NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 8, 2016
The chalk continues to slay in NBA DFS, and for the fourth consecutive night, insane scores barely made a dent in tournaments. If I told you that you could build a lineup with virtually no research just by paying attention to the last hour worth of breaking news and you would score 350 points on FanDuel, you’d take that, right? Last night, I had three lineups in play on FanDuel with scores of 353.1, 351.8 and 323 and none of them cashed a single tournament or league. In fact, they barely were able to do anything in 50/50 play, as I hovered around the cash line in more than one event. It becomes mentally exhausting to build quality lineups like this and not make money, which is one of the major hurdles new NBA DFS players have to get over. As is the case in DFS NFL, when the chalk goes off, the cash line goes up.
I barely looked at the Memphis-Cleveland game as a source of goodness during the day yesterday. Suddenly, about 90 minutes before lock, Memphis was sitting Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Matt Barnes, meaning that regardless of whether or not the game was competitive in Cleveland, Memphis was featuring an eight man rotation assured of massive minutes and opportunity. JaMychal Green and Mario Chalmers became must play options in cash and options you couldn’t win a tournament without. Tony Allen was announced “unlikely to play” around 5:15 CST, but then drew the start and gave his owners a massive line. I have played Tony Allen with great success this year, and had I known he was playing, he would have been in 100% of my lineups. Norris Cole had us wondering if he would play all day and was announced active 30 minutes after the Memphis news broke. He gutted out a strong fantasy performance despite an ailing back and was minimally owned despite being squarely on my radar due to the Memphis news.
These options, along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, were the mega-chalk last night, and ALL OF THEM WENT OFF. Antetokounmpo was the worst of the group despite the highest of ownership percentages, and those who practice strict game theory principles were left in the dust with scores once again in the 400s on both sites. You didn’t have to play Antetokounmpo or Holiday to win last night, but they certainly didn’t hurt you. When a night like this happens, we just have to grin and bear it and work through, because our processes remain correct. There wasn’t a way to get an edge last night by being contrarian, and these night happen. Fortunately, we don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about it, as we have a new day and a new slate to tackle today.
Tonight’s six game slate looks challenging, but that’s because we don’t have the edges yet. I think a strong approach to tonight will be to plan your rosters as you usually do and stick to the same plan you do every day. Don’t respond irrationally to late news, because that will make your lineups contrarian. This streak of massive scores is going to come to an end, and when it does, you’ll be on the right side of the cash line because you didn’t freak out over a min priced player suddenly seeing additional run.
We’ll dive in to the matchups like we always do here. I use BOLD UNDERLINE to denote matchups that should be attacked with extreme bias. STANDARD BOLD will represent a matchup that can be attacked, but due to either the available personnel to attack with or the game situation carries a certain degree of risk. BOLD ITALICS denote matchups that really should only be attacked with an elite option and can be ignored safely if that option doesn’t exist. STANDARD ITALICS are matchups best avoided. Let’s dive in.
Three of the six worst defenses against point guards are in action tonight, so that right there should spread out the ownership and give you an opportunity to differentiate yourself. Over their last five games, the BROOKLYN NETS have given up more fantasy production to point guards than any other team, allowing 59.6 DK points per game over that span, 6.6 points above their season average. After letting down owners in a pristine spot on Sunday, I think Kyle Lowry ($9000FD/$8800DK) bounces back in a big way tonight. The Raptors look to rebound from a stunning loss to the Rockets against the Nets and they’ve favored by 12 points with a juicy 110 point implied total. Lowry has performed 3.03 DK points per game better in spots where Toronto is favored by double digits this season along with exceeding salary based point expectations in five of his last six. Lowry likely presents owners with the highest floor with room for upside in this spot. We aren’t worried about minutes with Lowry, as he’s played at least 35 minutes in 14 of his last 15 games. Brooklyn is actually playing a bit more competitively lately, winning or keeping things within single digits in five of the first seven games of their current nine game road trip. After a loss Sunday, look for Toronto to take advantage of the ability to make up ground on Cleveland tonight, with Lowry leading the way.
Elfrid Payton ($5600FD/$5900DK) has seen his price come back up to levels that are still lower than where we expected him to be this year, but based on his recent play, he’s still a bit risky. In last night’s closer than expected loss to Golden State, Payton only played only 23 minutes, the second most of the Orlando point guard rotation, and I expect him to play a lot more tonight against the LOS ANGELES LAKERS. The Lakers still allow the most DK points per game to point guards and are coming off a very emotional win against the Warriors on Sunday afternoon. We’ve seen teams win emotion fueled contests before and come back with complete stinkers many times before, and that’s what I’m expecting here. Payton is a safe play tonight with a price that allows room for upside in a matchup he should perform in.
Strangely enough, Damian Lillard ($9200FD/$9600DK) has seen his price come up as he returns home off of clunkers in two of his last three games. The Trail Blazers finished their six game road trip in Detroit on Sunday and Lillard and the Blazers are set to host the WASHINGTON WIZARDS in what should be the highest scoring, most competitive game on the night. Lillard is averaging 7.4 DK points more per game at home this season and the Wizards allow the eleventh most DK points per night to point guards. I assume the return home has a lot to do with the price bump on DraftKings, but Lillard is my number one point guard tonight regardless, and I’ll look to have maximum exposure to him in this spot. Washington will be shorthanded in the backcourt with Bradley Beal and Gary Neal set to miss tonight’s game, leaving John Wall, Garrett Temple and Ramon Sessions to try to contain an angry Dame.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, DENVER NUGGETS, ORLANDO MAGIC, NEW YORK KNICKS, ATLANTA HAWKS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, UTAH JAZZ, TORONTO RAPTORS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
If you don’t want to have multiple Raptors in your lineup, DeMar DeRozan ($7800FD/$7700DK) is probably just as good a play as Kyle Lowry is and you’ll get to save a little money to do it. DeRozan draws a BROOKLYN NETS squad allowing the third most DK points per game to shooting guards, and they’ve been even worse over their last five games, allowing 4.5 DK points above their season average. DeRozan is on a nice streak of his own, exceeding salary based point expectations in six of his last seven games, playing over 32 minutes per game in each contest in that span. Brooklyn allows the most assists and steals per game to opposing shooting guards, two areas DeRozan has consistently contributed in as of late. DeRozan is averaging 41.96 DK points per game when Toronto is a double digit favorite and has dropped 43.88 DK points per game the two occasions Toronto had a team total of 110 points or more. This game is very likely to blow out, but Toronto won’t get there without solid contributions from their top two players, so expect DeRozan to be productive and low-owned due to fears surrounding the spread.
Victor Oladipo ($6600FD/$7100DK) is in his own fantastic spot tonight and should be chalky because of the matchup with the LOS ANGELES LAKERS, who allow the fourth most DK points per night to opposing shooting guards. He did log over 38 minutes in last night’s loss to Golden State, so his status will be worth monitoring, as Evan Fournier ($5300FD/$5700DK) is a more than suitable fill in should Oladipo sit. I haven’t seen anything to indicate Oladipo might sit as of yet, and this news may not break until lock has come and gone, so he’s risky for FanDuel, but he has the upside and matchup to make or break tournaments if he does play. This is the top news item to monitor today.
You’ll have multiple revenge narratives in play in Denver tonight as Carmelo Anthony and Arron Afflalo ($5000FD/$4500DK) return to their former home court to take on the DENVER NUGGETS. Anthony’s revenge narrative has come and gone, and he’s faced Denver multiple times since being traded away, but Afflalo is making his return to Denver for the first time since being traded last season. Afflalo is in the midst of a nice run, exceeding salary based point expectations in four straight games. The Nuggets allow the ninth most DK points per game to opposing shooting guards, and if you’re looking to save salary tonight, Afflalo helps you do that, especially on DraftKings. Afflalo needs 22.5 DK points to reach 5X value tonight, a number he’s met or exceeded in four straight and seven of ten.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, TORONTO RAPTORS, NEW YORK KNICKS, ATLANTA HAWKS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, UTAH JAZZ, SAN ANTONIO SPURS, ORLANDO MAGIC
The Spurs will play their third game in four days tonight against the MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES tonight and we have to be cognizant of late scratches here. If everything lines up as it should, I think Kawhi Leonard ($8600FD/$8200DK) is worth spending up for on a night where spending money is going to be difficult. The Timberwolves allow the eleventh most DK points per game to opposing small forwards and, like the Spurs, are playing the second night of a back to back of their own. Both teams lost last night, and San Antonio typically responds in kind after a loss, so I would expect Gregg Popovich to play those who are necessary to get the win tonight. Leonard is an inferno right now, crushing salary based point expectations in nine straight games before last night’s disappointing performance. Last night marks the first time Leonard has failed to reach 40 DK points since early February, and I would expect him to do some damage tonight if he does indeed suit up. Keep your ears open for new around this game, and remember that rosters lock 30 minutes later than usual, so you’ll have extra time to ingest news.
Gordon Hayward ($7300FD/$6800DK) is in play on DraftKings despite a mediocre matchup with the ATLANTA HAWKS because his price is still far too low. Hayward is a $7000 range player, and since pricing softened up a bit in the last week, Hayward’s price bottomed out at $6600, a price far too low for what Hayward brings to the table. On the season, Hayward has averaged 35.54 DK points per night at home, an implied price of $7100. He averages 32.69 DK points per game on the road, which makes his current price slightly high. I’m always extra willing to roster Utah options when they’re at home and able to control the pace, and rather than being surprised that the Jazz and their opponent went over the posted total, I like to be ahead of the curve. Atlanta has been on the road for almost a week now and no one on the Atlanta roster is a strong match for Hayward.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: WASHINGTON WIZARDS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, DENVER NUGGETS, ORLANDO MAGIC, NEW YORK KNICKS, BROOKLYN NETS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, TORONTO RAPTORS, UTAH JAZZ, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
I talk about him a lot, and when I do, he usually backs me up, so look for Julius Randle ($6200FD/$6200DK) to have a good game tonight against the ORLANDO MAGIC. Randle gets to take advantage of a Magic front court that played a competitive game in Golden State last night and may be short-handed as Nikola Vucevic is questionable with a strained groin. It’s always better to target the Lakers at home, where they tend to play slightly more competitive games against competition that isn’t among the league’s elite. Randle has exceeded salary based point expectations in six straight games and eight of nine overall, recording ten double doubles in his last fifteen games. He’s one of twelve players averaging double figures in rebounding and faces an Orlando team giving up the sixth most fantasy production to power forwards.
I don’t know if I’ll go 100% on him tonight, but I’m really excited about playing Derrick Favors ($7600FD/$7500DK) tonight against the Atlanta Hawks, the second worst rebounding team in the NBA. Favors is the exact mold of what Atlanta struggles with up front: big and physical. Utah is favored in this game tonight, and I won’t be surprised if they do win despite Atlanta’s recent success against quality opponents. Favors has two stinkers mixed in with six performances over expectation in his last nine games, so he’s volatile, but with two full days of rest and a return home, I would expect Favors to be ready to roll tonight. Favors averages 4.16 DK points more per game at home versus on the road. Atlanta allows the 14th most DK points per night to opposing power forwards, but they have the second highest plus minus allowed to the position, which factors in salary to overall performance versus a position.
In that same game, the matchup looks rough on paper, but that’s when it’s best to roster Paul Millsap ($8000FD/$8000DK). When the matchup is pristine and everything lines up right, that’s usually when we get a dud out of Millsap. The UTAH JAZZ are normally not a team to attack with front court players due to their size and ability to rebound and they’ve proven it by allowing the fewest DK points per night to opposing power forwards. Millsap used to play for the Jazz, and in five games since leaving Salt Lake City, Millsap is averaging 44.4 DK points per game against his former employer. This is a contrarian play with value tonight, as Millsap is the highest priced power forward on the slate. Nothing on paper (spread, total, matchup) suggests playing Millsap is a great play, but I have a gut feeling that we get an upside performance tonight in a game where every possession matters and Millsap likely plays 35-40 minutes.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: DENVER NUGGETS, BROOKLYN NETS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, NEW YORK KNICKS, TORONTO RAPTORS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
We know that the ATLANTA HAWKS struggle with physical fronts and that puts Rudy Gobert ($6900FD/$6600DK) squarely in play tonight. Atlanta allows the third most DK points per game to opposing centers and are the second worst rebounding team in the NBA. Gobert isn’t a huge offensive threat, but he does everything else you’d expect from your center as good as any center in the league. Gobert is averaging 15.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game over his last five games with three double doubles in that time frame. His price has dipped on DraftKings due to usual low ownership, but he’s exceeded salary based point expectations in four of those last five games. I’m probably identifying a little too much fantasy goodness from the lowest totaled game on the slate tonight, but you have to think outside the box with scores at an all-time high on the two major sites, and this game will not represent the chalk in the least bit.
If you’re spending up for a center tonight, I really like the chances for Brook Lopez ($8400FD/$7300DK) against the TORONTO RAPTORS. The Raptors allow the 16th most DK points per night to opposing centers, but they’re ranked in the bottom five in plus minus to the position, which factors in a salary adjustment to indicate true strength versus a position. Lopez has tormented the Raptors over the last two seasons, averaging 48.5 DK points per game in five matchups. Again, due to the spread, I would argue that Lopez will go widely overlooked tonight, which gives you an opportunity to roster and elite player in a good matchup for lower than usual ownership. You’re getting a discount on DraftKings as well, as Lopez’s price has dropped to its lowest point in three weeks.
I have to mention him in case he plays, because the matchup with the LOS ANGELES LAKERS doesn’t get any better for Nikola Vucevic ($8000FD/$7800DK) tonight. Vucevic was a surprise scratch late last night due to a strained groin, but that may have just been precautionary considering the likelihood of a blowout against the Warriors. If Vucevic plays tonight, he draws a Lakers’ squad giving up the fourth most DK points per game to opposing centers. The Magic are 2.5 point favorites and the game features the second highest total on the slate. We should see a competitive contest regardless, and if Vucevic plays, he should feast on an opponent that routinely gets destroyed by centers.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: BROOKLYN NETS, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, DENVER NUGGETS, NEW YORK KNICKS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, ORLANDO MAGIC, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, UTAH JAZZ, SAN ANTONIO SPURS