3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 4/13/21
"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 contrarian plays that help you gain leverage against the competition.
Tuesday's slate is a small six games, but we should still 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.
Devin Booker ($9,500) - The most popular player on tonight's slate is going to be Paul George. Mark it down; write it in ink. With the Los Angeles Clippers missing Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, and Patrick Beverley against the Indiana Pacers, George is sure to smash his value even at a $9,000 salary. Booker at $500 more is unlikely to draw a lot of eyeballs, especially with a tough defensive team like the Miami Heat coming to town, but based on Booker's recent performances and some underlying defensive shortcomings, we should get similar production as George on a fraction of the rosters.
Booker has scored fewer than 40 FanDuel points only once in his last seven games and comes in at an average of 45.2 FanDuel points per game in that span. While Booker has an elite 31.9% usage rate on the season, it has been an even better 33.7% over his last eight games, while players like Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton have deferred some of their usage to Booker in that time.
It's true that the Heat are an elite defensive team, ranking sixth in the NBA in defensive rating (109.3), but they are only middle of the pack against shooting guards this season in terms of FanDuel points allowed per game (40.76). The Heat give up the second-most three-pointers per game to the position at just under four per night, and Booker is making 2.1 triples per game -- the second-highest number of his career.
I'm loving the overall environment of this game with a small spread (Suns -3.5), and Booker has a chance to be a big leverage play.
Darius Bazley ($5,800) - As has been the case most nights over the past month, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be severely undermanned when they tip off against the Utah Jazz tonight. As of the latest injury report, the Thunder listed six players as out, leaving them with likely a nine-man rotation for this game. Considering Justin Robinson has played an average of 11 minutes the last two games, it is essentially an eight-man rotation.
What that means is that even if the Thunder are blown out like the oddsmakers project (the Jazz are favored by 17.0), Bazley is still likely to play big minutes, just like he did in his first game back from injury. Even though he hadn't played in five weeks, the Thunder threw Bazley out there for 35 minutes on Saturday, and he is likely to see those same kind of minutes again.
At $5,800, we only need about 29 FanDuel points from Bazley to reach five-times value -- 5 points per $1,000 in salary -- and he makes for a logical pivot from Jalen McDaniels, who is likely to be very popular considering all of the injuries to the Charlotte Hornets. In addition, Isaiah Roby -- Bazley's primary competition for power forward minutes on OKC -- is one of the players out tonight.
It ain't pretty right now with the Thunder, so this is probably one of those "don't watch the game and check the box score later" situations, but someone has to produce for Oklahoma City, and Bazley should have the court time to get it done.
Chris Boucher ($7,800) - Options at center are limited tonight, so even though Boucher might be somewhat chalky with Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet sitting this one out, I still feel comfortable going to him given his increased role in the offense with all of the recent Raptor "injuries."
Boucher has finally been given the minutes boost DFS players have been begging for all season. In his last six games, Boucher is up over 28 minutes played per game, which has translated into 40.1 FanDuel points per game in that time, good for 1.43 points per minute -- roughly the same production as Jimmy Butler, for comparison. The reason why I see Boucher as a tournament play only is that his floor and ceiling have been miles apart during that span. He has scored as many as 67 FanDuel points and as few as 29 FanDuel points in his last six, making him an ideal player to roster in hopes of a ceiling game.
The chances of a ceiling game increase tonight as he matches up against the Atlanta Hawks. Not only will he see increased usage with so many shots benched for the Raptors tonight, but the Hawks rank 20th in defensive rating and allow opponents to score the 10th-most points in the paint (48.5 per game). They also rank in the bottom half of the league in defensive rebound rate (73.4%), so a double-double is certainly within Boucher's range.