3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 7/31/20

Welcome back, NBA! For the next several weeks, we get the bubble-wrapped version of the top 22 teams in the association as they look to finish up the 2019-2020 season.

When it's time to start building DFS tournament lineups, especially for NBA, 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 the 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 of that night's games. 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.

With a maximum of eight games per night from now until the end of the season, it will be even more important to determine where we should differentiate against the field.

Let's look at plays for Friday's FanDuel main slate.

Projected Chalk

With Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton out for the Milwaukee Bucks, you can bet there will be heavy ownership on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, even if they do end up playing fewer minutes than what we saw before the shutdown.

The last game of the night features a DFS players' dream with the Houston Rockets matched up against the Dallas Mavericks. This game has superstars, value plays, fast-paced play, and possessions galore. There will likely be heavy ownership on all three of the studs -- James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Luka Doncic -- while stacking the game with value plays such as Danuel House Jr.. Throw in one unicorn (Kristaps Porzingis), and this game has the makings of a shootout.

How do we navigate this chalk? Let's find out.


Ja Morant ($6,300) - One of the most important factors to consider as we evaluate teams left in the bubble will be what is their motivation, if any, for the remaining eight games.

There is no doubt what will be motivating the Memphis Grizzlies as they look to hold off an upstart New Orleans Pelicans team and an experienced Portland Trail Blazers squad from taking over the eighth spot in the Western Conference. And who do they face right out of the gate, but Portland, who is just 3.5 games back of the Grizzlies as play resumes.

This looks to be a stellar spot for Morant to resume his strong rookie season. The Trail Blazers allow the eighth-most FanDuel points per game to the point guard position, as Damian Lillard ranks bottom 15 in defensive rating among all guards who play at least 28 minutes per game.

We can take advantage of the soft pricing for Morant in addition to the matchup on Friday. Morant was hovering around $6,900 each slate in his five games before the shutdown, and he now comes in at only $6,300 despite torching the Blazers for 40.5 FanDuel points in their first meeting in February.

With an extra 12 pounds of muscle on his frame and a chip on his shoulder, look for Morant to come out firing against Portland.


Richaun Holmes ($3,900) - No inadvertent DoorDash delivery is going to keep Holmes off of my lineups on Friday night. With Marvin Bagley III out for the restart and Alex Len injured, Holmes should be able to play plenty of frontcourt minutes in the Sacramento Kings' remaining games.

In his last matchup with the San Antonio Spurs, Holmes dropped 52.3 FanDuel points on this team at a price almost double what it is on Friday. With the youth movement fully on for the Spurs, expect even more of a pace-up game than San Antonio was running before the shutdown. Thru their first 63 games, the Spurs ranked 15th in pace (up from 22nd last season) and possessed only the 24th-best defensive rating in the league.

As one of the restart teams who have very little chance to make the playoff this season, the Kings should be in observation mode to see what kind of development and chemistry they can grow among their young players. Our projections put Holmes at 29.0 FanDuel points on Friday night, making him one of the top overall values on the entire slate.


Nikola Vucevic ($8,300) - I see ownership at center on Friday primarily going one of three ways: DFS players who go high price will look to Deandre Ayton against an atrocious Washington Wizards defense, those in the mid-range will target Jarrett Allen ($6,700) on a Brooklyn Nets team so short-handed I actually got a tryout with them, or people will go bargain basement shopping with Ian Mahinmi ($3,800) on the Wizards, who have a serious lack of players able to put the ball in the basket.

With so many high-priced studs at other positions, spending up at center will likely be a contrarian strategy, so ownership on Vucevic should be microscopically low. Take advantage.

The Nets -- Vucevic's opponent -- allow the sixth-most FanDuel points to the center position (51.19 per game) and play at a top-10 pace in the season's early going. The Orlando Magic are not coming into the restart fully healthy. Wesley Iwundu is extremely questionable while Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac will both have minutes restrictions in the early going.

With the Magic looking to lock up the East's eighth seed and avoid a play-in tournament, look for the Magic to run Vucevic out as much as he can handle as they try and pass Brooklyn to stay out of the last playoff spot. Our projections have Vucevic putting up a strong double-double for 44.2 FanDuel points on Friday.