5 Under-the-Radar Daily Fantasy Basketball Plays for 3/9/16

Despite his recent hot streak, Isaiah Thomas may go overlooked tonight amid a deep point guard player pool.

If you have played daily fantasy sports for very long, you realize by now the importance of being contrarian, especially in large-field tournaments. Being able to recognize which players are going to be owned by the majority of the field and find players that you think have a similar point projection but will come at much lower ownership can really separate yourself from your opponents.

It’s a lot easier in NFL to identify the players who will be low-owned due to Thursday Night slates, but NBA can be much more difficult if you aren’t an experienced player.

The purpose of this article will be to bring you my favorite high-upside players at each position that will likely go overlooked and give you an edge.

Keep in mind when constructing rosters that these are contrarian picks. There is a reason that they will be overlooked by many; they are risky plays. If possible, I’d try to relegate these players to GPP-only use, where their high risk-reward styles make more sense.

Isaiah Thomas, PG, Boston Celtics

FanDuel Price: $8,100

Why He Will Go Overlooked:

As per usual, point guard is loaded with viable options. Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kemba Walker, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving, and Ishmael Smith all figure to be popular choices. If Mike Conley misses another game, Mario Chalmers would once again be a highly owned value play.

Isaiah Thomas draws a worse matchup on paper than any of those players, as Defense Versus Position (DvP) has Memphis ranked fourth against point guards among teams playing tonight. For more on DvP, check out our Matchup/Game Composite Score tool here.

Our Matchup/Game Composite Score tool is just one of several awesome new premium tools we've developed for our dedicated daily fantasy basketball readers.

Why You Should Use Him:

Thomas has been scoring at will recently, putting up 29.7 points per game, while shooting 58 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from behind the arc in his past three games. He has been a dominant fantasy force for the past month now -- averaging 39.3 FanDuel points over his past 10 games.

In case you missed it, I recently published part two of my series "Finding Daily Fantasy Basketball Matchups That Fit" -- this episode focusing on the pick and roll. The article takes a look at teams that have defended pick and roll poorly and the players who have been the most effective in the pick and roll this season.

I then took it a step further and examined how those players have fared in "matchups that fit" -- or games against the teams featured in the article for their poor defense of the pick and roll. Of the 27 ball handlers examined, none saw a bigger bump in their production than Thomas, who averaged 3.6 more FanDuel points per game in matchups that fit.

For a look at how Thomas has performed recently in matchups that fit, in terms of pick and roll production, just take a look at his last 12 games. Five of those games have come against teams featured in the article. Thomas averaged 42.8 FanDuel points in those five games, with the lowest total being 32.7 against Minnesota.

The Grizzlies have allowed the third most points per possession against pick and roll ball handlers, as well as the second highest Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%). Thomas took advantage of this matchup in their last meeting, putting up 50.6 FanDuel points.

Gordon Hayward, SF, Utah Jazz

FanDuel Price: $7,300

Why He Will Go Overlooked:

Small forward is loaded tonight. Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Luol Deng, and Robert Covington all find themselves in tremendous matchups. The daily fantasy community is currently enamored with the walking triple-double that is Giannis Antetokounmpo, and some will continue to chase him -- even at a price near $10,000.

Expect Gordon Hayward to get lost in the shuffle.

Why You Should Use Him:

Hayward has been his usual productive self recently, averaging 34.5 FanDuel points over his past six games.

He draws a matchup against the Warriors, who have been average against small forwards on the season. A closer look suggests that this matchup is perfect for a swingman with Hayward's skillset, though.

The Warriors defense has been featured in both of the first two parts of my "Matchups That Fit" series, due to their struggles to defend pick and roll ball handlers and to defend in transition.

Hayward was also featured in both articles, as he is one of the best small forwards in transition and has the fourth most points as a pick and roll ball handler among small forwards. Hayward has been unbelievably efficient in transition, posting a transition points per possession higher than any player with at least 100 transition field goal attempts. His transition eFG% of 67.4 percent is a big improvement from his 49.3 percent season eFG%.

The Jazz play at the slowest Pace in the league and Golden State plays at the second fastest, so Hayward should be looking at several additional transition scoring opportunities.

Goran Dragic, PG, Miami Heat

FanDuel Price: $6,800

Why He Will Go Overlooked:

Similar to Thomas, Goran Dragic has been playing terrific basketball but will go overlooked in this stacked player pool.

Dragic draws a tough matchup on paper against the Bucks, in what Vegas projects to be the lowest scoring game on the slate.

Why You Should Use Him:

Dragic continues to put up consistent production, averaging 36.3 FanDuel points over his past 10 games. He has been below 32 only twice during that span, with no games below 25 FanDuel points.

The Bucks have been solid against point guards this season, largely due to the effort of Michael Carter-Williams, who ranks 10th among point guards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM). Carter-Williams is out for the season though, which has opened up big minutes for Jerryd Bayless, who ranks 49th among point guards in DRPM.

Milwaukee's Achilles heel on defense is their inability to guard spot-up shooters. They has allowed 150 more points to spot-up shooters than any other team. Dragic ranks 10th among point guards in spot-up points, and his eFG% of 56.7 percent as a spot-up shooter is a big improvement from his season mark of 51.4 percent.

Robert Covington, SF, Philadelphia 76ers

FanDuel Price: $5,700

Why He Will Go Overlooked:

Notice a trend here? Point guard and small forward are chalked full of great options, which will leave a few viable options overlooked. Covington has been maddeningly inconsistent this season and brings a certain level of uncertainty when constructing rosters that will cause many to pay up for a more surefire thing.

Why You Should Use Him:

Covington is getting hot at the perfect time, averaging 34.5 FanDuel points over his past three games. He looks to carry that hot streak into a plus-matchup and revenge game against Houston.

One reason for his recent spike in production is the absence of Jahlil Okafor, who will sit out tonight's game as well. Per, Covington has averaged 0.94 FanDuel points per minute without Okafor on the court, as opposed to 0.83 with him.

The Rockets have allowed the most points to small forwards, as evidenced by our DvP tool, among teams playing tonight. A deeper look will show that Houston is a terrific matchup for a small forward with Covington's skillset.

Houston has allowed the second most three pointers per game to opposing teams, as well as the most to opposing small forwards. It should come as no surprise, then, that Houston has allowed the third-most points to opposing spot-up shooters this season. Covington is second on the team in spot-up points and has more spot-up attempts than any Sixer.

Houston also boasts the fourth-worst transition defense in the league, which bodes well for Covington, who has the second most transition points for Philadelphia this season.

Houston's struggles to defend Covington's primary skills allowed him to get hot in their last matchup, and he kept his foot on the pedal in the revenge game, eventually piling up 57.9 FanDuel points. Look for him to come out aggressive again tonight in front of a home crowd that he has averaged 2.2 more FanDuel points for than in away games.

J.R. Smith, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers

FanDuel Price: $4,500

Why He Will Go Overlooked:

Can you remember the last time you went out of your way to roster J.R. Smith on a healthy Cavs roster? Neither can I.

Why You Should Use Him:

While there aren't a ton of positive things to say about Smith's play this season, he has three things really going for him tonight: his price, his matchup, and his minutes.

Smith has played 32.6 minutes per game over his past nine, with just one game of sub-31 minutes during that span. He should be in line for a full allotment of minutes tonight in a matchup that fits like a glove -- to quote a famous pet detective.

Everyone knows how bad Sacramento is against shooting guards. But, they're especially bad at defending shooting guards reliant on the three-point shot. Sacramento has allowed opposing teams to make 10.5 three pointers per game -- easily the highest number in the league. They've allowed opposing shooting guards to make 2.9 three-pointers per game, also worst in the league.

A deeper look shows why Sacramento is so susceptible to the long-range shot. The Kings have struggled to defend spot-up shooters, shooters coming off of off-ball screens, and transition -- all areas that three-point specialists (Smith included) thrive in.

On the season, Sacramento has allowed the fifth-most points per game to opposing spot-up shooters. They've allowed opponents coming off of off-ball screens to maintain an eFG% of 54.2 percent -- the second-highest mark in the league.

Sacramento boasts the second-worst transition defense in the league and play at the fastest Pace in the league, which will force the Cavaliers (29th in Pace) to push the tempo.

Smith fits the profile just described perfectly. Three-pointers have accounted for 63 percent of his total points this season, and he ranks eighth in the league in made three-pointers per game. Smith has predictably been very efficient as a spot-up shooter, too, ranking second in points per possession and fourth in eFG% among players with at least 200 spot-up shot attempts.

Smith has been very effective coming off of screens, with the most points on the Cavs in that area. In fact, his 136 points coming off of off-ball screens is more than LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, and Matthew Dellavedova have combined. His eFG% coming off screens is second to only Stephen Curry among players with at least 100 shot attempts coming off of screens.

He has been effective in transition, too, with the third most transition points on the team and a transition eFG% three percent higher than his season average.

If you're not a believer in analytics, Smith's track-record offers some support for the numbers. Smith put up 31.8 FanDuel points in his one meeting with Sacramento this season and has averaged 32.7 in his past six games against the Kings.