3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 12/3/19

Damian Lillard's ceiling can match the upside of any other stud guard on this slate. Who else should we be targeting in tournaments?

"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 Tuesday's FanDuel main slate.


Damian Lillard ($9,000) - All of the hype around the industry today is hyper-focused on the Dallas Mavericks-New Orleans Pelicans game, and rightly so. It has a robust 233 total with a slim 4.0-point spread and features plenty of stars with upside for ceiling games. But lost in that hype is the appeal of three other similarly strong games, each with large totals and enough stars and values to fill several rosters. Beginning with the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers, I will examine a play from each of those games that stands out as a reasonable pivot.

Prior to missing a couple games with a back injury, Lillard averaged almost 49 FanDuel points over a 10-game stretch. He was playing at the elite scoring and assisting level we have come to see over the past few years. In his four games back, however, he has scored slightly fewer than 40 FanDuel points per contest. During that time, he played four games over six days while trying to get back into game rhythm.

Now, he has had three days off and should be fully healed and ready to take his 30% usage rate and 1.29 fantasy points per minutes into a competitive, fast-paced affair against the Clippers.


Rudy Gay ($5,300) - You're telling me I can have a power forward for $5,300 against the Houston Rockets in a pace-up game with no LaMarcus Aldridge? Well I just found a way to get Luka Doncic and Brandon Ingram into my lineups. Gay had already received an increase in minutes recently, averaging 27 per game in his last three, and now he will be asked to fill the Aldridge-sized hole in the San Antonio Spurs' lineup as they try to keep up in a 10-spot pace-bump game.

The Rockets have struggled all year long against power forwards, ranking fourth worst in FanDuel points allowed per game to the position. More specifically, they allow the fourth most points, third most rebounds, and most assists in the league. Gay, in his limited minutes this season, is producing on offense. He has the second best effective field goal percentage and second best true shooting percentage of his career, as he has decided to take not only good shots but valuable shots in the Spurs' offense.


Thomas Bryant ($6,300) - Without Nikola Vucevic over the last three weeks, the Orlando Magic's season long defensive rating (103.7) has dipped to (106.7) as they seek to fill his defensive presence (top 10 among all centers with at least 25 minutes per game), which anchored the interior.

Bryant's Washington Wizards, on the other hand, are seemingly trying to set some kind of scoring record, as they now run the fastest pace in the league and are third in the league with almost 119 points per game. The trouble is, they also have the worst defensive rating in the league and are playing catch up every night, ensuring that every game -- including against the plodding Magic -- looks like the 1980's Denver Nuggets are playing the early 2000's Phoenix Suns.

Case in point: the Magic are implied to score 11 more points than their season average tonight. Any piece of this game has the opportunity to be useful, especially one that is priced well below $7,000.

Keyser Soze of the Night

Nikola Jokic ($8,900) - This one comes down to two simple factors: pace and matchup. The Denver Nuggets play at the slowest pace in the league, and they face a team that is also in the bottom 10 in pace, one that also brings in a league-leading team and positional defense to the matchup.

The Los Angeles Lakers have been on another level all season with their defense against centers. Their 41.19 FanDuel points allowed to the position is more than 10% better than the Toronto Raptors, who rank second (45.38 points).

Jokic has crossed 40 fantasy points only once in his last seven games, and he has seen his usage rate drop three percentage points from his career high last season. There are four other rotational players on the Nuggets who have at least a 20% usage rate, as they have played a slowed-down, spread-the-ball type of basketball that doesn't ask Jokic to do too much of the scoring.