3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 12/29/20

"One cannot be betrayed if one has no people."

- Kobayashi (The Usual Suspects)

How many times have we been burned by the chalk in NBA DFS?

When it's time to start building GPP 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. In an attempt to understand the context of the slate, this column will look at lower-owned plays that help you gain ownership leverage against the competition.

Tuesday's slate is a whopping 10 games, so it should offer plenty of opportunity to differentiate off of the chalk plays of the night. Let's dig in to see where we can pivot.


Elfrid Payton ($4,800) - The New York Knicks' official depth chart lists seven players at the point guard and shooting guard positions. Four of those seven players are currently listed as out or doubtful for tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers, leaving the Knicks extremely thin in the backcourt.

It will be the Payton and RJ Barrett show tonight against a Cavaliers' backcourt that has allowed 61.5 FanDuel points per game to points guards and counts on Collin Sexton to stop the opposition. Sexton ranked 82nd out of 95 total point guards in defensive real plus-minus last year and has proven to be one of the poorest one-on-one defenders in the league in his short career.

Payton is the definition of a boom-or-bust option. His first two games were a horror show, as he scored only 17 FanDuel points combined. But in his third game, he broke out for 41 FanDuel points against the Milwaukee Bucks. Payton needs only about 25 fantasy points to reach 5-times value (5 points per $1,000 in salary), and the opportunity should be there with so many Knicks players in street clothes tonight.


Jayson Tatum ($9,200) - I can see Giannis Antetokounmpo or Zion Williamson being frequently paired with chalky Naz Reid for DFS players going high/low at power forward tonight. Shifting to Tatum is an easy way to give DFS managers an MVP-caliber performance at likely lower popularity.

Even in a mediocre matchup against the Indiana Pacers (fifth in pace but also fifth in defensive rating), Tatum can easily smash with Kemba Walker out, Marcus Smart hurt, and Gordon Hayward out of town. Without these usage hogs in the lineup around him, Tatum has been on a tear in the early season, averaging 42.6 FanDuel points per game at 33% usage.

This represents usage increase of five percentage points over his stellar season last year, but a lousy 42% field goal percentage in his first three games is throwing a wet blanket on what could easily be a 50-FanDuel-point average through the first eight days of the season. If he gets some positive regression on his shot, Tatum can fill the box score as the primary option for Boston.


Thomas Bryant ($5,200) - As many DFS players will look to Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook and Zach LaVine to get some exposure to the track meet between the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls, a low salary and ascending Bryant makes for a smart place to pivot to get some exposure to the game.

Center is loaded with options tonight, headlined by Nikola Jokic, who pulled off his best Magic Johnson impression last night (19 points, 12 rebounds, 18 assists), so paying down will likely be contrarian no matter which way you go.

Bryant, despite his low salary, has increased his minutes and FanDuel points in each game this season, including a 36.9-point masterpiece in his last game against the tough Orlando Magic. Through three games, the Bulls are second in the league in pace and allow the second most points to opposing centers -- setting up an ideal situation for Bryant to reach 6-times value.