5 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 10/25/19
"One cannot be betrayed if one has no people."
- Kobayashi (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. Where we often get into trouble in tournaments, however, is when we begin to blindly trust a slate's chalk.
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 Keyzer Soze of the night - a player 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 Friday's FanDuel main slate.
Ja Morant ($7,100) - The Memphis Grizzlies are who we thought they were, at least one game into the season. The new regime kept promising a faster pace and more possessions, and sure enough, they outran the rest of the league with a 114 pace in their first game. Ja Morant's debut was exceptionally strong, scoring 24.8 FanDuel points in only 25 minutes, but more importantly, it was coupled by a 31.7% usage rate -- a better mark than LeBron James, Joel Embiid, and Damian Lillard. Our models expect Morant to jump up to more than 27 minutes by Friday's game, which comes with a nice bump in projected fantasy points.
Their opponent, the Chicago Bulls, did not show well defensively in their first game. Only the Hornets were worse than the Bulls in defensive efficiency as they allowed an inexperienced Charlotte team to score 126 points in regulation. At a $2,500+ discount from the point guard studs on the slate, Morant offers a decent floor at this price for as long as the Grizzlies stay committed to showcasing him. Eventually, his ceiling will start to emerge with more minutes, and at home against Chicago might be just the place for a break out from the rookie.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($6,800) - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's first game with the Oklahoma City Thunder was a smashing success. He scored 32 FanDuel points accompanied by 32.5% usage - far and away the highest on his new team (Chris Paul was second with 24.3%).
As I try to read the tea leaves, it seems Devin Booker ($8,800) without Deandre Ayton, and Jrue Holiday ($8,700) without Zion Williamson, should draw the bulk of the ownership. Owners might be somewhat apprehensive about dropping down to the lesser-known commodity in SGA. If I am looking to differentiate my lineups at the shooting guard position, however, I have no hesitation taking Gilgeous-Alexander in a matchup against Bradley Beal, who ranked 78th among shooting guards last year in defensive real plus-minus.
Kelly Oubre ($6,400) - Without Ayton for the next 25 games of the season, Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre are going to become popular plays in any contest on any slate: cash games, GPPs, showdown, 3-Man, you name it. With LeBron James and Pascal Siakam both facing tougher defensive matchups on Friday, dropping down several thousand dollars seems like the prudent move to acquire Oubre, who stuffed the stat sheet on Wednesday night.
The Suns will likely look to tighten their rotation sans Ayton -- going small at times with a lineup of Rubio-Booker-Bridges-Oubre-Saric that can run most teams out of the gym. With Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren no longer filling the wings for the Suns, this looks to be Oubre's opportunity to flourish. It will be interesting to see how the Phoenix Suns choose to match up with a big team like the Denver Nuggets, but you can bet the house that Oubre will see more than the 30 minutes he played on Wednesday.
Kristaps Porzingis ($8,500) - Tucked quietly in between three of the heroes from the first three nights of the NBA's opening week is a unicorn who finally got to spread his wings after a year and a half away from competitive basketball. While each of Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, and Lauri Markkanen all scored at least 49 FanDuel points, Kristaps Porzingis efficiently scored almost 33 FanDuel points in only 29 minutes of action on Wednesday, along with a top-15 usage rate of 32.9%. In fact, Luka Doncic and Porzingis combined for 70% of the Dallas Mavericks' usage in game one -- those two are the Dallas offense.
When we last saw Porzingis, he was averaging over 1.1 FanDuel points per minute in 2017-2018. When we last saw the New Orleans Pelicans, they gave up 34 points, 18 rebounds, and five assists to Pascal Siakam on Tuesday. In 2018-2019, Brandon Ingram ranked 44th among all power forwards in defensive plus-minus, so he will have his hands full with the versatile Porzingis all night long.
Nikola Jokic ($10,800) - For as fun as the Phoenix offense should be to roster in the coming weeks, it is going to be just as enjoyable to deploy offenses facing the Suns, particularly centers. With Ayton out, there is absolutely zero shot-blocking and rim protection on their roster, and no one who can come close to the size and strength of Nikola Jokic. He makes for a strong pivot off of Karl-Anthony Towns and his tasty matchup against the Charlotte Hornets.
Despite three quick fouls on Wednesday, Jokic ended up with 34.6 FanDuel points in only 23 minutes, continuing a pattern from last year when he averaged 1.5 FanDuel points per minute. Last year, the Suns allowed the most FanDuel points in the league to the center position, at more than 60 per game, a trend I anticipate we will see continue on Friday night and at least until Ayton is back on the roster.
Keyser Soze of the Night
Jamal Murray ($7,100) - Not everyone on the Denver Nuggets will have the same success as Jokic against the Suns. In 2018-2019, Ricky Rubio ranked fourth among all guards with at least 25 minutes per game with a 104.1 defensive rating. His aggressive, demanding style of defense was purposefully brought in to help the young Phoenix squad focus on locking down players in their one-on-one matchups. Despite the opening night loss, Rubio's presence is already being felt in the desert. He held rising star De'Aaron Fox to eight points, five assists, one rebound, and five turnovers.