3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 1/25/21
"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.
Monday's slate has a massive 10 games (even with one postponement), 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.
Luka Doncic ($10,700) - We clearly know what Doncic is capable of night in and night out. On this night, it's simply a matter of salary relative to his other high-salaried point guard options. After spending the first month of the season between an $11,000 and $11,600 salary, Doncic is now down to $10,700, meaning even just his average production of 53.5 FanDuel points is 5x his salary.
We know, however, that Doncic is capable of much, much more. He has reached 60 FanDuel points in five of his last 10 games, including at least 70 in three of those.
The reason I feel Doncic will go overlooked tonight is because for $1,000 less you can roster Damian Lillard, who continues to be without his other two primary offensive options (C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, who combine for a 49% usage rate), or Stephen Curry, who is perpetually in NBA-Jam-He's-Heating-Up! mode with at least 42 FanDuel points in three of his last four.
The game environment between the Dallas and Denver is nothing special tonight -- a 222.5 total and the lowest projected pace on the night -- but this just serves as a tool to lower Doncic's roster percentage.
Domantas Sabonis ($9,600) - There is a simple rule in NBA DFS tournaments: play the studs coming off their worst performances of the season. Box score watchers will stay away, lowering the roster percentage in the favor of those who know better.
In a matchup on Sunday against the Toronto Raptors where Sabonis should have dominated, he managed only 10 points on a lousy 1-for-10 shooting night. If not for the 19 rebounds, he would have been below 30 FanDuel points for the first time this season.
This is clearly an outlier, and Sabonis gets a chance for revenge right away against the same team tonight. I can guarantee he isn't shooting 10% again. The Raptors allow the fifth-most FanDuel points per game to opposing power forwards, including allowing their opponents to shoot 45% from the floor. In addition, they now have the eighth-worst rebound rate in the league.
Add in the fact that Sabonis' salary actually went up by $300 since yesterday and we have a dream tournament option on the Pacers tonight.
Joel Embiid ($10,200) - Center is quite a tricky position tonight. With several centers out or questionable, I imagine most will end up rostering Nikola Jokic if they have the cash or Nikola Vucevic if they need to save a couple thousand. None of the low-salary options appeal to me, so I am going to pivot to Embiid and hope the questionable tag scares some people away.
All Embiid has done since playing only 23 minutes on January 14 and sitting out January 16 is average over 32 minutes and 57.7 FanDuel points per game, leading to an astounding 1.80 FanDuel points per minute. That is significantly higher than Jokic, Vucevic, or Andre Drummond on the season, and the door is wide open for him to torch the Detroit Pistons again.
The Pistons now give up the second-most FanDuel points to centers and allow the fifth-most rebounds, third-highest field goal percentage, and most blocks to their opponents. Even with the 76ers back to almost a full squad on Saturday, Embiid smashed Detroit for more than 57 FanDuel points. There should be very little resistance for him to do it again.