3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 2/22/21
"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.
Let's dig in to see where we can pivot.
Zach LaVine ($9,800) - Considering he has put up 51-plus FanDuel points in four of his last six games, it will be quite difficult to overlook Bradley Beal at a salary below $10,000 tonight. It becomes even more difficult when you realize Zach LaVine has now seen his salary appreciate to the same level as Beal, but the roster percentage discrepancy could tip the scales in LaVine's favor tonight in tournaments.
LaVine has been just as dominant as Beal the past two weeks, scoring more than 51 FanDuel points in four of his last eight games and never dipping below 41 points in that span. He also has the much better matchup for shooting guards tonight, as he lines up against the Houston Rockets, who allow the third-most FanDuel points to the position this season, while Beal's opponent -- the Los Angeles Lakers -- allow the second-fewest.
While LaVine's usage rate on the season was already an elite 30%, in his last 10 games, that number has jumped in 34.4%, which is two full percentage points better than Beal. He is also producing at a pace 10% higher than his season average. In a game with the highest projected pace of the night, I am absolutely willing to pivot to LaVine in tournaments and single-entry formats tonight.
Jimmy Butler ($9,200) - LeBron James may be listed as questionable with an ankle injury tonight, but let's be real -- he has been listed with that designation every game this year and has not missed one. He is going to be uber-popular tonight with the Lakers missing Dennis Schroder and Anthony Davis.
But for $1,200 less salary, Jimmy Butler has been putting up his best Russell Westbrook imitation lately, averaging 19.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 9.1 assists in his last 10 games while adding 1.7 steals per game as the cherry on top. His latest pace has been 7% better than his seasonal output, according to our metrics. Butler should have a fraction of the roster percentage that LeBron does, especially considering a poorer game environment, at least by the numbers.
With other studs on this slate to pay up for, it's unlikely we see many James/Butler lineups, with cheaper options like Eric Gordon more likely to pair with LeBron. Tonight sets up a unique opportunity to play one of the hottest players in the game at a low roster percentage. If he can just keep pace with LeBron in terms of FanDuel points, he should clearly reach value tonight.
Montrezl Harrell ($6,200) - Center doesn't provide a ton of attractive options tonight, as none of the major studs are on the slate. With that in mind, I think it's time to take advantage of the role and minutes Harrell will have with Anthony Davis out before his FanDuel salary starts to shoot up.
With no Davis last game, Harrell posted his first double-double since January 8th and did it in only 24 minutes on the court. Tonight, he gets the dream matchup for centers against the Washington Wizards who allow top-10 production in points, rebounds, assists, and steals to the position. The Wizards have been absolutely decimated at the position after the loss of Thomas Bryant and are now starting Moritz Wagner, who ranks 34th among centers in real defensive plus-minus this year.
Marc Gasol has only played above 24 minutes twice in his last 11 games, and it's clear the Lakers will look in other directions to fill the gap from Davis' absence. Harrell should have plenty of opportunity in the coming weeks, so it's best to get in at the bottom floor.