3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 2/12/20
"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 Wenesday's FanDuel main slate.
Ricky Rubio ($5,900) - Tread carefully out there tonight, DFS players. This is a tricky night as any number of mysterious ailments or personal issues can pop up last minute in an effort to get a player an extra day or two of rest through the long All-Star break. I think we will be fine with Rubio, as he recently missed a couple of games for the birth of his child, and the Phoenix Suns have nothing to play for this year. With Deandre Ayton possibly out tonight (again, why would they play him?), we can point to the last game the Suns played for some context.
With Ayton on the bench against the Los Angeles Lakers, Rubio scored 26 FanDuel points in less than 25 minutes, playing less than his normal 31 minutes per night because of a blowout. At that rate, he would have scored 31.9 FanDuel points in a full allotment of minutes, exceeding 5x value both on his salary last game and his salary tonight. But what is most encouraging about Rubio's game tonight is his production when both Ayton and Kelly Oubre are off the floor. Oubre moved to a bench role in the Suns' last game, meaning Rubio and Oubre only shared the floor for a limited amount of time. On the season, with both Ayton and Oubre off the floor, Rubio sees a 3.6% usage rate increase, essentially sharing the scoring duties with Devin Booker.
The matchup tonight against the Warriors should be much more manageable than it was against the Lakers. Golden State allows the third-most FanDuel points per game to the point guard position, leading our projections to believe Rubio to be a top-three point-per-dollar play at his position.
Julius Randle ($8,600) - This play might have slightly more ownership than we would typically prefer in tournaments, but I believe a larger share of managers will default to either Serge Ibaka (if healthy, and at $6,400) or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (if Ibaka sits) at power forward in a can't-miss matchup against the weak Brooklyn Nets' frontcourt. If owners do their research, they will see that the Washington Wizards are top-five in most FanDuel points allowed to four out of the five positions on the floor. Where they have their best success is at power forward, where they allow the 13th-fewest points -- a small piece of data that might help draw some percentage of owners away from Randle.
But for my money, the game environment for Randle far exceeds any potential matchup problems for the New York Knicks. This game posts the third-highest total on the board and a minuscule 2.5=point spread. It's more appealing on the Knicks' side as they receive an 18-spot pace bump and are projected to score more than 10 points over their season average tonight. There is no one on the New York roster that comes within five percentage points of Randle's usage this season. If the Knicks are going to come close to their 116 implied team total, Randle is going to contribute in a significant way -- likely scoring closer to his past five-game average of 44 FanDuel points, instead of his seasonal average of 36.
Hassan Whiteside ($8,800) - You can bet your next paycheck I will have some exposure to Andre Drummond and Karl-Anthony Towns in unbelievably strong matchups tonight. For $1,500 cheaper, however, Whiteside is the much better point-per-dollar play and has a projected ceiling just a hair under those two centers. Last night against the New Orleans Pelicans, Whiteside scored 39.3 FanDuel points in only 27 minutes of action (1.46 points per minute), essentially sitting the entire fourth quarter. He was the highest owned center in that matchup, and tonight's environment might just be even better. Fortunately, Drummond and Towns will likely dominate the center conversation today, while Whiteside hype will get drowned out.
No other game tops this matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Memphis Grizzlies, currently projected at 235.5 total points. In addition, the Heat receive a seven-spot pace bump, matched up against the fourth-fastest team in the league. Whiteside has only one game in his last seven where he scored under the 39 FanDuel points from last night (and he was on pace for 48 points), and now faces a Grizzlies team that allows 22 points, 15 rebounds, and more than 2 blocked shots per game to the center position. Don't be surprised if Whiteside rolls into the All-Star break with a line that looks very similar tonight.