3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 1/28/20
"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 Tuesday's FanDuel main slate.
Lonzo Ball ($7,000) - Glancing around the DFS industry today, I don't see much chatter about this game, although the New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers have a lofty 231.5 total and feature two of the bottom six defenses in the league. The key questions in this game are likely to be what will Zion Williamson's minutes be and will Kevin Love rest, opening up opportunity for Tristan Thompson to soak up interior minutes. What will not be a question, however, is Ball's role in this fast-paced, high-flying Pelicans offense (sixth in both pace and points per game).
Ball is on a streak of playing at least 34 minutes in seven straight games and has scored fewer than 31 FanDuel points only once in his last nine contests. That's some sweet New Orleans jazz music to the ears of fantasy-points-per-minute truthers as Ball is now over one fantasy point per minute on the season, including almost three assists and one rebound more per 36 minutes when Zion is on the floor. With Zion, Brandon Ingram, and Jrue Holiday as running mates, the Pelicans have set up the perfect system around Ball, and his top five FanDuel-point performances this season have all come in the month of January. Even with lower usage, he is able to contribute in other areas, and at only $7,000, Ball provides solid salary relief on a slate with limited value plays.
Julius Randle ($7,400) - Tonight we get to combine two of the favorites of this daily article: the consistency and usage of Randle and the absolutely awful frontcourt defense of the Charlotte Hornets. This game is projected to be a slow-paced slugfest, with two teams in the bottom eight in pace this year and an unappealing 209.0-point implied total. All that does for tournament purposes is help drive away ownership, and someone has to score the bulk of the 104 implied points for the New York Knicks. The smart money is on Randle.
Since missing two games earlier this month, Randle is averaging 21 points and 10.5 rebounds per night, also chipping in with more than three assists per game. His usage rate in those eight games has dipped below 28% just one time, and he continues to serve as the most reliable offensive force for the otherwise inconsistent Knicks. The Hornets should pose little threat tonight as they allow the fourth most points to the power forward position and continue to rank in the bottom five in defensive rating, rebound percentage, and opponent field goal percentage. If Randle receives at least the 33 minutes he has gotten in five of the last six games, this could easily become a 50-FanDuel-point night.
Deandre Ayton ($7,700) - With Aron Baynes sidelined for the Phoenix Suns, Ayton has played fewer than 34 minutes just once in his last six games while also throwing up a double-double in five of those six. Our projections see this trend continuing as we have Ayton forecasted for the most minutes of any center on the slate, and we project him to put up a strong 18-point, 12-rebound double-double.
The Suns run into a bit of back luck today, being the likely first opponent to face the Dallas Mavericks with Willie Cauley-Stein as their new center. Cauley-Stein allows almost five fewer points in the paint per game than Dwight Powell did on the season. Fortunately for Ayton, however, Cauley-Stein sees just 22 minutes per night (Ayton is at 32.5), and some of Ayton's best games have come against some of the toughest interior defenses in the league -- 60 FanDuel points against the Knicks, 41 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, and 48 against the San Antonio Spurs. The volume and opportunity for Ayton trumps the tough matchup, which is exactly the combination we are looking for when building out a tournament pool of players.