3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 1/8/21
"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 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 -- 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.
Friday's slate is a massive 10 games (assuming no COVID cancellations), so it should offer plenty of opportunities to differentiate off of the chalk plays of the night. Let's dig in to see where we can pivot.
Devin Booker ($7,600) - Depending on what the NBA decides to do with the Brooklyn Nets tonight (after their opponent yesterday had a positive COVID test), Caris LeVert could be the mega-chalk again on Friday. I'm personally not touching the Brooklyn-Memphis game until we hear confirmation that it is playing. Without Lavert to lean on, it leads me next to Booker at just an $800 higher salary.
With Chris Paul now on the roster, we haven't yet seen any of the typical Booker explosion games this year. He has made a habit of putting the Phoenix Suns on his back from time to time and putting up a 60-FanDuel point masterpiece. But the most we have out of booker this year is 41 FanDuel points in a game where he needed 44 minutes to get there.
With the low total and depressed pace of this game against the Detroit Pistons (both projected at the bottom of the slate), the roster percentage on these players should be quite low. That provides the perfect opportunity to jump back on Booker against the Pistons who allow the seventh-most points to shooting guards this season.
Booker's usage and true shooting percentage are all around career norms. His assist rate is somewhat lower and his turnover rate is quite high (third-most turnovers in the league), so if those numbers can course-correct, we could be looking at bigger games from Booker in the near future.
Khris Middleton ($7,400) - This is a pretty standard buy-low, sell-high situation for Middleton tonight. In his last four games, he averaged 33 FanDuel points per game while he averaged 43 FanDuel points in his first four this year.
This trend has dropped Middleton's salary by $500 in recent days and he now looks slightly undervalued against a Utah Jazz matchup that perfectly suits Middleton's game.
Beyond allowing the eighth-most points to small forwards this year (Bojan Bogdanovic is averaging the lowest defensive plus-minus of his career), the Jazz simply can not keep small forwards from raining down three-pointers. They allow 3.5 made three-pointers to the position per night, fifth-worst in the league. Middleton is currently scorching hot from beyond the arc, shooting 53% on threes, leading to a career-high 2.9 made threes per game.
I fully expect Middleton to cross the 40-Fanduel point threshold tonight in this game with the second-highest implied total on the night (231 points).
Thomas Bryant ($6,400) - The Boston Celtics' frontcourt took a serious hit this morning when three of their big men were placed in health protocols for a seven day period (Tristan Thompson, Robert Williams, Grant Williams). This is quite serious for the Celtics as it leaves only Daniel Theis as the last remaining rotational big man. We may be getting close to Takco Time, which would mean great things for Bryant at a relatively low salary.
Our projections currently have Bryant posting over 37 FanDuel points -- a strong 6x of his salary -- and coming in as one of the best point-per-dollar plays at the position. Even with their full allotment of big men, the Celtics have not been an intimidating opponent for centers this year. They allow the 10th most FanDuel points to centers including over 20 points,15 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game.
Two of Bryant's last three games have been nothing special, so the depressed salary allows us easy access to the 45-point upside he has shown this year.