NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 23, 2016
21 slates. That’s what left of the 2015-16 NBA DFS season. I’ve said many times before that my favorite sport to research is NBA. Every day is really a brand new day in the NBA, and the grind is far less taxing than MLB and way more compact and instantly gratifying than NFL. By the time the NFL season was winding down, I was mentally exhausted with the game. It took a lot of work analyzing every potential edge and when you have a bad week in NFL, you have a whole week to think about it. When you have a bad night in NBA DFS, you have the next days’ worth of preparation, research and construction to take your mind off of a particular failure.
Last night was my best night as an NBA DFS player from a profit standpoint. The DraftPros’ Player Rater led me to five separate 5 STAR plays that ultimately complemented the group of players I was dead set on using and ended up with a nearly perfect roster construction. I left points out there, but I managed a top 100 finish in the $25 FanDuel Slam, won four of six 100 man leagues, and finished in the top three of every 50/50 I entered with a score of 333.6. I’m hitting my stride at the right time, as I’ve been more profitable in the month of March than every other month of the season combined.
I only had to worry about four games last night though. I knew when I opened up my laptop that I was building around Russell Westbrook and the rest of the pieces fell in line as the day progressed. Tonight, we have a 12 game slate to tackle, and I’m hoping to carry over my momentum both in my preparation and my results. Because I’m ridiculously superstitious, I’m going to duplicate the format I used yesterday, where I talked more about the games than the individual players. Because we have a larger slate, I’m going to concentrate each game to one matchup to exploit per side, per game. Let’s dive in, and try to stay hot together.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Washington Wizards
These two teams played on Monday night in Atlanta, with the Wizards winning a fifth straight game at the right time, as they continue to push their way into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Wizards have been best attacked via the backcourt and wings, so I’ll be avoiding Paul Millsap and Al Horford here. If I was to roster anyone from Atlanta, I would be willing to give Jeff Teague ($6400FD/$5900DK) a longer look than usual. Washington allows point guards to score 2.91 points above expectation along with the 15th most FD points per game to the position overall. Teague has exceeded salary based point expectations in seven of his last nine games and was one of two Hawks to play well in this same matchup on Monday. In a game with a 209 point total, targeting the road point guard is a wise move because he’ll have the ball in his hands more than any other player, and the one point spread in favor of Washington suggests the game will be competitive deep into the contest.
On the Washington side, I’m going to have a hard time ignoring John Wall ($10000FD/$9600DK) because he’s piping hot right now, but his price is a little too high for my tastes. I don’t mind paying a premium price for Wall, but when Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry and Isaiah Thomas are available for significantly less money in equally tasty spots, I can feel a bit better about avoiding him. When I look back through Wall’s game logs, I see a lot of failure when he’s been priced at $10000 or higher on FanDuel. However, Washington has shortened their rotation as they make their run towards the postseason, so Wall is logging massive minutes, which certainly increases his opportunity to score fantasy points. He’s turning it over at a “Westbrook-esque” rate, averaging 4.7 turnovers per game over his last seven contests. His back to back triple doubles last week overshadowed his 17 turnovers. Wall’s carelessness of late has me concerned about his ability to soar past value, but 50 FD points is certainly within the range of outcomes tonight.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
I’ve been reasonably good at getting the Giannis Antetokounmpo ($10000FD/$9500DK) spots correct of late, and tonight is one of those opportunities to safely fade him. He draws the defense of LeBron James, who has helped hold opposing small forwards to the fourth fewest FD points per game on the season. If you’re looking for a player to target on an eleven point road underdog, I’m willing to roster Jerryd Bayless ($4200FD/$4000DK) against the soft defense of Kyrie Irving. Bayless has been performing poorly for the most part since becoming Milwaukee’s full time starter at point guard, failing to exceed salary based point expectations in three of his last four, but he’s getting major minutes for a player priced below $5000. He’s playing nearly 34 minutes per game over his last nine games, but has only surpassed 20 FD points twice in that span. In a game where Antetokounmpo is going to be the defensive focus of the Cavaliers, I can see Bayless providing 6X value tonight against a Cavaliers defense allowing positive points above expectation to point guards. There is minimal risk here with the price.
Cleveland has been criticized nationally on ESPN for their handling of player rest and minutes. LeBron James ($9900FD/$9400DK) has predictably seen his price rise after a Monday night triple double, and even though Milwaukee is soft against small forwards, the Cleveland target tonight, if he plays, is Kevin Love ($6400FD/$6700DK). I hate rostering Love. He’s not even a fraction of the fantasy monster he was in Minnesota, but when he’s priced this far down, where we don’t have to count on 35 fantasy points just to reach value, we know we have an opportunity to pounce. The Bucks allow power forwards to score 3.89 points above expectation and the sixth most FD points per game overall. Love is a mismatch for Jabari Parker on the offensive side because of his range and rebounding prowess. Love is never going to be confused as a defensive stopper, but Milwaukee’s bottom eight rebounding rate screams out as a spot where Love can easily double double. Take advantage of his discounted price before it goes back up later this week.
Orlando Magic vs. Detroit Pistons
If you’re looking for a spot to be contrarian, Victor Oladipo ($8500FD/$7700DK) is now priced to where you need a massive game to hit value in a bottom half matchup. No one is going to be on him, and with Nikola Vucevic continuing to sit, Oladipo has seen his production soar. He has exceeded salary based point expectations in four straight and eight of nine overall, eclipsing 40 FD points four times in his last five games. Detroit does allow shooting guards to score 0.68 points above expectation on the season, and Oladipo has the ball in his hands on every possession with Vucevic sidelined. Price sensitive owners will not pay this premium for Oladipo, which can provide you with an edge in roster construction.
The Pistons have really spread out their production of late, with a different starter stepping up on a game by game basis. I really like Reggie Jackson ($6300FD/$6200DK) playing at home where he averages 4.9 FD points more per game, but I’m going to stroll down narrative street and give Tobias Harris ($6000FD/$6200DK) a long look tonight. Since being traded from Orlando to Detroit, Harris has exceeded salary based point expectations in 15 of his 17 games. The Magic have struggled in the front court with Vucevic missing time, and are now allowing the seventh most FD points per game to opposing power forwards. Harris will certainly look to stick it to his former employer tonight, and his price is fair in the mid-range where there is still room for 6X upside.
Toronto Raptors vs. Boston Celtics
Things are a little cloudier for Toronto as Jonas Valanciunas is likely to rejoin the rotation tonight, making last week’s top value play Bismack Biyombo an afterthought. If Valanciunas doesn’t return tonight, Biyombo is the easy plug in and assured of 30 minutes against an undersized Boston frontcourt. Otherwise, I think your best means of attack against Boston is with DeMar DeRozan ($8300FD/$7600DK). Boston allows shooting guards to score 1.66 points above expectation despite allowing just the ninth fewest FD points per game to shooting guards. Losing Jae Crowder has forced Boston to play smaller than they already are, and shooting guards have actually averaged 6.8 FD points more per game against the Celtics in their last five games. I’m avoiding Toronto options in general tonight with Boston’s ability to force turnovers, but DeRozan’s ability to get to the line and his size advantage over either Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley has me semi-interested tonight.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m not super interested in getting too far away from Isaiah Thomas ($8000FD/$7600DK) despite an average matchup with Kyle Lowry and the Raptors. The Raptors allow point guards to score 1.61 points above expectation despite allowing the third fewest FD points per game to point guards. The Celtics are one of the better home teams in the league, however, and Thomas is extremely hot right now, hanging 40+ FD points three times in his last five games. He had a stale performance in Toronto last week, but with the scene shifted back to Boston, I expect Thomas to stay hot playing more minutes in a game with a likely high total and reasonably close spread.
Sacramento Kings vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
We usually will target players going against the Kings, and tonight is no different. I’m not high on DeMarcus Cousins away from home, and his $11000 price tag on FanDuel has me turned off despite the fact that he probably has the highest ceiling on the slate. Rajon Rondo ($7500FD/$7600DK) has seen his price drop comfortably below $8000, which opens up a lot of room for upside in a matchup with Ricky Rubio and the sixth worst defense against point guards this season. Point guards score 2.42 points above expectation on the year against Minnesota, and with 40 FD points now representing upside, Rondo is in a great spot to succeed tonight. Just monitor his status, as he’s currently dealing with three separate injuries. If Rondo sits, Darren Collison ($5600FD/$5100DK) becomes the chalk value play at point guard.
Minnesota’s options are all in a great spot tonight getting the biggest pace bump on the slate and facing the team allowing the most points per game in the NBA. I can make a case for every Timberwolves’ starter tonight, so I’ll go with the likely lowest owned option of the bunch and talk about Gorgui Dieng ($6400FD/$6000DK). Dieng had a minor slip up production-wise against the Warriors on Monday, but that was mostly due to three first half fouls that landed him on the bench. He scored 20+ FD points in the third quarter of that game to salvage his stat line, and he draws a Kings’ frontcourt that allows the fifth most FD points per game to power forwards, allowing them to score 4.15 points above expectation. Dieng will see his ownership slide a bit since a lot of players are dependent on box scores to see how things are going.
Utah Jazz vs. Houston Rockets
The Rockets are on the second night of a back to back playing the slowest paced offense in the NBA. In these spots, we look to target players who can get the job done in a favorable matchup with fewer possessions, and that player for Utah is Derrick Favors ($7300FD/$7200DK). Favors draws a Houston defense allowing the most FD points per game to opposing power forwards and 5.03 points above expectation on the season. Favors has rotated between positive and negative performances in his last four games, and tonight’s spot comes at a great time, as the pattern leads to Favors having a stronger performance. Houston allows the most points per game, the fifth most rebounds per game and the fourth most blocked shots per game to power forwards. Favors should be considered one of the elite plays of the night.
On the Houston side, it’s tough to trust anyone on the second night of a back to back in a pace down spot against a defense that ranks in the top six against every position. For that reason alone, I’m avoiding Houston entirely tonight, not even making a recommendation. I have zero interest in James Harden nursing an injury, Michael Beasley with an inflated price or Dwight Howard and his general lack of interest. Pass on Houston tonight unless we get major injury news opening up value.
New York Knicks vs. Chicago Bulls
We know when the Bulls are on the slate, we should be looking at the opposing center. Robin Lopez ($6000FD/$5700DK) is priced right around his ceiling, but his matchup provides him with upside for a lot more tonight. The Bulls allow the third most FD points per game to opposing centers, and centers score 6.85 points above expectation against them. Pau Gasol will be on a minutes restriction again tonight, leaving Lopez to do battle with the physical yet undersized Taj Gibson and “Human Pudding” Cristiano Felicio. Lopez has exceeded salary based point expectations seven times in his last nine games, including a massive 51.0 FD point performance Sunday night against the Kings. Lopez hasn’t been great against the Bulls in two matchups this season, but I think he can have a real impact on this game tonight.
The Bulls are tough to gauge every night, because they often play up or down to the level of their opponent. Because they’re theoretically “better” than the Knicks, I’m expecting a sloppy performance out of them tonight with Nikola Mirotic ($4700FD/$4900DK) being a viable option. The last time the Bulls and Knicks met at the United Center, Mirotic scored 17 points on his way to 41.5 FD points. Mirotic has been really quiet of late, but has gotten up for the Knicks in his first five games against them in his career. He’s averaging 24.78 FD points against New York in five meetings, 4.98 FD points per game more than all other opponents combined. I have a hunch he can get it going tonight against a weak Knicks’ second unit, which will lead to bigger minutes down the stretch. Mirotic is my favorite value play at small forward on tonight’s slate.
Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs
The last time these two teams met, we got a surprise shootout as the Spurs won in Miami 119-101. The game was projected around 198 points as I recall, so the additional scoring comes as a bit of a surprise, but I’m not betting on it again tonight. The Spurs ranks among the top four against every single position as far as fantasy production goes, and with Miami on the second night of a back to back, I have no interest in anyone on their roster.
The same story is in place for the Spurs. Miami is among the top eleven against every position fantasy-wise and are one of only six teams that play at a slower pace than San Antonio. On a night with twelve games, if you identify a play you like in this game, go for it, but I won’t be recommending a single player in what could be a massacre with the game being played in San Antonio with the Spurs coming off a huge loss Monday night.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Denver Nuggets
I rarely roster Nerlens Noel ($6700FD/$6600DK), but if you’re not going to consider him in this spot, you may as well not consider him at any other point this season. The Nuggets allow the third most FD points per game to opposing power forwards and Noel is going to draw either an ailing Kenneth Faried or an average talent in Darrell Arthur. Noel has been frustrating to own lately, falling short of expectations in his last two games after seven straight games exceeding expectations. With the injuries suffered across the Philadelphia roster, you would assume that Noel would have benefited somewhere, but that has just not been the case. Robert Covington is scheduled to return for the 76ers tonight, which makes their starting five slightly more whole, giving Noel less attention from the opposition. I’m expecting a good game from him tonight, as his last trip to Denver yielded 49 FD points.
There are many places to attack Philadelphia tonight, as they rank in the bottom four against all frontcourt spots in fantasy points allowed. My favorite play tonight, however, is Emmanuel Mudiay ($5600FD/$5700DK) going one on one with Ish Smith, who has been among the friendliest defenders to opposing point guards in the month of March. So far this month, Philadelphia has faced nine point guards priced at $5000 or higher on FanDuel. Every single one of them has exceeded salary based point expectations by a whopping average of 11.16 points per game. Eight of the nine have gone for at least 5X value, with three going for 6X value or greater. Mudiay has been a much better player at home this season, averaging 2.8 FD points per game more at home, including four performances over 37 FD points in his last eight home games. Mudiay is the player I’m plugging in and building around tonight.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns
The only play I can get behind tonight is Jordan Clarkson ($5500FD/$5200DK) and that’s only if D’Angelo Russell’s injury that took him out of last night’s game keeps him out of tonight’s game. Phoenix is the absolute best matchup for guards of all kinds, and Clarkson, who is shooting guard eligible on FanDuel, stands to pick up precious minutes at the point against a horrible Suns’ defense should Russell sit out. Every Laker put up a dud in last Friday’s loss to Phoenix, as Byron Scott decided to put his reserves on the court for the entire fourth quarter. Larry Nance Jr. returns tonight, muddying up the water for last night’s hero Julius Randle and the uber-productive Brandon Bass. Kobe Bryant is also planning to play tonight, and he’s a long shot GPP option on the road. The Lakers are best avoided unless Russell sits.
The Suns have a little bit of an identity with Brandon Knight ($6800FD/$7300DK) back on the floor, and his matchup with the Lakers is pristine. The Lakers allow the second most FD points per game to point guards, allowing them to score 3.31 points above expectation. Knight put up 37.7 FD points against them on Friday night and there’s nothing suggesting he can’t have a similar game tonight. Also keep a close eye on Tyson Chandler’s status, as he left Monday night’s game with a back injury. If he can’t go, that sets up Alex Len ($6500FD/$6600DK) to play major minutes at center against a Lakers’ defense allowing the fourth most FD points per game to centers with a lofty 6.17 points above expectation in his back pocket.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Portland Trail Blazers
These two teams played on Sunday in a high scoring overtime classic, and virtually every Maverick you’d consider had a huge game. Dirk Nowitzki ($8000FD/$7100DK) is massively overpriced, but he’s exceeded salary based point expectations in ten straight games. He’s playing as well as ever in the last three weeks, and his price tag makes him ultra-contrarian tonight. Deron Williams ($6000FD/$5400DK) had the biggest game of the group and received a corresponding price increase, which makes him slightly more volatile for this matchup. I would keep my eyes on the player that enters the starting lineup in place of Chandler Parsons, as that may be your only source of value on the Mavericks’ side.
The Trail Blazers lost that game on Sunday and return home where Damian Lillard ($8900FD/$9100DK) has absolutely controlled the action. He’ll be in a lousy mood after losing to this team on Sunday, and with his price exactly where he left it, I don’t see a reason to target any other high priced point guard today. Lillard averages 6.59 FD points per game more at home, and after four straight on the road, will return home in style. Portland had an extended road trip just three weeks ago and Lillard returned home off of a dud with a massive 64.5 FD point performance. I look for much of the same tonight.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors
The Clippers continue their road trip in Oakland tonight losers of three of their last four. I’m usually mildly excited to see quality competition head into the Oracle for a crack at the defending champs, but this Clippers team looks defeated after losses to the undermanned Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans. I’m limiting my exposure to this game overall because I think the Warriors are in a prime spot to destroy the Clippers, but if I rostered anyone on the Los Angeles side, it would be DeAndre Jordan ($8100FD/$7700DK). The Warriors hold centers below expectation on the season, but do allow the seventh most FD points per game to the position overall. Jordan has fared pretty well against the Warriors in recent matchups, and with Andrew Bogut likely out again, there really isn’t a single defender who can contain him. The Warriors aren’t about to start hacking because they want to keep the game moving at a lightning fast pace, so Jordan won’t be bogged down with extra free throw shooting. The Clippers are road weary at the moment and probably not worth targeting in general, but elite centers have had success with the Warriors this season. Centers priced at $7000 or more on FanDuel have exceeded salary based point expectations 65.2% of the time against Golden State by an average of 4.72 points per game. All this suggests is that Jordan probably provides a nice floor tonight.
The Warriors narrowly escaped with a win on Monday in Minnesota and return home after a three game mini-trip. Steph Curry will have a good game here, but I’m expecting Klay Thompson ($6900FD/$6700DK) to wake up from his recent slumber and have a good game priced extremely affordably. We’ve been used to paying nearly $8000 for Thompson’s services this season, so when you can get him for sub-$7000 prices, you have to at least consider him. He’s performed well above expectations in three meetings with the Clippers this season, averaging 38.0 FD points per game, 7.66 FD points per game more than against all other opponents combined. The Clippers are good against shooting guards, allowing the second fewest FD points per game, but a little home cooking should make Thompson an elite option tonight. Take the discount on Klay while it’s still there for the taking.