3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 2/28/20
"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.
Chris Paul ($7,100) - At first glance, I am seeing a lot of Spencer Dinwiddie ($7,300) love on Friday in his one-on-one matchup with the worst defender in the NBA -- Trae Young. It is likely a smash spot for Dinwiddie, but I will also be looking at a straight line pivot to Paul, who has been instrumental recently in keeping the Oklahoma City Thunder positioned as a top-six seed in the Western Conference.
While the Milwaukee Bucks have become more stingy against point guards over recent months, they still allow over 22 points and almost eight assists, three three-pointers, and two steals per game to the position. Paul, back to his ball-dominant ways of yesteryear, has a strong case to reach those numbers this evening based on his recent usage. Paul is now up to 1.17 fantasy points per minute on the season, thanks in part to a 24% usage rate over his last eight games (he is at 22% usage on the season). He is also putting up an offensive rating of 121.6 in that time, second to only James Harden among guards with at least 25 minutes per night.
Our projections love Paul tonight, despite the tough matchup. We have him projected in line with Dinwiddie and behind only Trae Young and Luka Doncic among all point guards.
John Collins ($8,500) - With Trae Young now expected to play tonight, a lot of the attention on the Atlanta Hawks will shift his way, but despite the high-usage Young on the floor, we should not overlook the matchup Collins has tonight. We have been picking on the Brooklyn Nets all season with quality big men, and this is certainly not the night to stop. All three of Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, and Caris LeVert have below-average defensive ratings on the season, and the Nets rank in the bottom half of the league in both offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds allowed. In this soft matchup, Collins has the potential for a ceiling game.
When Young is on the court, Collins' fantasy production is actually better than it is without his point guard. In the scenario without Young, Collins loses more than four fantasy points per 36 minutes, so it actually benefits Collins that Young is suiting up. Young draws so much defensive attention that other players have more freedom to operate. It also doesn't hurt that his game has the second highest implied total on the slate, with a tight 3.0-point spread.
Tristan Thompson ($5,000) - If my assumptions are correct, there will be massive ownership across the four most expensive centers tonight -- Nikola Jokic, Nikola Vucevic, Deandre Ayton, and Rudy Gobert. All four of those have just the nuts matchup on a macro and micro level, that it's hard to imagine that many owners will deviate away from that list, and they will look to spend down elsewhere. So if roster differentiation is your goal, going cheap at center is an automatic way to do it, and Thompson has just the right opportunity to make it work.
Thompson is projected to be one of our top point-per-dollar plays at any position tonight, coming in at more than 6x his price tag. We get the benefit of Andre Drummond missing this game, meaning we should see more than 30 minutes out of his replacement. Thompson is now a full fantasy-point-per-minute producer this year, so minutes in this range means he exceeds any definition of value. Over his last five games, with Drummond in and out of the lineup, Thompson averages slightly more than 35 FanDuel points per game, and with secure minutes tonight, he should have no issue reaching that number in the best implied game environment of the night (237.0 total).
We project only 10 players to have points-rebounds double-doubles tonight, and Thompson is far and away the cheapest of those options.