NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 7, 2016
We have reached the point of the NBA DFS where you’re going to need to score major points to win money. Rotations are predictable, teams with something to play for are going all out every game, and the superstars of the league can sense the playoffs are near. I wanted to believe that my weekend was a result of four months of grinding finally coming together in one beautiful moment where my lineups were scoring at a pace I had not yet experienced this season, but after careful consideration, I determined that I have simply been playing the correct chalk, and that chalk is going off.
Alex Len’s price is steadily on the rise, but based on his current role in the Phoenix offense, where they play their standard rotation regardless of how the game is going, he isn’t going to stop producing any time soon. Len played twice over the weekend, both Phoenix wins (!), and played over 34 minutes in each contest, scoring over 50 DraftKings’ points in each outing. If you didn’t have Len this weekend, your lineups probably rested in peace. Devin Booker is finally growing into the role we all heard he was going to be featured in, performing well above expectation in three consecutive games, each priced below $5000 on DraftKings.
Yesterday’s scoring was simply insane. I built a FanDuel lineup on the go yesterday and managed to score 342.4 points. Normally, I’d see this and start jumping for joy in anticipation of counting my money, and it was barely good for a top half finish in 50/50s, with no cashes in tournaments or leagues. GPP winners on FanDuel were over 400 points yesterday. The chalk is starting to hit.
Tonight’s slate features some chalky matchups, but otherwise doesn’t look all that appetizing. The plus? We get seven games to choose from. Six of the seven games have opened with totals over 200 points with three games featuring spreads of nine points or more. I’m not overly concerned about players in blowout scenarios these days, as players are going to play somewhat normal allotments of minutes in preparation for the playoffs. Bad teams have no reason to not feature their young talent for their normal run as well, so every team’s options are in play tonight.
As I usually do, I’ll use BOLD UNDERLINEto indicate matchups that should be attacked with extreme bias. STANDARD BOLD will represent a matchup that can be attacked, but due to the available personnel to attack with or the game situation, may carry a small degree of risk. BOLD ITALICS will represent matchups that are middling and really only attackable with the right player. STANDARD ITALICS will represent a matchup that is best avoided. Let’s dive in.
The New Orleans Pelicans will host the SACRAMENTO KINGS in the game that most players are likeliest to attack based on the opening 220 point total and one point spread. We’re expecting a competitive, high scoring game where peripheral stats will accumulate by the barrel full, and the Pelicans have a trio of point guards we can consider tonight. Jrue Holiday ($7400FD/$7700DK) is going to be in the starting lineup as Eric Gordon is going to miss extended time with a fractured finger. He is the top play on the Pelicans, as his minutes are even more secure now, but we do have to watch how he adjusts to being in the starting five. Norris Cole ($5100FD/$5000DK) is an option I’ve been on lately, but is questionable entering this game. If he is active tonight, look for him and Holiday to rotate ball handling duties, leaving one in the cushy spot of attacking Sacramento from the shooting guard spot. If Cole is unable to go, Toney Douglas ($3500FD/$3200DK) automatically becomes my favorite value option, as he’ll stand to pick up substantial minutes in a supremely pristine matchup. The Kings have allowed the third most DK points per night to opposing point guards and have somehow been even worse over their last five games, allowing 5.8 DK points per game more than their already lofty season average in those last five contests. Monitor this injury situation closely today.
Play Kemba Walker ($8700FD/$8000DK) at home. He averages 41.06 DK points per game at home versus 36.54 DK points per game on the road. Walker and the Hornets are one of the three teams in a blowout spot tonight, favored by nine points at home against the MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, who allow the sixth most DK points per night to opposing point guards. Walker has dominated in games where Charlotte is a heavy favorite, averaging 2.16 DK points per night more per game when the Hornets are favorites of nine points or greater. Finally, in “pace up” spots where Charlotte is projected to score 111 points or more, Walker is averaging a staggering 45.58 DK points per game, 7.25 DK points per game more than games where Charlotte is projected to score 110 points or less. He’s dollar for dollar my favorite point guard play on DraftKings, and has the most ceiling room on FanDuel compared to the other elite options.
On the other side of the ball in that same game, I would do everything possible to avoid Ricky Rubio ($6700FD/$6500DK) tonight against the CHARLOTTE HORNETS. Charlotte allows the second fewest DK points per game to point guards of any team playing tonight, and have been even stouter lately, keeping the point guards they’ve faced in their last five games 5.2 DK points per game below their already impressive season average. Minnesota is 9-22 on the road this season and while they have the talent to keep this game competitive, there are better matchups to attack with if you want exposure to the Timberwolves tonight. Rubio performs below his season averages on the road and isn’t even averaging 30 DK points per game in spots where Minnesota is a nine point dog or more.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: CHICAGO BULLS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, ORLANDO MAGIC, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, INDIANA PACERS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
You can attack the CHARLOTTE HORNETS at the shooting guard spot, but due to Zach LaVine ($5500FD/$6000DK) demolishing expectations over the last three weeks, we now have a very difficult decision to make. LaVine was the obvious play over the last three weeks because his price has significantly less than Andrew Wiggins’ ($6100FD/$6200DK), but now, not so much. The gap has closed and we now have to legitimately decide between the two in a winnable spot against a Hornets’ squad allowing the sixth most DK points per night to opposing shooting guards. On FanDuel, I’m still using LaVine priced below $6000. But on DraftKings, you might be better off just avoiding the whole situation. Wiggins is scoring dependent to get to where we need him to be, and he’s only exceeded salary based point expectations three times in his last six games. When he’s scored 20 actual points or more in those six games, he’s exceeded value. When he hasn’t, he murders your lineups because he doesn’t contribute anywhere else. On the season, when Wiggins scores 20 or more points, he averages 35.42 DK points per game. When he doesn’t, he averages 22.71 DK points per game. LaVine contributes in multiple categories, as he will run the point in garbage time and distributes fairly with the first unit. He also has multiple steals in three of his last four and rebounds fairly well for a guard. He has exceeded salary based point expectations in 13 of his last fourteen games, scoring 20 or more points only five times in that span. The price has caught up, so the guess work is on you.
The price isn’t exactly fair, but you have to consider Jimmy Butler ($8700FD/$8400DK) tonight against the MILWAUKEE BUCKS. Butler has crushed Milwaukee in two meetings this season averaging 51.5 DK points per game in two meetings. Over the last two regular seasons, Butler performs 5.15 DK points per game higher against Milwaukee than all other opponents. He fouled out in his return from injury on Saturday night, but still logged 34 minutes through foul trouble, scoring 48.25 DK points in the process. The Bucks allow the ninth most DK points per night to opposing shooting guards, and over their last five games, have allowed 7.3 points per game more to the position. The Bulls are favored at home with a team total of 107 points, and these two teams have played high scoring, competitive affairs over the last two years. Count on Jimmy tonight.
One option at the top of the shooting guard player pool I would have reservations about tonight is Khris Middleton ($7900FD/$7500DK) against the CHICAGO BULLS. Before Jimmy Butler missed a month, the Bulls were among the best at containing opposing shooting guards, and I expect that to pick up right where it left off now that Butler is back. Middleton has been flaming hot lately, exceeding salary based point expectations in 13 straight games, but if there was going to be a dud in the mix, tonight is a great spot to predict that happening. Despite missing Butler for the last month, the Bulls still allow the fifth fewest DK points per night to opposing shooting guards, and despite a change in Middleton’s role due to Milwaukee’s rotation shake-up, I’m going to avoid Middleton tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, INDIANA PACERS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, SAN ANTONIO SPURS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, ORLANDO MAGIC, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Everyone and their mother will be on Giannis Antetokounmpo ($8700FD/$8200DK) tonight against the CHICAGO BULLS, but I don’t think it’s a wise strategy to go to war without him, especially in cash games. Everyone has been on Alex Len for the last week, and what you see is that it’s almost impossible to cash without him unless you’re finding extreme value around his absence. Antetokunmpo has a triple double in each of his last two Monday games, added a third career triple double yesterday, and was a rebound shy of a fourth on Friday night. He’s blocked 2.3 shots per game over his last eight games to go with 1.9 steals, 8.0 assists, 10.9 rebounds and 20.1 points per game in that span. The Bulls allow the eleventh most DK points per night to opposing small forwards, but rank in the bottom five in plus minus versus the position, making them a prime matchup to attack tonight. Don’t fade a guy this hot priced this fairly. He’s averaged 47.12 DK points per game in two meetings with Chicago this year.
I’ve noticed that the LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS have been leaky against opposing small forwards of late as they continue to play undersized with Blake Griffin sidelined. Paul Pierce is a natural small forward now starting at power forward with Jeff Green and Wesley Johnson absorbing much of the small forward minutes. In a game where the Clippers will play small, Chandler Parsons ($6900FD/$6800DK) stands out as an option with an advantage tonight. Dallas is back home for the second game of a back to back, and while they expect Dirk Nowitzki to play tonight, keep your eyes and ears open for news regarding others potentially sitting. Parsons should be active regardless, and he’s rotated 40+ DK point performances over his last four games, with tonight being the next one in line if the pattern should hold. The Clippers allow the 16th most DK points per night to opposing small forwards on the season, but have allowed 7.6 points per game above their season average over their last five games. Parsons has actually averaged 5.24 DK points per game more against the Clippers over the last two seasons. If you’re looking for a contrarian option from Antetokounmpo on DraftKings or a player to pair with him on FanDuel, Parsons is definitely a strong play.
Paul George ($9000FD/$8100DK) is completely avoidable against the SAN ANTONIO SPURS tonight, and I’m glad I won’t consider him tonight. The Spurs hold small forwards to the most points below expectation and the fewest DK points per game. George’s price is holding strong on DraftKings as people have finally realized that George isn’t worth the money above his current $8100 price tag, and I’m surprised their algorithm didn’t adjust him even lower for tonight’s matchup. George does have back to back 30 point outbursts at his current DK price tag, but I’m not going to fall for this price trap, as Gregg Popovich is likely to have swarms of defenders running at George tonight. There will be better spots to target George during the season’s last month.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: SACRAMENTO KINGS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, ORLANDO MAGIC, INDIANA PACERS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, DALLAS MAVERICKS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Anthony Davis ($9900FD/$10000DK) is in an elite spot tonight against the SACRAMENTO KINGS tonight. First off, Eric Gordon is out, which eliminates a shoot first player from the New Orleans’ rotation. Secondly, Jrue Holiday is now in the starting lineup with a “distribute first” mindset. Thirdly, the Pelicans-Kings tilt features a 220 point total in New Orleans with the Pels giving points. Davis is an elite play on FanDuel where DeMarcus Cousins is slated as a center and his price remains below $10000. On DraftKings, you have a decision to make between Cousins and Davis, but I’ll lean towards the Kings’ league high plus minus against power forwards to make my decision. The Kings also allow the third most DK points per game to power forwards, putting Davis in arguably the best spot he’s been in in the last few weeks.
I normally don’t target power forwards against the NEW ORLEANS PELICANS but I have to discuss DeMarcus Cousins ($10700FD/$10200DK) because his price on DraftKings is so low. It really feels like Cousins hasn’t done anything in a while, but he’s exceeded salary based point expectations in eight of his last nine games. The Kings have been on the road for the last five games, which probably explains his dip in production from an upside perspective. We have to look at this matchup with the Pelicans from a multitude of directions. New Orleans has been strong against power forwards on the season, allowing the eleventh fewest DK points per game to the position. However, Cousins is likely to see a lot of time at center as the Kings play small, meaning he gets to take advantage of a top three matchup with Omer Asik. The Pelicans allow the second most DK points per game to opposing centers. Because we don’t know exactly how the Kings will lineup, we have to use our gut and rely on the matchups to make a best guess, and as the game carries on, Cousins is likely to see more time as the five than the four. For that reason, coupled with the depressed price on DraftKings, Cousins is an elite play tonight with one of the three highest ceilings on the slate. His price will go back up by the end of the week as the Kings return home. Take advantage now.
Zach Randolph ($6700FD/$6500DK) has seen his popularity tail off since an early rush a week ago, and the diminishing popularity is warranted, as Randolph has failed to exceed salary based point expectations in four of his last nine games, a huge disappointment considering he is supposed to be the primary benefactor of Marc Gasol’s season ending injury. Memphis options remain fairly priced as no one steps up to fill Gasol’s shoes, and tonight’s matchup with the CLEVELAND CAVALIERS is just another matchup to avoid using them in. Cleveland allows the fourth fewest DK points per night to opposing power forwards and are a 12.5 point favorite tonight at home. The Grizzlies have been beaten by the lowly Suns twice in the last eight days, and are clearly disinterested in destroying inferior competition, leaving me skeptical of their ability to hang with Cleveland. Randolph is averaging 16.62 DK points per game against Cleveland over the last two seasons. Pass.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: MILWAUKEE BUCKS, ORLANDO MAGIC, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, DALLAS MAVERICKS, CHICAGO BULLS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, INDIANA PACERS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
I haven’t rostered Greg Monroe ($7200FD/$6300DK) since the first day he was moved to the bench. That decision hasn’t come back to bite me just yet, as Monroe has failed to exceed salary based point expectations five times in his last nine games. I won’t use him on FanDuel tonight, as he’s still overpriced, but on DraftKings, where I only need 31.5 DK points to 5X his tag, I’m intrigued because of his matchup with the CHICAGO BULLS. I didn’t publish it anywhere, but I was down on Dwight Howard this past Saturday and that ended up being the right instinct as Howard failed to score in double figures for the first time in a month, but I didn’t avoid Howard because of the matchup. I just had a feeling. Tonight, however, against a depth-less Bulls front court, Monroe should be able to feast against Pau Gasol and whoever else the Bulls run out there. Monroe has played over 29 minutes per game over his last nine games, a shade below his 30 minutes per game season average. Tonight, in a competitive game with a familiar opponent, I expect him to be right around 30 minutes, giving him the opportunity to score the requisite amount of fantasy points. The Bulls allow the highest plus minus to opposing centers and the fifth most DK points per game to the position. The spot isn’t going to get much better.
Orlando is probably going to get destroyed by the GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS tonight, but they haven’t played since Friday, meaning they’re at full strength. With Victor Oladipo on track to play, I lthink Orlando can stay competitive long enough to make Nikola Vucevic ($8000FD/$7500DK) a factor in a winnable matchup. Golden State is allowing the ninth most DK points per game to opposing centers, and even though the spread is currently 14 points in favor of the Warriors coming off an embarrassing nationally televised loss to the lowly Lakers, Orlando has shown a propensity for keeping things competitive against the league’s elite teams. Vucevic has been quiet over his last five games, exceeding salary based point expectations only three times in that span, but remember that he had been scorching hot in seven games prior to this current stretch. Vucevic possesses the attributes Golden State struggles with at the center position, as he can draw Andrew Bogut away from the basket and nail 16-18 foot jumpers all night. I’m weary of targeting Orlando options as a whole, but their 104 point team total is the eighth highest of the 14 teams playing tonight, which means someone is going to do the scoring. If Golden State shoots half as badly as they did yesterday, there will be plenty of rebounds and peripherals to go around. Vucevic will see minuscule ownership in tournaments tonight and is a great way to get exposure to this game for a fraction of the asking price on the Warriors’ side.
You may recall the drama surrounding DeAndre Jordan ($8300FD/$7600DK) potentially signing with the DALLAS MAVERICKS this past offseason. Jordan fizzled out in his first matchup with the Mavs in Dallas this year, but the second time around should be a bit different. The Mavericks are on the second night of a back to back and the Clippers are coming off a brutal loss on Saturday night. Jordan has dropped 50+ DK points in back to back games and the Mavericks just don’t have a physical answer for Jordan, among the reasons they were trying to sign him. Remember, with Blake Griffin off the floor, Jordan has produced far above expectation over the last two years. I’m willing to pay upwards of $8500 for him on DraftKings in this scenario, meaning we’re getting Jordan at a significant discount due to the current softer pricing. Dallas gives up the eleventh most DK points per game to opposing centers on the season, but over their last five games, they’ve allowed a whopping 72.5 DK points per game to the position, 22.7 points per game higher than their season average. Jordan is a one man show at center for the Clippers. You do the math.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, INDIANA PACERS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, ORLANDO MAGIC, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, SAN ANTONIO SPURS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS