3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 3/2/20
"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.
Malcolm Brogdon ($6,700) - As long as the San Antonio Spurs keep playing defense like they have for the first two-thirds of the season, I am going to keep rolling out players against them at low ownership. DFS owners continue to have this false impression that the Spurs are a hard-nosed, grind you down team that they are accustomed to from the past 20 years. That is not the case in 2020. The Spurs rank 15th in pace and 24th in defensive rating, and they allow the fourth-most defensive rebounds and seventh-fewest steals in the league.
It's no better against opposing point guards, as they allow the ninth-most FanDuel points and force the third-fewest turnovers to the position. We have to be cautious of small sample box score watching, but according to Basketball Monster, the Spurs have also been the fourth-worst team against point guards in the last 10 days. Brogdon is certainly catching them at the right time, not just for the poor defense but also because of his recent strong offensive production.
Brodgon's consistency gives us even more confidence and provides a baseline upon which we can project a potential ceiling game. Brogdon has scored at least 29 FanDuel points in 12 of his last 13 games, including more than 35 on five separate occasions. The combination of poor defense and recent usage has our projections at 33 FanDuel points tonight, which makes for a nice pivot off of a chalkier Ja Morant.
Aaron Gordon ($7,400) - Typically, when a player sees the type of performance spike that Gordon has over his last 10 games (a 36% increase in FanDuel points over his seasonal average), it is due to a teammate's injury leading to increased usage or a new rotation allowing for increased shots and opportunity.
Not so for Aaron Gordon. In fact, his usage in those 10 games (20.4%) is exactly the same as his seasonal average. So how do we explain at least 41 FanDuel points in six of the last seven, including five games with at least 52? Simply put, he is still scoring at his regular rate but has excelled in every other aspect of his game.
Gordon is averaging 6.2 assists per game (career average of 2.3), 9.1 rebounds per game (6.4), and 2.1 steals-plus-blocks per game (1.4) in those 10 contests, becoming a one man wrecking crew for the Orlando Magic. Call it a revenge tour for the Slam Dunk Contest snub, but whatever the motivation, Gordon seems to have taken his game to another level.
The matchup tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers is a sneaky good one, as the Magic are projected to score 114.75 points (10 more than their season average), and the Blazers allow the most FanDuel points per game to the power forward position, including almost 25 points, 13 rebounds, and three steals-plus-blocks per game. Coming off a $600 price drop since his last game, Gordon will be a key piece of my lineups tonight.
Jonas Valanciunas ($7,200) - The balanced build is looking very appealing tonight as we continue to have tremendous tournament plays in the mid-range that will have lower ownership due to the number of expensive studs. But what will also be key is having a piece of the best game environment of the night -- the Memphis Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks contest has a massive 241 implied total and tiny two-point spread. While a lot of eyes will drift towards the high-priced Trae Young and the value plays of Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Kevin Huerter, and De'Andre Hunter, mid-range plays like Valanciunas might just go overlooked.
In his most recent game, J-Val destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers for 49 FanDuel points, but it was actually the fourth consecutive game that he has increased his fantasy output. This is primarily what led to his $1,000 price increase since that game, but that serves as even more evidence that many owners might be off of the big man tonight.
Beyond the game environment, we can't ask for a better matchup for Valanciunas than against the Hawks tonight. Not only do they allow the most FanDuel points to opposing centers, but as a team they rank 27th in overall rebound percentage, allow the most most blocks per game (6.4), and play at the sixth fastest pace in the league. Sign me up for being overweight on shares of the big man tonight.