NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 15, 2016
Last night’s NBA DFS slate brought me so much optimism. I honestly felt like I had a great grasp on what was going to happen last night and when I ended up winning exactly $0 last night, I looked back into what I missed. I obviously didn’t see three separate 30+ point blowouts coming. I had no piece of Washington-Detroit, so I didn’t feel the burn there. Russell Westbrook dropped a three quarter triple double without a turnover in OKC’s 34 point victory over Portland, which pretty much determined the winner of the Westbrook vs. Curry debate. If you spent up for one of the two best point guards in the league and it wasn’t Westbrook, you had to be perfect in every other roster spot to cash. Houston beat Memphis by 39 points, but it was actually closer to 50 at one point, making the chalk Memphis options virtually useless.
All of those games tipped at the same time, so movement up and down the leaderboards became stagnant as those games hit their respective fourth quarters, giving optimism to those who backloaded on the Timberwolves-Suns or Pelicans-Warriors. Curry and the Warriors’ starters only played three quarters as they took a 25 lead into the fourth, eventually winning by 18. Mirza Teletovic hit a rainbow three pointer with less than two seconds left to prevent overtime, which I could have used considering I had Ricky Rubio at less than 20% ownership everywhere along with Alex Len just mere points away from hitting value after another two foul first quarter.
So what happened? Personally, I got lazy in sticking to my process. I went with a “first instincts” lineup on FanDuel, setting my lineup hours before lock, making no adjustments to news, because I have been trusting my gut on FanDuel. On DraftKings, I put way too much stock into my personal plays rather than following the DraftPros’ Player Rater for Five Star plays. I built my GPP lineups around Stephen Curry, Alex Len and Tony Allen rather than trusting the ratings, and I didn’t have enough Kyle Lowry, Taj Gibson or Teletovic, all five star plays. I have recently found a lot of success sticking to the five star plays as my core, and tonight, I’ll look to get back to what was making me successful.
Matchups always play a big part in what we should be doing every night. As I do every day, I’ll go over the matchups we need to be focused on for tonight’s six game slate. BOLD UNDERLINE represents matchups we should attack with extreme bias. STANDARD BOLD will represent matchups that can be attacked liberally but, due to either available personnel or game situation, carry a certain degree of risk. BOLD ITALICS represent matchups that should really only be attacked if you have an elite option to do it with. STANDARD ITALICS represent matchups that are best ignored. Let’s dive in.
Rajon Rondo ($8000FD/$7800DK) is priced extremely fairly for a matchup with the LOS ANGELES LAKERS. The Lakers give up the second most DK points per game to opposing point guards, allowing them to score 2.78 points above expectation. Rondo is averaging 40.33 DK points per game in three matchups with the Lakers this season, and tonight’s contest features the highest total on the slate, a cushy 217.5 points. Sacramento is favored by only three points, and I actually think the Lakers can win this game outright. Sacramento, losers of five straight, is struggling on both sides of the ball right now, and a matchup with the league’s least efficient defense is coming at the absolute best time. Rondo has alternated good and bad performances over his last five games, with his last game against Utah being a predictable dud. I expect plenty of fireworks in this contest tonight and Rondo’s depressed price is a great starting point.
On the other side of the ball, D’Angelo Russell ($7000FD/$6900DK) has seen his price drop a little bit, putting him into play against the SACRAMENTO KINGS, who allow the third most DK points to opposing point guards, allowing them to score 4.55 points above expectation. Attacking the Kings with point guards has been extremely profitable lately, as the last five point guards they have faced (starters) have averaged 39.2 DK points per game. Russell has predictably struggled in games where Kobe Bryant has played, as Kobe takes a lot of usage away from the developing Lakers’ youth, so we need to be cognizant of Bryant’s status going into this game. Russell has still managed to exceed salary based point expectations in seven of his last nine games, and with his price slightly depressed on both sites, should be in line for plenty of action in a likely high scoring, competitive contest.
Obviously, Ish Smith ($6500FD/$6700DK) is in a good spot against the BROOKLYN NETS tonight, but the Philly point guard I’m interested in is Isaiah Canaan ($3800FD/$4400DK). The Nets allow the fourth most DK points per game to opposing point guards, allowing 2.87 points above expectation. Philadelphia is extremely short handed at the moment, playing without Robert Covington, Jerami Grant and Jahlil Okafor, which has meant extended run for the remaining healthy 76ers. On Saturday, Canaan started at shooting guard against Detroit, which is a difficult matchup all around. He logged over 32 minutes and scored 29.25 DK points in his extended action. Canaan is a shoot first type of guard, which is among the reasons he’s not a starter in this league, and lining up next to Smith allows Canaan to provide an offensive spark. Canaan has exceeded salary based point expectations in six of his last eight games even with a full rotation, and even though his price is up just a bit, a competitive atmosphere against the slightly less crappy Nets should allow him to see major minutes again in a game with a 208.5 total.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: ORLANDO MAGIC, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, DENVER NUGGETS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, INDIANA PACERS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, TORONTO RAPTORS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS, BOSTON CELTICS
He’s listed as a small forward on FanDuel, but I’m really excited to play Evan Turner ($5900FD/$5400DK) tonight against the INDIANA PACERS, despite the fact that they allow the ninth fewest DK points per game to opposing shooting guards. Turner is in position to play more minutes than usual with Jae Crowder sidelines due to an ankle injury. Crowder hasn’t missed a game to this point all season, so we don’t have splits on how Boston will distribute their minutes, but Turner has really come on strong lately, exceeding salary based point expectations in seven of his last nine and fourteen of his last seventeen overall. In the last seven games in which he’s exceeded expectations, he’s done so by an average of 9.7 points per game, meaning he’s provided nearly 7X upside based on his current salary. Turner has already been locked in to 25-30 minutes per night for the surging Celtics, and Crowder’s absence likely opens him up to an additional 3-5 minutes of play, which is a really big deal for a player priced in the $5000 range. I’m not 100% comfortable playing him on FanDuel, where he needs about 30 fantasy points to meet value, but on DraftKings, that same 30 points provides 5.6X value at a scarce position. I’ll plug Turner in plenty tonight.
I haven’t heard anything about Kobe Bryant ($5700FD/$5300DK) sitting out tonight, but we usually do get that news prior to lock. If Bryant plays, lock him in against a SACRAMENTO KINGS defense allowing the second most DK points per game to opposing shooting guards. They also allow shooting guards to score 3.88 points above expectation, the highest total at the position on this slate. If Bryant doesn’t play, you can easily move Jordan Clarkson ($5700FD/$6000DK) into your open shooting guard slot on FanDuel, but you’ll have to utilize either the “G” or “UTIL” spot on DraftKIngs, since he’s listed as a point guard there. Bryant has played four of the last six games for the Lakers in his farewell campaign, exceeding salary based expectations only once, but the matchup is too good to ignore if he’s active. Optimally, Kobe sits and we can play Russell and Clarkson, who see a big usage and minutes bump in Kobe’s absence. Either way, this is news to be aware of, so make sure you’re planning on using the Lakers’ backcourt options in some facet tonight.
Victor Oladipo ($7000FD/$7400DK) is pretty much matchup proof, especially with Nikola Vucevic scheduled to sit out again. The DENVER NUGGETS don’t provide much resistance to opposing shooting guards, allowing the fifth most DK points per game to the position. Denver allows shooting guards to score 1.64 points above expectation, the third highest mark on the slate. Oladipo has played major minutes in Vucevic’s absence, playing over 37 minutes per game when you remove Saturday’s blow out shortened 27 minute outing against Portland. Oladipo averages 6.04 DK points per game more in Vucevic’s absence, which is directly tied to the increased usage he sees. Don’t forget about Evan Fournier ($5600FD/$5900DK) even though he’s a small forward on FanDuel. Fournier draws equally as good of a matchup with shooting guard eligibility on DraftKings, and he plays about five more minutes per game with Vucevic sidelined.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS, BROOKLYN NETS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, BOSTON CELTICS, TORONTO RAPTORS, ORLANDO MAGIC, SAN ANTONIO SPURS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
I really hate recommending Paul George ($8700FD/$8200DK), but he’s in a great spot tonight against the BOSTON CELTICS. The total is 207 in this game, with Boston favored by two, which gives this game a level of competitiveness we’re looking for when opting to spend up to this price level. George has performed above his season averages in three previous meetings with the Celtics, averaging 44.83 DK points per night against Boston, 2.28 DK points per game higher than his average against all other opponents. The Celtics allow the tenth most DK points per game to opposing small forwards and will go to war without one of their top defenders, as Jae Crowder sits tonight. George has exceeded salary based point expectations in six of his last nine priced a bit more appropriately for his skill set on DraftKings. He has ceiling room in the low-$8000 range, making him a slightly more volatile play on FanDuel, where turnovers can absolutely kill your score. Boston features the second best turnover differential in the NBA, and George averages 3.4 turnovers per game. I’m more prone to use him on DraftKings where we can offset turnovers with three pointers and bonus points.
He let everyone down last Friday and followed it up with a predictable dud on Sunday, but Rudy Gay ($6200FD/$6100DK) is back in another good spot and should see exponentially less ownership than he did over the weekend against the LOS ANGELES LAKERS. The Lakers allow the second most DK points per game to small forwards and would likely draw the “defense” of Kobe Bryant if he plays. Gay has played really well against the Lakers in three meetings this season, averaging 38.58 DK points in 33 minutes per game. People are likely still feeling the sting from Gay’s terrible Friday night without DeMarcus Cousins, and if you want sneaky upside, Gay can provide that in this spot.
It’s going to be easy to spend up a bit tonight, but I’m recommending not spending up for Kawhi Leonard ($8900FD/$8500DK) tonight. The Clippers are usually best attacked through the front court, and Kawhi is certainly deadly in any matchup. The Clippers allow the eleventh fewest DK points per game to small forwards, holding the position 0.36 points below expectation. Leonard has actually performed below average in games with the league’s top seven teams (Warriors, Thunder, Clippers, Cavaliers, Raptors, Celtics, Heat), averaging 3.08 DK points per game fewer against the top competition. We immediately assume that when the competition gets better, the Spurs will feature their top guys more, but this has simply not been the case. When the Spurs play at home, I’m extra leery of rostering their players, as they haven’t lost at home and typically blow out opponents. If this game were in Los Angeles, I would be all over Kawhi, but I think there are better options tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: SACRAMENTO KINGS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, BROOKLYN NETS, DENVER NUGGETS, ORLANDO MAGIC, INDIANA PACERS, TORONTO RAPTORS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Because I use DraftKings stats in this piece, I’ll talk about DeMarcus Cousins ($11100FD/$10500DK) here, because he’s listed as a power forward on DraftKings. He’s easily the top center on FanDuel with the best matchup against the LOS ANGELES LAKERS, but regardless of his position eligibility, I’m finding myself wanting to go all-in on Cousins tonight. Cousins is averaging 55.58 DK points per game in his three meetings with the Lakers this year, and with the spread set at three points, I expect Cousins to be an unstoppable beast tonight and the likely highest owned player on the slate. I typically prefer to roster Cousins at home, but this is a flawless matchup with the Lakers allowing the ninth most DK points per game to power forward and the fifth most DK points per game to centers. However Cousins lines up tonight, he should absolutely beast on a Lakers’ front court with absolutely no means of stopping him. In one matchup at Staples Center this season, Cousins dropped 65.0 DK points on the Lakers.
Similarly, Julius Randle ($6100FD/$6400DK) should succeed tonight against the SACRAMENTO KINGS, who allow the second most DK points per night to opposing power forwards. Randle is best targeted at home, where he averages 4.13 DK points per game more. The Kings bleed production to opposing power forwards, allowing the most steals and blocked shots per game to the position in the NBA along with the third most rebounds and fourth most assists per game. Randle has proven his ability to contribute across multiple categories, and he’s one of the eleven best rebounders in the game, giving him plenty of upside in this fast paced matchup.
I’m planning to get back on Aaron Gordon ($6700FD/$6800DK) tonight against the DENVER NUGGETS, who allow fifth most DK points per game to opposing power forwards. Gordon has exceeded 5X value on DraftKings in seven of his last eight home games, and after a brief four game road trip, I expect the Magic to come to play back home facing the Nuggets on the second night of a back to back. The Nuggets get more shots blocked than any other team in the league, and Gordon’s length should frustrate them after a competitive loss in Miami last night.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PHILADELPHIA 76ers, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, BOSTON CELTICS, ORLANDO MAGIC, BROOKLYN NETS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, TORONTO RAPTORS, INDIANA PACERS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Make sure you’re paying attention to the news today in regards to Jonas Valanciunas. He left last night’s game with the Bulls early due to an injury and may not be available tonight, opening up Bismack Biyombo ($3800FD/$3700DK) as an elite value play. Biyombo filled in for Valanciunas last night in the league’s best matchup with the Bulls by putting up six points, six rebound and six blocked shots in 25 minutes of play. The MILWAUKEE BUCKS are normally tough on centers, allowing the ninth fewest DK points per night to centers, but when you factor in salary adjustment, they allow about 2.3 points above expectation to the position. Biyombo could be in line for max minutes without Valanciunas, and his shot blocking ability alone gives him an ability to 7-8X his price tag. Milwaukee is in the bottom six in the league in getting shots blocked. Biyombo isn’t going to score double digit points (he’s only done that twice in his last 15 games), but given additional minutes, he should be able to grab double digit rebounds, block a few shots, and easily crush value in what should be a pace up spot for the Raptors on the second night of a back to back.
Conversely, Valanciunas’ absence opens up Greg Monroe ($6800FD/$6100DK) against the TORONTO RAPTORS, who allow the 13th most DK points per night to opposing centers. Centers also score 2.79 points above expectation against the Raptors, one of the more underrated areas of attack in all of NBA DFS. Monroe’s price is on a steady decline likely because he goes under-owned on every slate despite moving back into the Bucks’ starting five just two games ago. Monroe has exceeded salary based expectations in four of his last six games, averages 36.03 DK points per game at home, and is averaging 34.67 DK points per game in three meetings with Toronto this season. All of those averages would exceed value at his current price tag.
Brook Lopez ($8500FD/$7900DK) had struggled mightily with the PHILADELPHIA 76ers in two previous meetings before dropping 39.75 DK points on them last Friday. The 76ers are allowing the most DK points per game to opposing centers, allowing 4.85 points above expectation to the positon overall. Lopez gets a big advantage tonight facing a wildly depleted 76ers front court down three starters with only Nerlens Noel and Carl Landry to contend with. Lopez and the Nets are 7.5 point favorites tonight, rare air for one of the worst teams in the league. Box score chasers may not be encouraged by last week’s salary-exceeding performance, which should keep ownership down as FanDuel players scramble to fit in DeMarcus Cousins and DraftKings players struggle to fit him in with Cousins. I would rather have Cousins, but Lopez could be the path to differentiation on a shorter slate.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS, BROOKLYN NETS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, BOSTON CELTICS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, DENVER NUGGETS, INDIANA PACERS, ORLANDO MAGIC, SAN ANTONIO SPURS