The NBA deserves endless credit for offering the richest collection of publicly available statistical data of any major sport. Through SportVU -- which utilizes six cameras installed in the catwalks of every NBA arena -- the league employs software to track the movements of every player on the court and the basketball 25 times per second. I encourage fantasy managers and really any hoopshead to peruse the league's vast player tracking database. Not only can we glean actionable information for both daily and redraft competition, but it's simply fun to know that Jimmy Butler runs 2.8 miles per game at an average speed of 4.3 miles per hour.
From the awesome tracking software we can find the rebounding opportunities for specific players. An opportunity for a board is defined by the number of times a player was within the vicinity (3.5 feet) of a rebound. Not only can we toggle for conversion rates (number of rebounds a player recovers compared to the number of rebounding chances available) but also the percentage and total rebounds that are contested. ESPN Stats & Info finds that the Grizzlies' Zach Randolph leads the NBA in rebound chances per game (20.4) and ranks fifth in contested rebounds per game (5.2). Further, since he returned from a knee injury on Jan. 9, "Z-Bo" ranks third in the NBA with 13.3 rebounds per game and has 13 double-doubles in his last 14 games, including one in every game he played in the month of January. His 13 double-doubles over that time span are as many or more than 20 NBA teams.
While a relatively pricey option in daily fantasy competition, the relative cost certainty of Randolph's rebounding and scoring rates suggests he's one of the safest post investments on the market. For daily formats, Stats & Info identifies Wednesday against the Thunder and Sunday against the Trail Blazers as games to specifically target for Randolph. Both teams rank in the bottom eight in rebounds per game allowed to power forwards, with the Blazers allowing the most in the NBA (6.4).
All-Star weekend switches our traditional seven-day slate in ESPN leagues into a two-week window that counts as one week of competition. Despite the odd formatting, the vast majority of teams still play traditional three- or four-game weeks, with only the Mavericks and Thunder enjoying five-game slates over the two-week view.
"R" matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played as well as home games (T / H), and lists the overall rating from 1-10 for that week's matchups.
Timely Trends: Notes and news from around the league
Daily dealings: Daily fantasy is an exceedingly popular option for fantasy managers seeking differentiation and more opportunities for competition. While football remains a premier sport for daily play, basketball translates really well given such rich nightly slates and a wide spectrum of options and outcomes. ESPN Insiders/fantasy basketball analysts Joe Kaiser and Tom Carpenter are now sharing their daily fantasy picks for both FanDuel and DraftKings on our fantasy hoops blog each day. Be sure to check these cheat sheets out each day before setting lineups.
Nerlens now: ESPN's Ethan Sherwood Strauss has been deftly discussing the Warriors' momentous campaign all season. In a recent piece on the evolution of Golden State's elite defense, Sherwood Strauss details how finding capable wing defenders has become part of a new market inefficiency, with capable post defense becoming a premium akin to power-hitting in baseball: "Part of the reason is big man defense is so outrageously pricey. Shot-blocking is a scarce, expensive resource in the NBA, as evidenced by [Andrew] Bogut's handsome, $12.9 million salary. With few notable exceptions (Rudy Gobert), you're not getting that on the cheap."
Gobert is undoubtedly a rare asset (averaging 2.9 blocks so far in 2015), but we learn from ESPN Stats & Info the 76ers' Nerlens Noel (owned in just 51.7 percent of ESPN leagues) is proving to be a unique asset in his own right and comes in sixth overall on the Player Rater over the past seven days. Since blocks became a statistic in 1973, Noel is just the third rookie to average at least 30 minutes, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals a game (David Robinson 1989-90 and Alvan Adams 1975-76). Noel has been even better in 2015, averaging 2.2 blocks and 1.5 steals in 29.8 minutes per contest.
Eric Gordon, January-February
Player Pickups: Identifying players available in at least half of ESPN leagues
Stats & Info helps to identify some of the greater values widely available on the market:
Joe Ingles (2.8 percent owned in ESPN leagues), Utah Jazz: Since Ingles entered the starting lineup on Jan. 3, he has posted some useful numbers for teams in search of a stat-sheet filler. As a starter, Ingles is averaging 27.6 minutes a game with per-36 averages of 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.5 3-pointers made.
Carlos Boozer (39.7), Los Angeles Lakers: Boozer scored a season-high 28 points in a season-high 37 minutes Wednesday night in the Lakers' first game without Jordan Hill. Hill is expected to miss two weeks with a hip injury, and Boozer could continue to build on a strong past two weeks. Over his last six games, Boozer is averaging 26.2 minutes a game with per-36 averages of 21.8 points and 11.2 rebounds on 55.1 percent shooting from the field.
Donatas Motiejunas (31.8), Houston Rockets: With Dwight Howard ailing and the team needing competent post play, Motiejunas is entrenched in the Rockets' starting lineup for the foreseeable future. In 17 games since entering the starting lineup on Jan. 3, Motiejunas is averaging 30.3 minutes a game with per-36 averages of 16.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals on 55.3 percent field-goal shooting and 37.9 percent shooting from 3-point range.
Jared Dudley (5.0), Milwaukee Bucks: Over the last month, both Dudley and Khris Middleton have taken advantage of Ersan Ilyasova's absence, benefiting from extra playing time and higher usage. Dudley in particular has been a gem for daily fantasy investors given consistently cheap pricing and a noted uptick in production and opportunity. In four straight starts over the past week, Dudley has averaged 14.5 points on a healthy effective shooting rate (65.9 percent) thanks to a usage leap from 14.8 percent to 17.7.
Avery Bradley (28.3), Boston Celtics: Stats & Info finds that Bradley is playing "Smart-er without Evan Turner" when evaluating his splits with teammates Marcus Smart and Turner. Bradley is averaging 15 points per game and shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc in 2015, scoring in double digits in 15 of the Celtics' 18 games. With Smart on the court since the start of the New Year, Bradley is averaging 20.6 points per 36 minutes while shooting 51.6 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Bradley is scoring 2.5 fewer points per 36 minutes and taking a hit in scoring efficiency with Turner on the court.
Opponent Performance, Past 10 games
All statistics are for teams' past 10 games played, and are defensive numbers. PPGA: Points per game allowed. FG%A: Field goal percentage allowed. 3PT%A: Three-point percentage allowed. RPG diff.: Rebounds per game differential. SPGA: Steals per game allowed. BPGA: Blocks per game allowed.