3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 12/9/19
"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 Monday's FanDuel main slate.
Russell Westbrook ($10,200) - While all eyes tonight will likely be on the trifecta of James Harden, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Kemba Walker, Westbrook and his recent hot streak may go overlooked. Westbrook has kicked things into another gear in the past couple weeks, averaging more than five fantasy points per game over his season average, even while playing alongside Harden and his have-to-see-it-to-believe-it 40% usage. In fact, Westbrook's usage this season is higher than last season when he played for the OKC.
In a game with the second-highest implied total on the night, Westbrook finds himself matched up with the Sacramento Kings and a hobbled Cory Joseph who ranks in the bottom 25 among all NBA guards in defensive rating. As he defers to Harden this year, Westbrook has learned how to maximize his game. Compared to 2018-2019, he is shooting more two pointers, fewer three-pointers, accumulating more of his points in the paint, and shooting a significantly higher number of free throws. This type of offensive mix makes him a very dangerous player to fade tonight.
Joe Ingles ($4,300) - With Mike Conley out again, Ingles has been a surprise beneficiary as he has been asked to facilitate the offense with regularity. In his past three games in this new role, he has produced two stellar performances (both over 37 FanDuel points) and one poor performance. The question is which one will we see tonight? My prediction is that we see another strong performance, with the rock bottom price being the tipping point for me.
Over those last three games, Ingles has crossed the 20% usage threshold twice, his only two times to do that all season. He also has his two highest assist percentage games of the season in that timeframe, aided by getting increases playing time with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. The Oklahoma City Thunder present only a mediocre matchup for point guard and small forwards (Ingles' natural position), but with a defined role for at least one more night, the Aussie should have no issues reaching value in a competitive home game.
Jonas Valanciunas ($8,800) - There is no player on tonight's slate that has increased his performance over the last two weeks more than Valanciunas. On the season, he averages 30.48 FanDuel points per game. In his last five games, that numbers shoots all the way up to 44.88, which includes a 20 point dud against Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz two nights ago.
Any center can be forgiven an off night against the two-time defensive player of the year, but now Valanciunas rolls into a game against the Golden State Warriors and their trash heap of center options. The Warriors allow more than 20 points, 16 rebounds, and almost three blocks per game to the position per game, as they have somehow managed to roster two centers who both rank in the bottom ten in defensive rating at the position -- Willie Cauley-Stein and Kevon Looney. Ja Morant back in action tonight presents a risk for all Memphis Grizzlies players, but hopefully, his drive and dish game opens up easy opportunities for Valanciunas.
Keyser Soze of the Night
Jonathan Isaac ($7,400) - In his last five games, Isaac has faced the Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors, and Toronto Raptors (who give up the third-most FanDuel points to the small forward position). But despite this elite slate of matchups, Isaac has only scored more than 29 fantasy points one time. Tonight, against a Milwaukee Bucks team that only allows 34.7 FanDuel points to the position per game, Isaac should have a tough time reaching any sort of necessary value to pay off a $7,400 price tag.
In a game where he will be consistently guarded by either Khris Middleton or Giannis Antetokounmpo, and with the Orlando Magic 12.5 underdogs on the road, I expect Isaac's downward spiral to continue -- over the last two weeks, he averages more than three fantasy points per game less than his season average.