NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 9, 2016
As I predicted yesterday, scoring resumed normalcy, as you could once again comfortably cash without an all-world score on both FanDuel and DraftKings. How did this happen? We weren’t offered mega-chalk that went off. It’s plain and simple, if the chalk hits big, the cash line is going to go up. When everyone is on the same group of players, whether in cash or GPP, and that group of players goes off for massive scores, it’s going to be harder to differentiate yourself AND win. Last night’s chalk value play was Patty Mills, who was predictably fadeable in an underwhelming performance. My advice on Mills yesterday was pretty simple. If you were a single entry player, Mills was someone to fade. The majority of people were going to have him rostered and if he failed – like he did – you were going to find yourself way ahead of the pack. If you are a multi-entry player and you needed to have Mills in order to make your personal roster construction work, you were better off being heavyweight on him in the case that he did have a big game. Of course he did not, but he didn’t score poorly enough to kill your lineups. In fact, I cashed in all of my FanDuel 50/50s and three of my four DraftKings’ GPP entries with a zero on my roster. Alan Anderson was ejected from last night’s Portland-Washington tilt less than a minute after checking in after getting into a scrum with Gerald Henderson. Fortunately for me, I was heavyweight on last night’s top two scorers – Damian Lillard and Brook Lopez – so my lineups were not dead in the water.
It can be extremely tilting to witness this sort of thing live. The NBA TV studio group and the Portland announcers both felt Anderson shouldn’t have been ejected, but he was after throwing a forearm at Henderson, landing above the neck, which is a major no-no. His zero cost me some big money in GPPs and leagues on FanDuel, as the players around Anderson in my lineup put up 294.4 and his backcourt mate Garrett Temple, who was the same price and, like Anderson, a Five Star Play on the DraftPros’ Player Rater, managed to exceed expectations. I was fortunate to be ahead last night, and that right there should show you how much the chalk going off means to a slate.
We’ve got a nine game slate to tackle tonight, and it, like the ones before it, appears very challenging. We have some of the recent culprits of the ultra-high scoring in action, and the prices have come up, so we’re going to have to respond in kind by finding new value. Since we don’t have a strong idea of what’s going to be in play nine hours from now, all we can do is break down matchups and decide who we want to be targeting. As I usually do, I’m going to use BOLD UNDERLINE to indicate a matchup that should be attacked with extreme bias. I’ll use STANDARD BOLD to denote matchups that are absolutely targetable, but either due to the game situation or available personnel to attack with, carries a certain degree of risk. BOLD ITALICS will represent matchups that should be avoided unless you have a superstar to attack with. Finally, STANDARD ITALICS will represent matchups that are best avoided overall. Let’s dive in.
As I did on Monday, I fully encourage you to get right back on Kemba Walker ($8800FD/$8300DK) at home against the NEW ORLEANS PELICANS. Walker is one of the strongest home court players in the NBA, averaging 4.93 DK points per game more at home versus the road. He might be slightly overpriced on FanDuel, where we need 44 FD points to reach 5X value, but he averages 5X value at his current DraftKings price tag. What that tells me is that Walker is a true $8300 player at home, with upside for more in a game with a 209.5 total. The Pelicans have been exploitable in two spots this season: point guard and center. They allow just the 13th most DK points per game to opposing point guards, but point guards do tend to exceed expectation against the Pelicans more often than not. In games at home where Walker and the Hornets have a team total of 109 points or higher, he’s averaging 51.5 DK points per game. I tend not to stray too far away from Kemba when he’s available at home, and with Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul also available on this slate, we should see ownership percentages in a manageable range where we can still gain an edge.
The SACRAMENTO KINGS return home after a brief four game road trip, which is exactly where we want to be targeting players against them. Tonight, the Kings host the Cavaliers off of an embarrassing loss to the Grizzlies second unit, and I think they’ll be all systems go for this one, making Kyrie Irving ($7200FD/$7800DK) an elite option tonight. Irving is still far too cheap on FanDuel, but he’s at a price on DraftKings I’m comfortable with considering the game environment and his recent production. Irving is on a run of five straight games of 33 DK points or more, meaning he hasn’t been a lineup killer when he underperforms. He’s exceeded 40DK points in seven of his last 15 games, playing 30 minutes or more in every game except one. Irving’s spot in the Cleveland rotation is a good one too, because he starts the game and comes out with about 4 minutes left in the first quarter. He returns to anchor the second unit with LeBron James and Kevin Love both off the court, which increases his usage and usually plays the bulk of the second quarter before repeating the same rotation schedule in the second half. This means Irving is getting prime minutes even when the game is out of hand. Cleveland gets the biggest pace bump on the night facing the worst scoring defense in the league. I would target their options heavily tonight in a spot where they can succeed and are likely to play big minutes.
Plenty of players will look for ways to fit either Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul ($10000FD/$9800DK) tonight, and as was the case last time they played and every other time over the past two seasons, Paul has simply been the better play in these spots. Paul is averaging 52.75 DK points per game against the OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER over the last two seasons directly matched up with Westbrook. Westbrook has averaged 40.85 DK points per game in those matchups. If you’re spending up for one of these two, I continue to lean Paul in these spots. The Thunder allow the fifth most DK points per night to opposing point guards and provide a pace bump to the middling Clippers. This matchup features tonight’s highest total, so it will be a game to target in general, but I wouldn’t go too much further down than Paul for access to this game.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PHOENIX SUNS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, HOUSTON ROCKETS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, NEW YORK KNICKS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, DETROIT PISTONS, UTAH JAZZ, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, MIAMI HEAT, BOSTON CELTICS
I really don’t like using Nicolas Batum ($6700FD/$7000DK), but after another disappointing performance on Monday night, he has to be considered in one of the better matchups on the board, facing the NEW ORLEANS PELICANS at home. Like Kemba Walker, Batum has extreme home splits, performing 10.83 DK points per game better on his home court than on the road. The Pelicans allow the most DK points per game to opposing shooting guards and will continue to attack opposing defenses with a small rotation of guards, as Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon are out for the season. Batum stands 6’8”, 4” taller than Jrue Holiday and 6” taller than both Norris Cole and Toney Douglas. It is more likely that Batum will see extended defense from Dante Cunningham, but Cunningham’s defense has never stopped me from playing someone against New Orleans. Batum has exceeded salary based point expectations in four straight games, with only one upside performance mixed in. Batum has gone over 50 DK points in three of his last five home games, and the matchup is in his favor tonight.
James Harden ($11000FD/$10700DK) is going to be tough to pay up for tonight despite a matchup with the PHILADELPHIA 76ers in Philadelphia. The matchup with Philadelphia never scares me despite Philadelphia ranking 18th in DK points per game allowed to shooting guards because we know Harden is an extreme volume player. His price on FanDuel is just too high despite exceeding salary based point expectations in eight of his last nine games. Harden has five or more turnovers seven times in his last eleven games, which take away valuable points at this inflated salary. I’m not suggesting an all-out fade of Harden, but the matchup is middling and the price is prohibitive of massive upside.
We need to be targeting the SACRAMENTO KINGS at home because they are more competitive in their home arena and they still don’t play any defense. We’ve known for two full seasons now that targeting shooting guards against the Kings is a profitable strategy, and tonight’s spot for JR Smith ($4500FD/$4700DK) is an elite one where we can take a massive discount to exploit it. Smith has been lousy lately, there’s no other way to paint this picture. He’s exceeded salary based point expectations only three times in his last nine games with no 6X performances since February 24th. The Kings, however, help end slumps, allowing the second most DK points per game to opposing shooting guards. I would expect this game to have the highest total on the board once we get a line, and Smith is in a spot to blow up after a string of disappointing performances. The Kings have the eighth worst three point defense in the NBA and allow the most attempts in the league. This could be one of those six or seven three pointer nights for Smith, and I’m planning to have exposure to him in this spot.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PHOENIX SUNS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, HOUSTON ROCKETS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, DETROIT PISTONS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, NEW YORK KNICKS, BOSTON CELTICS, MIAMI HEAT, UTAH JAZZ, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Those of you – myself included – that have been rostering Robert Covington ($5700FD/$6100DK) finally get a pristine spot to do it in tonight, and with the star power available at small forward tonight, you may get to do it at lower than usual ownership. Covington draws the HOUSTON ROCKETS tonight, the team allowing both the most DK points per night and the highest plus minus to the position. Covington has exceeded salary based expectations in three straight games and has been the volatile player this season in terms of the highs and lows of his salary. His minutes have stabilized over the last six games, playing over 31 minutes in each contest as Philadelphia fights through injuries. Tonight, Jahlil Okafor remains out, which allows the other 76ers to be involved on the offensive side of the ball. In an earlier meeting between these two teams in November, Covington had a massive 63.25 DK point performance highlighted by eight steals. We aren’t looking for that to happen again tonight, but given his recent surge in minutes, the likely high total and the defense-optional nature of this game, Covington should easily exceed value tonight.
If you’re going to pay up for one superstar tonight, I’d have a hard time recommending anyone other than LeBron James ($10100FD/$9900DK). You’re getting a massive discount from Kevin Durant in a far better spot facing the SACRAMENTO KINGS, the third friendliest defense to opposing small forwards. James hung a triple double on the Kings in only 31 minutes in an earlier meeting this season at home, and with the action shifting to the west coast coming off a horrible loss two nights ago, I would expect full run for the Cavs stars tonight. James is rounding into postseason form recently, exceeding salary based point expectations in six straight games and eight of nine overall. I’m usually on the LeBron fade-train, but tonight, he’ll likely be the player I build the majority of my lineups around. He’s under $10000 on DraftKings with potentially more upside than any other player.
The star I’m fading at the small forward spot tonight is Giannis Antetokounmpo ($9600FD/$8700DK) because his ownership is still going to be out of control. People will still be willing to pay the premium for the Greek Freak’s services, and I’m not nearly as optimistic about his matchup with the MIAMI HEAT, who allow the eleventh fewest DK points per game to opposing small forwards. Obviously, Antetokounmpo’s role has changed in the Milwaukee offense over the last month, and his ability to distribute makes him a triple double threat every night, but Miami isn’t a push over defensive unit. Milwaukee’s total tonight is also prohibitive, as they are three point home dogs with an implied total of 99 points. When the Bucks have a team total south of 100 points, Antetokounmpo averages 11.04 DK points per game less. I think the heater ends tonight, and if you’re spending up tonight at small forward, there are better spots to do it.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PHOENIX SUNS, PHIALDELPHIA 76ers, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, BOSTON CELTICS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, NEW YORK KNICKS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, DETROIT PISTONS, UTAH JAZZ
Another fantastic option worth paying up for tonight is Anthony Davis ($10000FD/$9700DK) in a good matchup with the CHARLOTTE HORNETS. The Hornets allow the ninth most DK points per game to opposing power forwards and simply don’t have the size to contain a player of Davis’ caliber. Davis is not going to get priced up more than where he is right now, and I’m going to continue to go back to the well on Davis as long as he’s this cheap on DraftKings. I am underwhelmed by the available options at power forward tonight overall, which makes paying up a positive strategy. Davis hasn’t shown a great deal of upside lately, which makes him a great play for FanDuel purposes as well, as the raw stats are what we’re looking for tonight. Charlotte is one of the bottom 13 rebounding teams in the league, getting outrebounded by 0.8 rebounds per night, and this is where I see Davis stuffing the stat sheet tonight. His minutes are secure so long as he doesn’t hurt himself, and there’s going to be a point as we near the end of the season where Davis goes on one of the huge runs we’ve seen from him in the past. I’m never going to spend my precious salary on Kevin Love types that fizzle out when they don’t have the ball, and we know Davis is capable of contributing across all categories. Don’t overthink this one.
If you’re looking for a big salary saver in a prime spot, Donatas Motiejunas ($3500FD/$3000DK) faces off against the PHILADELPHIA 76ers tonight and has stable playing time over his last four games since returning from a back injury. I’m not going to sit here and tell you Motiejunas is going to give you 10X upside or anything like that. We have players at the top worth paying for tonight, and if you want to fit multiple options in to your lineups, a min salary guy like Motiejunas who rebounds, can hit the long range jumper, and has a fantastic matchup is exactly what you’ll need. The 76ers allow the second most DK points per night to opposing power forwards and don’t typically force their opponents into foul issues since they don’t have a dominant low post game. Motiejunas is more likely to follow a slow footed Carl Landry around rather than be asked to chase Nerlens Noel around, which provides more optimism to his outlook tonight. If we get 20 fantasy points out of this spot, I think we’ll be happy, and Motiejunas is very capable of doing just that.
The matchup with the SACRAMENTO KINGS is just right for Kevin Love ($6800FD/$7200DK) and his FanDuel price is down below $7000, making him a great value option there. I just won’t personally be on him because I never am. I feel it’s my duty to tell you how great this spot is overall with a massive pace bump, a horrible three point defense across from him, and a road spot, where Love has actually performed 1.79 DK points per game better this year. You obviously would be playing with fire by rostering four Cavaliers, but for tournaments, this strategy isn’t half bad. Love’s services weren’t needed in the fourth quarter the last time these two teams played, and of the Cleveland regulars, Love has the least consistent minutes. I’m not saying to avoid him as I will, but know that he’s certainly in play tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: HOUSTON ROCKETS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, BOSTON CELTICS, PHOENIX SUNS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, NEW YORK KNICKS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, MIAMI HEAT, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, DETROIT PISTONS, UTAH JAZZ
I was really let down by Cody Zeller ($4600FD/$4400DK) on Monday night, but I’m willing to go back to the well against the NEW ORLEANS PELICANS tonight because the matchup is elite. This also might be a good time to dust off Al Jefferson ($5400FD/$4800DK) because Zeller is power forward eligible on FanDuel. Either way, tonight’s matchup with the Pelicans is the best on the board, as they allow one of the highest plus minuses to centers along with the second most DK points per night to the position. Zeller will be low owned after a stinker on Monday in which he received some industry hype heading into the game, but know that you’re getting a starting center who has exceeded salary based point expectations in four of his last six games who consistently logs 21-27 minutes per game. Jefferson is working his way back from injury, but he’s exceeded salary based point expectations in three of four and he logged 25 minutes for the first time since returning from injury on Monday night. You can get sneaky value from either play, and as a FanDuel punt, I wouldn’t mind playing them both as one combined player.
I can’t talk about centers without mentioning the torrid streak of Alex Len ($6600FD/$6600DK), who is somehow not $7000 yet on either site. Len’s season long averages are tough to decipher since he’s really only burst onto the scene over his last five games, exceeding expectations by an average of 21.17 points per game in that time frame. Tonight, Len returns home where he has performed 2.27 DK points per game better to face the NEW YORK KNICKS, who have been extremely friendly to opposing centers lately. Nikola Jokic got to them last night as Andre Drummond did the game before, and even though they allow just the 15th most DK points per game to centers, Len is still not priced correctly for his current role. He’s logged 33 minutes or more in five straight with five consecutive double doubles and is clearly in the midst of shedding his “bust” label. Phoenix gets the Knicks on the second night of a back to back and Robin Lopez is not the type of offensive player who gets his opposition in foul trouble. My guess is Tyson Chandler will draw Kristaps Porzingis due to his stronger defensive acumen, leaving Len to fend for himself in the paint with Lopez. People are waiting for the first bust performance, but unlike Giannis Antetokunmpo, he has not been priced away from his ceiling. Len provides massive upside tonight in a winnable matchup and I plan to continue playing him until the dust settles on this hot streak.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Dwight Howard ($7900FD/$8000DK) in tonight’s friendliest matchup against the PHILADELPHIA 76ers. Howard now needs to get us 40 fantasy points just to 5X, something he has done six times in his last eleven games. Houston isn’t in a position to run away and hide from anybody, as they’re fighting for an opportunity to get beat by Golden State in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. We’ve seen Houston play to the level of their competition all season, and Philadelphia is becoming a more competitive team with each passing game. I can see this one going down to the wire, forcing Howard to play extended minutes in what should be a high scoring affair.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, BOSTON CELTICS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, DALLAS MAVERICKS, HOUSTON ROCKETS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, DETROIT PISTONS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, PHOENIX SUNS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER, MIAMI HEAT, UTAH JAZZ, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS