3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on Friday 5/14/21
"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 reasonable eight 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.
Malachi Flynn ($5,600) - Early in the day on a slate like this one, you have to make many assumptions. But the assumption I feel most confident in making is that you (and everyone else) are playing Russell Westbrook tonight. Even at $12,500 (which, from what I can find, is the highest salary of any player this season), a guaranteed 60 FanDuel points is worth the spend-up. So assuming Mr. Triple-Double is in your lineup, you are going to need a lower-cost alternative to balance out the rest of your roster.
Killian Hayes, R.J. Hampton, and Jordan Poole look to be strong options all below $5,500, but after the Toronto Raptors surprised us with 41 minutes for Flynn last night, I'm heading right back in that direction considering the state of their roster. The Raptors should be without Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby tonight, plus Yuta Watanabe left early last night with an injury. With almost no competition for minutes, Flynn should be locked into another huge role tonight.
But the minutes are only part of the story. The other encouraging sign last night was the 25% usage rate, which was his highest since a game on March 24th. He turned those minutes and shots into 32.3 FanDuel points (6x salary). If we can get anything close to that tonight to pair with whatever massive number Westbrook posts, it will put us at a massive advantage as we start scrolling down through the rest of our rosters.
Our projections have Flynn easily clearing the 5x salary threshold with almost 30 FanDuel points in just 30 minutes. If he gets more run, we could be looking at around 40 tonight.
Kenyon Martin Jr. ($7,500) - If you're old enough to remember Martin's father -- the high-flying, shot-blocking savant from the Cincinnati Bearcats -- you'll recall what a great player he was. Martin Sr. was an All-Star, All-Rookie team member, and multi-time Player of the Month winner, but he never put together a stat line like what his son is producing now with his increased playing time.
Martin Jr. is averaging 22.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game in his last five while playing an astounding 39.8 minutes per night (second only to Westbrook in that span). As has been the case the last few games, the Houston Rockets are likely to dress only the minimum eight required players tonight, so the playing time is secure against what is sure to be a watered-down Los Angeles Clippers team that is coming off a back-to-back and will look to rest guys.
As we will discuss below, the masses will likely flock to Kelly Olynyk in this game for Houston, opening the door for a player like Martin to fly under the radar, especially at a $7,500 salary. That salary has shot up from $4,200, and if folks aren't paying attention to the opportunity, they will likely bypass Martin for a more "sure thing" like Kristaps Porzingis or Kevin Love.
I'm firing up Martin anywhere that I can tonight.
Jonas Valanciunas ($8,300) - At least in this spot, we get to a player we had actually heard of before this NBA season began. Recommending J-Val also comes with a few assumptions tonight. First, it is likely that Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid both sit on the second half of back-to-backs. Second, I'm assuming Olynyk will be wildly popular considering the Rockets will be without Christian Wood and Olynyk averages 48 FanDuel points per game in his last 10 contests.
Olynyk is a fantastic play tonight, but if you want a similar salary pivot, Valanciunas comes with a pretty sizable amount of upside as well. He is right in line with Olynyk, averaging 49.8 FanDuel points of his own in his last four. Add that to the fact that he gets an incredible matchup against a poor Sacramento Kings defense, and we have a chance to see a strong fantasy showing at a much lower roster percentage than Olynyk.
The Kings, who may be without both Richaun Holmes and Hassan Whiteside tonight, are already one of the worst teams in the league against opposing centers. They are the sixth-best matchup for centers this year, allowing 55.94 FanDuel points to centers, including allowing the most rebounds in the entire league. The Kings continue to rank last in the league in overall defensive rating, and if they don't have their size down low tonight, it could lead to an even better performance than J-Val had against this same team on Thursday (45.1 FanDuel points)
There is, of course, a chance Valanciunas sits as well tonight to get plenty of rest in advance of the huge matchup with the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. If he does, Jarrett Allen at a too-cheap salary and up against a soft interior defense could make for a decent play.