3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 2/24/20
"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 Monday's FanDuel main slate.
Trae Young ($9,600) - With so much action and ownership on the Philadelphia 76ers' side of this game, it only makes sense to run it back with the best possible fantasy option on the Atlanta Hawks. With some of the best plays from the 76ers being strong values -- Josh Richardson and Al Horford -- it shouldn't be an issue to plug in Young, who really needs no more digital ink spilled on how marvelous his game has been this year.
If 48 FanDuel points per game over his last nine isn't enough to convince you to play Young (including three games with 59 or more points), there will be no Ben Simmons across the floor to guard him tonight. Simmons has proven to be one of the more versatile and imposing defenders in the NBA this year, frequently guarding the opposing team's best player and forcing them into inefficient shots. Young will now get to deal with the likes of Shake Milton, Alec Burks, or Richardson -- all adequate players but unlikely to slow down Young.
Last times these two teams played, Young rang the 76ers' bell for 72 FanDuel points, and he has the opportunity to approach the ceiling again tonight.
Kawhi Leonard ($9,900) - With Horford and Brandon Clarke hovering around $5,000 in great spots, they are both strongly in play and likely to be chalky options with so much usage missing from their respective teams.
I imagine the trend this evening will be to spend down at the power forward spot, especially considering small forward is likely to be Giannis Antetokounmpo and then a bunch of sub-$6,000 questions marks. Pivoting up in price at the position to Leonard will immediately differentiate lineups that plug and play Horford and Clarke at cheaper price tags. You will have to look elsewhere for value, but a matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies is an elite spot for Leonard.
Leonard has played in one of the two previous matchups between these two teams this season, and while he scored "only" 41 FanDuel points, he shot 8 for 24 from the floor and had an insane 37.1% usage rate -- two and a half points higher than his season average. It's no surprise that he was featured in that game, as the Grizzlies allow the fourth-most FanDuel points to the power forward position and also are bottom five in points and three-pointers allowed to small forwards.
Wherever Leonard is slotted tonight, expect a strong performance, and especially if Paul George misses another game. Under those circumstances, Leonard averages four more FanDuel points and 2.3% more usage per 36 minutes.
Jonas Valanciunas ($7,000) - J-Val has looked lackluster the past two games, but those matchups included the Los Angeles Lakers (fourth-best against opposing centers) and the Sacramento Kings (seventh-slowest team in the NBA) and also included Jaren Jackson Jr., who owns almost a 24% usage rate on the season. Tonight, Jackson will be out of action, and Valanciunas will face the Los Angeles Clippers, against whom he averages better than 46 FanDuel points per game in two matchups this season.
You may not have noticed, but the Clippers have been pretty bad against opposing centers this year, allowing the ninth-most FanDuel points to their opponents, including being bottom 12 in points, rebounds, and blocks allowed. It would be one thing if the Clippers played Ivica Zubac more than 17 minutes per game, but they primarily roll out Montrezl Harrell as their center, whose -0.22 defensive real plus-minus rating ranks 40th among all centers.
With extra interior possessions coming his way in the absence of Jackson, Valanciunas should be able to pay off his mid-range price tag in this matchup. We have him projected right at 5x value with a strong 16-point, 11-rebound double-double.