3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 2/23/21

"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.

Tuesday's main slate is a large nine games, so we should be able to find plenty of options to differentiate off of the night's chalk plays. Let's dig in to see where we can pivot.


De'Aaron Fox ($7,900) - Tonight is the dream scenario if you are a fan of NBA point guards. With eight players over $8,000 at the position, it's basically choose your own adventure with the studs for your two point guard slots. Inevitably that leads to a high/low or a double-stud build in DFS, and guards like De'Aaron Fox in the mid-range get largely ignored. Well, I'm here to tell you that tonight against the Brooklyn Nets, that should not happen.

Four straight lackluster performances by Fox have caused his salary to dip from a high of $8,900, and tonight's matchup presents the perfect opportunity to buy. In his past four games, Fox averaged only 34.4 FanDuel points, almost five points below his season average. But in the previous five, he was scorching hot at a pace of 49.2 FanDuel points per game, and now he faces the team with the fourth-worst defensive rating on the season.

The matchup with the Nets represents the best game environment of the night, with a 242.5 implied total, 10.0 points higher than any other game on the slate. Both teams are also top 10 in pace and top 12 in offensive efficiency. This is going to be a points extravaganza, so I'm all over the player who will be leading the charge for the Sacramento Kings.


Khris Middleton ($7,200) - We should fully expect DFS players to be all over Giannis Antetokounmpo today. He far and away leads numberFire's projections at more than 60 FanDuel points, and he faces a Minnesota Timberwolves team that frequently gifts opposing big men with career-defining games. But with all of the attention directed towards the Greek Freak, that should lower the roster percentage for Middleton, particularly in single-entry contests.

The soon-to-be All Star is coming off his best game of the season, dropping a season-high 63.6 FanDuel points against the Kings on Sunday, and he gets a matchup that is just as enticing. The Timberwolves allow top-10 numbers to small forwards in both points and rebounds and have a bottom-10 defense plus a top-10 pace.

The consistency with Middleton is the key, as you can be assured you're getting 35 minutes and he will contribute in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. Even at a $7,200 salary, Middleton is our second-best point-per-dollar play at both forward positions, as we have him clearly passing his salary-implied total.


Jarrett Allen ($7,600) - Apparently the theme of the day is mid-range, which makes sense in tournaments when there are so many high-priced studs on the slate and value sure to open up. Avoiding the chalk stars-and-scrubs build might be the key to unlocking the most value in tournaments today.

Allen may not have an 80-point ceiling like Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic do, but he has been outplaying his salary since Andre Drummond was put on ice by by Cleveland Cavaliers. His minutes and FanDuel points have increased each of the last four games, including a 41-minute, 55-fantasy-point explosion on Sunday. In fact, with Drummond and Larry Nance Jr. off the floor this season (375 minutes), Allen scores 3.5 more FanDuel points per 36 minutes than he does in his normal season-long sample.

Dropping down to the mid-range at the center position will allow you both differentiation in your lineups and to save salary to afford the high-end studs who are plentiful on this slate. The matchup between Allen and Clint Capela should be a fun one, but for a $400 discount, my money is on Allen.