3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 2/20/20
"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 Thursday's FanDuel main slate.
Zach LaVine ($9,200) - The latest injury report from the Chicago Bulls listed seven players as out for Thursday's game against the Charlotte Hornets, including the Bulls with the third-, fourth-, seventh-, eighth-, and 10th-highest usage rates on the team. As was the case before the All Star Break, the scoring load for any Bulls game with this type of depleted roster is going to fall heavily on LaVine and his 31% usage rate. He has scored at least 43 FanDuel points in three of his last four games and is scoring at a rate 11% higher than his season average in his last five games.
With guards such as James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, and Jimmy Butler on the slate tonight, ownership could be depleted for LaVine due to his highest price of the season. Another factor that might keep ownership down tonight is the relatively low total in the Bulls-Hornets game. At only 210.0 implied points, it comes in much lower than other contests tonight, but with a low 4.0-point spread and the Hornets ranking 26th so far this season in team defensive rating, LaVine's opportunity should be able to overcome a poor game environment.
Eric Gordon ($4,500) - I am assuming Gordon plays tonight, but with a questionable tag in the last game of the night on a site that does not allow late swap, throwing in some shares of Gordon is the perfect cheap tournament pivot off of a chalkier Jae Crowder or Kyle Anderson (both also $4,500). Small forward is a bit of a land mine on tonight's FanDuel slate, so I am planning to either go all the way up for Giannis Antetokounmpo or go down to the cheap range with Gordon and other value options.
Thanks to recent injury and relative under-performing play, Gordon is at his cheapest price in a month. Before the injury in his last game, however, Gordon averaged over 32 minutes per game in his last eight, and he should continue to see that amount tonight as the Houston Rockets still need to work in DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green to the rotation. The Golden State Warriors allow the 10th-most FanDuel points per game to the small forward position, which is a trend that should continue after adding Andrew Wiggins, who boasts the second-lowest defensive rating of his career this season and ranks 77th among all small forwards in real defensive plus-minus. The Warriors also allow the fourth-most made three pointers to the small forward position this year, so if Gordon is active, it should be bombs away for him tonight.
Marquese Chriss ($5,900) - Playing centers against the Rockets has been a risky game since they embraced the ultra small-ball lineup. Only one opposing center has logged more than 29 minutes versus Houston over their last six games, as opponents are trying to figure out how to guard all levels of the three-point line.
Despite this trend, centers are still averaging 22 points, 15 rebounds, and more than two blocks per game against the Rockets this year. Will these numbers decrease as teams continue to play matchups against Houston? Perhaps, but that's part of what makes Chriss such an appealing tournament option today.
Chriss has played fewer than 25 minutes in just one of his last eight games, and he has scored more than 35 FanDuel points per game in his last five, an astounding 61% higher than his seasonal average. His usage rate has been 24% since the trade deadline as the Warriors are working him as a more featured part of the offense. It is certainly possible that Chriss could be game-scripted out tonight and the Warriors go small with Draymond Green at the center spot, but if Golden State chooses to stick with Chriss, he should be able to have his way in the paint. In the least surprising stat ever, the Rockets rank 28th in rebound percentage over their last five games.