NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 16, 2016
When you have a night like I had last night, you have to make the conscious decision to either pack it in for the season or continue to push through, tweaking the process along the way. As you’d expect, I’m going to continue tweaking and working through a brief slump in my NBA DFS game. I kicked off March with seven winning nights in the first eleven days and I was feeling really good about the adjustments I was making to my process and although the money wasn’t coming in by the barrel full, I was building excellent lineups and giving myself a legit chance to win every night. I multi enter the $1 ‘And One’ on DraftKings every day, so winning a ton of money isn’t something I expect since the minimum cash gets me $2, but I was cashing six to eight lineups every day and my top lineups were challenging for top 100 status on a nightly basis. For whatever reason – which I’ve figured out – I hit a roadblock this past weekend with my lineup building and I’ve suffered through four straight losing nights.
I can tell you for certain that I’m not fading the right chalk. The cover photo on this article the last two days has been the chalk $10000 player, Stephen Curry and DeMarcus Cousins. Neither of them reached 5X value on either site. I wasn’t sneaking up on anybody by playing Curry on his birthday or Cousins against the Lakers. Both of them were four star plays on the DraftPros’ Player Rater, but I went extra heavy on each of them, missing out on better players who scored more points for less money. Yesterday, I got caught up in the hype around the Kings-Lakers contest and married myself to Jordan Clarkson, a player I usually get great results from when my research identifies him as a good play. He ended up being one of the chalk shooting guards on FanDuel, and he predictably busted. I also rostered Emmanuel Mudiay strictly because of the matchup with Orlando’s depleted back court, ignoring that he was on the second night of a road back to back having played over 30 minutes on the first night. I should have seen his bust coming, but I saddled my FanDuel hopes to him. Scoring 297.2 was not enough in most 50/50s last night, and despite getting huge performances from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Julius Randle, Carl Landry and Isaiah Canaan, I missed the cash line in over half of my entries.
The fortunate part about NBA DFS is that we get a new day and a new slate of games to evaluate. The bad news is that I’m legitimately questioning every decision I’m making during a brief slump. I’ve averaged 309.3 points on FanDuel over the last ten days of building lineups, and have only had two nights in the green. I understand why from a game perspective, but when your goal is to get to 300 points and let the dust settle, and that goal is being hit without positive results, you begin questioning the entire game.
I’m going to continue breaking down matchups in this space. It’s the only thing that provides non-biased data when selecting players because the numbers are what they are by now. I just have to continue trying to make good decisions and not let my gut or my wallet influence the decisions. When discussing matchups, I’ll use BOLD UNDERLINE to denote a matchup that should be attacked with extreme bias. STANDARD BOLD will represent a matchup that can normally be attacked but due to either the game situation or available personnel to attack with, carries a certain degree of risk. BOLD ITALICS represent a matchup that is a higher degree of difficulty, but can be attacked with very specific players. STANDARD ITALICS represent matchups best avoided. Let’s dive in.
Regardless of how I feel personally, I know that I can always attack the SACRAMENTO KINGS with an elite point guard. When that point guard is playing in a shortened rotation and is assured of big minutes, he becomes even more premium, and even though he’s likely to see high ownership everywhere, Jrue Holiday ($7800FD/$8100DK) is in a great spot to succeed tonight. Holiday and the Pelicans are all but eliminated from playoff contention, but due to bulk injuries, they have been playing with a nine to ten man rotation for the last nine days, only extending to ten men once. Holiday had his minutes limited on Saturday on the second night of a road back to back, but with a day of rest coming into tonight, he should be good to go full run tonight. The Kings allow the third most DK points per night to opposing point guards and score almost five points above expectation. Holiday has duds in back to back games, one of which was on limited minutes and the other coming in a blowout loss to the Warriors. Tonight’s game with the Kings currently has the highest total on tonight’s slate at 221.5, and with the game being played in Sacramento, we can expect the pace to be fast and defense to be optional with the Kings on the second night of a back to back. You should also keep close tabs on Norris Cole’s ($5700FD/$5400DK) status, as he’s missed four consecutive games, but inches closer to a return from a back injury. If Cole can’t go for a fifth consecutive game, Toney Douglas ($4500FD/$4800DK) is once again a great source of value, and should be considered even if Cole goes, as he’s the lone point guard off the bench.
I normally won’t tie my hopes to a player on the second night of a road back to back – except for Emmanuel Mudiay last night for some reason – but it’s hard to argue that any point guard has more upside tonight than Isaiah Thomas ($7900FD/$7300DK) taking on the OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER. Thomas has the privilege of defending Russell Westbrook tonight, and after a turnover-free triple double on Monday – his first career triple double without a turnover – I would expect him to get back to what he’s done so frequently this season: turning the ball over. Westbrook averages 4.3 turnovers per game, the second highest mark in the NBA, and Monday was only the second game in his last fifteen with one or fewer turnovers. Over Westbrook’s last five games, he’s turned the ball over 5.6 times per game, and that includes his pristine Monday night performance. Why does this matter to Thomas? Westbrook’s direct matchup usually is the primary beneficiary of his carelessness. With Jae Crowder missing in action, Thomas is forced to step it up on the defensive end in Brad Steven’s team defensive scheme, and he immediately did last night, contributing two steals in Boston’s loss at Indiana. Thomas has exceeded salary based point expectations in seven straight games and his depressed price on DraftKings has me strongly considering him tonight. Oklahoma City allows the sixth most DK points per game to opposing point guards, allowing 4.06 points above expectation to the position overall.
John Wall ($9400FD/$9400DK) is priced exactly where he should be on both sites based on his upside, and tonight, he and the Wizards host the CHICAGO BULLS, who allow the seventh most DK points per night to opposing point guards and 2.61 points above expectation. Wall has scored 42 or more DK points in five consecutive games and outside of three separate blowout scenarios, has played over 30 minutes in twelve of his last fifteen games. Wall gets to attack a Chicago Bulls team that is severely short-handed in the front court right now, which benefits Wall’s “attack the basket” style. He’s averaged 43.33 DK points per game in his last six meetings with the Bulls, so we know his floor is high. The upside is there tonight in a must win game for the Wizards, who continue to push for one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots. In addition to his normal scoring load, Wall has handed out seven or more assists in each of his last twelve contests. Wall is about as safe as it gets tonight and should be wildly under-owned on a slate featuring Westbrook, Curry and Paul.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, ORLANDO MAGIC, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, HOUSTON ROCKETS, NEW YORK KNICKS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, ATLANTA HAWKS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, DETROIT PISTONS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, BOSTON CELTICS
Make sure you’re monitoring the Orlando Magic injury report throughout the day, because the status of Nikola Vucevic and Elfrid Payton is extremely important to note ahead of an appetizing spot with the CHARLOTTE HORNETS. If Vucevic and Payton are indeed out again, I’m going to roster Victor Oladipo ($7000FD/$7400DK) again because his price just doesn’t move. The Hornets allow the seventh most DK points per night to opposing shooting guards, including the fourth most points per game and second most assists per game to the position. Oladipo typically assumes a heavier distribution role when Payton sits despite the presence of Brandon Jennings and CJ Watson, which drives his usage sky high for a player in his price range. The reason I’m rostering Oladipo over Evan Fournier ($5600FD/$5900DK)? Fournier played a team high 42 minutes last night, so Oladipo, despite recent injury concerns, is probably a bit fresher and draws Courtney Lee defensively rather than Nicolas Batum. The matchup is solid, and even though the back to back spot sucks, Oladipo contributes enough in every category to easily pay off his stagnant price tag.
We try to pick and choose spots to use JJ Redick ($4800FD/$4800DK) and tonight’s spot doesn’t get a whole lot better. Yes, he’s on the second night of a back to back after a loss to San Antonio last night, but he’ll take on James Harden and the HOUSTON ROCKETS in a high profile game with a fantastic 214 point total. The Rockets allow just the tenth most DK points per game to opposing shooting guards, but they’re allowing shooting guards to score 3.72 points above expectation. Redick’s price has dropped $500 on DraftKings since the beginning of the month, and he’s now priced where we can really take advantage of his three point shooting and overall upside. Redick has exceeded salary based point expectations in seven of his last nine games and with the Clippers looking to bounce back from a tough loss, I would expect a voluminous stat line from Redick tonight. Houston allows the eighth highest opponents’ three point field goal percentage and the third most attempts per game. Redick should eat tonight.
If you’re looking for a potentially low owned, high upside play, Jimmy Butler ($8600FD/$8100DK) offers that in spades. Butler is still easing his way back from a season-threatening knee injury, but has already been declared good to go for this game tonight. Whatever talk existed about a minutes restriction for Butler have no come to fruition, as he’s played 33 minutes or more in each of his two games coming back from the injury. Butler dropped 40.0 DK points on the WASHINGTON WIZARDS in his lone meeting with them this season, and the Wizards, despite allowing just the 14th most DK points per game to shooting guards, allow 2.23 points above expectation to the position, the third highest plus minus on the slate. Butler will need to be efficient to hit value tonight, but because of the stigmas surrounding his return, you can probably get Butler at miniscule ownership percentages. This is a good spot to take a shot.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, DETROIT PISTONS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, BOSTON CELTICS, NEW YORK KNICKS, ATLANTA HAWKS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, CHICAGO BULLS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, ORLANDO MAGIC, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
It’s hard to argue that Kevin Durant ($10300FD/$10300DK) isn’t the top $10000 option on tonight’s slate. Durant has cooled off in his last three games after a stretch of eight straight games exceeding salary based expectations, but he draws a BOSTON CELTICS team that has struggled with opposing small forwards. Boston allows the tenth most DK points per night to opposing small forwards and are without their size at the position, missing Jae Crowder for the foreseeable future. Durant will go one on one with Avery Bradley to start the game, and while Bradley is probably Boston’s best on the ball defender, he is giving up seven inches to the versatile Durant. Boston already plays small on a nightly basis, and Durant is a massive mismatch for teams that play small. Boston’s second best turnover differential concerns me for FanDuel purposes, as Durant has 5.3 turnovers per game over his last seven games, but I don’t see how he doesn’t put up his normal 30+ points along with a double double. Keep in mind that Durant has been distributing at an elite level lately as well, averaging 6.7 assists per game over his last six. This is one of the two guys to spend top dollar on tonight.
You’ll need value tonight, and if you’re taking a shot with a near-minimum priced player, it may as well be an option in the best possible matchup. Wesley Johnson ($4000FD/$3600DK) draws the HOUSTON ROCKETS tonight, and they allow the most DK points per game to opposing small forwards along with almost four points above expectation to the position. We have factors to monitor, and Johnson is obviously a far better play if Paul Pierce sits out again, but Johnson is still getting minutes, playing over 20 minutes in 14 of his last 15 games. Johnson’s role has minimized a bit lately, as he’s only exceeded salary based point expectations three times in his last nine games, but you know you’re taking a risk on any value play, and on the second night of a back to back, I would expect the Clippers’ bench to be heavily involved tonight. Johnson has arguably been their best bench player outside of Jamal Crawford, and in the best possible matchup, Johnson is worth the risk.
When Trevor Ariza ($5900FD/$5700DK) is priced below $6000, I am usually interested. I don’t think Ariza is a $6000 caliber player, because he doesn’t average 30 fantasy points per game, and his ceiling is in the 40 point range. When you get a player who gets the kind of minutes Ariza does (34.6 per game) in an offense first system (Houston scores the fourth most points per game in the NBA), you have to at least evaluate his opportunity. Ariza is a mismatch for the LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, as proven by his 28.42 DK point per game average in three meetings this season. That average is 1.53 DK points per game higher than his average versus all other opponents. The Clippers are best attacked by skilled wings and dominant centers, and even though they allow the twelfth fewest DK points per game to small forwards, I like Ariza’s upside in a game where Houston is favored at home against an opponent on the second night of a back to back.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: WASHINGTON WIZARDS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, CHICAGO BULLS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, ATLANTA HAWKS, ORLANDO MAGIC, NEW YORK KNICKS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, DALLAS MAVERICKS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, DETROIT PISTONS
I’m usually going to write up a power forward taking on the SACRAMENTO KINGS, and that just happens to be Anthony Davis ($10100FD/$10000DK), the other $10000 player worth paying for tonight. Sacramento allows the second most DK points per game to opposing power forwards and 3.21 points above expectation to the position overall. Davis’ price is basically holding steady between $9800-$10000 on DraftKings, which gives him the 65-70 point ceiling we all know Davis brings every time he steps on to the court. Davis has exceeded salary based point expectations in six straight games, his best stretch of the season. A lot has to do with the additional minutes he’s playing due to New Orleans’ shortened rotation, but he’s also taking plenty of shots, averaging 22.8 field goal attempts per game over his last six games, and getting to the charity stripe, attempting ten free throws per game in that same time frame. Davis has seven consecutive double doubles as well. I won’t sell you on this much more. The spot is great.
Gorgui Dieng ($6300FD/$5900DK) has seen his price come down $900 on DraftKings since the calendar flipped over to March, which opens up ceiling space for Dieng once again, who parlayed upside performances for over a month into his robust price tag. Normally, we wouldn’t attack the MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES with our front court options, but Memphis is basically fielding a second unit for 48 minutes every day, and power forward has been a great place to attack. On the season, Memphis is allowing the eighth most DK points per game to power forwards, but over their last five games, they’ve allowed 55.3 DK points per night to opposing fours, 7.7 points above their season average. Dieng is good for 30 minutes per game and he contributes in the peripheral categories. With Memphis’ recent deficiencies due to injuries, Dieng is a safe play with upside for 40 or more fantasy points in a matchup people are still avoiding.
I’m disinterested in the current price tag, but if Zach Randolph is out once again, we can’t ignore the matchup for JaMychal Green ($6000FD/$6000DK) with the MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES. Minnesota allows the 14th most DK points per game to power forwards and Green is coming off back to back massive duds after destroying value in four straight games, and I would call this natural regression rather than a prolonged worry. Green is a backup player for a reason, and when we have the opportunity to use him as a value play, he makes sense. When he’s priced as he is now, there is a degree of risk to consider, but we need to evaluate these types of matchups and know that the game will likely be closely contended and Green is in one of the better spots on this Memphis roster. He’s a lock for 25-30 minutes in the shortened Grizzlies rotation, and Minnesota’s bottom five rebounding differential gives him double double upside tonight. Consider him.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: HOUSTON ROCKETS, ORLANDO MAGIC, BOSTON CELTICS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, ATLANTA HAWKS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, CHICAGO BULLS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, NEW YORK KNICKS, DETROIT PISTONS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
I haven’t used him very much since getting burned regularly at the beginning of the season, but I’m going to build a lot around Andre Drummond ($7900FD/$7800DK) tonight. The ATLANTA HAWKS allow the fourth most DK points per game to opposing centers, and centers score 4.04 points above expectation against the Hawks. Atlanta doesn’t match up well with the physical front court types like Drummond, as he’s not likely to chase Al Horford around the perimeter. His rebounding should be on full display tonight, as his league leading mark should grow tonight against the league’s second worst rebounding team. I always struggle mentally with rostering Drummond, as I can usually count on the quick two fouls and full first half on the bench, so one of the way I’ll circumvent that issue tonight is by also looking at Aron Baynes ($3500FD/$3000DK) as a strong value play in an equally good matchup. When I roster two centers, I usually don’t take two from the same team, but this is a spot worthy of consideration with such a great matchup and the strong chance Drummond finds himself in foul trouble. You can’t live life fearing the worst, but with a player of Drummond’s caliber, we need full run to get what we need, and I want to be cautious.
The CHICAGO BULLS are playing, which means we need to consider the opposing center, and that’s Marcin Gortat ($6200FD/$6600DK), priced beautifully for a matchup with Chicago’s vacant front court. Gortat is one of the league’s best first quarter players, and although he’s only exceeded salary based point expectations in five of his last nine games, Gortat should get himself on track immediately tonight. The Bulls will play Taj Gibson at center for a second consecutive game and despite Gibson’s defensive acumen, he is not a mismatch for the physical Gortat. Gortat’s minutes have been shaky over his last three games, but he’s not on the injury report and should be considered a full go for the best matchup at the position tonight.
I rostered DeAndre Jordan ($8500FD/$7400DK) in a few spots last night hoping to take advantage of low ownership, but then it occurred to me that Jordan is always under-owned. Tonight, he faces the HOUSTON ROCKETS, who allow the twelfth most DK points per game to opposing centers and a massive 4.35 points above expectation on the season. Jordan is averaging 38.83 DK points per game against the Rockets this season, 0.90 DK points per game higher than his average against all other opponents combined. Jordan has also performed admirably on the second night of back to backs, scoring 1.33 DK points per game more in these sceanrios, mitigating some of the risk involved with rostering tired players. I expect fireworks in this game, and dueling 20-20 games from Jordan and Howard is definitely in play tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, BOSTON CELTICS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, NEW YORK KNICKS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, DETROIT PISTONS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, ORLANDO MAGIC, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS