Thursday, Sep 8th
Monday, Sep 12th

Showdown Slant 🏀 Week 9

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 had a week of disaster in cash games, ugh – day after day of getting the 2v2 wrong, or just catching an absolute floor game from someone (or Steph Curry being ruled out after lock). My season-long ROI has plummeted to 2.9% – not good, friends.
  • Not really any tournament takeaways this week and I’m a bit short on time as well. The “overlooked mid-range guy” theory continues to play out strongly. We also saw a rash of non-chalk captains being optimal this week, pushing the chalk captain hit rate down to 47.1% on the season, but we’ll need some more observation before we can tell if this is really a trend or just variance. 
2/16 Nuggets @ Celtics
  • In cash I played Jokic captain, Tatum, Brown, Green, Campazzo, and Hampton. I really agonized over the last couple of spots – I thought about trying to get Tristan Thompson in there by using a total punt, and I thought about using Ojeleye or Robert Williams instead of Hampton, but I decided that Denver was such a thin team that the right strategy (in the long run, at least) was to go with the guys who projected for the most minutes – which led me to Hampton. If Zeke Nnjaji had been min price I would have played him for sure, but he didn’t let me get up to Tristan, sadly. This one was annoying because everyone had the same lineup except the last spot – if I had Williams I would have smashed, if I had Ojeleye I would have probably about broken even, but I had Hampton so I got crushed.
  • The tourney was won in a 7-way tie by a roster with Campazzo captain at 4.1% ownership, Jokic, Tatum, Brown, Murray, and Robert Williams. Not that far off from cash, really – Campazzo captain instead of Jokic, which let the roster use Murray instead Green, but it resulted in a small split tourney win. 
2/16 Pelicans @ Grizzlies
  • Not a ton of great value in this one besides Konchar, who should see decent minutes with both Melton and Bane out, so I played Morant captain, Ingram, Williamson, Valanciunas, Ball, and Konchar. The pivot from this was Williamson captain and then Kyle Anderson instead of Ball – I will always take Ball here as I think his floor is much higher, but this game Anderson crushed. 
  • The tourney was won in a 7-way tie by a roster with Hart captain at 0.8% ownership, Ingram, Williamson, Morant, Ball, and Anderson. This is the kind of roster where I feel like, though it won this time, in the long run you’re better off not playing a roster like this. Hart was just 0.8% owned in the captain spot, but his going off also required Steven Adams getting hurt and missing some time (otherwise, an Adams roster was right behind it). And, because of the way the slate construction played out, even using a 0.8% owned captain didn’t even result in a unique roster – it was just taking on too much risk for too little payout if it won, in my opinion (if you think you had a high chance at a unique roster by taking this approach, that’s where I would say it makes sense to make that kind of play). 
2/16 Nets @ Suns
  • Didn’t play cash
  • The tourney was won in a 21-way tie (in a much larger than normal Showdown, though) by a roster with Harden captain at 52.5% ownership, Paul, Ayton, Green, Crowder, and Tyler Johnson. Johnson was unexpectedly starting and came in at just 24.5% ownership despite being $2,400 – showing how the field can often struggle to react appropriately to late news. Johnson was clearly the best value play on the slate, but nobody played him. 
2/17 Knicks @ Magic
  • In cash I played Vucevic captain, Randle, Carter-Williams, Rose, Noel, and Gibson. I toyed with playing Randle captain since I thought the Knicks would win, but Vuc outprojected him by a fair bit and is a center, so I thought he was the higher floor option. Little worried if Orlando gets blown out, though. The Knicks are always tricky for me because their guard minutes are unpredictable – I thought Rose in his bench role was the safest, his minutes would be pretty predictable and he’s a strong point per minute producer (though maybe I’m just wary after getting burned by choosing Payton over him last week…). This lineup sadly failed because MCW and Rose shot a combined 3 for 18. Not even sure how you do that as professional NBA players. 
  • The tourney was won in a 2-tie by a roster with Ross captain at 2.8% ownership, Vucevic, Randle, Fournier, Clark, and Bamba. I am glad I didn’t play this tourney because I never, ever would have landed on this roster as a 5-1 onslaught with Bamba, who doesn’t generally play very much, and Clark, who doesn’t generally do anything when he does play.
2/17 Rockets @ Sixers
  • In cash I played Embiid captain, Wall, Harris, Tate, Curry, and Maxey. My choices here were around the last 3 spots – I could have played Cousins/Green instead of Tate/Curry, but Cousins against Embiid is just massive foul trouble waiting to happen, plus his minutes have been super fragile lately, and Curry is a significantly better player than Green (for fantasy purposes, at least). I also could have done something like Curry/Maxey for Green/Korkmaz, but I really felt Maxey is likely to get some good run in this game. We’ll see if I’m right.
  • The tourney had a solo winner with Harris captain at 14.8% ownership, Embiid, Wall, Cousins, Curry, and McLemore at 4.8% ownership. Overall high cumulative ownership at 358.4%, but Harris was low at captain and McLemore was low overall so it led to a nice solo win. There was a 2v2 of this lineup in 2nd place in a 24-roster train that had Embiid captain and then Tate instead of Cousins – this is a great example of how it can take just a modest pivot to achieve massive differentiation and lead to a solo win instead of a 24-way split. 
2/17 Nuggets @ Wizards
  • In cash I went with Jokic captain, Beal, Murray, Wagner, Lopez, and Hartenstein. I felt like locking up all (or at least the vast majority) of the Wizards’ center minutes at a cheap price raised the floor of the lineup, while there was really no way to get all of Jokic/Westbrook/Beal without using a captain I was completely uncomfortable with. Wagner somehow only played 3 minutes in this entire game and got a 0 and yet this roster still almost made it, but fell just short thanks to JaMichael Green going nuts. Damn. 
  • The tourney had a solo winner with Murray captain at 10.4% ownership, Jokic, Westbrook, Bertans, Campazzo, and Hartenstein. This roster is just a fantastic example of how to make a great tournament lineup: the much lower-owned captain choice, and then the more expensive Westbrook instead of the cheaper (and objectively stronger play) of Beal, then a mid-range play who nobody was going to be on with Bertans. What a beautiful roster. 
2/17 Blazers @ Pelicans
  • Didn’t play cash
  • The tourney had a solo winner with Lillard captain at 37.2% ownership, Williamson, Ball, Covington, Jones Jr., and Redick. The pattern we keep seeing hits once again – play the chalk captain, but then fill in with some overlooked mid-range plays – everyone after Williamson came in at low ownership, between 13.1% – 32.7%. 
2/17 Heat @ Warriors
  • Didn’t play cash
  • The tourney had a 32-way tie with Butler captain at 28% ownership, Curry, Adebayo, Oubre, Bazemore, and Achiuwa. Curry slightly outscored Butler, but the price difference between them was key to letting this roster fit. Oubre, Bazemore, and Achiuwa were all pretty low owned, but we still saw a large tie because if you wanted Butler/Curry/Adebayo, there just weren’t a lot of ways to put that together and make it happen. This roster spent every last dollar of salary, which almost guarantees duplication. 
1/18 Raptors @ Bucks
  • In cash with Lowry out I wanted Giannis captain, VanVleet, Middleton, and Siakam. Bembry was the best cheap value option as he was starting, and then I had to decide between Connaughton or Forbes. Normally I lean towards the starter, but Connaughton tends to get a lot of usage when he’s on the floor while Forbes does almost nothing. Tonight Forbes decided to do a lot and outscored Connaughton. I ended up with a sub-1% ROI, which is better than losing, but Forbes would have been a total smash.
  • The tourney was won in a 10-way tie by a roster with Powell captain at 2.1% ownership, Giannis, VanVleet, Siakam, DiVincenzo, and Forbes. Once again we see the trend we’ve noticed so many times of a couple of mid-range guys, Powell and DiVincenzo, going completely overlooked at 26.1% and 25.1% overall ownership, respectively, with Powell putting up a strong enough performance to make him the optimal captain despite being outscored by Giannis. Powell being overlooked here was especially egregious given the massive performances we’ve seen him have on nights when one of the Raptors’ big three didn’t play. 
2/18 Nets @ Lakers
  • In cash I wanted the big 3, which limited my options. I went James captain, Harden, Irving, Harrell, Caldwell-Pope, and then Matthews, who was starting unexpectedly. There were a few options down in this range and they were all equally thin – Jordan/Caruso was an option instead of Harrell/Matthews, but when Jordan and Caruso were both not starting I decided against that one. I could have also just played Morris straight up over Matthews, but erred with the starter there (Morris’s role is pretty shaky and unreliable in the best of circumstances), which is generally where I lean in cash. Harrell had one of his worst games of the season but I was bailed out because a ton of the field had Morris and he only played 10 minutes. 
  • The tourney was won in a 3-way tie by a roster with Harden captain at 25.3% ownership, James, Kuzma, Harris, Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Caldwell-Pope. The ownership was so concentrated on Harden/James/Kyrie in this one (81.3% for Kyrie, 94.4% for James, 94.2% for Harden – roughly ⅔ of all rosters in this tournament had all 3) that simply playing 2 of them was a tremendous way to differentiate. And then, once again, we had overlooked midrange plays with Kuzma at 26.6% despite a nice starting role with Davis out and Harris at 15.5% ownership. 
2/19 Warriors @ Magic
  • In cash I rolled out Curry captain, Vucevic, Oubre, Wiggins, Birch, and Randle. I thought a lot on this one – I thought about Vuc at captain given that he’s a center, which I tend to like a lot, and I thought about Wiggins vs. Fournier for the last spot. I didn’t want to have 4 Magic as the underdog team, and while Vuc’s floor does feel very safe, Steph has outperformed him overall on the year and if any team was going to get blown out here, it would be the Magic, which could cut Vuc’s minutes. I ended up being wrong on both counts here, sadly.
  • The tourney was won in a 2-way tie by a roster with Vucevic captain at 34.3%, Curry, Oubre, Fournier, Okeke, and Wanamaker (interestingly, this wasn’t the optimal lineup, as Mulder outscored Wanamaker by a few points but was $1k, so he would have required leaving more salary on the table). This lineup is a good reminder that some teams have bench rotations that are really hard to predict, and the Warriors are one of the toughest – they have a deep bench and any one of them can have a good game on a given night. Okeke didn’t quite come out of nowhere as he had been playing solid minutes lately, but nobody was on him – everyone was on Birch, the starter, but Birch ended up being ineffective and didn’t get many minutes. Okeke was a sharp pivot from the chalkier Birch at much less ownership. 
2/19 Hawks @ Celtics
  • In cash I was debating Walker captain with Tatum, Brown, Capela, Nesmith, and Thompson (or Gallinari) vs. Capela captain, Young, Tatum, Brown, Nesmith, and Hill. I ended up going with the latter because I didn’t want such an unbalanced roster and I wanted to get to Young, even though he seemed a bit overpriced. This didn’t work and in hindsight was a poor roster – having 2 punts on a roster is really tough, and Jaylen Brown’s projection was not THAT much higher than Kemba’s so I probably shouldn’t have felt so compelled to get him in. 
  • The tourney had a solo winner by a roster with Capela at 23.8% ownership, Young, Tatum, Walker, Robert Williams, and Hill. This was so close to some cash game rosters and yet landed on a solo win – it’s a great example of why we need to have short-term memories in DFS. Williams was chalk on main slate a couple of days ago and didn’t do very well, and then in this Showdown he came in at just 11.9% ownership (and I’m pretty sure nobody played him on main slate, either). Call it “flop lag” or whatever else, but it’s important to not become overly enamored of a guy after a big game, or say “I’m never playing so-and-so again” after a guy fails in a good spot at high ownership.
2/19 Suns @ Pelicans
  • In cash I went with Hernangomez captain, Williamson, Ingram, Paul, Ayton, and Hart. I spent a lot of time pondering Ingram vs. Booker but decided on Ingram based on projection even though he made it a 4-2 roster instead of a 3-3 roster. Normally I don’t like to punt the captain spot in cash games, but with a starting center projecting for 25+ minutes I felt good about this one. This one was a total smash and made up for the previous two fails. 
  • The tourney was won in a 3-way tie by a roster with Ball captain at 4% ownership, Ingram, Paul, Ayton, Crowder, and Johnson. Funny that Crowder was in a Suns Showdown winning lineup yet again – he’s been there a lot this year, almost always at low ownership. And once again we see the mid-range getting overlooked as the field wanted to use Zion and/or Booker, so Ball (and to a lesser extent Ayton) came in much lower owned. 
2/19 Jazz @ Clippers
  • In cash I played Gobert captain, Leonard, Mitchell, Conley, Bogdanovic, and Ibaka – this let me build a roster of all starters with Gobert, Conley, and Ibaka at pretty modest prices. I didn’t want to play Kawhi captain because we know he had a minutes limit (though we didn’t know what it was), and George also had a minutes limit – all of those Clippers returning muddied up the Los Angeles rotation and made me not really want to play anyone there besides Kawhi and the super-cheap Ibaka. This lineup ended up being huuuuge chalk but worked out fine.
  • The tourney was won in an 18-way tie by a roster with Mitchell captain at 23.6% ownership, Leonard, Gobert, Morris, Bogdanovic, and Ibaka. This was just a 2v2 from the common cash lineup – Mitchell captain instead of Gobert, and then Morris instead of Conley. Small pivot off the cash lineup, and using an overlooked mid-range player (Morris was just 13.6% owned) – the common threads keep coming up again and again.
2/20 Warriors @ Hornets
  • In cash I ran Curry captain, Ball, Hayward, Green, Oubre, and Mulder. I would have liked to not use a total punt on this slate, but it was tough to make happen – I wasn’t in love with Green, but going down from him to Washington (who seemed too cheap) didn’t really get me anything. So here we are. Oh, awesome, Steph was ruled out after lock – he’s basically 100% owned in cash but only ~50% owned in captain or so, sooooo….crossing fingers. Mulder started so maybe I’ll get lucky there. Update – this went horribly wrong. Curry out killed me vs. the ~50% of cash lineups that didn’t use him at captain, and then both Green and Mulder completely flopped. 
  • As you might imagine when a guy who is 94% owned in a tournament ends up scoring 0 points, this tourney looked odd. The winning lineup was a 2-way tie with Rozier captain at 11.6% ownership, Hayward, Oubre, Green, Wiggins, and Washington. This wasn’t even the optimal lineup, but the optimal would have left a boatload of salary on the table and nobody did that. 
2/20 Heat @ Lakers
  • These are the kind of Showdowns where I always hate my lineup in cash. LeBron, Butler, and Adebayo were the clear top plays (duh) and then there was this mishmash of mid-range plays who all seemed overpriced. I could fit the big 3 with LeBron captain if I used Caruso, Caldwell-Pope, and Achiuwa…it feels gross but I think it’s the safest median. My other choice was Matthews/Iguodala instead of KCP/Achiuwa, but I feel like KCP’s role is the most stable of all of those guys so I went with that side. This feels like a great “play overlooked midrange guys in tourneys” slate though. A common cash pivot off of this was Horton-Tucker/Mathews instead of Caruso/Achiuwa – I never really even considered that one as THT’s minutes have been so volatile that he wasn’t in consideration for me in cash. Maybe I shouldn’t have been as enamored with Caruso and gone with the lineup that got me an additional starter instead of having multiple bench guys? This didn’t work out well as Mathews decided to remember he was an NBA-level basketball player tonight (even though THT failed). 
  • The tourney had a solo winner with James captain at 43.5%, Adebayo, Harrell, Nunn, Caldwell-Pope, and Matthews. Remember what I said about how I bet the tourney would be won by a roster that faded one of the big 3 and played 2 overlooked midrange guys? Well, Harrell and Nunn came in at 16.1% and 19% ownership, and I would say that qualifies as overlooked. 
2/20 Wizards @ Blazers
  • In cash I ran Lillard captain, Beal, Westbrook, Simons, Lopez, and Hood. Similar to the last one, it was a tough build when there’s a clear top 3 and you’re scrounging for value to make it work – I figured Lopez would be needed to guard Kanter, while the Blazers are thin at guard and that should mean sufficient run for Simons and then it was between Hood and Mathews – Hood should probably play fewer minutes but is more likely to do something useful with them. This went well – Mathews outscored Hood by a point (they both did miserably) after Hood had a completely empty second rotation. 
  • The tourney was won in a 4-way tie by a roster with Jones Jr. captain at 3.8% ownership, Lillard, Westbrook, Kanter, Covington, and Lopez. Pretty interesting roster here as one would think the point of using a cheap captain on this slate would be to use all of Lillard, Westbrook, and Beal, but in this case Kanter and RoCo outscored Beal + whoever else would have fit.
2/21 Celtics @ Pelicans
  • With Adams being out there was really only one cash lineup that made sense to me – Brown captain, Tatum, Walker, Williamson, Hernangomez, and Hayes. I’d rather have had Tatum captain, of course, but that left me in a weird salary place ($200 shy of being able to move from Walker down to Ball). I could have done Ingram/Ball instead of Williamson/Walker with Tatum captain, but I thought Kemba > Ball and Williamson was superior to Ingram since he would also be getting some center minutes (and using Williamson instead of Ingram straight-up in this lineup also helped hedge against Hayes not getting much playing time, because if Hayes isn’t getting C minutes, it’s because Williamson is). This one went frustratingly poorly as Walker took 21 shots (!!) but only made 5, while Brown took 23 shots and only made 7. Just average shooting and this lineup would have smashed. 
  • The tourney was won in a 2-way tie by a roster with Ingram captain at 7.3% ownership, Tatum, Brown, Hart, Thompson, and Robert Williams. This was such a narrow win because Tatum outscored everyone but was the most expensive, while Williamson, Ingram, and Brown all finished super close (and this roster would have afforded any of Williams, Brown, or Ingram at captain). Smart roster that, as we often see, avoided the cheap punts and focused on low-owned mid-range guys with Hart, Thompson, and Williams. One thing I noticed in this tournament is that Hart was about 3% owned in the captain spot, but a full ⅓ of those Hart captain rosters were the same one and it finished in 9th place – another good example of why going “off the board” at captain won’t necessarily buy you differentiation if you follow the most obvious construction that you gain access to by using a cheap captain (if that lineup had won, the tourney would have been split just shy of 100 ways). 
2/21 Sixers @ Raptors
  • In cash I ran Embiid captain, Simmons, VanVleet, Siakam, Bembry, and Baynes. Bembry got me access to cheap starting minutes, while Baynes’ size should be needed in this one to match up with Embiid – even though he’s not starting, he should see a decent chunk of minutes. It always terrifies me not to have Powell on Raptors slates when they’re missing guys (he’s my favorite pivot from the chalk main guys) and I’m willing to bet he’s in the winning tourney line here…we’ll see. Worked out well – and my bet was wrong, Powell had a bad game (shocking it can even happen to him, I know!). 
  • The tourney was won in an 11-way tie by a roster that was my cash game roster (Embiid was 40.9% owned in captain) except with Terence Davis instead of Bembry. A simple 1-for-1 pivot got to a 3.8% owned Davis and landed a score of $1,400 – not shabby!
2/21 Nuggets @ Hawks
  • In cash I played Jokic captain, Young, Capela, Porter, Nnaji, and Hartenstein. I was really struggling with the lineup for this one because I didn’t want 2 punt plays but it was hard to avoid, but then Nnaji was unexpectedly starting and I figured that even though he wasn’t going to play 30+ minutes, he should be safer than someone like Solomon Hill so I rolled with it. This was going well….and then Porter got benched somewhat inexplicably, leading to me getting beat by a construction with Campazzo/Gallinari instead of Porter/Nnaji. Whee. 
  • The tourney had a solo winner with Young captain at 11.8% ownership, Murray, Collins, Barton, Morris, and Okongwu. Let’s break this down because this is a phenomenal tournament roster. First, Young at just 11.8% captain ownership is egregiously low and a great, great tournament option. Second, not having Jokic when he was 92% owned is bold – but again, a great tournament play on a slate with a lot of other strong plays. Third, the overall ownership on this roster was just 175%, which is by far the lowest I’ve ever seen (the previous low was still well over 200%). Fourth, Okongwu at 1% ownership, wow – if you look at his game logs he’s a pretty volatile play but has mid-teens upside at the bare minimum salary, and we should be ok with using volatile plays at low ownership in tournaments. What a great roster and a well-deserved solo win.
2/21 Kings @ Bucks
  • Didn’t play cash.
  • The tourney had a solo winner (remember the last Showdown of the day also has the biggest tourney!) by a roster with Middleton captain at 11.4% ownership, Giannis, Fox, Haliburton, Connaughton, and Jeffries. Haliburton was fairly low owned considering his upside, and Connaughton is a decent bench option who can run hot on any given night, but the real gem here was Jeffries at 9.4% overall ownership. Jeffries was starting, somewhat surprisingly, and he’d only played 18 minutes in his previous start yesterday. But he was also on a minutes limit, and apparently it was removed, because he led the team with a massive 39 minutes in this one and smashed. As a starter, at a cheap price, at sub-10% ownership. What a great tourney play. 
2/22 Bulls @ Rockets
  • In cash I played Wall captain, LaVine, White, Carter, Gordon, and Brown. I would have liked to have had LaVine at captain, but he and Wall were projecting very siimlarly and I could only use Lavine captain if I used PJ Tucker, who is just such a low usage player that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Worked out peachy.
  • This game ended up being a blowout and John Wall, at 96% ownership, ended up not doing very well. The tourney was won by a solo roster with White, LaVine, Wall, Young, Carter, and Nwaba, but a simple pivot from Wall to Tate would have outscored it (albeit by leaving a huge amount of salary on the table). 
2/22 Grizzlies @ Mavericks
  • In cash I played Doncic captain (even though I didn’t use him anywhere on the slate – the pricing just made it not really viable to fade him in cash on this one), Morant, Valanciuas, Anderson, Richardson, and Powell. My choice here was between Anderson/Powell or Hardaway/Winslow for this one –  I opted for the two starters. This one very narrowly failed because Hardaway outscored Richardson and most rosters had one or the other (and meanwhile, Kyle Anderson had one of his worst games).
  • The tourney was won in a 2-way tie by a roster with Morant captain at 10.4% ownership, Doncic, Valanciunas, Richardson, Brunson, and Hardaway. This was a sharp roster – Morant captain (he didn’t actually HAVE to outscore Luka to make this roster work) and then 4 Mavs, betting that the scoring on Dallas would just be more spread out and not entirely concentrated in Luka (which is exactly what happened). 
2/22 Wizards @ Lakers
  • In cash I played James captain, Westbrook, Gasol, Caruso, Caldwell-Pope, and Tucker. The decision point here was Westbrook vs. Beal (I chose Westbrook because he scores in lots of different ways whereas Beal is primarily a shooter) and then Gasol/Caruso vs. Harrell/Morris. While Harrell was clearly a better play then Gasol, I was pretty wary of playing Morris, whose playing time is extremely volatile. Harrell ended up smashing and I lost, finishing up a miserable week of cash games.
  • The tourney was won in a 3-way tie by a roster with Harrell captain at 6.1% ownership, James, Westbrook, Gasol, Caldwell-Pope, and Avdija. Nice roster here that used a cheaper captain to free up some salary and a good example of not needing the highest scoring player in the captain spot to make an optimal roster. Playing Harrell captain got away from some of the shakier value plays like Morris.