3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 1/3/20
"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 Friday's FanDuel main slate.
C.J. McCollum ($7,200) - Here is what we know on tonight's slate: Boston Celtics guards and wing players will be chalk with Kemba Walker out tonight. Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside will be chalk, even at their elevated prices because of the stellar matchup against the Washington Wizards. Bradley Beal -- assuming he plays -- will be popular as the game stack correlation to the Portland Trail Blazers. Managers will choose one of James Harden or Russell Westbrook in the most popular game of the night. McCollum seems to be the forgotten man who benefits just as much from the pace and matchup as any of his Portland teammates.
Other than Lillard and Harden, no player on tonight's slate plays more minutes per game than McCollum (36.5), and he has scored more than 33 FanDuel points in seven of his last nine games, topping 40 points on four of those occasions. McCollum gets the double bonus tonight, playing for a team with the highest projected bump to their seasonal points per game and playing against a Wizards team that allows the second-most FanDuel points to the shooting guard position. Washington's opponents this year are shooting a league-best 49% from the field and 38% from three. McCollum is taking more shots this year than in any other season in his career (including seven three-pointers per game) and looks primed to have a massive game even if Lillard and Whiteside also put up strong numbers.
Daniel Theis ($4,400) - Theis and Enes Kanter are the zig when other managers' zag to Boston guards against the Atlanta Hawks. On paper, Theis actually has a better matchup among the Celtics' guards, as the Hawks give up the third-most FanDuel points to power forwards and seventh-most to opposing centers.
Admittedly, the minutes for Theis have been all over the place, as he has played less than 21 minutes in four of his last eleven games. But when he is given minutes he has been able to produce, averaging just under one fantasy point per minute on the season, and he has safely crossed 20 FanDuel points in five of his last eight games. Our projections call for Theis to cross the 5x threshold tonight, coming in as one of our top point per dollar options at the power forward position. Assuming owners have a desire to roster multiple studs tonight, including the one below, lineups will need to include a couple of players in the $4,000 range, and Theis provides the matchup and floor to make it work.
Joel Embiid ($9,200) - I still don't understand how Embiid keeps getting cheaper. He continues to drop to lower and lower prices on the year, despite recently averaging 51 FanDuel points per game in his last ten contests. As a matter of fact, his fantasy points per game have increased by three in the past two weeks, but his price has dropped from $10,900 less than one month ago.
Against the Houston Rockets, there is no reason to fade Embiid at this price. This game and Portland/Washington are the best game environments on the slate, and the Philadelphia 76ers get the benefit of the largest pace bump of any team as Houston ranks second in the league in tempo while the 76ers only rank 19th. Embiid's usage is more than six percentage points higher than any other center on this slate, and with players like Hassan Whiteside more expensive and Nikola Vucevic and Bam Adebayo less than $1,000 cheaper, I can't find a scenario where Embiid is not my highest-owned center on the night.