3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 2/11/20
"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.
James Harden ($11,300) - Harden as a tournament play? Isn't he projected for the rawest points at any slate he is on? Yes, he is, including tonight. How can he be a tournament play instead of a cash staple? Well, I will be very curious to see how many lineups tonight jam in one or both of Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine in what is basically a DFS player's dream matchup between the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards. The appeal of these two shooting guards is simple: they come in at a $1,500-$2,300 discount from Harden and match up in a game with a 230-point implied total and small three-point spread.
Other factors surely push Harden down the priority list as well. He has had an uneven last couple weeks and has scored less than 45 FanDuel points in five of his last nine games as Russell Westbrook has gobbled up a larger piece of the usage pie. Harden has a tough matchup against the Boston Celtics who dominate defensively against both point guards and shooting guards. Both Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart rank in the top-15 of defensive rating for all guards with at least 25 minutes per night.
Despite these factors, however, it's actually the Houston Rockets and Celtics game that boasts the largest implied total of the night, currently half a point higher than Bulls-Wizards. And while Harden's outward production has been a roller coaster, the usage has not wavered. It has also been an unusually rough shooting slump for Harden. Harden averages a 53.4% effective field goal percentage on the year, but has been lower than that number in nine of his last 11 games. Over time, this will undoubtedly improve. He also enters tonight's game without Eric Gordon, who averages 13 shots and a 21% usage rate per game. Those shots have to go somewhere, and they sure aren't going to P.J. Tucker and Thabo Sefolosha.
Both Harden and Westbrook should have massive games tonight, and I want to make sure I don't miss out in tournaments.
Derrick Favors ($5,600) - If Brandon Ingram were to sit tonight, I am planning to jam in some healthy amounts of Derrick Favors and Zion Williamson. The Portland Trail Blazers struggle mightily against big men, ranking in the bottom half of the league in FanDuel points allowed to both positions, Plus they start some guy named Carmelo Anthony at power forward, whose defensive rating ranks 403rd among all NBA players this season. Hassan Whiteside hasn't been much better, as his defensive rating ranks 26th out of 31 centers with at least 25 minutes per game.
At a low price tag tonight we need to sure we get some sense of a strong floor, with a potential for a high ceiling. Favors has scored at least 25 FanDuel points in eight of his last 11 games, including one game of 43 and one game of 53. That is the ceiling we hope Favors can produce tonight with Ingram on the bench. With Ingram off the floor, Favors' points, rebounds, and usage per 36 minutes all go up and he averages over 4.5 additional fantasy points per 36 without Ingram. While plenty of owners will be reaching up for Zion, Jayson Tatum, and LaMarcus Aldridge tonight, don't be afraid to take the savings with Favors and potential increased opportunity.
Steven Adams ($5,200) - As we have covered many times before, this is decidedly not the same San Antonio Spurs team from the first 15 years of this century. They still play a quality, disciplined brand of fundamental offensive basketball (ranked 12th), but they also frequently fall apart on defense, proven by their rank of 25th in team defensive rating and 21st in opponent field goal percentage. Specifically, they have transitioned into a squad that simply can't rebound at the same level as their opponents. They allow the fifth-most defensive rebounds per game to their opponents, which means it is no surprise that they are dead last in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage.
Enter Adams, who has the ninth-best rebound percentage among all qualified centers this year, and scored 14 points with nine rebounds the last time these two teams met -- good for 31.25 FanDuel points. The Thunder have not yet embraced the three-point revolution as of yet, as they score the seventh most points from two-point range on the season. This feeds right into Adams' strengths, as he scores 82% of his points from inside the paint where he will bang with Aldridge, whose defensive real plus-minus ranks 39th among all centers.
As the only game on the slate with a total under 224.5, this matchup should go overlooked as owners trend towards the more appealing game environments, so any play here should qualify as low owned.