3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 12/18/19
"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 look at lower-owned plays that help you gain leverage against the competition.
Let's look at plays for Wednesday's FanDuel main slate.
Chris Paul ($7,900) - I just can't see many people pivoting to Paul when Ben Simmons is only $8,000 and Kemba Walker is cheaper at $7,600. But Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder actually have the best matchup of those three guards, and they walk into one of the best pace-up spots of the night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Over the past two weeks, Paul has scored 6.4 points more than his FanDuel seasonal average, and he has scored 44.8 FanDuel points per game over his last six games. Ja Morant rates out as a mediocre individual defensive opponent (108.7 defensive rating), but it's the shift in Paul's involvement this month that has made the real difference in the increased scoring. His minutes, usage, and assist rate are all up this month as he has become a more focal part of the offense. Tonight is a great opportunity to take advantage before his price continues to escalate.
Jayson Tatum ($7,500) - Whether you consider Tatum a small forward or power forward, his matchup against the Dallas Mavericks looks excellent tonight. The Mavericks are among the 10 worst in both FanDuel points allowed to small forwards and power forwards on the season. All three of Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis and Dwight Powell rank in the bottom half of defensive rating for forwards this year. The Mavericks also give the Boston Celtics a seven-spot pace bump tonight, especially considering the game is in Dallas.
With all of the constant roster churn for the Celtics this season, Tatum has been a rock and the most reliable offensive force. He ranks fourth among all forwards in usage on tonight's slate and is averaging a strong 34 minutes per game and more than a point per minute. This month, that output has increased as Tatum has scored 40.3 FanDuel points per game in December. His price is the lowest we have seen since last month, so on a slate devoid of top power forward options, Tatum provides elite upside at a midrange price.
Joel Embiid ($9,400) - There's some real tension here with this pick as there are strong cases to be made on both sides of the rostering decision. On the negative side of the ledger, Embiid faces one of the two toughest teams against centers this season. The Miami Heat are top 10 in fewest points, rebounds, assists, and blocks allowed to centers as Bam Adebayo has turned into a top-10 center in terms of overall defensive rating. In addition, for an elite, top-dollar player, Embiid has only scored more than 48 points once in his last six games and has also sat out a couple games with various ailments.
But boy, does the plus side outweigh the negative tonight. For some reason (presumably the matchup), Embiid's price was adjusted to the lowest it's been all season. He is now priced the same as Hassan Whiteside and lower than Nikola Jokic. Karl-Anthony Towns may have the better matchup tonight, but Embiid comes at a $1,400 discount. There is no slate where the positional leader in usage who averages more than 1.5 fantasy points per minute and is playing at home should be this cheap.
With these competing forces, I can't tell if he will be chalk on FanDuel or not, but don't miss the opportunity to take advantage of Embiid at the cheapest we are likely to see him all season.