NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 10, 2016
Things are becoming a lot more transparent in the NBA DFS landscape as we head towards the playoffs. These sample sizes we review everyday are becoming larger and larger, and that helps us understand which plays we can get behind with full confidence on a daily basis. Last night, I knew with 100% certainty that Kemba Walker was the player I wanted to build around. Outside of Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis, no player scored more fantasy points than Walker, and his price was over $1000 less than either of Westbrook or Davis, so Walker provided a massive value boost in every lineup. The chalk Grizzlies were a mixed bag of success and failure, as JaMychal Green and Vince Carter were the top returns in yesterday’s 20 point loss to the Celtics. Mario Chalmers met value, but went down with what looks like a catastrophic injury for the fading Grizzlies, verifying my claim that fading him yesterday was the right move. I wish my claims were accurate because of his actual play rather than injury, but we have to accept facts in this case.
It turns out that last night was the right night to get off of Alex Len as well. I don’t think his price is done rising anytime soon, but two quick first quarter fouls derailed his night, and he still managed to get within a few points of 5X value on each site despite a low water mark in minutes over his last six games. Last night was also the right time to get off of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who met value on DraftKings, but failed to 5X on FanDuel, where he was priced based on recent performance rather than the matchup in front of him with the Heat.
Predictability has set in with certain rosters around the league, and we can continue to exploit those situations down the stretch run. Tonight’s four game slate, however, is extremely ugly, and differentiating yourself tonight is going to be a real challenge. The Spurs appear to be in a good spot hosting the Bulls without Jimmy Butler, but as we saw for nearly a month with Butler on the shelf, the Bulls can and will give up points in bunches, so identifying the right Spurs tonight will be a challenge. The Raptors host Atlanta, who have suddenly remembered the defensive form that made them the Eastern Conference’s top seed last season. Denver hosts Phoenix, and this game should be a source of much of tonight’s chalk, as great matchups exist on each side. Finally, the Lakers look to continue their winning ways against the Cavaliers, who outran the Kings last night behind their big three, but could potentially rest players in what should be an easy victory.
I play every main slate every day. It’s been said that in order to be an expert at something, you can’t take days off. You have to tackle every slate head first so that you have the ability to adjust and make the right selections in any environment. When you have four games to select from, it’s more about roster construction rather than ownership percentages, so we’re going to approach today like we do every other day. We’re going to dig into matchups and find the edge that way. We’ll use BOLD UNDERLINE to indicate matchups that should be attacked with extreme bias. We’ll use STANDARD BOLD to denote matchups that are attackable, but due to personnel available to attack with or the game environment present a certain degree of risk. BOLD ITALICS will denote matchups that should really only be attacked with an elite player and can be ignored if that elite option doesn’t exist. STANDARD ITALICS will represent matchups best ignored completely. Let’s dive in.
You’re not sneaking up on anybody by rostering Emmanuel Mudiay ($6000FD/$6500DK) today. I’ve been using Mudiay a lot recently and have had some of my best scores when my lineups have been centered around him. Tonight, Mudiay draws the PHOENIX SUNS, who allow the second most DK points per night to opposing point guards and the highest plus minus overall to the position. The Nuggets have opened as 7.5 point favorites in what should end up being the highest scoring game on the slate, carrying a total of 214 points. We won’t be relying on splits here, as Denver hasn’t been favored all that much this season, but Phoenix has made it a point to make opposing point guards look like Magic Johnson. Just last night, Jose Calderon dropped 10 points and 12 assists on the Suns. Mike Conley scored a team-high 22 points against them on Sunday and Elfrid Payton managed 19 points and 11 assists against them on Friday. Mudiay’s price is on the rise as he’s exceeded salary based point expectations in five straight games by an average of 13.22 points per game, meaning he’s been a consistent source of nearly 7X value. The matchup is right, and despite being the likely chalk tonight, your best bet is to build around Mudiay tonight.
The risky decision tonight would be to use Kyrie Irving ($7200FD/$7700DK) tonight against the LOS ANGELES LAKERS. Irving has very quietly exceeded salary based point expectations in eight of his last nine, and I say quietly because none of them have been true upside performances. He’s averaged 37.03 DK points per night in this nine game span, which is right in line with his price on each site. Irving’s last massive performance came against these same Lakers a month ago today, where he dropped 35 points and seven assists in 35 minutes of playing time. One plus in Irving’s favor has been his performance on the second night of back to backs, where he’s playing nearly five minutes more per game and averaging almost six DK points per game more. Kevin Love and LeBron James have each rested in recent games, so I’m on high alert when it comes to Irving tonight. Los Angeles’ recent play at home has me interested in using him however, so if Irving goes, he’s one of my top plays at the position. Remember, the Lakers allow the most DK points per game to point guards.
Kyle Lowry ($8900FD/$8700DK) is your most expensive option at the position today and his matchup with the ATLANTA HAWKS qualifies as a matchup best attacked with the right player. The Hawks allow the 17th most DK points per night to opposing point guards and have performed extremely well against the position over their last five games, holding point guards 8.3 DK points per game below their season average. We do have Toronto at home tonight as a favorite and Lowry has had recent success against the Hawks, dropping a 31 point, five rebound, five assist outing on them earlier this season. Lowry has performed slightly above average in home games this season, but the game situation in general is one that should be attacked conservatively. Lowry is likely the highest scoring player in this game when it’s all said and done due to volume, but I’m not 100% behind building around him tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: CHICAGO BULLS, DENVER NUGGETS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, TORONTO RAPTORS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Will Barton ($5700FD/$5700DK) has burned a lot of people lately as most of us expected him to be the offensive focus with Danilo Gallinari sidelined, but that simply has not been the case. Barton has failed to exceed salary based point expectations in four of his five games with Gallinari, and his price spiked before coming back down once everyone caught up to the mediocrity. Tonight, however, Barton is in as good a spot as he’s seen so far, taking on the PHOENIX SUNS, who allow the fifth most DK points per night to opposing shooting guards and the highest plus minus to the position overall. You can also consider Gary Harris ($5100FD/$5000DK), who has exceeded salary based point expectations in every game since Gallinari got hurt as well as eleven of his last twelve overall, playing over 38 minutes per game on average in the last five games. In fact, with both in such a great spot, I think it’s a great idea to play both of them. Denver is likely going to be in the highest scoring competitive environment, and attacking Phoenix with guards is a profitable strategy.
I mentioned predictability in the intro, and right now, no one is performing more predictably than Devin Booker ($5700FD/$5600DK). He has destroyed salary based point expectations in four straight games by an average of 18.46 points per game, meaning he’s providing 8X upside at his currently inflated price. Booker is averaging 26.8 points per game over this four game stretch, taking 19.3 shots per game. We should beware of Brandon Knight’s nearing return, but my assumption is that his minutes will be limited upon his return. Earl Watson has made it abundantly clear that he wants Booker and Alex Len to shoulder the offensive load, and Knight’s return doesn’t sour that outlook in my eyes. Tonight’s matchup with the DENVER NUGGETS isn’t prohibitive, as the Nuggets allow the tenth most DK points per night to opposing shooting guards. The spread and game environment is favorable to the offenses here, and you shouldn’t be afraid to attack this game liberally.
The spot isn’t ideal, and there’s a strong chance he doesn’t play, but you can’t ignore the price on Kobe Bryant ($5700FD/$4900DK) on DraftKings. As of this writing, Kobe is “50/50” to play tonight, so don’t go out of your way to build your rosters around him, but with a season low price on DK, a 30 DK point performance is not out of the question. It would be massively under owned, it would boost your roster, and it’s certainly within the realm of outcomes considering how much Bryant shoots the ball. Bryant did hang 31.0 DK points on the CLEVELAND CAVALIERS a month ago today, and over the past four seasons, Bryant is averaging 40.75 DK points per game in four meetings with LeBron James-led teams. This year is obviously different, but knowing Kobe like I do, I think he’ll push to play tonight against a high profile opponent on national television, and despite the fact that Cleveland allows the fourth fewest DK points per night to shooting guards, I would expect Kobe to have one last epic performance.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS, TORONTO RAPTORS, ATLANTA HAWKS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS, CHICAGO BULLS
I won’t have nearly the same exposure I had to him last night, but you can’t ignore LeBron James ($10100FD/$9800DK) against the LOS ANGELES LAKERS. The Lakers allow the second most DK points per night to opposing small forwards, and James has the capability of crushing his number in limited minutes. When the Cavs and Lakers met a month ago, James dropped 58.75 DK points on them in over 36 minutes of run. The situation is different this time around, as the Cavaliers play the second leg of a back to back, so I would expect James to play fewer minutes than that first matchup after playing 36 minutes last night. Either way, we know that elite options can put up fantasy points on the Lakers in bunches, and James is affordable tonight on a night with no other elite options at the top. Remember that on a night like this, total points is more important than value, and James will be the highest projected scorer across the industry today.
Similarly to James, Kawhi Leonard ($8700FD/$8400DK) is an elite option in a blowout spot against the CHICAGO BULLS. I would guess that Leonard is slightly more volatile than James because the Spurs don’t play along with narratives like the ones that exist in the Cavs-Lakers game. The Spurs lost to Chicago earlier this season, and Leonard dropped 42.5 DK points that night in 40 minutes of action. I would expect the Spurs to easily dispose of the Bulls and with the Spurs coasting towards the playoffs, this smells like a “get in and get out” kind of spot playing their fourth game in six nights. San Antonio has been known for pulling the rug out from under DFS players minutes before or after lock, so beware of this when constructing rosters today. Leonard has failed to meet salary based point expectations in each of his last two games, but that follows a run of nine straight games over expectation. Leonard does everything for the Spurs, filling all categories on the stat sheet. I expect himt o play tonight, and if he does, the matchup is great, with the Bulls allowing the ninth most DK points per night to opposing small forwards. Just make sure you’re paying attention tonight, because the Bulls are a wounded animal limping in to a building where the home team has not yet lost.
He’s listed as a power forward on FanDuel, but since my stats and analysis focus more on the DraftKings’ side of things, Mirza Teletovic ($4600FD/$4600DK) is in play as a small forward. The DENVER NUGGETS allow the 12th most DK points per night to small forwards, and in the game that should have the highest final score, Teletovic is an intriguing option. Teletovic played 29 minutes last night, but his role is to fill minutes at multiple positions on this team. If the game gets out of hand one way or the other, Teletovic is on the court. If the game stays competitive, his three point shooting capabilities are on the court. Either way, with a night of limited options, digging slightly deeper has a way of playing out positively. Teletovic has failed to exceed salary based point expectations in five straight games, but a lot of that had to do with his price being inflated. The minutes have been steady, he’s priced more fairly now, and his number is easier to reach.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PHOENIX SUNS, ATLANTA HAWKS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, TORONTO RAPTORS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
It’s really tough to ignore the recent stat lines put up by Kenneth Faried ($6800FD/$6700DK). Faried has exceeded salary based point expectations in seven of his last eight games with six double doubles in that span. Outside of a short stint against the Lakers last week, Faried has played at least 27 minutes in five of his last six. Tonight, he draws the PHOENIX SUNS, who allow the ninth most DK points per night to opposing power forwards. The power forward crop is short today, and taking a chance on a player in a great matchup with 20-20 upside is the shot we need to take tonight. Faried hasn’t been the most consistent player this season, nor is he a safe play for cash at any point. But tonight, we need points and Faried certainly has the set up to score plenty of fantasy points.
LaMarcus Aldridge ($7900FD/$7100DK) is only in play tonight because we don’t have a bevy of options to choose from. The CHICAGO BULLS are not a restrictive matchup for power forwards despite allowing just the 18th most DK points per game to the position. Over their last five games, the Bulls have allowed power forwards to score 10.6 DK points more than their season average, and Aldridge has exceeded salary based point expectations in his last five games playing over 33 minutes in four of those contests. Tonight’s game certainly has the look of one that could get ugly fast, which is scary for rostering the primary Spurs, but Aldridge should provide his owners with a high enough floor to offset a potential blow out. Aldridge did score 38.5 DK points against the Bulls earlier this season in 33 minutes of action, and you’ll definitely have the salary to afford him tonight.
Julius Randle ($6400FD/$6400DK) is in a horrible spot against the CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, who allow the third fewest DK points per game to opposing power forwards. The one thing in his favor tonight is the fact that he’s at home, where he’s averaged 30.68 DK points per game, 4.13 DK points more per game than his average on the road. I typically like to play Randle with Kobe off the floor because of the increase in touches, but I have a feeling that Randle can give us exactly what we need tonight. I’m not expecting a tournament winning 8X performance here, but Randle is one of only twelve players in the NBA averaging double figure rebounds, and playing Cleveland on the second night of a back to back makes the possibility of tired legs very real. I don’t expect the world, but on a night where low ownership is going to be tough to find, Randle will certainly be among those ignored by the general public.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: DENVER NUGGETS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, ATLANTA HAWKS, TORONTO RAPTORS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Don’t ignore Jonas Valanciunas ($6000FD/$5300DK) tonight against the ATLANTA HAWKS. The Hawks allow the third most DK points per game to opposing centers and even though JoVal’s minutes are very volatile, I would expect him to get a full complement tonight in what should be a very competitive game. Valanciunas missed the earlier meeting between these two teams this season, but he has been dependable in good matchups recently. He exceeded value against Houston, Portland, Chicago and Detroit in the last month, all teams that routinely give up production to opposing centers. Over the Hawks’ last four games, the dominant front court player from each opponent is averaging 13.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. Valanciunas is the Raptors’ leading rebounder, ranked 16th in the league with 9.1 rebounds per game. At a discounted DraftKings’ price, I think Valanciunas can easily return value tonight with upside for more as everyone continues to roster Alex Len.
Speaking of Alex Len ($6600FD/$6900DK), he’s still not too expensive and coming off a below average performance last night, I think the ownership will drop just a bit. Those who have played Len recently had been waiting for a performance like last night’s to happen, and now that it has, I think we can safely move on expecting him to continue his wildly hot streak. Even though he fell short of value last night, he still managed a double double for the sixth straight game. His evening was derailed by early foul trouble, which allowed the Knicks to surprisingly pull away, limiting Len’s potential fourth quarter run. He had played 33 minutes or more in five straight prior to last night, and in a likely competitive contest with the DENVER NUGGETS, who allow just the 16th most DK points per game to centers, I expect Len to get right back on track.
If you want to be somewhere no one else is tonight, Pau Gasol ($9500FD/$8300DK) is a great place to be different. The FanDuel price is a little high for my tastes, and with Alex Len’s price not budging, I’ll lean that way there, but on DraftKings, he is in play with limited top options available for purchase tonight. Over the last two seasons, Gasol has averaged 45.58 DK points per game against the SAN ANTONIO SPURS including a 46.25 DK point score in San Antonio last season and a 49.25 DK point drop earlier this season. Without Jimmy Butler, Gasol is averaging 5.49 DK points more per game and has recently rediscovered just how good of a passer he is, averaging 8.0 assists over his last five games with two triple doubles in that time frame. No one will dare play options against the Spurs tonight, especially at center where they allow the second fewest DK points per game. This is a great spot to pay a bit less for a great player playing really well in a touch matchup.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS, CHICAGO BULLS, TORONTO RAPTORS, PHOENIX SUNS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS