now 32 of 66.
1/13 PELICANS @ CLIPPERS
  • In cash I thought using Alexander-Walker at captain was the right play – as the starting point guard he was going to see massive opportunity at a super cheap price. That let me get basically everyone else – Leonard, George, Adams, Ingram, and Hart. I really debated Hart vs. Ibaka here – Ibaka is a stronger per-minute producer but Hart just projected to play so many minutes that I went with him. Hart sucked but the lineup still smashed.
  • In the tourney we had a 20-way tie for 1st with Alexander-Walker at captain, Leonard, George, Ingram, Ibaka, and Batum. NAW went absolutely berserk, finishing just 0.5 points behind Kawhi on raw score. Interestingly the optimal didn’t win here – someone who left a bit of salary on the table by playing Beverly instead of either Ibaka or Batum would have won by a wide margin. The NAW value (and the degree to which he smashed) also made this one of the rare winning rosters with 0 bench players.
  • Chalk captains now 32 of 67. 
1/14 HEAT @ SIXERS
  • In cash I played a lineup with Embiid, Harris, Simmons, Herro, Milton, and Strus. I didn’t want to go heavy on the Heat with them being large road underdogs, and thought Milton gave me some blowout insurance (turns out he just went berserk and was the highest scoring player in the game).
  • The tournament was won in a 2-way tie by a roster with Simmons captain at 6.9%, Herro, Harris, Achiuwa, Vincent, and Milton. Nobody on this roster was particularly low owned (the lowest was Milton at 30.4%), but Simmons captain and no Embiid was a major differentiator as Embiid came in at 89.3% ownership. 
  • Chalk captains now 32 of 68.
1/14 ROCKETS @ SPURS
  • With most of the Rockets out, Wood was the best play on the slate so he was my captain. I used all 4 main Spurs with DeRozan, Murray, Aldridge, and Johnson, and then McLemore made it fit as a great bringback on the Rockets side. This was one of those massive chalk days due to the Kets value where half the field had the same lineup, but I’ll always an easy 30% ROI. 
  • The tournament was won in a 4-way tie by a lineup with Wood captain at 48.4% ownership, DeRozan, Murray, Johnson, Tate, and Brown – rather surprisingly low ownership on Tate and Brown at 18.1% and 17.5%, respectively. Outside of Wood all of the Rockets were cheap, so it was tough to spend the salary – people played Wood and Cousins and McLemore and then the expensive Spurs. While normally spending most of your salary is advantageous in NBA Showdown, when a team is this shorthanded it makes sense to be looser here, and to consider 3-3 constructions in a game like this when most people are going to play 4 more expensive Spurs plus Wood and 1 other Rocket. 
  • Chalk captains now 33 of 69.
1/14 WARRIORS @ NUGGETS
  • Didn’t play cash.
  • The tourney was won in a 4-way tie by a lineup with Jokic captain at 50.1% (!), Curry, Wiseman, Millsap, Green, and Dozier. Again we see an example of a chalk captain that utilizes the 2 highest-owned players on the slate, but then differentiates cleverly elsewhere to avoid a huge split – Dozier was in line for more work with Harris out, while Wiseman was a cheap starting center who had inconsistent minutes but lots of upside (talented rookie, reasonable expectation his minutes would increase throughout the season but we didn’t know when), and Millsap is a starter who tends to be more of a floor than a ceiling play – all came in 22.3% or less ownership. Despite starting this lineup with two players who were around 90% ownership, the total ownership of this lineup was just 258.5%. 
  • Chalk captains now 34 of 70.
1/15 MAVERICKS @ BUCKS
  • In cash I went with Luka captain, Giannis, Middleton, Portis, Cauley-Stein, and Iwundu. I went away from the optimizers here a bit – most preferred Giannis captain, but I felt like Luka had more minutes upside as Giannis’ are frequently capped in noncompetitive games. I wanted to prioritize Middleton as well, who I felt was underpriced, and Cauley-Stein as a cheap center. Iwundu was a common punt I was fine with, and then I used Portis while projections were favoring Burke – Burke is a pure shooter and thus more volatile, while Portis gets points in a variety of ways. This one was a total smash.
  • The tourney was won in a giant 53-way tie by a lineup with Luka captain at 41.2% ownership, Giannis, Middleton, Johnson, Cauley-Stein, and Connaughton. This was (obviously) a very chalky construction (you can tell because it was just a 2v2 from my cash lineup). Good enough for 1st, but not a very big score.
  • Chalk captains are now 35 for 71. 
1/15 HAWKS @ JAZZ
  • Didn’t play cash.
  • Tourney had a solo winner with Reddish captain at 2.9% ownership, Mitchell, Gobert, Conley, Capela, and Clarkson. This was sort of your standard “punt captain to jam in studs” lineup, except that most of those lineups plug in 5 starters and here the roster used Clarkson from the bench – that’s a smart way to differentiate from the standard punt captain construction. Also key, of course, was fading Trae Young at 88% ownership, when he has been mostly mediocre this year.
  • Chalk captains are now 35 for 72.
1/15 PELICANS @ LAKERS
  • Didn’t play cash
  • Tourney had a giant 62-way tie with LeBron captain at 33%, Davis, Ingram, Williamson, Kuzma, and Caruso. This was a basic variant of a chalk construction that pivoted from Alexander-Walker to Kuzma at sub-10% ownership, but despite using Kuzma at just 9.5% ownership, it was still heavily duplicated – this is the lesson we’ve seen before, where just using a low-owned player doesn’t necessarily make your lineup unique if the overall lineup construction is very chalky. 
  • Chalk captains now 36 for 73.
1/16 MAGIC @ NETS
  • In cash I ran Harden captain, Durant, Vucevic, Gordon, Ennis (cheap starting value) and Perry (cheap backup center value). Ended up being super chalky but made positive ROI, so hurray.
  • The tourney had a solo winner with Harden captain at 21.7%, Durant, Vucevic, Anthony, Shamet, and Clark – Shamet and Clark both came in at sub-10% ownership while Anthony was just 17.4%, affording the common construction of the 3 main studs a sneaky way to get to the top without a tie. 
  • Chalk captains now 37 of 74.
1/16 HORNETS @ RAPTORS
  • I ran a cash lineup of Lowry, Siakam, Hayward, Boucher, Anunoby, and Biyombo. Ended up being a super common lineup that finished slightly on the wrong side of the bubble.
  • The tourney had a solo winner with Rozier captain at 3.9% ownership, VanVleet, Boucher, Washington, Graham, and Anunoby. Nothing super unusual here – none of these players were especially low owned, but the construction of them with Rozier captain got this lineup away from the chalkier builds and to the top for a solo finish. 
  • Chalk captains now 37 of 75.
1/16 HAWKS @ BLAZERS
  • Didn’t play cash
  • Tourney was won in a solo finish with Capela captain at 6.4% ownership, Young, Lillard, Kanter, Jones Jr., and Trent. McCollum getting hurt mid-game obviously swung how this game played out, but this was still a sharp roster – Capela was in a smash spot and was very curiously low owned – in fact both Capela and Kanter were just shy of 50% overall ownership despite being in fantastic spots. Young also came in well under Dame and McCollum as people were overreacting to a couple of bad games. 
  • I’ve decided I’m going to stop noting the chalk captain stat each game, as I’m tracking it in my sheet and I’ll just report on it weekly. Got tired of typing it. 
1/17 BULLS @ MAVS
  • In cash with the Mavs being so shorthanded I wanted to be heavier on their side. I ran Luka captain, LaVine, Markkanen, Cauley-Stein, Burke, and Johnson. My lineup was a 2v2 off the common chalk line of Porzingis/Iwundu vs. Cauley-Stein/Burke – I felt mine had a similar floor and more upside, since Iwundu is a tremendously low-usage player, but I caught floor games from both WCS and Burke (Iwundu outscored both, lol).
  • The tourney had a solo winner with Luka captain at 63.3% ownership, Porzingis, Carter, Markkanen, Cauley-Stein, and Temple. Despite Luka being the captain on ⅔ of lineups in this tournament, this roster achieved a solo win by not rostering anyone else over 52% ownership. Temple, of course, was key at just 4.4%, but Porzingis/Carter/Markkanen came in awfully low as well as the field invested heavily in LaVine, Johnson, and Burke. 
1/17 JAZZ @ NUGGETS
  • Didn’t play cash
  • Tourney was won in a 3-way split by a roster with Jokic captain at 52.5% ownership, Murray, Conley, Clarkson, Bogdanovic, and Dozier. I’m actually surprised this was just a 3-way split because the lowest ownership here was Boggy and he was still 26.3%, but the cumulative ownership of the roster was 290.5%, slightly below average, so I suppose that explains it (as well as a large chunk of the field being on Mitchell, of course). 
1/17 PACERS @ CLIPPERS
  • Didn’t play cash
  • The tourney had an 11-way split at the top with Sabonis captain at 28.4% ownership, Leonard, George, Beverly, Morris, and Sumner. Sabonis was really the obvious captain here as he was playing center and would have to play an absolute ton of minutes with the lack of depth, but Beverly and Morris came in at under 20% ownership and made for very attractive plays in this one. 
1/18 MAGIC @ KNICKS
  • There was some starting value on the Magic, allowing me to run a line of Vucevic captain, Randle, Barrett, Gordon, Ennis, and Bacon. Ennis and Bacon are not good players (Bacon played 27 minutes and scored 4.25 Draftkings points, jeez), but big minutes are generally safe in cash so I was happy with it. Oddly this felt like an obvious lineup to me but it was not chalky, so I got a full double instead of a bubble. Yay.
  • The tourney had a solo winner with Gordon captain at just 2.5% ownership, Vucevic, Randle, Barrett, Birch, and Ennis. Vuc and Randle absorbed 70% of the captain ownership so everyone else came in super low, and Gordon has basically been playing point for the Magic, so an explosion game was not exactly a giant surprise. 
1/18 WOLVES @ HAWKS
  • In cash I ran Young captain, Russell, Capela, Beasley, Okogie, and Davis. Okogie was a cheap starter who would play a lot of minutes (even though he wasn’t likely to do a lot with them), while Davis would play a decent chunk of backup center minutes with Towns out. My one real decision here was Collins vs. Beasley – normally I lean the forward over the shooting guard as the position is less volatile, but with Towns out, Beasley materially outprojected Collins and I decided to err on the side of increased usage on the thinner team. Collins proceeded to beat out Beasley by 6 points while getting a ridiculous 5 blocks, so, alas for this one.
  • The tourney had a 2-way tie for 1st place with Russell captain at 21.3% ownership, Young, Capela, Huerter, Vanderbilt, and McLaughlin at just 8.2% ownership. This was a pretty basic construction with McLaughlin as the final play over the much more popular Davis (who he beat out by 1 point), and with Russell captain over the more popular Young – just a couple of small pivots to achieve a smaller split. 
1/18 SUNS @ GRIZZLIES
  • With no expensive players and a starting center at $3,200, this was an easy cash build – you could play any 5 guys with Tillman. Silly pricing on this one. I went with Morant captain (I’d rather not guess at which of the 3 main Suns go off, whereas Morant is the main guy on the Grizzlies), Booker, Ayton, Paul, Clarke, and Tillman. 
  • The tourney was won in an 11-way tie by a roster with Ayton captain at 17.9% ownership, Morant, Paul, Clarke, Anderson, and Bridges. Nothing fancy here as none of these players were especially low-owned – Ayton was a smart choice for his first real blowup game of the year against a Grizzlies defense starting Naz Reid at center. 
1/18 BUCKS @ NETS
  • Didn’t play cash
  • Tourney was won in a 4-way split with Jordan captain at 2.8% ownership, Harden, Giannis, Durant, Harris, and Connaughton. Despite a 2.8% owned captain and Harris/Connaughton being low owned, this was such a common construction of the relatively few Jordan captain lineups that it didn’t result in a solo win. Everyone was trying to jam in the 3 main studs on this one, and then Jordan went absolutely berserk. Connaughton was the clever bench play that made it work.
1/18 PISTONS @ HEAT
  • The cash build for this was tough for me. I knew I wanted Bam captain, I knew I wanted Grant and Dragic, and then Nunn was an obvious value play with Herro out. For the last two spots I could afford anyone. I ended up going with Griffin and Olynyk, figuring that was the best combination of minutes and floor positions at power forward (Plumlee as a center looked enticing as well but he’s been playing under 30 minutes most games lately). Well, Griffin and Olynyk both completely failed while Plumlee, Robinson, Rose, and any other combination I was considering would have smashed, so alas. 
  • The tournament was won in a 5-way tie by a lineup with Adebayo captain at 46.4% ownership, Grant, Dragic, Rose, Plumlee, and Nunn. I’m surprised it was only a 5-way tie as this was awfully close to my cash lineup, so I’m shocked that fewer people got here, but Nunn wasn’t a very popular play at just 17.9% ownership.