NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 14, 2016
It was an interesting weekend in NBA DFS, as we seem to have resumed a bit of normalcy in scoring. Last week’s chalky Memphis Grizzlies saw their prices shoot up across the industry, making the still underpriced Lance Stephenson the only remaining blowup candidate. Matt Barnes’ price re-stabilized and he went off for a Friday night triple double at minimal ownership, resetting the NBA DFS landscape in the process. Everybody chased the Grizzlies throughout the week because the pricing never caught up to the productivity, and once the pricing caught up by the weekend, they weren’t as easy to just set and forget. This is why the cash lines were so high at the beginning of last week. When the value hits big, and everyone has the same players, the way you differentiate yourself becomes way more crucial. But once that chalk becomes part of the way you differentiate, everything normalizes.
It should be noted that the Grizzlies are in action tonight against the Rockets, a fantastic matchup for just about all of the options we’ve become accustomed to rostering over the last seven days. When you combine underpriced options getting premium minutes against a weak opponent, you get chalk. For example, Lance Stephenson is now over $1000 more than he was last week. JaMychal Green is priced in the $6000 range as Zach Randolph nears a return. Be careful with your approach with the Grizzlies tonight. There is still an edge to be had, but we need to dig a bit deeper to find it.
We have a nine game slate to break down today and there are a lot of great spots to attack. Russell Westbrook’s price is way down on FanDuel, below even Stephen Curry’s, which makes the top of the food chain harder to decipher. The Thunder are in a tailspin at the moment, and Westbrook has 28 turnovers in his last four games, which makes it tougher to roster him on FanDuel. Curry and the Warriors are pacing themselves on their way to the playoffs, but they draw the fantasy friendly Pelicans at home tonight, a spot where we have to get exposure.
In every case, we need to consider matchups, and as I do every day, I’ll let you know the matchups to be attacking. I’ll use BOLD UNDERLINE to indicate matchups that should be attacked with extreme bias. STANDARD BOLD will represent a matchup that can be attacked with success, but due to the available personnel or the game situation, carries a certain degree of risk. BOLD ITALICS represents a matchup that should really only be attacked with the right player and can otherwise be ignored. STANDARD ITALICS is used for a matchup best ignored. Let’s dive in.
I have to consider Stephen Curry ($10500FD/$10200DK) the top option on the slate in a home spot against the NEW ORLEANS PELICANS. Yes, the Warriors are 15.5 point favorites at home, which certainly makes the blowout scenario a distinct possibility. The Warriors haven’t been all that dominant lately, losing last Sunday in Los Angeles to the Lakers followed by a single digit victory, two blowouts and another single digit home victory. The Warriors were double digit favorites in each game and Curry was predictably avoidable in two of the spots. Curry has performed way above average in two meetings with the Pelicans this season, averaging 46.5 points and 8.0 assists per game in those matchups, good for 73.0 DK points per game. It’s hard for me to see anything being much different tonight against the under-manned Pelicans, who give up the eleventh most DK points per night to opposing point guards. It is much easier to build around Curry right now at a slight discount, and we know Curry is capable of crushing value in less than four full quarters of play. I am completely comfortable building around Curry tonight.
Ricky Rubio ($6600FD/$6200DK) is way too cheap on both sites for a matchup with the PHOENIX SUNS, who have made every point guard they’ve faced lately look like Magic Johnson. Emmanuel Mudiay and Jose Calderon are among the recent point guards they’ve faced lately who have managed major fantasy performances against them, and at this point of the season, we should fully understand that Rubio is the kind of point guard we can trust in elite matchups. Rubio has exceeded alary based point expectations in four of his last six games, three against opponents ranking in the bottom ten in fantasy points allowed to point guards. No team allows more DK points per game to point guards than the Suns, and the Timberwolves actually find themselves as underdogs tonight, making his spot even more appealing. The pace will be fast, the defense will be minimal, and the minutes should be there for the taking.
If you’re looking for a potentially low-owned option in a great spot, Brandon Knight ($6600FD/$7200DK) is back for the Suns and he immediately made his presence felt with 52.5 DK points Saturday night in a closer than expected loss to the Warriors. Tonight, the Suns host the MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, who allow the fourth most DK points per game to opposing point guards. Knight should remain under owned in the interim period for a couple of reasons. One, he’s just returning from injury and common type players will want to see a trend before they attack it. He played over 37 minutes against the Warriors on Saturday, which is good enough for me to know that the training wheels are off. Two, he’s still priced as if he never missed time. On DraftKings especially, Knight is priced where we need 36 DK point points just to hit 5X value. With Rubio and others in better spots for less money, the likelihood of the general public gravitating towards Knight is low. Finally, the Suns are still among the worst teams in the league, which is one of the many reasons those who didn’t jump on Alex Len during his hot streak didn’t. People tend to feel more comfortable rostering players on better teams, which is completely understandable in a game that rewards those without biases. Knight is in a superb spot tonight, and is worthy of consideration.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, CHICAGO BULLS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, DENVER NUGGETS, HOUSTON ROCKETS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, UTAH JAZZ, DETROIT PISTONS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, TORONTO RAPTORS, MIAMI HEAT
Nobody really knows the best time to roster Klay Thompson ($7200FD/$7100DK), but there isn’t a better spot from a matchups perspective than tonight against the NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, who allow the most DK points per night to opposing shooting guards. Thompson has exceeded salary based point expectations in three of his last four games and is priced fairly for the kind of ceiling he brings to every game. Thompson has 50-55 point upside every time he steps on the court, but for the most part, is a 32-38 point performer. In a matchup with the Pelicans, where he will face an undersized guard or a below average talent posing as a shooting guard due to the injury situation in New Orleans, Thompson certainly can get his tonight. The Pelicans allow the most points and rebounds per game to opposing shooting guards along with the second most made three pointers per game in the league. Those are three areas Thompson should be able to exploit tonight. As a double digit home favorite, Thompson is performing 1.36 DK points above his season averages in all other game situations.
I’m sticking to the same couple teams at the guard spots because the game situations are elite, so consider Zach LaVine ($5400FD/$5700DK) against the PHOENIX SUNS. LaVine’s price has settled into the mid-$5000 range, which is where he belongs in order to take advantage of his 35-40 point ceiling. LaVine has fallen short of salary based point expectations in his last two games, but that is following a stretch of 14 of 15 above expectation, so regression was overdue. The Suns allow the fourth most DK points per night to opposing shooting guards, and a massive 219 point total makes the game environment one to heavily target tonight. LaVine has performed slightly better on the road versus at home this season, and in one other game with a total of 219 points or more, LaVine rewarded his owners with a 30.25 DK point performance. Minnesota’s back court options are in an elite spot tonight, and are very worthy of consideration regardless of potential ownership.
Plenty of people have been riding the hot streak of Devin Booker ($6500FD/$6500DK) lately and rightfully so. Tonight, however, is the night to lay off, because the MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES are allowing the fourth fewest DK points per game to opposing shooting guards and Booker’s price now reflects his recent performances. Booker is not a mid-$6000 player. In February, we saw Booker’s price climb above $6000 on DraftKings, which immediately led to a string of four consecutive games below expectations. He has virtually no ceiling at this price, as we now require 32.5 fantasy points on each site to hit 5X value, and on a normal night in a good matchup, we can’t really expect more than about 35-38 fantasy points out of Booker. There are better options above Booker with a higher ceiling and below him who provide upside for the same amount of expected points. Let others roster him at his inflated tag hoping to parlay his recent performances.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: CHARLOTTE HORNETS, DENVER NUGGETS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, HOUSTON ROCKETS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, DETROIT PISTONS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, TORONTO RAPTORS, MIAMI HEAT, CHICAGO BULLS, UTAH JAZZ
I’m really only interested in one small forward tonight, and he’s shooting guard eligible on FanDuel, so I’m going to be scrambling when I build that lineup today. Tony Allen ($4600FD/$4900DK) is the lone Grizzlies option that hasn’t had his price inflated due to the recent minutes bump and opportunity. Lance Stephenson is going to regress sooner rather than later coming off the bench, and now that his price is the in the mid-$5000 range on both sites, I’m less interested in him than I was last week. Matt Barnes’ price is where it belongs, and players are still going to chase Friday’s triple double as justification for rostering him. Allen draws the best matchup on the board tonight against the HOUSTON ROCKETS, who allow the most DK points to opposing small forwards. Allen and the rest of his teammates are essentially playing out of position, and although I’d expect him to guard James Harden exclusively tonight, I think that opens the door for upside in the peripheral stats area. Harden turns the ball over more than any player in the NBA, which is indicative of how much he handles the ball more than his overall sloppiness with it, but Allen has been at his best when he’s contributing in multiple categories. Allen has exceeded salary based point expectations in four straight games, averaging 3.3 steals per game in that time frame. He’s also playing near-max minutes, logging nearly 30 per game in those four games, five minutes more per game than his season average. With everyone gravitating towards Stephenson and Barnes, Allen makes a ton of sense still underpriced with the ability to flash 40 point upside in a game like this one, which will be fast paced and full of turnovers. I expect Allen to be the best Memphis option tonight from a value perspective.
If you want security at the small forward spot for a discount from the top, Luol Deng ($6400FD/$6200DK) should do just that facing the DENVER NUGGETS. The Nuggets allow just the 13th most DK points per game to opposing small forwards, but Deng is playing the power forward spot these days for Miami, where Denver is allowing the fifth most DK points per game. Deng has been playing secure minutes, averaging just under 35 minutes per game since the All Star break, and has exceeded salary based point expectations in ten of those thirteen games. Deng has recorded seven double doubles in this same time frame, averaging 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game overall. Miami is back home and favored tonight, and with a continuously short bench, Deng is secure to play as many minutes as he can in a favorable matchup.
It’s really easy for me to avoid LeBron James ($9900FD/$9900DK) tonight against the UTAH JAZZ. The game is being played in Utah, where the Jazz can control the pace and typically will stay more competitive. Both teams played yesterday, which means there is a rest opportunity for the Cavaliers in what should be the lowest total game on the slate. The Jazz allow the second fewest DK points per game to opposing small forwards and while James has had moderate success against the Jazz over the last two seasons, I’m avoiding this game overall. These are the two slowest teams in the NBA and while there will be fantasy points scored in this game, picking the source will be extremely challenging on both sides.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: WASHINGTON WIZARDS, PHOENIX SUNS, CHICAGO BULLS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, MIAMI HEAT, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, DALLAS MAVERICKS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, TORONTO RAPTORS, DETROIT PISTONS
I wrote on Friday that Draymond Green ($8300FD/$7800DK) was back in play simply because of his price. He was back where he belonged as a low-$8000 option in a favorable spot with the Trail Blazers, and tonight, his price has been discounted even further on DraftKings where he’s almost an automatic play. The NEW ORLEANS PELICANS provide a certain degree of resistance to opposing power forwards, allowing the tenth fewest DK points per night to the position, but Green is a different kind of power forward. He ranks sixth overall in assists per game, and not just among forwards. He ranks 13th in rebounding overall and is a mismatch for just about every team he faces, including tonight’s opponent. Anthony Davis is not going to be able to guard Draymond Green at the top of the key in a distribution role, and if he is forced to chase Green around the floor, the advantage is clearly Green’s. I’ve dug deeper for reasons to play more expensive players in better spots before, but I see no reason not to play a guy with triple double upside every game for a discount. He’s fairly priced on FanDuel as well, despite his issue with turnovers.
The Bulls were busy announcing injury statuses yesterday, and with the notification the Pau Gasol would miss at least the next two games, playing time has opened up in their already thin front court. I fully believe tonight is a great spot to play Nikola Mirotic ($4700FD/$4500DK) with an expectation that he’ll see 26-30 minutes. The Bulls front court is currently manned by Taj Gibson, Mirotic, Mike Dunleavy, Doug McDermott and Cristiano Felicio. I don’t expect the Bulls to be wildly competitive against the TORONTO RAPTORS, but the minutes should be there with no Gasol, Rose and potentially no Jimmy Butler. Mirotic returned from injury last Saturday, and although the minutes have not been consistent, the lack of bodies tonight gives him 30 minute upside at a price reflective of the 18-22 minutes he’s been playing. Mirotic won’t be bashful about shooting and the Raptors front court isn’t one that dominates a game, leaving excessive foul issues off the table. Mirotic provides owners with 30-35 point upside tonight in what should be a low-owned spot.
I really hope Zach Randolph ($6500FD/$6600DK) returns tonight, because JaMychal Green ($6200FD/$6200DK) is overpriced and I’d rather pay for Randolph’s skills at a similar price in a matchup with the HOUSTON ROCKETS, who allow the most DK points per night to opposing power forwards. We haven’t gotten to see Randolph play in this new-look, injury-depleted rotation, and without Marc Gasol or Mike Conley, we could expect to see Randolph’s usage shoot through the roof. I don’t know if he’s any closer to returning than he was this weekend, but if he is, he is the only Memphis option I’d be willing to spend top dollar on.
**UPDATE: ZACH RANDOLPH HAS BEEN RULED OUT TONIGHT.**
REMAINING MATCHUPS: DENVER NUGGETS, PHOENIX SUNS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, DALLAS MAVERICKS, CHICAGO BULLS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, MIAMI HEAT, DETROIT PISTONS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, UTAH JAZZ
On a cold night back in December, I was building my DraftKings’ lineups for a Friday night slate and was heavily invested in Hassan Whiteside ($8600FD/$8200DK) ahead of a solid matchup with the DENVER NUGGETS. The Nuggets struggle with elite level shot blockers and I felt that despite inconsistent box scores and minutes, Whiteside could provide me with a level of upside that no other center on that evening’s slate could provide. About 10 minutes before lock, I removed Whiteside from seven of the eight lineups I had him in, because I found another player I preferred to build around and Whiteside’s salary was restrictive to making that happen, and he went on to have a 19 point, 17 rebound, 11 block triple double just to mess with me. Tonight, in the exact same matchup, I won’t make the same mistake twice. Denver still leads the league in getting shots blocked, allowing 6.3 blocks per game. Whiteside leads the NBA in blocks, averaging 3.89 per contest. The price is a bit higher than it was back in December, but I’m still willing to take my chances with Whiteside tonight.
Alex Len ($7000FD/$7000DK) still demands your attention. He was moved to power forward on FanDuel in the last 24 hours, which doesn’t change my strong feelings for him tonight against the MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES. The Suns are home favorites tonight in one of the highest scoring matchups on the slate, and despite allowing the seventh fewest DK points per night to opposing centers, Len is still not priced as high as he could be. Len predictably slumped a few nights back against the Knicks, not because of the matchup, but because early foul trouble finally got in the way. His matchup the next night with Denver was the real bust performance, breaking a streak of six consecutive double doubles. Minnesota’s twin towers of Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns will provide some resistance, but in a matchup with a 219 point total, I would expect defense to be optional for most of the night. Len bounced back big against the Warriors on Saturday, dropping 26 points and 13 rebounds against the defending champions, and while ownership will still remain higher, I expect most will be bailing from this ship. Don’t be one of those bailing just yet.
It should be noted that the DALLAS MAVERICKS have been giving up fantasy production by the barrel full to opposing centers of late, and while it’s not easy to stomach rostering Al Jefferson ($5200FD/$4800DK) in his current bench role, you should know that he’s rounding back into form at the right time. On Saturday against Houston, Jefferson played over 30 minutes for the first time since returning from injury and suspension. Prior to that, his minutes had been trending up, playing anywhere from 17-25 minutes per night. After the big test Saturday, I would expect that Jefferson continues to get bigger minutes, and his role off the bench is actually beneficial to his stat line. He usually comes in (barring foul trouble) towards the end of the first quarter to play alongside Kemba Walker and will transition to the first half of the second quarter alongside Nicolas Batum. When he’s in with Walker, his responsibilities include finishing around the basket, defense and rebounding. When Batum is running the second unit, Jefferson becomes a primary scorer. He is not going to be this cheap for long. Dallas has allowed opposing centers to score 69.8 DK points per game over their last five games, 19.4 points above their season average. Zaza Pachulia has virtually disappeared after a strong start to the season, and Jefferson is a mismatch for Dallas’ second unit.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, CHICAGO BULLS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, HOUSTON ROCKETS, TORONTO RAPTORS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, DETROIT PISTONS, PHOENIX SUNS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, MIAMI HEAT, UTAH JAZZ, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS