3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 12/20/19

"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 Friday's FanDuel main slate.


Ben Simmons ($7,900) - The way to be contrarian tonight is simple. Don't play any Toronto Raptors. The way to get really contrarian? Play a point guard in the toughest matchup possible in terms of FanDuel points allowed. The only area where the Dallas Mavericks struggle against point guards is in three-pointers made, and they certainly aren't going to have to worry about that with Simmons tonight.

But up against this tough matchup, the FanDuel pricing pendulum swung way too far in the other direction. Simmons is under $8,000 for at least the first time since last season. As pointed out here before, Simmons can find his way to reaching value in so many ways besides scoring, and our projections agree that those contributions will continue. We have Simmons projected to score the third-most FanDuel points among point guards tonight and also be the fifth-highest point-per-dollar option at the position. He is projected first or second among the position in rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.


Domantas Sabonis ($8,300) - Here is another player who will likely be supremely overlooked as managers try to decide which of the three Raptors' power forwards they want to roster tonight. Sabonis has averaged almost 42 FanDuel points per game in the month of December, and our projections put him right around that number tonight with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and three assists.

The Sacramento Kings rank 24th in the NBA in rebound percentage and 23rd in opponent field goal percentage, matching up well with the Indiana Pacers' attack. The Pacers rank fifth in the league in field goal percentage, primarily because they rank second in percentage of their team shots as two-pointers. With little resistance towards Sabonis' two primary assets -- scoring and rebounding -- this sets up well for an under-the-radar ceiling game for the power forward.


Nikola Vucevic ($7,700) - The defensive numbers haven't quite been there for the Portland Trail Blazers this year. They rank 21st in defensive rating and allow the ninth-most FanDuel points to opposing centers -- all factors contributing to their disappointing 12-16 record.

Vucevic, on the other hand, seems to have no minutes restriction post-injury, playing 32 and 33 minutes in his last two games. At almost $2,000 cheaper than the Joel Embiid-Nikola Jokic-Andre Drummond combo, our projections have Vucevic as the third-best point-per-dollar play for centers on the night with a strong 19 points and 11 rebounds. Much like Simmons, there is no reason for Vucevic's price to be below $8,000, so take advantage of the holiday discount before the price starts rising.

Keyser Soze of the Night

Karl-Anthony Towns ($10,600) - With KAT the highest-priced player on the slate by $800 while also battling a knee injury, this really doesn't look like the spot to pay all the way up, despite the stellar production we have seen from Towns this season. As of Friday morning, there is still a question as to whether or not Towns will play, but even if he does, this doesn't look like the right opportunity to invest.

Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is the fourth-best true center this season by defensive rating, and he is one of the true big bodies who can muscle up to Towns but who is also comfortable playing closer to the wing or the perimeter. In Friday's game (in the Denver altitude), the Minnesota Timberwolves will see a gigantic 25-spot pace drop and are projected to score more than 10 points fewer than their season average. In wouldn't surprise me if Towns is ruled out prior to this game, but a subpar game is also just as likely if he suits up.