3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on Friday 5/7/21
"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.
Friday's slate is a large 10 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.
Dejounte Murray ($7,800) - I don't like to base by DFS recommendation on assumptions, but I am of the opinion there is one huge piece of news coming tonight. The matchup between the Houston Rockets and the Milwaukee Bucks seems to be the ideal spot to give Giannis Antetokounmpo a night off. He has been nursing a tender ankle, the Bucks are 17.5-points favorites, and even though they are just a half-game out of the East's second seed, a night off today would give Giannis a full five days off before their stretch of five games next week to close out the season.
If that does happen, we've seen this movie enough times to know the ending. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton will become uber-chalky, and we will have to decide whether the blowout risk is worth their increased usage.
Regardless of Giannis' status, Murray stands out as a strong play in the same salary range as Middleton and Holiday. Throw out Murray (and the rest of the Spurs') last set of box scores. It was clear from the first quarter that the Utah Jazz had their number, so San Antonio played most starters fewer than 20 minutes. Before that game, however, Murray had been on a hot streak, averaging 44.3 FanDuel points per game in 37.6 minutes per night.
This matchup tonight should be much easier for Murray as he faces the Sacramento Kings, who have allowed the seventh-most FanDuel points to opposing point guards in their last 30 games, have the fifth-worst defensive rating in their last 15 games and will likely be missing De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. No matter what the context of this slate looks like, Murray is a play to consider, especially coming off a terrible game.
Anthony Edwards ($8,800) - I am seriously falling in love with Ant-Man these last couple months. In his last six games, the former number-one overall pick is 14th in the NBA in minutes per game, 21st in points per game, 39th in usage rate and is shooting 49% from the floor in that span (including 38% from deep). From a FanDuel perspective, he is at 40.6 FanDuel points per game during that stretch, which includes three tough matchups against Utah (twice) and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Taking on a more forceful and intentional role in the offense, Edwards is a mere two percentage points in usage behind Karl-Anthony Towns over the Timberwolves' last 12 games. And just from a pure entertainment standpoint, he is slowly working his way up the list of players that you have to watch if their games are on NBA League Pass, and we count on him for one trending highlight on Twitter per game.
The matchup tonight against the Miami Heat certainly isn't the best one you can find, but with so many injuries and question marks in the small forward position, choices are extremely limited. Edwards does also provide the similar salary pivot from Middleton if the Giannis scenario plays out. Our projections do have Edwards putting up the second most actual points at the position tonight (20.9), plus you get the added bonus of the mano-a-mano, old-guard-versus-new-guard matchup of Edwards versus Jimmy Butler.
Kelly Olynyk ($8,000) - If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, it seems that Mohamed Bamba and Joel Embiid will be the most popular center plays tonight. Bamba finally was gifted 30 minutes on Wednesday and responded with an incredible 56.5 FanDuel points against the Boston Celtics. The Orlando Magic are without their two best big men tonight, so Bamba should once again excel in a softer matchup. Embiid ($9,600) is at his lowest salary since the opening night of the season, and even if the Philadelphia 76ers limit his minutes somewhat, he can easily reach value against the Pelicans, who will likely be without Steven Adams.
And while I know none of us want to roster a player with a man-bun, Olynyk certainly has the last-man-standing advantage working for him tonight as the Rockets' injury report is longer than a CVS receipt. With only seven players actually available on Wednesday for Houston, Olynyk racked up 39 minutes and destroyed the 76ers for 63.2 FanDuel points. While we can't expect that level of production, he is at 47.4 FanDuel points per game in his last seven.
Don't let his Questionable tag fool you. The Rockets are lacking bodies, and Olynyk is going to get as much run as he can handle tonight in an exploitable matchup.
The Milwaukee Bucks are now up to third in the NBA in pace this season and allow slightly more than 52 FanDuel points per game to opposing centers. Olynyk has also been able to find that extra gear when he matches up with the Bucks, putting up 40.6 FanDuel points per game the last two times he's seen them. And if we do, in fact, get no Giannis tonight, the path to fantasy goodness opens up quite a bit wider for Olynyk, as well.