5 FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 10/23/19
"One cannot be betrayed if one has no people."
- Kobayashi (in The Usual Suspects)
When it's time to start building DFS tournament lineups, especially for NBA tournaments, the fundamental choice to make is whether or not to buy into the chalk plays of the slate. More than any other sport, the popular plays in NBA are popular for a reason. Minutes lead to usage which leads to production and as long as managers stay on top of injury news, rotation tweaks, and team trends we can typically expect a strong correlation between expected and actual production. There is an appeal in this kind of reliability, leading to chalk plays and concentrated ownership in NBA contests.
Where we often get into trouble in tournaments, however, is when we begin to blindly trust a slate's chalk. Chalk can betray us. We should be agnostic about each player on each slate as we seek to seek put the pieces of the game context puzzle together. This regular piece will focus on tournaments looking through the lens of the projected chalk plays - the usual suspects - of that night's games. The Usual DFSuspects, if you will. In an attempt to understand the context of the slate, we will also uncover a Keyser Soze of the night - a play that looks helpful on the surface, but is not what he appears as we dig deeper.
Let's look at plays for each position on Wednesday's FanDuel main slate.
Kyrie Irving ($9,000) - It won't surprise you to hear that without Kevin Durant, it is going to be Kyrie Irving SZN in Brooklyn this year. In his first test as a member of the Nets, Irving gets a juicy matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves who ranked first in NBA preseason pace at 112.80. On the other side of the ball from Irving will likely be Jeff Teague, a solid point guard in his own right, but whose defensive rating ranked 112th among 126 guards with at least 20 minutes played per game in 2018-2019.
If there was any concern about minutes and usage, those were recently put to rest when coach Kenny Atkinson confirmed he is strongly considering lineups - even end of game lineups - where Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie play together as opposed to cannibalizing each other's minutes. Our models, in fact, have Irving projected for the third-most minutes per game and most real points in any game on Wednesday.
On that note, Dinwiddie looks like an absolute steal at $5,400 against the Timberwolves. The Nets want to get him minutes, and the usage should be all his when he is running the second unit.
Buddy Hield ($7,000) - I assume a majority of the ownership will gravitate towards Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, and Zach LaVine who all have enticing matchups, but I am thinking about dropping down to Buddy Hield and taking the $1,000-$3,000 in savings as he goes head to head with human turnstile Booker.
This game blows away the field in terms of the highest projected total on the board. At an implied 232 points, there will be scoring galore and defense to ignore. This bodes well for players with micro-matchups against poor defensive players. No shooting guard had a worse defensive rating than Booker in 2018-2019. I mean, if you are Booker and have to endure what the Phoenix Suns put you through, would you want to play defense either? Look for Hield to drop three-pointers all over Booker in this matchup - last year more than 49% of Hield's total points were from beyond the three-point line.
Hield received his massive payday, and now it's time for him to prove it. The Sacramento Kings have an outstanding young core with Hield, De'Aaron Fox, and Marvin Bagley III. If they can make some defensive strides coming into this season, this is a dark-horse playoff team out West.
Otto Porter ($6,800) - Small forward is a big pile of meh on Wednesday night, and likely a position where many will look to spend down. RIP FanDuel lowest score drop. We could have used you here. Otto Porter stands out at $6,800 because of the matchup against the lowly Charlotte Hornets and the sheer lack of other small forward options on his team, the Chicago Bulls.
Charlotte ranked 23rd in 2018-2019 in team defensive rating, and 22nd in overall rebounding percentage. Against a poor defensive team, we would hope for a high pace to accompany them, but the Hornets had a pace of only 99.18 last season, ranking 21st in the NBA. But this preseason they are playing at pace north of 105 per game, a significant bump if we learn this style of play translates into the regular season.
Porter set career highs last season in usage, three-pointers, assists, steals, and blocks per game, and while there have been talks about monitoring his minutes, only Chandler Hutchison lurks as a backup to Porter's role. In the early going, the minutes should be safe and tipping off against the hornets should allow Porter to gobble up three-pointers and defensive statistics while Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen handle the bulk of the scoring.
Bam Adebayo ($6,900) - Things at power forward are only slightly better with some of the most expensive options being a player listed as out (Blake Griffin), a player on a dysfunctional new team Julius Randle, a bench player (Bagley), and a unicorn who has not played in more than a year and a half Kristaps Porzingis. Fortunately, the FanDuel gods have blessed us with sleeper of the year Bam Adebayo as a power forward qualifier.
Adebayo may not initially seem attractive in a matchup against the Grit N Grind Memphis Grizzlies, but after finishing dead last in pace last year, the Grizzlies ran 11th in pace during the preseason, putting into practice something they want to emphasize with their new young core and coaching staff. When given the opportunity last season, Bam did not disappoint. During one significant stretch, he ran off 10 of 14 games with at least 30 FanDuel points, often sharing time with Hassan Whiteside. Well, Whiteside has been shipped off to the Portland Trail Blazers, so the bulk of center minutes now belong to Bam. In his limited 23 minutes per game, Adebayo ended the year with the sixth-highest defensive rating among centers. Adebayo is also an underrated source of assists (6th highest assist ratio among centers), rebounds, and blocks - all DFS gold on FanDuel.
Karl-Anthony Towns ($11,000) - Wednesday night's center options give us more choices than a hole in the wall Chinese buffet. But none of them have quite the opportunity of Karl-Anthony Towns, who visits the Brooklyn Nets looking to kick off what many consider will be an MVP-caliber season.
Last year, Brooklyn truly was a buffet for opposing centers. The Nets allowed the fourth-most points in the paint, were 23rd in defensive rebound percentage, 28th in blocks per game, and 27th in allowing opponents second-chance points. Jarrett Allen as an individual defender was an abomination, ranking 36th among centers in defensive rating. Brooklyn added DeAndre Jordan this offseason to try and turn this trend around, but he only played in 19 games last season at 25.9 minutes per game, his lowest since 2012. Jordan is clearly a player on the downside of his career and is not prepared nor equipped to chase Towns all over the floor, including out beyond the three-point line.
Towns' usage last season jumped to an elite 28.9%, and with a full season without having to accommodate Jimmy Butler or any other usage monsters, the stage is set for KAT to feast on opening night.
Keyser Soze of the Night:
Bam Adebayo - That $6,900 price tag is undeniably appealing, especially with so many high-priced studs available, but there are some contextual clues pointing towards us giving Bam the night off. Yes, Whiteside is gone, freeing up opportunity. However, the Miami Heat also added Jimmy Butler to the roster this summer. Whiteside in 2018-2019 was playing only 23 minutes per game with a 22% usage rate. Butler takes his talents to Miami as a consistent 33-36 minutes per game player, demanding 23-24% usage. Goran Dragic and his 23% usage are also still lurking to take precious opportunities away from the rest of the roster.
Adebayo, even when given minutes, only saw 15% usage last season and had a worse offensive rating than Tristan Thompson, Alex Len, Robin Lopez, and JaVale McGee. Even in a watered down field of power forwards, better buy-low options are potentially Robert Covington ($6,400) or Domantas Sabonis ($7,100) in a matchup where he avoids Blake Griffin.