3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 1/22/21
"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 has a massive 11 games (even with two postponements), so we should have plenty of opportunities to differentiate off of the chalk plays of the night. Let's dig in to see where we can pivot.
Paul George ($8,700) - George has been on an absolute tear lately, so it's a but surprising to see that his salary has fallen from $9,000 on January 13th to what we see today.
George has tallied at least 39 FanDuel points in eight of his last 10 games, including three games of more than 50. Tonight, he gets a strong matchup that could go overlooked as the last game on the slate, but it has the potential for some fireworks.
The Oklahoma City Thunder allow top-12 fantasy points per game to both the shooting guard and small forward positions, and if George spends the game with George Hill as his primary defender, watch out. This could be a ceiling game. Hill ranks 174th in defensive rating this season among guards who play at least 20 minutes per game. Hill is playing the most minutes per game he has seen since 2018, and at 34 years old, the defensive presence is just not there anymore.
Eric Gordon ($5,400) - With much of the attention on the Houston Rockets tonight trending toward Victor Oladipo and DeMarcus Cousins, I'm looking at a lower-rostered Gordon to supply some offensive firepower against the Detroit Pistons tonight.
The Pistons -- not exactly the Bad Boys from yesteryear -- lack a stout presence defensively and have struggled for much of this season, ranking 26th in estimated defensive rating on the year. Versus small forwards, they allow 21 real-world points per game and 3.31 three-pointers made (fifth-most in the league), which perfectly suits Gordon's game.
Like in recent years, Gordon lives at the basket and beyond the three-point line. More than 60% of his shots this year are three-point attempts, and more than 40% of his points come at the rim. Considering the Pistons rank 29th in the league in opponent field goal percentage, Gordon should face little resistance as he likely leads the second unit tonight.
Nikola Jokic ($11,200) - It's unusual to see a player who has been this highly rostered recently as a viable tournament option. The reason he is not a cash-game play tonight despite his recent production and matchup against the Phoenix Suns is that most FanDuel center spots will be used up by low-salary Cousins, who will try to fill the massive hole left by Christian Wood for the Rockets.
It's hard to overstate what The Joker has done in his last five games. The reason why his salary has jumped more than $1,500 since the start of the season is because of stretches like he is on right now. He is averaging 60.4 FanDuel points per game in his last five despite playing only 33.7 minutes per game. That is a pace of 1.79 FanDuel points per minute, which dwarfs anyone else on this slate.
Will DFS managers pay up this high when Cousins and Naz Reid are sitting down there with salaries under $5,000? It's hard to say. But with so many studs on this slate, each manager is going to make a tough call about where they pay up, and my guess is far fewer choose the center slot when players like Luka Doncic and Trae Young are in such good game environments and Harden might be without Kevin Durant.
I was a bit surprised to see such a close spread for this matchup (1.0 on FanDuel Sportsbook), but that just means more Jokic on the court if this is a tight contest.