3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on Tuesday 5/11/21
"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.
Let's dig in to see where we can pivot.
Caris LeVert ($9,200) - As the highest-salaried active shooting guard tonight, the $9,200 salary might be a tough pill to swallow for some. His salary has more than doubled since he returned from injury six weeks ago, but that's what happens when you average 45 FanDuel points per game in your last 11 contests.
Remember playoff-bubble LeVert last year? He averaged 23.1 points, 7.8 assists, and 5.4 rebounds in those 10 games, basically taking the league over. That's essentially what we are getting recently, as the context of this Indiana Pacers team has allowed him the opportunity to dominate once again.
Certainly, contributing to the massive FanDuel outputs are all of the injuries suffered recently by the Pacers. But they will likely still be without Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, and Myles Turner tonight, opening up all sorts of minutes and usage for LeVert. With those players off the floor, LeVert's usage is an elite 29.3%, and he gets a 4.32 FanDuel point bump per 36 minutes.
Jimmy Butler ($9,500) - I guess we could go with Kent Bazemore in this spot tonight, hoping the "Bradley Beal called me a clown" disrespect narrative hits, but that's probably digging a little too deep.
It does look like Kevin Durant is going to get a lot of traction tonight, especially since he is at 53.7 FanDuel points per game since his return from injury and is still without James Harden in the lineup. But I will be just fine to save some salary by dropping down $1,100 to Butler, who now faces the Boston Celtics without their primary small forward and one of their strongest defenders.
Instead of matching up against Jaylen Brown, Butler will get Evan Fournier, whose defensive plus-minus number is a fraction of Brown's. Not that it has mattered much who opponents throw at Butler -- he is sizzling with 46.6 FanDuel points per game of his own in his last nine. Even before the Brown injury, the Celtics were struggling with small forwards, allowing the 10th-most FanDuel points to the position over the last two weeks. Robert Williams has also been ruled out for Boston, so that's one less defensive stopper on the floor.
This slate has all the small forward options you could ever want, but give me Butler, who also has the added motivation tonight of trying to beat the team vying to take his spot above the play-in tournament line. I have a feeling Butler is not going to let that happen tonight.
Mohamed Bamba ($8,100) - Speaking of all the options we could ever want, this is a great slate for centers. High salary, low salary, midrange -- you name it, it's available tonight. But then you see Bamba creeping up almost into the salary tier with Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns and you have to do a double-take. Is this real life?
But with the Orlando Magic likely without Wendell Carter Jr. again tonight, Bamba should continue to log the 30 minutes per night he has seen in three of his last four games -- which has led to 41.4 FanDuel points per night.
It should also be noted that this is not some kind of defensive struggle that the Magic will see tonight. Have you seen what happened to the Milwaukee Bucks in their latest Texas two-step against the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs? They split the two games but allowed 140 points per game (with no overtime!). They allowed someone named Devin Vassell to post a +20 plus-minus number against them.
In their last five games, the Bucks have the third-worst defensive rating in the league (121.9), more than five points worse than the season number for the Sacramento Kings, who are a historically bad defensive team in the 2020-2021 season. This Bucks team is playing like a squad that is comfortable with their third-place slot in the East and is coasting to the finish.
Even as 14-point underdogs, Bamba should have the minutes, matchup, and motivation to reward DFS managers despite the highest salary he has ever seen.