NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 2, 2016
Rotations are becoming more predictable as we’ve moved away from the trade deadline and building lineups for NBA DFS contests is becoming a slightly easier task. We can accurately project minutes for teams that are coming off of extended rest, and we should be able to know when players are going to be on the court as long as the score stays within reason. We know which teams are bad and how that affects their quality opponents. The only thing we don’t know – especially referring to the last two nights – is the true definition of “out”. Monday night brought us the Rajon Rondo drama as he hit for the cycle in regards to injury status, going from questionable to out to probable to active in the matter of a day. Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala started yesterday as questionable before transitioning to out to maybe active to officially out.
These situations are extremely stressful for DFS players because we spend hours constructing lineups based around the news of a key ingredient missing from a teams’ nightly recipe. Nobody wants Steph Curry to miss time due to injury, but when all signs point to him sitting out and we build lineups around the key pieces around him, we just want clarity. There is zero edge to be gained for coaches by being “hush hush” with injury reports. The NBA and its commissioner has embraced DFS and sports gambling and yet they’re allowed to be deceitful with key information. It boggles the mind to figure out what edge coaches think they’re gaining by withholding key information hours after news breaks.
We move on to tonight’s eleven game slate with a lot of situations to monitor. Derrick Rose is on the second night of a back to back, Lou Williams is already ruled out and Kobe Bryant is expected to play as the Lakers play the second night of their own back to back. Charlotte dismantled Phoenix last night, allowing plenty of rest for their starters, so they should be full go in their own juicy matchup with Philadelphia. Finally, the Thunder continue their West Coast swing in a challenging matchup with the Clippers, the only team threatening their playoff positioning. Tonight’s slate should be fun and high scoring.
As I usually do, I’ll break down some key matchups at each position using a color coding system to denote the quality of the matchup. BOLD UNDERLINE will denote a matchup that should be attacked with extreme bias. STANDARD BOLD represents a matchup that can be attacked, but due to either the game situation or available personnel has a degree of risk. BOLD ITALICS represents a matchup that should be ignored for the most part unless we have the right player to attack with. STANDARD ITALICS are used for matchups best ignored. Let’s dive in.
Jrue Holiday ($7700FD/$7800DK) has cooled off considerably following a torrid stretch right around the All Star break, but he continues to be right around value and his price continues to rise. Tonight, Holiday and his Pelicans’ mates will take on the HOUSTON ROCKETS, a matchup I’ve personally been attacking with great success since January. Houston allows point guards to score 2.69 points above expectation and play virtually no defense on a nightly basis. Former defensive stopper Patrick Beverley has been ineffective and Houston always seems to look like they’re packing it in for the season. Holiday still comes off the bench for New Orleans, but he logs big minutes, averaging over 31 minutes per game in his last seven games. The performances of late haven’t had a ton of upside, but Holiday has exceeded salary based point expectations in eight straight games with no outing below 34 DK points in those eight games. Tonight’s total and spread aren’t available as of this writing, but I expect defense to be optional tonight along with a high total and close spread, making this a game to attack.
Point guards have gone absolutely berserk against the SACRAMENTO KINGS lately, and Mike Conley ($6800FD/$7200DK) is next in line to try his hand with one of the league’s worst defenses. Conley’s price didn’t change after a dud on Monday night, and we’re thankful it didn’t leading up to this glorious spot. Sacramento allows point guards to score 2.63 points above expectation along with the third most DK points per night allowed to the position on the season. They’ve recently been destroyed by Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul, and while Conley isn’t that caliber of player, he’s certainly in line for a massive usage bump with Sacramento’s league leading pace coming to town. This is mostly about the matchup rather than the player, as Conley isn’t known for his high ceiling, but he provides a level of safety for cash games that possibly no other point guard can match tonight.
Damian Lillard ($9300FD/$9500DK) has been on absolute fire lately, scoring 30 or more real points eight times in his last nine games, but tonight’s back to back road spot against the BOSTON CELTICS is avoidable. The game features an enticing 217 point total, but the Celtics allow the second lowest plus minus to opposing point guards, holding opponents 0.98 points below expectation. They’re also allowing the fewest DK points per night to the position, which significantly lowers Lillard’s ceiling and floor tonight. In order to comfortably roster Lillard tonight, we have to count on a ninth 30 point performance in this ten game stretch, something I don’t like to count on against one of the league’s three best defensive teams. Spend up for one of Westbrook, Paul or Wall in better spots if you’re paying this much money for a point guard tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS, ORLANDO MAGIC, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, DETROIT PISTONS, TORONTO RAPTORS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, CHICAGO BULLS, DENVER NUGGETS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, INDIANA PACERS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS, UTAH JAZZ
James Harden ($10700FD/$10400) is the top shooting guard option tonight and his matchup with the NEW ORLEANS PELICANS only makes him that much stronger of a play. The Pelicans are allowing shooting guards to score 1.13 point above expectation on the season and the fourth most DK points per game overall. Harden has faced the Pelicans three times this season, averaging 53.92 DK points per game, enough to cover his value tonight. Harden has also been on a torrid pace of his own lately, exceeding salary based expectations seven times in his last eight games with the only dud predictably coming against the Spurs. Harden has scored 26 or more real points in each of his last eight games with only one game under 52.5 DK points in that span. Harden pretty much does it all for Houston’s offense and the Pelicans don’t have a defensive answer for him. Harden might be my favorite high priced play of the day.
I might be going back to the well too much with this matchup, but the numbers continue to line up correctly when targeting shooting guards against the WASHINGTON WIZARDS. Zach LaVine ($5200FD/$5500DK) and Andrew Wiggins ($6400FD/$6300DK) are both listed as shooting guards, but LaVine has been the primary starter at that spot over the last couple of weeks. Washington allows shooting guards to score 1.72 points above expectation on the season, and LaVine has exceeded salary based point expectations in ten of his last eleven games. His playing time has solidified over his last fifteen games, as he’s averaging over 31 minutes per game in that span, a six minute bump from his season average. LaVine’s lone dud in his last eleven games came against the tough Toronto Raptors, but since crossing the $5000 threshold on DraftKings, LaVine has yet to score less than 21.5 DK points in any game. He has upside for 35-40 fantasy points in this matchup and a dud performance won’t kill your lineup. This is a great spot to save some salary.
The Toronto Raptors rested Kyle Lowry on Sunday, predictably allowing DeMar DeRozan ($7700FD/$7400DK) to handle the offensive load against Detroit, but Lowry should be back in there tonight against the UTAH JAZZ, who hold shooting guards 1.89 points below expectation. DeRozan and the Raptors have the lowest implied team total of any favorite on the board tonight and face one of only four teams who run slower than they do. At his price, which is fair based on his role in the offense, he is still overpriced for this sluggish matchup likely to stay under the posted 194 point total. With eleven games to choose from tonight, players who rely on an uptick in pace are plentiful, and DeRozan is easily avoidable.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: SACRAMENTO KINGS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, HOUSTON ROCKETS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, DENVER NUGGETS, INDIANA PACERS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, ORLANDO MAGIC, CHICAGO BULLS, TORONTO RAPTORS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, DETROIT PISTONS, BOSTON CELTICS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
We’ve been rostering him quite a bit lately, but since Tony Allen has no timetable for return, Matt Barnes ($5200FD/$5800DK) remains squarely in the crosshairs of roster construction. Tonight, he draws the SACRAMENTO KINGS, who allow small forwards to score 0.71 points above expectation and the fifth most DK points per night to the positions. Barnes strives when he has the playing time to himself, averaging over nine DK points per game more when Allen doesn’t play. In a game where the usually slow Grizzlies get the biggest pace bump on the night, having a multi-stat contributor manning one of the more scarce positions is a real boon. Ownership should be lower than usual due to his recent price increase, but know that outside of one dud last Friday, Barnes has exceeded salary based point expectations in his three most recent starts by an average of 11.4 points per night, meaning he is a candidate to nearly 7X his still affordable salary.
Knowing and understanding the Philadelphia 76ers rotation is still a mystery, as they go at least ten deep every night and every one of these guys will play around 20 minutes. Robert Covington ($4900FD/$5500DK) and Jerami Grant ($5100FD/$4700DK) are in play tonight against a CHARLOTTE HORNETS squad allowing small forwards to score 0.67 points above expectation. Grant is listed as a power forward on FanDuel, but the analysis remains the same as Philadelphia doesn’t really stick to playing guys in one position. Covington is super volatile, as his minutes tend to determine his production. He’s only exceeded salary based point expectation twice in his last nine games despite averaging over 28 minutes per game in that span. Grant, on the other hand, has seen a boost in playing time over his last three games, exceeding salary based point expectations in each game and playing over 35 minutes in each of the last two games. Grant still needs to develop his scoring ability, but no one can deny his prowess in picking up peripheral stats, as he’s blocked eight shots in his last three games along with 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in that span. Priced below $5000 on DraftKings in a sterling matchup, Grant is a great salary saver coming on at the right time.
People have become accustomed to using Tobias Harris ($5800FD/$6000DK) and Marcus Morris ($5500FD/$5100DK) lately because of how secure their minutes have been, but I would strongly urge you to venture elsewhere as the Pistons travel south to face the SAN ANTONIO SPURS. The Spurs are the top defensive team in the league against small forwards, holding opponents 4.73 points below expectation and allowing the fewest DK points per night overall. In the middle range, you are better off spending on Matt Barnes in a far better spot than testing fate against a smothering Spurs’ defense led by Kawhi Leonard.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: HOUSTON ROCKETS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, CHICAGO BULLS, BOSTON CELTICS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, ORLANDO MAGIC, INDIANA PACERS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, DENVER NUGGETS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, UTAH JAZZ, TORONTO RAPTORS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, DETROIT PISTONS
Targeting the MILWAUKEE BUCKS with your power forwards has been a profitable strategy this year and the Pacers continue to feature 19 year old phenom Myles Turner ($5400FD/$5800DK) in their starting five. Turner has struggled lately, failing to exceed salary based point expectations in three straight games against semi-challenging opponents, but tonight’s matchup provides him with the softness he needs to break out of his mini-slump. The Bucks allow power forwards to score 1.17 points above expectation along with the sixth most DK points per night to the position overall. Milwaukee’s recent rotation move has left them smaller in the front court, as Greg Monroe comes off the bench and Jabari Parker is more of a stretch four than a true physical presence. Turner is averaging over 30 minutes per game over his last seven despite his struggles and when the matchup softens to this degree, a player as talented as Turner possesses the ability to bust out in a hurry. He’s my favorite dollar for dollar power forward play tonight.
If Anthony Davis ($10200FD/$10100DK) plays tonight, he is probably the best power forward play on the board. The HOUSTON ROCKETS get destroyed by opposing front court players, allowing power forwards to score 0.78 points above expectation and the most DK points per night to the position overall. Davis sat out of New Orleans’ last game, resting a sore big toe, but has stated he’s going to play tonight on more than five days’ rest. Davis has only scored 39 points in his last two games after a career high 59 points two Sundays ago, but his minutes are never in question when he plays. It’s always a matter of if he finishes games, which makes him an elite tournament play.
I’ve been looking for a reason to finally stop playing Gorgui Dieng ($6400FD/$6800DK) and tonight’s matchup with the WASHINGTON WIZARDS is as good of a time to stop. The Wizards are surprisingly one of the better defenses against power forwards, holding opposing fours a league leading 2.05 points below expectation. In what should be a fast paced, high scoring affair, I would much rather target guards in this game, and Dieng has finally reached his ceiling price.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: SACRAMENTO KINGS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, CHICAGO BULLS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, INDIANA PACERS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, DENVER NUGGETS, BOSTON CELTICS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, ORLANDO MAGIC, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, TORONTO RAPTORS, UTAH JAZZ, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, DETROIT PISTONS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
The only challenge in selecting a center tonight is sifting through the fantastic options available. Center is loaded tonight, and even though he’s on the second night of a back to back, I play my centers against the CHICAGO BULLS, which puts Nikola Vucevic ($8100FD/$8000DK) right at the top of my list. Chicago’s front court took another hit last night as Taj Gibson left early with an injury and his status is up in the air. Vucevic continues to strive despite Scott Skiles’ volatile handling of the rotation, exceeding salary based point expectations in eight of his last ten games. The Bulls are brutal against centers, allowing 3.67 points above expectation to the position. Vucevic has a baseline projection of about 35 DK points based on his current $8000 salary on DraftKings, which means the Bulls automatically make that projection 38.67 DK points. If he has an average game, he should coast past that number. The Bulls predictably got destroyed by Hassan Whiteside off the bench last night and Vucevic is averaging 39.45 DK points per game in his last five games against Chicago, 1.59 points per game more than against all other opponents.
The NEW ORLEANS PELICANS have been another strong target for opposing centers this season, and if Vucevic is too expensive for you, save a little cash with Dwight Howard ($8100FD/$7600DK) over on DraftKings. Howard has exceeded his salary based point expectations in seven of his last nine games by an average of 11.6 points per game, meaning he has provided his owners with almost 7X upside over those performances. The Pelicans allow centers to score 2.47 points above expectation and the second most DK points per night on the season. Don’t think too hard about this one.
Andre Drummond ($8700FD/$7800DK) continues to see his price plummet on DraftKings despite five straight games exceeding salary based point expectations, and it makes sense ahead of tonight’s matchup with the SAN ANTONIO SPURS, who hold opposing centers 0.71 points under expectation. Drummond rarely faces an opponent who can match his rebounding prowess, but the Spurs are one of only three teams that rebound better than Detroit, and Drummond has struggled in recent matchups with San Antonio. Drummond averages 39.97 DK points per night against everyone else in the league over the last two seasons, but is held to just 36.17 DK points per night when facing the Spurs. Drummond is an elite GPP option on DraftKings due to his price, but his situation is overall one to avoid tonight otherwise.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: HOUSTON ROCKETS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, TORONTO RAPTORS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, BOSTON CELTICS, DETROIT PISTONS, DENVER NUGGETS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, ORLANDO MAGIC, SACRAMENTO KINGS, INDIANA PACERS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, UTAH JAZZ, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES