2020-2021 NBA Depth Charts

The NBA depth chart is the model used to separate players into a slotted position. It accounts for all of the rostered talent, highlights the main position of play and contribution, and slots players on a ranking basis according to skill level. The depth chart breaks down into five positions: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. While this is the basic model for construction of a depth chart, most teams will vary this stance. For example, some teams run two forward sets as opposed to rostering a center or some teams feature talents like LeBron James, who can be slotted anywhere within a depth chart. While these variances are prevalent amongst most organizations, the depth chart is usually created off history and tangibles, rather than accounting for variation and change. This is a tool that greatly impacts the fantasy sports world. Roster construction in daily contests may provide an advantage if a player is mislabeled in their position, allowing you to boost your roster of potential scorers. The fantasy sports world also relies heavily on accurate depth charts when it comes to building lineups and creating price tags for each talent.

The start of training camp is when teams start to trim their players for making the active roster or competing on an affiliate level. Most teams compete in summer leagues that send 20-25 guys to compete against opposing teams. These teams are often constructed of players that have limited experience at the professional level or rookies who have just joined the team. This gives the team different looks and slots players into roles that they would be accustomed to at the professional level. Teams usually select a small handful of these players to fill-in active roster requirements, designating the rest for work within the farm systems. Careful selection goes into the assignment process as most players who fail to reach the professional ranks become eligible to be signed by other teams. Once the call-ups are made, the NBA rosters are trimmed to 15 active players.

Roster and depth chart construction are important because they greatly influence the style of play a team has. For example, the Miami Heat are stacked at the forward and center positions, heightening the presence of post play and clogging up the lane on the defensive end. This suits their desired pace and style of play. Other teams will roster three point guards to run offensive sets that favor a player’s skill set. It is basic practice to slot at least 2 players within the depth chart at each position. This creates a starting set and a relief or bench set. Teams that feature higher usage rates at any given position while often beef this position to a 3-man rotation. This rotation is also used for teams struggling to find a player that fits the prescribed, position mold.

The depth chart is also an instrumental piece when it comes to production. A team that is heavy on the forward and center positions is striving for an impact on the defensive end of the court, while a team that goes heavy on guards is shooting for high-scoring affairs. These basic strategies allow teams to find the areas where they produce and combat the weaknesses with the correct collection of talents. While most of these developments are handled during training camps and the off-season, some teams carry out these feelers into the regular season. This is where the farm system comes into play. Teams can game plan far in advance, but in-game competition cannot be fully replicated. If a team starts the season and experiences some woes within division and conference play, they will make adjustments. The pace of play continues to increase, so maybe a team lacks the speed needed to defend the opposition. This will call for a transfer of roles and the addition of talents to combat these new playing styles within the league. Teams also use opposing depth charts to target matchups and angle their perspectives towards victory. This readily available information is a tool that NBA teams use every day to overcome areas where they are lacking.

The depth chart also has high impact in the world of fantasy sports. For example, if a team rosters three point guards, the user will have to take match-ups and usage rates into consideration when rostering these players. Maybe a match-up favors the player that often sees limited court time, producing that diamond-in-the-rough pick that could make the difference in daily fantasy success. Depth charts are also used in fantasy sports to target height and size advantages. For example, the Cleveland Cavaliers like to play small-ball, trotting out a lineup that features players who are all under 7 feet tall. A team may choose to target this will post presence and length. This can go both ways as this now would afford the Cavaliers better looks from outside the paint. These charts can lend advantages on both ends of the court, which often makes it difficult to predict for fantasy players. The best match-ups are the options that feature advantages will other tangibles to counter. If a team features a size advantage in the paint and a speed advantage for transitional, two-way play, the fantasy owner can stack or target this contest for their benefit.

As the NBA continues to evolve, so does the notion of the depth chart. Many teams will choose to keep their construction secretive, offering a depth that only covers guards and forwards. This lends the research and the slotting to the professional researchers. While predicting the mold of the depth chart into a 5-category regime, no expert can correctly assume what a team is going to do on a given night. It becomes even more difficult with the flex options that make up the talent base in the NBA today. For example, the Milwaukee Bucks feature a generational talent in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis is nearly 7-feet tall and plays all positions on the court, ranging from center to point guard. Predicting where he will be slotted on a given night is usually determined by matchups, but this variance cannot be accounted for should a team place him at their desired role. The statistical advantages and numbers often make for the greatest predictors and these factors can be utilized by fantasy owners and opposing NBA teams alike.