3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 8/13/20
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 the 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 Thursday's FanDuel main slate (at 4:00 ET).
It only took two weeks, but we have finally cracked the code to determine which players will be chalk on any given slate. The key to solving NBA DFS in these final bubble days has simply become motivation.
For Thursday's seven-game slate, there are only four teams with something on the line. That means four teams are firmly in play for determining who will be the highest-owned players: the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, and the Portland Trail Blazers.
These teams are separated by .009 percentage points in the standings for the hotly-contested battle for the West's eighth and ninth seeds. If you're playing cash games on Thursday, it is conceivable (and perhaps advisable) that your entire lineup would be from players on these teams.
For tournaments, we need to be different and pivot off the popular players like Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, Ja Morant, and Deandre Ayton. How can we intelligently do that without risking too much in the way of minutes or opportunity?
Let's look at some options.
Lonzo Ball ($6,700) - With all of Morant, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Ricky Rubio sitting within $1,000 of Ball's price tag, I can't see any scenario where he gets much attention on this slate. Add in a matchup against the Orlando Magic, who are ranked 26th in pace, and you are probably looking at less than 5% roster percentage in tournaments.
What Ball does have going for him in the last game of the night is opportunity. With J.J. Redick, Brandon Ingram, and Jrue Holiday already ruled out of the game and Josh Hart highly questionable, the New Orleans Pelicans have a severe lack of guards for their last game. No matter who has been in or out for the Pelicans in their last five bubble games, Ball has played at least 29 minutes and scored at least 28 FanDuel points per game.
When Ball has played this season without Redick, Ingram, Holiday, Zion Williamson and Derrick Favors on the floor, his usage rate goes up by 2.6%, and he scores 2.53 more fantasy points per 36 minutes in a 175-minute sample.
New Orleans is out of the playoffs, so they have no real incentive to rest Ball or their other bench players who do suit up for this game, so we should be able to avoid the shenanigans where a new starting five plays the whole second half like we have seen all too frequently these past few days.
Royce O'Neale ($4,700) - I don't know that I've ever seen a slate where the price drop between the highest and second highest at a position is $3,400, but this is the world we are living in right now.
Kristaps Porzingis is listed at $9,200 but is unlikely to play today, so you are going cheap at power forward. The question then becomes, do you want to eat the Brandon Clarke chalk at $5,800 (which sometimes tastes really bad), or go down even lower in price.
I'm looking to O'Neale (and also Tony Bradley and Joe Ingles) today in a game where the Utah Jazz will be without Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert. In games without those two (plus Bojan Bogdanovic) on the floor, O'Neale gets the largest usage bump at 4.8% plus chips in an additional 5.1 FanDuel points per 36 minutes.
The Jazz rested guys in their last game, so I feel confident that the players that suit up tonight will get their full allotment of minutes as the last tune-up before playoffs start next week. When that happens, minutes and production have not been an issue for O'Neale in the bubble. If we throw out the last game where he only played 14 minutes, his averages in Orlando are 32.4 minutes and 30.7 FanDuel points per night.
At those rates, you are looking at 7x value for O'Neale's price tag with the opportunity for upside with so many key Jazz pieces sitting out tonight.
Nikola Vucevic ($7,900) - As we continue to play the game of Who Benefits When Players Sit, Vucevic is our next contestant up on Thursday.
With Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross, Michael Carter-Williams, and Evan Fournier all out Thursday, Vucevic should be the primary scoring threat for the Magic. In fact, his usage jumps 4.7% to a massive 32.2% in court time without those four players.
What we might potentially see hurting Lonzo Ball actually helps Vucevic and the Orlando Magic. The Pelicans are a 22-spot pace bump for the Magic, and this matchup full of young, bench players should make for a fun track meet in the last game of the season.
We probably have a high level of risk today with Vucevic's minutes being limited, but combine that risk with a price tag that is slightly higher than chalky Ayton and Jonas Valanciunas, and we have the potential for 50 FanDuel points at minuscule ownership.
Our early projections have Vucevic putting up a 20-10 double-double for 42 FanDuel points today.