3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 4/21/21
"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.
Wednesday's slate is a massive 12 games (the largest until the last day of the season), so we should be able to find plenty of options to differentiate off of the night's chalk plays.
Note: With all of the uncertainty and player shenanigans happening in the NBA over the next three weeks, my process is going to be more and more focused on teams that sit in the sixth through twelfth spots in their conference standings. These are teams looking to move up to avoid the play-in tournament, stabilize their spot, or move up to make it into the tournament.
What incentives do teams like the Utah, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn have to not rest their players? What incentives do teams like the Houston, Minnestoa, and Detroit have to win games? I want players from teams that have something to play for and should have more predictable rotations and injury reports.
Let's dig in to see where we can pivot.
Luka Doncic ($11,000) - Rostering Doncic tonight is a clear dollar-for-dollar pivot off of Russell Westbrook ($10,800), who should be mega-chalk again tonight in the best game environment of the night (238.5 implied total) and somehow comes in with a $700 lower salary than Monday despite one game in his last nine scoring under 50 FanDuel points.
I can't explain the salary decrease for Mr. Triple Double, but I can explain why he will be popular. This means next to no one will be clicking Doncic's name at $200 more despite the fact that the Doncic that DFS managers came to adore at the beginning of the season finally made a reappearance over his last three games, averaging 58.4 FanDuel points.
Both Doncic and Westbrook have plenty to play for. The Washington Wizards are tied for the final play-in spot in the East while the Dallas Mavericks are trying to crawl their way into the safe zone, as they are just 1.5 games behind the 6 seed out in the West.
Doncic's game environment might not be as attractive as a total pushing 240, but he faces the Detroit Pistons tonight, who have allowed the second-most FanDuel points to opposing point guards over the last month, including 26 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game. Care to guess what Doncic's season averages are in those categories? 29 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists. Add in the fact that the Pistons are top-10 in pace over their last nine games (since they've just been running the kids out there every night) and this looks like a very appealing matchup for an elite player with a low roster percentage.
Michael Porter Jr. ($7,400) - You know you are in the crazy part of the NBA season when the small forward with the highest salary who is likely to play on the slate is Bogdan Bogdanovic ($7,500). While I'm not really tempted to go there tonight, I will happily slide down $100 and spend some roster capital on Porter, who has been quietly ultra-productive for an entire month.
With players like Jamal Murray and Monte Morris injured and Gary Harris shipped out of town, Porter has been picking up the slack, scoring less than 31 FanDuel points just once since March 26th. Over his last two weeks, he has been playing at a clip 15% above his seasonal averages, which is not surprising considering the offensive firepower the Denver Nuggets lost when Murray tore his ACL.
The Nuggets (4th) currently sit just two games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers (5th) in the West standings, and you know they want to do everything they can to keep that home-court advantage for the first-round. And while Nikola Jokic will continue to be the engine that drives the Denver offense, Porter should be plenty involved tonight against a team that has struggled mightily with small forwards. The Portland Trail Blazers allow the second-most FanDuel points to the position in their last seven games.
The combination of Norman Powell and Carmelo Anthony has been a disaster defensively for Portland. Powell ranks 93rd out of 97 small forwards in defensive real plus-minus while Anthony (listed by the NBA as a power forward) ranks 86th out of 87 at that position. If there is a worse duo at a position in the NBA, I can't imagine who it would be. All the more reason to lock in Porter.
Clint Capela ($8,900) - Let me be clear, I absolutely love -- I mean, head over heels, infatuated love -- Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns tonight. But I expect them both to be wildly popular considering their matchups. If you need to save some salary at the position to make other things work, Capela is getting the "faces-the-Knicks" discount despite absolutely smashing this past month.
Capela was at $10,000 just 10 days ago as he is currently in one of the best stretches of his career, scoring under 40 FanDuel points just once in 10 games in April. He has just two games this month with less than 12 rebounds, two games with less than 2 blocks, and just three games where he has played less than 32 minutes. With the Atlanta Hawks still missing three key rotation pieces, there is no reason to believe Capela won't continue to dominate on both ends of the floor.
Some people might see the relatively low 216.5 implied total for this game and choose to go to more appealing matchups. But the tight one-point spread and the fact that the Hawks and Knicks are right next to each other in the standings (less than two games above the play-in tournament line) have me convinced this is going to be one of those "stars" games. We should see big performances from Capela, Trae Young, and Julius Randle, and 45 FanDuel points (what he scored against the Knicks in their last game) will likely be the floor for Capela tonight.