3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 2/21/20
"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.
Fred VanVleet ($6,500) - It's going to be awfully tough to pivot off of C.J. McCollum tonight with Damian Lillard expected to be out for the next few games, but for a $400 savings, VanVleet might just be the shooting guard we need as an acceptable replacement or pairing in the FanDuel shooting guard slot. While VanVleet may not be able to claim a teammate sitting tonight who has a 30% usage rate like Lillard, there are still plenty of reasons to hop aboard in the Toronto Raptors' matchup with the Phoenix Suns.
We know that like McCollum, VanVleet is going to play a boatload of minutes assuming any kind close matchup tonight. Both guards rank top 10 in the minutes per game (VanVleet is fifth; McCollum is eighth), and both have massive implied totals as favorites tonight (Raptors 118; Blazers 116.5), with both spreads under nine points as of early Friday afternoon. But it's VanVleet who is the player averaging more than one fantasy point per minute on the season, largely because he outpaces McCollum in assist rate (28.1% to 16.3%) and steals (1.9 per game to 0.7), and has a better true shooting percentage, defensive rebounding rate, and overall defensive rating.
The Suns also present just as appealing a matchup as the New Orleans Pelicans, with both teams ranking in the bottom half of the league in FanDuel points allowed to point guards and shooting guards. To top it off, VanVleet projects to be the best point-per-dollar play at the position on Friday night.
Carmelo Anthony ($4,900) - Speaking of ways to pivot off the McCollum chalk tonight, we need to come to grips with the fact that some 'Melo exposure is going to be necessary on this slate. Running a query with Lillard off the floor this season, Anthony's usage (+5.6%), points (+3.03), and rebounds (+0.27) all make significant jumps per 36 minutes with Dame out of the lineup. Rest assured, Carmelo will be chucking tonight, as his shot attempts also spike way up in this scenario. If coach Terry Stotts ever decides to run an offense on the floor that features Anthony and rests McCollum, Carmelo's usage jumps even higher to an elite 30.2%. That scenario is certainly in play tonight.
The Pelicans allow the third-most points and the fifth-most rebounds to the power forward position this season and are bottom 10 in FanDuel points allowed to the position, too. As the highest total on the board, some exposure here is going to be essential tonight, and Carmelo represents a very cheap way to get a lot of usage out of the favored team. Like VanVleet, Anthony also projects to be the best point-per-dollar play at his position tonight.
Rudy Gobert ($8,200) - As discussed in this space before, Gobert is a fantastic tournament play because he doesn't need to create his own shot to get the fantasy points we need for him to reach his ceiling. To recap, among qualified centers, Gobert ranks sixth in defensive rating (105.0), fourth in offensive rating (114.0), first in block percentage (68.7%), third in rebound percentage (20.8%), and first in effective field goal percentage (68.9%). That's all while ranking only 24th in usage rate (16.7%), just a shade behind the formidable Brook Lopez. Gobert only scores on post up plays 4.7% of the time, ranked 102nd in the NBA. For comparison, that number is almost 36% for Joel Embiid. I think you get the point -- Gobert does not need to score to still be effective.
Our projections look for Gobert to be top five among all centers tonight for minutes, rebounds, steals, and blocks, plus chip in almost 16 points -- good for 42 FanDuel points. Tonight's opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, play a large role in that prediction, as they allow 16 rebounds, 4 assists, and more than 2 blocks per game to the center position. With question marks surrounding the scenarios of the top-three spend-up options at center tonight, I am much more in favor of dropping down to a lower-owned Gobert.