3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 2/26/21

"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 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.


Fred VanVleet ($8,200) - VanVleet represents an almost straight dollar-for-dollar pivot off of the sure-to-be chalky Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tonight. He gets a far better matchup and is coming off a "down" game (38.4 FanDuel points) that might help depress his roster percentage.

Before his last game -- where he had 24 points and 7 assists, by the way -- he averaged 45 points for five straight contests and is now up to 1.12 fantasy points per minute on the season. Considering VanVleet leads the NBA in minutes almost halfway through the season, we can be sure of a 40-point floor with a ceiling of 60 FanDuel points. The matchup against the Houston Rockets should help raise both of those numbers based on their propensity for allowing huge games to this position.

The Rockets allow shooting guards to score 25.9 points per game (first in the league), make 3.9 three-pointers per game (third), and allow 15.1 fast break points to opponents (second). VanVleet is averaging career highs in field goal attempts, points, and three-pointers, so this looks like a dream matchup tonight.


Daniel Theis ($4,900) - Theis comes into tonight's slate as the best point-per-dollar option at forward in numberFire's projections. How can this be when he faces the Indiana Pacers and potential All-Defensive team center Myles Turner? The recent shift in Boston's lineup that moved Theis over to power forward while Tristan Thompson plays center should play huge dividends tonight.

Turner does, in fact, rank fifth overall in real defensive plus-minus this year at the position, but it's a far cry from where Domantas Sabonis ranks. Sabonis is all the way down at 18th among power forwards, as he has certainly taken the leap as an offensive force, but not as an individual defender.

Look for Theis to bounce back after only playing 11 minutes in his last game. He was averaging 29.4 minutes per game in his previous eight, and box score watchers might be scared by his horrendous last game. Theis also comes in handy as a pivot off of another chalky Oklahoma City Thunder player -- Isaiah Roby ($4,600) -- and gets a pace-up spot playing a Pacers team ranked 10 spots higher on the season.


Clint Capela ($8,200) - Yikes. This is a rough slate for centers, proven by the fact the Capela has the highest salary on the night. While I can find plenty of historical salaries for Capela, I don't know if this is his first time topping the position in salary, but I would imagine so. DFS players might look at that and think "no way can he be worth that!"

But there just isn't a lot out there otherwise. Rudy Gobert is $200 less but plays the Miami Heat, which is a top-five team against centers this year. Deandre Ayton has one game over 40 FanDuel points this month, so even at $6,800, he might not reach value. Capela begins to look a lot better when you combine his recent play with the strong matchup and lack of other options.

Capela dropped below 30 FanDuel points in his last game against the Celtics -- more reason why his roster percentage might be low today -- but averaged 44.4 FanDuel points per game in his previous six. He now faces a Thunder team that is bottom-10 against centers and will be without Al Horford. The Thunder may not actually be able to play a true center in this game due to injuries, which should allow Capela to dominate the paint on both ends of the floor.