NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 25, 2016
Last night’s NBA DFS was far lower scoring than any night we’ve seen recently. The final hour New Orleans Pelicans’ news was enough to screw with whatever you were working on all day, and it did just that for me personally. I guess the best thing it did was take me off of Russell Westbrook, who didn’t need to play the fourth quarter after hanging 40.9 FD points on the Jazz in three quarters. The Thunder’s blowout victory of the Jazz was predictable, as the Jazz spilled their guts on the court to win on Wednesday night in Houston, but we were definitely expecting a slightly more competitive game. The worst thing the Pelicans’ news did to me was take me off Myles Turner, who scored a slate high 47.7 FD points. I got off Turner because of how much additional salary I had after inserting Toney Douglas in Westbrook’s spot.
I still left $1000 of salary on the table in the end, and my night was profitable because 260 FD points was good for comfortable placing in 50/50s. The night could have been so much bigger, because the moves I made brought me to LeBron James and Kevin Love in Brooklyn. The Cavaliers were behind in the fourth quarter, which opened up unexpected final quarter run for the East’s top seed. LeBron checked back in with about five minutes left in the game down three points and put up zero statistics in that time. Love added one rebound in that same time frame and Cleveland ended up taking one of the worst losses on the season in a game they were favored by nine in.
Last night was a great demonstration of not letting late breaking news screw up your process and research. The only Pelican really worth playing was Alexis Ajinca, who has had virtually no role on this team all season under Alvin Gentry. Last season, with Monty Williams in charge, Ajinca was someone I regularly plugged in when Anthony Davis missed time. He averaged over a fantasy point per minute with Davis sidelined last season and has been a non-factor this entire season. He somehow played 36 minutes without fouling out on his way to 32.8 FD points, nearly 10X his minimum salary. Douglas went over 5X value, but his 28.5 FD points didn’t shift the tide of the slate. The only Pelican I planned to play was Luke Babbitt, who is now someone you can’t just automatically plug in. He was somehow left out of the starting lineup after back to back impressive performances and only played 24 minutes, struggling the entire game to get anything going. The best thing about his performance? His price probably won’t adjust on FanDuel, which means we can probably consider him next time out when everyone will get off of him.
Tonight’s nine game slate should be a lot better than last night’s. I would wager that more than two games will go over their posted total, and we do have some spots that are exploitable. We’re going to go game by game identifying the plays you should consider playing or fading. Let’s dive in.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Washington Wizards
Minnesota is playing a lot better right now and their starting five is usually in consideration in most matchups. My assumption is most people will see the Wizards and assume Zach LaVine ($6300FD/$6000DK) and Andrew Wiggins ($6900FD/$6400DK) are automatically in play because of Washington’s struggles with opposing wings. Washington has actually limited shooting guards and small forwards of late, and despite their bottom half defense against both spots, their tightened rotation has made things tougher for these positions over their last five games. I think the play to consider on the Minnesota side is Ricky Rubio ($7100FD/$6900DK). Washington ranks 14th against point guards, allowing 3.21 points above expectation to the position. Rubio has exceeded salary based expectations in seven of his last nine games and in games where the total is as high as tonight’s 217.5 total, Rubio is averaging 6.7 FD points more per game. Rubio has double digit assists in seven of his last nine games and is averaging 12.2 points per game in that span, two points per game higher than his season average. Both teams allow over 103 points per 100 possessions and Washington’s top four pace should influence more possessions on both sides. Minnesota is likely not going to get blown out in this spot, so expect normal minutes and a high scoring affair.
John Wall ($9700FD/$9700DK) is really the only Wizard you can consider these days. Washington has tightened up their rotation in order to push for the playoffs, and Wall is playing massive minutes as a result, seeing 35 or more minutes in each of his last five games. He let his owners down big time on Wednesday, but tonight’s spot should be a vastly different outcome. Minnesota allows the third most FD points per game to opposing point guards on the year, and they score 2.72 points above expectation. We have seen Rick Rubio improve in his personal defensive metrics this year, but he is still someone we target with bias in DFS. Wall’s price is back below $10000 on FanDuel, which makes him an easier pill to swallow.
Charlotte Hornets vs. Detroit Pistons
Detroit is expected to have their normal rotation back in play tonight, and I’m not particularly interested in any individual Hornets options tonight. They’re on the road, where they’re 14-19 this season with the worst road record of any team currently inside the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Pistons rank inside the top half against every position except for center, and the Hornets don’t have a center I want to attack with in this spot. Charlotte can be safely avoided tonight.
On the Detroit side, the best way to attack Charlotte is from the wings, but I can’t honestly say I would actively target Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($5700FD/$5500DK) or Marcus Morris ($5500FD/$5100DK) due to their inconsistent game logs and a likely lower than average total. Charlotte has won the first two meetings between these teams this season, and KCP has been the Pistons’ best player in each of the first two games, averaging 20 points and 2.0 steals per game, but not exactly providing overwhelming fantasy numbers. There is no line on this game at the moment, but I’m seeing this being among the lowest scoring, slow paced games of the evening. Avoid.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks are best attacked via the front court, where they have the second worst rebounding differential in the league. They allow the fourth most FD points per game to opposing centers, and Greg Monroe ($6100FD/$5500DK) is massively underpriced in this spot. Monroe’s production and minutes in the second half of the season have been inconsistent at best, but you can’t look past the matchup in this spot. Monroe is averaging 42.4 FD points per game in two meetings with the Hawks this season, including a 48.4 FD point performance in Atlanta earlier this season. Atlanta allows centers to score 4.77 points above expectation on the season.
The Atlanta side is always a little murky, as they evenly distribute production among their starting five. As far as straight matchups go, no Hawk has a better spot than Paul Millsap ($7700FD/$7800DK). You get Millsap for a discount tonight against a defense that allows the sixth most FD points per game to power forwards, allowing 4.35 points above expectation to the position on the season. Millsap is averaging over 50 fantasy points per game against Milwaukee this season in two meetings, and Atlanta’s rotation is sharp right now as they continue to jockey for seeding. Millsap’s minutes are secure, and tonight’s matchup provides the upside we need to get Millsap closer to the 50 fantasy points we want.
Orlando Magic vs. Miami Heat
Orlando is still likely without Nikola Vucevic, and Miami is a slow paced, top six defensive team. I’m really not seeing a lot of fantasy goodness on the Orlando side, but I wouldn’t ignore Victor Oladipo ($8400FD/$7400DK) completely. He has exceeded salary based point expectations in seven of his last nine games, topping 38 minutes in each of the last six. It’s tough to pay the premium on FanDuel for Oladipo, but know that his usage is sky high right now and the individual defense of Dwyane Wade doesn’t scare me off of him. The Magic will also be without Ersan Ilyasova tonight, which opens up valuable minutes for Jason Smith ($3900FD/$3600DK) at both the power forward and center spot. Miami is playing undersized right now with Chris Bosh still sidelined, and Smith has played 20 minutes or more four times in his last six games. He’s among my favorite value plays today.
The Heat are coming off a big loss to the Spurs on Wednesday night, but with a day of rest, I’m expecting a full effort tonight. Nobody ever rosters Goran Dragic ($6700FD/$6200DK), and he’s in one of the better spots among the Heat options tonight. Orlando has allowed just the 15th most FD points per night to opposing point guards, but they allow 3.41 points above expectation to the position on the season. Dragic was predictably avoidable against San Antonio on Wednesday, but in games where Miami has a team total of 109 or higher, Dragic averages 5.79 FD points per game more than in all other games. Dragic did drop 34.2 FD points on the Magic in their lone meeting earlier this season, so everything is in place for another under the radar value crushing performance.
Toronto Raptors vs. Houston Rockets
Houston is exploitable at every position, but the Raptors aren’t loaded with viable fantasy options in the front court. My favorite play on the Toronto side here is DeMar DeRozan ($8000FD/$7800DK). The “defense” of James Harden is a spot we’ve attacked with success all season, and even though we don’t have a line in this game yet, I’m going to project it as one of the top three highest scoring games on the slate. The Rockets allow the seventh most FD points per game to opposing shooting guards, allowing 4.7 points above expectation to the position on the year. DeRozan plays a lot of minutes, and with Cleveland losing last night, the Raptors will be full go tonight in order to gain some ground on the Cavs. DeRozan has played the sixth most minutes per game in the league this season, and with the league’s minutes per game leader opposing him directly, his path to value tonight is among the easiest on the slate. We’ve seen DeRozan exceed salary based point expectations in seven of his last nine games, so I’m looking for a big time performance in a must win for both teams tonight.
Toronto is a really slow, solid defensive team, and in spots like this, you can really only target James Harden ($10800FD/$10400DK) on the Houston side. Harden scored 40 points and handed out 14 assists in Toronto just 19 days ago, and his performance tonight is strictly related to potential volume. Harden’s game tonight might be sloppy, but he’s going to be forced to score and he’s also handed out eight assists or more in seven straight games and eight of nine overall. With something to play for, Harden is probably your best option priced over $10000 today.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. San Antonio Spurs
You can safely avoid every Memphis option tonight. San Antonio ranks inside the top four in fantasy production allowed to every position, and Memphis’ replacement level talent has virtually no chance to succeed tonight. Playing Memphis options tonight is not contrarian. It’s foolish.
On the San Antonio side, we already know Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Danny Green and Boris Diaw are ruled out tonight. There will be value to be had on the Spurs side, but in a slow paced, likely low scoring game, I only have eyes on one player, and that’s Tony Parker ($5200FD/$4600DK). The Grizzlies allow the tenth fewest FD points per game to opposing point guards, but all Memphis DvP stats are skewed for the 50+ games where they had a full, healthy roster. Since losing Marc Gasol for the season, Memphis has allowed point guards priced over $5000 on FanDuel to score 4.87 points above expectation with 64.7% of those point guards clearing expectations. Tony Parker won’t need big minutes to hit value tonight, and with no Mills to take away his time, Parker is in line for the most minutes he’s seen in quite some time. Parker has only exceeded salary based expectations three times in his last nine games, but he’s provided 7-9X upside in those three performances. Parker only plays 27 minutes a game this season, and I would expect him to be closer to 30 tonight. Parker is already averaging 29.83 FD points per game against Memphis this season, so this is a matchup he has proven to be able to get up for.
Phoenix Suns vs. Sacramento Kings
This will be the last time I actively recommend Alex Len ($6400FD/$6300DK). If he is unable to do damage in this spot tonight, it will be up to you to decide when Len is a viable option for you going forward. Tyson Chandler has already been ruled out and Len is in line for 35 minutes in tonight’s fastest paced contest. Phoenix and Sacramento are in the league’s top five in pace and bottom seven in defensive efficiency, so points will not be at a premium tonight. Len is still listed at power forward on FanDuel and center on DraftKings, so depending on how Earl Watson plans this out, you are more likely going to see Jon Leuer chase around Demarcus Cousins while Len camps out in the paint against either Willie Cauley-Stein or Quincy Acy to start. Len’s price continues to drop and tonight’s matchup with the Kings, who allow the fifth most FD points per game to power forwards and the 15th most FD points to opposing centers, is as soft as he’ll have seen in the last month. Based on shear volume, Len should easily reach 5X value with upside for a lot more.
Most would see this matchup and easily gravitate towards DeMarcus Cousins ($11000FD/$10300DK) but the best way to attack the Suns in through the backcourt, and to me Rajon Rondo ($7800FD/$7800DK) is the better play with a lot more ceiling room. Rondo dropped 43.7 FD points on the Suns in an earlier matchup at home this season, and has seen his price drop $1200 on FanDuel in just the last month. On the road this season, Phoenix has faced nine point guards priced above $7000 on FanDuel who have seen a salary decrease of $100-$1500 in the month leading up to the game. Six of the nine have exceeded expectations by an average of 7.7 points per game, including Rondo’s earlier performance. Phoenix allows more fantasy points to point guards than any other team and allow 5.89 points above expectation to the position on the season. Rondo has 50 point upside tonight.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Golden State Warriors
It’s extremely tough to pay the premium for Dirk Nowitzki ($8000FD/$7200DK), but there are a few factors to keep in mind. First off, Dirk averages 8.91 FD points per game more in games where Chandler Parsons doesn’t play, including 4.41 points more per game. Secondly, in the only other game Nowitzki has played in with a total of 224 points or more (against the Warriors last Friday), he scored 46.8 FD points. He’ll face an uphill battle as a 14 point underdog tonight, but Dallas is one of those teams that can play with anybody, so I would expect this game to be competitive a bit longer than most would expect. Finally, Dirk has exceeded salary based point expectations in eleven straight games, by far his best stretch of the season. Dallas is currently the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs, one half game ahead of eighth place Houston. They do not want to be the team to face Golden State in the first round – not that facing San Antonio is an easier pill to swallow – so expect Dallas’ best effort tonight.
On the Warriors side, I’m going to recommend some value as I feel their top options are all in pretty lousy spots. I played Harrison Barnes ($4300FD/$4100DK) last Friday in Dallas and took advantage of his best performance above expectation this season. Barnes has exceeded salary based point expectations in eight straight games and his price is so fair that not playing him in a spot like this seems foolish. He did what he did last Friday in Chandler Parsons’ eye, and without Parsons tonight, I would expect that Barnes can, at worst, reach 5X value tonight in the highest scoring game on the slate. We’ve been playing worse players at small forward lately.
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
I think people are going to immediately plug in Emmanuel Mudiay ($6000FD/$5900DK) after Wednesday night’s 47.2 FD point performance against the 76ers, but you need to consider two things before making that move. Mudiay has been far less effective on the road this season, averaging 2.8 FD points less away from home. In his last five road games, he has reached or exceeded 5X value only once, averaging just 22.38 FD points per game. His price also went up after Wednesday’s performance ahead of what appears to be a pristine spot. The Lakers have allowed the second most FD points per game to point guards this season, but over their last five games, they’ve held opposing point guards six points below their season average. Point guards priced at $6000 or more on FanDuel have performed 6.65 points above expectation against the Lakers this season at a success rate of 79.2%, but in Los Angeles, the points above expectation average comes down to 3.66 points at a success rate of 73.9%. The Lakers are still attackable at the point guard spot, but the upside against them exists on the road, where the points above expectation goes up to 9.41 points and the success rate rises to 84.0%. Don’t fall into this trap tonight.
On the Lakers side, I make money when I roster Julius Randle ($6300FD/$6000DK) and I’m going to do just that tonight. Denver allows the second most FD points per game to power forwards, allowing 2.63 points above expectation to the position on the season. Randle averages 3.06 FD points per game more at home, and Denver has been far more lenient to power forwards on the road. Denver allows 2.72 points above expectation to power forwards priced at $6000 or more on the season with a success rate of 59.5%. On the road, those numbers take a big jump, as they allow 5.29 points above expectation at a success rate of 70.0%. Randle has been one of my favorite plays this year, and I have been really good at calling his spots. I’m playing him tonight.