NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 18, 2016
Based on the ownership percentages across the NBA DFS industry last night, you wouldn’t have guessed that there were eight games to choose from. In the $25 FanDuel Slam, John Wall was 68.5% owned. Lance Stephenson was 70.1% owned and Giannis Antetokounmpo was 45.1% owned. All three were on the $20,000 winning roster as well. As it turns out, even when we have a larger slate, it really just matters how you put the pieces together. So many people – myself included – are looking for edges in ownership when the NBA game is more like putting together a one thousand piece puzzle. I’m not going to say ownership percentages aren’t important, because the winning roster also featured four options under 20% owned with two under 10% owned that returned 6.8X value.
We have to continue finding edges where we can get them both in likely ownership and in matchups, but we have less than a month to figure out how to put together a giant puzzle. The best construction strategy for a large puzzle is to find the corners and build the edges first, and in NBA DFS, those are the chalk options in the best spots to blow up. The near min-priced center getting starting minutes, the point guard against the Suns, a Memphis Grizzlies option, etc. These are your corner pieces that you need to find first to set you up for success. The 2% owned shooting guard in a widely overlooked matchup or the power forward coming off consecutive dud performances are those random beige pieces that you don’t even look at until you’re working on a random section in the lower middle section of the puzzle, yet you can’t assemble the puzzle without them. This is how I’m thinking about lineup construction right now, and it’s a challenge, but I think it’s the only way.
Tonight gives us eight games to choose from once again and there is a lot to be excited about. We’ve got high priced options to consider, we have an idea of the value we can pursue, and we have great matchups to attack. As I usually do, I’ll go over some of the better spots to attack, and I’ll use BOLD UNDERLINE to denote a matchup that should be attacked with extreme bias. STANDARD BOLD will represent a matchup that can usually be attacked liberally, but due to either the available personnel or the game situation carries a certain degree of risk. BOLD ITALICS are middling type matchups that are usually best avoided unless you have an elite option available to attack with. STANDARD ITALICS are matchups best avoided overall. Let’s dive in.
I’ll use one section to get this out of the way. The PHOENIX SUNS and LOS ANGELES LAKERS are in action and they play each other. These are the two teams allowing the most points per 100 possessions and the two worst defensive units against opposing point guards. I will strongly consider both D’Angelo Russell ($6900FD/$6700DK) and Brandon Knight ($6500FD/$7000DK) tonight with a slight lean towards Russell. The Suns have made virtually every point guard they’ve faced lately look like Magic Johnson, allowing an averages of 20.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 10.0 assists per game in their last five games. Russell has been a dud in two straight games, but prior to that had exceeded salary based point expectations in six of his previous seven games. Russell is just the next point guard who gets to flash superstardom against a porous Phoenix defense doing nothing to stop point guard production. Knight has only flashed once since returning from injury, but the Lakers are another team to help point guards get right. The main take-away for tonight’s contest is that it should be closely contested, highly inefficient with a lot of scoring to go around. This is the best game to target for stacking purposes as well, as every option in this game is affordable.
Stephen Curry ($10300FD/$10300DK) is priced down, on the road and his team is favored by single digits. Sign me up. In games this season where Golden State is on the road favored by single digits, Curry is averaging 58.98 DK points per game, 10.05 DK points per game higher than all other game scenarios. You might recall that Golden State lost a December matchup in Dallas without Curry, so I’m expecting a motivated Warriors’ team to take care of business tonight ahead of tomorrow’s premier matchup in San Antonio. The DALLAS MAVERICKS are pretty decent against point guards, allowing the eleventh fewest DK points per game to opposing point guards, but this isn’t a run of the mill point guard strolling into town tonight. Dallas has slipped into the eighth seed in the Western Conference, and if they have any hopes of making noise in the playoffs, they need to get out of that seed and avoid Golden State for at least one round. Dallas will be full go tonight, and they still won’t be able to contain Curry.
It’s rare that Russell Westbrook ($10600FD/$10500DK) is a contrarian option on any night, but with Curry in an elite spot and five of the six worst defenses against point guards in action, Westbrook may slip under the radar tonight. He’ll be in the City of Brotherly Love taking on the PHILADELPHIA 76ers, and while Philly is a target for virtually every position, this game has some warts. First, the Thunder are favored by 15.5 points, which spells certain doom for the 76ers playing at home on the second night of a back to back. Second, the Thunder have a boatload of momentum after destroying the Celtics in Boston Wednesday night and while we know Westbrook can hang a triple double in only three quarters of action, his upside is capped in a potential blowout. Finally, the 76ers are a middling matchup for point guards, allowing the eleventh most DK points per game to point guards on the season. I would be willing to take the risk of only three quarters of action on DraftKings, where you get bonuses to help offset turnovers, but on FanDuel, where we need four quarters of action to hit his massive number and get over potential turnovers, I’m taking a pass.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: SACRAMENTO KINGS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, ORLANDO MAGIC, HOUSTON ROCKETS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, DETROIT PISTONS, TORONTO RAPTORS, BOSTON CELTICS
CJ McCollum ($6400FD/$6400DK) is a premium option tonight despite playing the second night of a back to back. He’ll face the NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, who give up the most DK points per game to opposing shooting guards, and he’ll be defended by a point guard posing as a wing. The Pelicans are still playing very short handed and Jrue Holiday is likely moving back to his preferred role off the bench in favor of new signing Tim Frazier, a former Portland Trail Blazer. McCollum is going to be chased around by one of Toney Douglas, Frazier or Norris Cole, which gives him a decided size advantage. McCollum is one of the Blazers with secure minutes who, outside of three consecutive blowout shortened outings, has logged 33 minutes or more in seven of his last ten games and averages 34.5 minutes per game on the season. This should be a closely contested game with a lot of scoring, as each team ranks inside the bottom ten in Hollinger’s Defensive Efficiency metric. McCollum had a massive game against San Antonio last night largely thanks to volume, as Portland was fighting back from a double digit discount for the last 18 minutes of the game, and he is in position to carry over that momentum in this spot tonight.
Lately, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($5300FD/$5600DK) has had his name mentioned a lot as a viable option due to a string of winnable matchups. He’s exceeded salary based point expectations in five of his last six games, averaging 19.8 points per game in that stretch. Tonight, he’s at home where he averages 3.29 DK points more per game, against the SACRAMENTO KINGS in a massive pace up spot for the usually slow footed Pistons. The Kings allow the third most DK points per game to opposing shooting guards on the season and have been a target for wings over the last two seasons. KCP plays the fourth most minutes per game in the entire NBA, and when you’re getting extended run in a fast paced matchup, those minutes usually lead to more production. I’m excited to roster KCP tonight, especially on FanDuel, where I’m getting a slight discount that reflects KCP’s scoring upside in a matchup where he can rack up peripherals.
The Kings-Lakers contest from Tuesday night was a real let down for those who rostered options in that game. The chalkiest option outside of DeMarcus Cousins was Jordan Clarkson ($5800FD/$5700DK) and he put up a massive dud, not reaching positive fantasy points until a few minutes before halftime. Tonight, as Kobe Bryant’s injury status is still up in the air, nobody is going to go back to Clarkson despite a pristine matchup with the PHOENIX SUNS, who allow the fifth most DK points per game to opposing shooting guards. Clarkson is point guard eligible on DraftKings, but he is the Lakers’ starting shooting guard even when Brant plays, and the spot tonight is elite. Shooting guards score 5.46 points above expectation against Phoenix, and even though Clarkson has been very up and down lately, he’s been extremely consistent over the last month, exceeding salary based point expectations in 67% of his games over the last 30 days. Clarkson is in a prime bounce back spot with virtually no attention after his Tuesday night dud. This is where we can get back on.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS, HOUSTON ROCKETS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, DETROIT PISTONS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, DALLAS MAVERICKS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, BOSTON CELTICS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, TORONTO RAPTORS, ORLANDO MAGIC
Andrew Wiggins ($6500FD/$6300DK) is a shooting guard on DraftKings, but he’s starting at small forward, where is listed on FanDuel. Tonight, he draws the HOUSTON ROCKETS, who allow the most fantasy production to opposing small forwards. Wiggins is not usually a player I target, because he’s very scoring dependent to hit his number. The split is extremely drastic. When Wiggins scores 20 points or more, he scores 33.75 FD points per game. When Wiggins doesn’t score 20 points, he averages 21.35 FD points per game. The Rockets allow small forwards to score 21.0 points per game this season, and Wiggins has scored 20 or more points five times in his last nine games, not coincidentally exceeding salary based point expectations in all five of those high scoring outings. Minnesota’s team total tonight is 107.5 points, which has been an environment beneficial to Wiggins, as he averages 1.32 FD points per game more when Minnesota’s team total is that high. He’s likely to go overlooked because of how combustible he is, but this is the matchup to target him in.
I don’t think anybody actively seeks out Trevor Ariza ($6000FD/$5700DK) for their rosters on a nightly basis, but tonight’s spot against the MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES has been profitable for DFS players lately. The Timberwolves allow the eleventh most DK points per night to opposing small forwards, and over their last five games, they’ve allowed averages of 19.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game to viable small forwards. Ariza is strictly a GPP play at this point because there is minimal consistency in his box scores. He’s exceeded salary based point expectations five times in his last nine games and in only 60% of his games this season. Minnesota is going to focus a lot of attention tonight on containing James Harden, and with their recent terrible production against small forwards in the back of our minds, Ariza is definitely someone who can give us a ceiling level performance in one of the highest projected scoring games of the night. Ariza’s minutes are also secure, as he is 20th in the league on minutes played per game.
As is the case with Russell Westbrook tonight, I have similar fears about Kevin Durant ($10400FD/$10100DK) against the PHILADELPHIA 76ers. Oklahoma City is a 15.5 point favorite tonight and there is a strong chance we won’t get maximum minutes out of two of tonight’s highest priced options. The 76ers do allow the sixth most DK points per night to opposing small forwards, which means we could reach value in less than four quarters, but tonight we need upside, and I don’t see Philadelphia keeping this game close enough for Durant and Westbrook to play significant fourth quarter minutes. Durant is a far better play on DraftKings, where those bonus points will offset turnovers, but on FanDuel, we need players who will get significant minutes to offset negative points and provide maximum ceiling. I just can’t spend my money on Durant in this spot.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, PHOENIX SUNS, BOSTON CELTICS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, ORLANDO MAGIC, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, TORONTO RAPTORS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, DETROIT PISTONS
The HOUSTON ROCKETS allow the most fantasy production to opposing power forwards, and I’m excited to roster Gorgui Dieng ($6400FD/$6200DK) tonight. Dieng has bounced back from a recent seven game stretch where he fell well short of expectations five time, exceeding salary based point expectations in his last three games by an average of 14.29 points per game, meaning he’s back to providing 7X upside. Dieng’s matchup with Houston is as good as it gets tonight, and people are still likely to ignore it because Dieng is priced at a range that is overall unappealing. The assumption with Dieng’s game is that he doesn’t have upside priced this high, but his contributions across all statistical categories plus the matchup tonight make him a solid play with a big ceiling. No team allows more actual points to power forwards than Houston, and their smallish front court is yielding the highest field goal percentage to the position as well. Dieng has scored in double figures in five of his last seven games with at least two blocked shots in each of those games and eleven steals. He is a threat to double double every night and with Dwight Howard guarding Karl-Anthony Towns, Dieng stands to pick up big minutes against sub-par Houston power forwards. Dieng is a great play tonight.
Tobias Harris ($6000FD/$6300DK) is only power forward eligible on FanDuel, but he is the starting four for the Pistons against the SACRAMENTO KINGS, who allow the fourth most FD points per game to opposing power forwards. The Kings are a fantasy goldmine regardless of the venue, but they’ve been terrible on the road, where their league high pace turns into sloppiness. The Kings allow a league high 106.7 points per game on the season and an average of 107.1 points per game on the road. Harris is a stretch four, unlikely to try to defend a monster like DeMarcus Cousins near the basket. Since being acquired by Detroit, Harris has exceeded salary based point expectations in every game except Monday’s blowout loss to Washington. That’s the model of consistency right there, and with Harris in a pristine matchup, we know we can expect 5X value tonight with upside for a lot more.
The PHOENIX SUNS have turned into a team you can attack from every spot on the court recently, and as much as I hate loading up on Lakers, Julius Randle ($6200FD/$6300DK) never sees a massive price jump and is squarely on my radar tonight. I tend to target Randle at home where he averages 4.13 DK points per game more than on the road, and tonight’s up tempo spot with Phoenix, who is suddenly allowing the ninth most DK points per night to opposing power forwards, should yield plenty of fantasy fruit. The Suns got dismantled in Utah last night, allowing most of their starters to sit in the fourth quarter to rest up ahead of tonight’s clash. I’m expecting two of the worst teams in the league to play a competitive, high-scoring game where starters will see plenty of action. Randle is going to log around 30 minutes at home and is one of only twelve players in the league averaging double figures in rebounding. Randle has a chance to put up big stats tonight, and as I usually tend to do, I’m going to load up on him tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PHILADELPHIA 76ers, BOSTON CELTICS, ORLANDO MAGIC, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, TORONTO RAPTORS, DETROIT PISTONS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
I think a lot of people will gravitate towards Enes Kanter ($5300FD/$5200DK) after a string of strong performances. Kanter has exceeded salary based expectations in six straight contests, but now finds himself priced above $5000 for the first time in almost a month. We absolutely require 26-27 fantasy points to hit his number tonight, which he has done in all six of his recent performances above expectation. He’s been able to hit these numbers without a big minutes bump, playing only 22 minutes per game in these contests, a two minute bump from his season average. Kanter gets big minutes in blowouts, and Oklahoma City has been involved in three games decided by ten points or more in those last six games. On the season, Kanter is averaging 3.83 DK points per game higher in spots where OKC is favored by double digits, logging over two minutes more per contest. In OKC’s 17 point November victory over Philadelphia, Kanter scored 24.5 DK points in just 19 minutes of action. Kanter is safe against a team allowing the most DK points per game to opposing centers.
It’s not exciting, but Mason Plumlee ($4700FD/$4000DK) is in play tonight against the NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, who allow the second most DK points per game to centers. The Pelicans have only faced one legit center over their last five games in the person of Greg Monroe, who hung a 16 point, 11 rebound double double on them, so the recent stats showing an improvement are misleading. On the season, New Orleans allows centers to score 4.93 points above expectation, which bodes well for Plumlee and his value price. Plumlee has actually exceeded salary based point expectations in his last four games and is a multi-category contributor. On the second night of a back to back where Portland is actually the better team on the floor, I would expect them to stay competitive, which should allow Plumlee to play more than his 25 minute average. No one is going to own Plumlee tonight despite the great matchup.
The fantasy community waits with bated breath on the status of Jonas Valanciunas tonight not because we’re interested in rostering him. A second consecutive absence would open the door once again to Bismack Biyombo ($4200FD/$4600DK), tonight’s likely chalk. If Valanciunas sits, Biyombo, who put up a massive 16 point, 25 rebound double double last night in Indiana, becomes the top value play and the person you will agonize over the most throughout the day. We didn’t get official word on Valanciunas until the final hour before lock last night, and I would expect much of the same tonight. Throw the back to back scenario out the window, because Biyombo is in line for another 30 minutes of run against the BOSTON CELTICS, who give up the eighth most DK points per night to opposing centers. Biymob’s price didn’t change on FanDuel and isn’t yet at $5000 or more on DraftKings, which makes Biyombo extremely safe even if he gets in a little early foul trouble. In games where JoVal sits, Biyombo averages 11.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game, both above his averages when Valanciunas plays. I don’t think it’s worth it to fade Biyombo in cash games if Valanciunas sits, but there is certainly merit to fading him in GPPs.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, HOUSTON ROCKETS, TORONTO RAPTORS, DETROIT PISTONS, ORLANDO MAGIC, PHOENIX SUNS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS