NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 1, 2016
We’re faced with a little bit of uncertainty heading into tonight’s six game NBA DFS slate. Atlanta is in the Bay Area to take on the defending champion Golden State Warriors, and as of this writing, we have a very questionable Stephen Curry. Curry’s status for tonight’s game is holding up the Vegas line, which, regardless of Curry’s status, should be the highest on tonight’s slate. Only four games have spreads and totals as of right now (7:56 am CST), and they’re all over 200 points with only the Charlotte Hornets favored by double digits. If Curry is announced active for tonight’s game, I would guess that the spread is probably somewhere in the neighborhood or eight to nine points in favor of the Warriors, but Curry’s status is the key to attacking tonight.
Without Curry, several Warriors stand to get a bump in playing time and potential production. Draymond Green averages over four DK points more per game with Curry sidelined. Shaun Livingston sees an additional eight minutes per game in Curry’s absence and scores over eight DK points more per game. Even Andrew Bogut gets a slight bump. We obviously hope to know Curry’s status for tonight long before roster lock, but even if he plays, I think he’s super risky tonight.
Last night’s chalk ended up fizzling on us, as Will Barton and Darren Collison underperformed based on expectations. Barton played a team leading 34 minutes and managed very meager statistics while Darren Collison was the victim of Rajon Rondo miraculously deciding he could go nearly two hours after lock. It just goes to show the value of game theory, and how zigging when everyone else is zagging continues to be profitable. I did not see Barton’s dud coming, and figured that his performance, good or bad, wasn’t going to hurt me due to slate-high ownership percentages.
We have an attractive slate to work through today, and my goal is to help pinpoint the matchups worth targeting. I’ll highlight three matchups per position to look at using the same system I’ve used the last few nights. BOLD UNDERLINE is a matchup we should be targeting with extreme bias. STANDARD BOLD represents a strong matchup worth targeting, but due to either game situation or the players available to attack with, has a hiccup or two. BOLD ITALICS represents a matchup that is neutral in nature but can be attacked with the right player. STANDARD ITALICS represents a matchup best avoided. Let’s dive in.
I think it’s extremely wise to have exposure to Kemba Walker ($8200FD/$7700DK) against the PHOENIX SUNS tonight. I’m not scared off by the 12.5 point spread because the Hornets are not usually in this position. Walker has only been on the right side of a double digit spread three times this season, and his per game averages are actually higher in this scenario. He plays almost three minutes more per game, scores more than six points more per game, and averages over eight DK points more per game when the Hornets are double digit favorites. He’s also notoriously better at home, averaging nearly four DK points more per game as the host. It certainly helps that he’s facing the hapless Suns who allow point guards to score 3.01 points above expectation, the highest plus minus in the NBA. The Suns allow the second most DK points per game to opposing point guards. Walker’s price is depressed on DraftKings, making it very easy to build around him tonight.
An interesting trend has developed in the Brooklyn backcourt over the last four games. Donald Sloan ($4800FD/$5100DK) and Shane Larkin ($3500FD/$3600DK) have rotated the minutes lead over the last four games, with Larkin being the most recent to play more minutes. Tonight, the Nets are the only team playing on the second night of a back to back, but they’ll be in the same building as last night, facing the LOS ANGELES LAKERS. If the pattern continues, Sloan should draw more minutes than Larkin tonight, and these are the types of games we should be targeting for DFS purposes. Two inefficient teams that play bottom seven defense with a total over 210 points where the worse of the two teams in providing the pace bump is optimal for our purposes, and if we add in the fact that the Lakers allow the most DK points per night to point guards, we have a perfect storm. Sloan has exceeded salary based point expectations in four straight and six of seven overall and now draws one of the best matchups available to any player. The Lakers allow point guards to score 1.87 points above expectation, and with the lack of high priced talent to scoop up tonight, rostering Sloan as a second point guard makes a ton of sense in all formats.
I’m a Bulls’ fan, and even I don’t know if Derrick Rose ($7200FD/$7000DK) is going to play tonight. Regardless if he does or not, I’d say avoiding a matchup with the MIAMI HEAT is optimal either way. The Heat hold opposing point guards 1.95 points below expectation, the best mark in the league, along with the second fewest DK points per night to the position. The Heat play top six defense and run at a bottom four pace, so avoiding the Bulls in general is a winning strategy tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: BROOKLYN NETS, ORLANDO MAGIC, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, CHICAGO BULLS, NEW YORK KNICKS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, ATLANTA HAWKS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Targeting the PHOENIX SUNS tonight will be reasonably popular throughout this article, and Nicolas Batum ($6200FD/$6700DK) is way too cheap heading into this matchup. Phoenix allows shooting guards to score a league high 2.38 points above expectation along with the fourth most DK points per game to the position. Batum doesn’t perform as well as Kemba Walker does in double digit spread games, but like Walker, Batum has extreme splits at home. Batum is averaging 38.63 DK points per game when playing at home as opposed to 28.25 DK points per game on the road. Charlotte’s top two players are underpriced for tonight’s matchup, and they should be staples in your play tonight.
The ORLANDO MAGIC have been a much improved defensive team this season, but in their last seven games against Western Conference opponents, they’ve allowed 110.1 points per game. Orlando defeated Dallas in overtime just two weeks ago in Orlando, and the two teams will meet again in Dallas tonight. Wesley Matthews ($4300FD/$4600DK) is in play tonight due to Orlando’s recent struggles with shooting guards. Matthews struggled in 36 minutes of play in that meeting two weeks ago, but that was predictable as Matthews has been a better player at home this season. He’s averaging almost two DK points more per game at home, playing about one minute more per game at the American Airlines Center. Orlando has allowed shooting guards to average 48.4 DK points per game over their last five games, 11.2 point above their season average. I don’t think Matthews is a foundational play tonight, but he could provide great upside for a discount in what should be one of the two highest scoring games of the night.
Miami doesn’t have it extremely easy tonight against the CHICAGO BULLS and I’m worried that there won’t be enough scoring to make this game worth targeting. Dwyane Wade ($7600FD/$7100DK) is priced appropriately for his skill set and what he brings to the table, but this game should be played in the high 80s or low 90s, and I don’t think Wade will be able to do enough to provide upside tonight. The Bulls hold opposing shooting guards 0.13 points below expectation this season, a lot of that having to do with the defense of Jimmy Butler, but over their last five games, they’ve remained stout against the position, allowing only 39.7 DK points per game to shooting guards in that time frame. Wade will likely get a full complement of minutes, but he’s going to need to score 25-29 real points to have a shot at value, so the upside type performance probably doesn’t exist tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, ATLANTA HAWKS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, MIAMI HEAT, BROOKLYN NETS, NEW YORK KNICKS
No one hates recommending Luol Deng ($6000FD/$6500DK) more than I do, but in a matchup with his former employer, the CHICAGO BULLS, I don’t know that I can omit him from this piece. The Bulls have been weak against opposing small forwards all season, allowing 1.40 points above expectation this season along with the eleventh most DK points per night to the position. They’ve been better lately, but Deng is flourishing with Chris Bosh sidelined, exceeding salary based point expectations in five of his last six games. He’s scored in double digits in eight straight games, logging 30 minutes or more in seven of those contests with five double doubles in that stretch. We may not like the pace or total in this one, but I can tell you with certainty that the peripheral stats will be there for the taking, and although Deng is slightly overpriced at the moment, his current role is concrete and 35-40 DK points is certainly within reach.
The best thing about the downward spiral of the Phoenix Suns’ season has been the emergence of Mirza Teletovic ($4700FD/$5600DK). He’s listed as a power forward on FanDuel, but he really plays all three front court spots for the Suns and provides Phoenix with one of their few mismatch opportunities. He’s exceeded salary based point expectations in nine straight games, which brought his price up to its season high mark. In each of those nine games, he’s scored double digit points, hitting at least three three-point shots in seven of those contests. He’s averaging over 24 minutes per game over his last nine and over 28 minutes in his last five. He’s also a key component of Phoenix’s garbage time set, averaging over three minutes more per game and 5.11 DK points more per game when the Suns are double digit underdogs. Charlotte hasn’t provided much resistance to opposing small forwards this season, allowing 0.67 points above expectation on the season and 47.6 DK points per game over their last five games, 6.9 points above their season average. The price should keep the masses off of him, but he’s in a great spot to succeed tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PHOENIX SUNS, BROOKLYN NETS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, ORLANDO MAGIC, MIAMI HEAT, NEW YORK KNICKS, ATLANTA HAWKS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Draymond Green ($8400FD/$8600DK) is the player I’m most likely to spend up for tonight, as the ATLANTA HAWKS provide Green with the best matchup on the slate. The Hawks are actually a team that should matchup reasonably well with Golden State, as their bigs aren’t interior dominators. They play soft in the middle and athletic on the wings, which makes a chameleon player like Green a very dangerous player in this specific matchup. Green can play the center spot and run circles around bigger opponents or play the four and be a better overall athlete than the man he lines up across. The Hawks allow opposing power forwards to score 1.31 points above expectation, the second highest plus minus in the NBA. Green has slowed down greatly since Steve Kerr returned to the bench, exceeding salary based expectations only three times in his last nine games, but the Warriors return home after an extended seven game road trip and Green, possibly without Stephen Curry, is in a spot to dominate this game and return massive upside in what should be the highest scoring game of the night.
That noise you’ve been hearing on Twitter since the All Star break is the sound of Aaron Gordon ($6500FD/$6800DK) being freed. Gordon is living up to his draft position from last year over the last nine games, exceeding salary based point expectations in every single game, bringing his price up to its season high mark, which still isn’t high enough. He’s eclipsed 33 DK points seven times in his last nine games, and he draws the DALLAS MAVERICKS tonight, a team that allows power forwards to score 0.19 points above expectation and 52.0 DK points per game over their last five games. Gordon is starting to score more as well, reaching double digits in each of his last five games. In his last matchup with Dallas two weeks ago, he added six steals to a modest seven point, eleven rebound performance, showing his ability to stuff the stat sheet everywhere. Gordon is reaching must play status in the right matchups, and tonight is the right matchup.
There’s a lot to like about the BROOKLYN NETS – Los Angeles Lakers game tonight, and Julius Randle ($6000FD/$6200DK) stands out as a viable play. The Nets get beat up just about everywhere on the court, and when we have a chance to sample some of Los Angeles’ young talent in winnable matchups, we should do it. Randle is priced appropriately as a player who averages a double double and it helps that Brooklyn allows power forwards to score 0.24 points above expectation along with the eleventh most DK points per night to the position. Randle has exceeded salary based expectations six times in his last nine games and has performed over three DK points better per game at home. Randle has also showed great flashes in games at home with a total of 210 points or more, averaging over 30 DK points per game in that set up. We have the Lakers favored in game for God’s sake. Use players from this game!
REMAINING MATCHUPS: CHICAGO BULLS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, NEW YORK KNICKS, ORLANDO MAGIC, MIAMI HEAT, PHOENIX SUNS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Start your centers against the CHICAGO BULLS. Hassan Whiteside ($8400FD/$8300DK) has been on a tear of late, exceeding salary based point expectations in seven of his last nine with five straight 40+ DK point performances. You might remember he bursted on to the scene last season with his first triple double with blocks against these same Bulls, and all Whiteside has done this season is flourish off the bench, adding scoring to his defensive repertoire, averaging 15.3 points per game over his last nine games. Don’t miss out on the player with the most upside tonight. Whiteside will have a big game against a Bulls’ defense allowing 3.67 points above expectation to centers. He’s priced appropriately considering where his scoring comes from, and although his minutes are routinely volatile, he’s playing over 31 minutes per game over his last six games as Miami works through injury situations. Foul trouble doesn’t exist these days coming off the bench, as the Bulls in particular can’t bring anyone off the pine to force him into tough defensive spots. This is the perfect storm tonight.
As much as I want all the Whiteside tonight, my DraftKings lineups are more likely to be built around Brook Lopez ($8400FD/$7500DK) against the LOS ANGELES LAKERS. The Lakers allow centers to score 2.35 points above expectation along with the fourth most DK points per night to the position. Lopez is on the second night of a back to back, which actually has not affected his minutes this season, as he’s played exactly the same amount of minutes in these scenarios as games where he’s had rest. Playing the second night of a back to back against the Lakers is equivalent to an up tempo practice session, and I expect Lopez, who broke out of a two game mini slump last night against the Clippers, to easily coast past value tonight. I’m expecting at least 50 fantasy points tonight.
Box score chasers are going to be all over Al Horford ($7900FD/$7300DK) against the GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS tonight, but I’m not about to fall into that trap. Horford was $800 cheaper on DraftKings when these teams played eight days ago, and while Horford has exceeded salary based point expectations in nine straight games, I see that coming to an abrupt end tonight. Golden State is a different animal at home, and if they are without Stephen Curry, the pace slows down a bit, which will affect a player priced at his highest point since early November. It is certainly within his range of outcomes to hit value tonight, but the Warriors, despite recent lapses with opposing centers, have held opposing big men 0.33 points below expectation on the season. Keep this in mind: on DraftKings, you need 36.5 points to reach 5X value. Horford has exceeded that number in four straight, but only two other times in his previous eleven games.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: ATLANTA HAWKS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, BROOKLYN NETS, ORLANDO MAGIC, MIAMI HEAT, NEW YORK KNICKS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, PHOENIX SUNS