NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 22, 2016
Four game slates are usually pretty rough. There’s not a lot of ways to differentiate yourself from the pack in tournaments without taking on extreme risk and cash lines are usually pretty tight, leaving you way behind the pack if you miss on one player. We obviously want to identify the chalk on any slate, but knowing what players you can get away with using is very key to cashing.
Tonight offers us a little bit of change from the normal four game slates though, because roster construction is going to vary more than usual. We have one premium game to attack tonight as the Rockets take on the Thunder. I don’t have Vegas lines at the moment, but I’m going to go out on a not so dangerous limb and project that this game will have the highest total on the slate, and it probably won’t be close. You will want to target options in this game, but this is the only game featuring options priced above $10000 on either site. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden are all in play tonight, and owners are likely going to spend a lot of time figuring out how to get as many of these guys in their lineup as possible. It’s not the incorrect strategy, and there is plenty of value, but when you know this right off the bat, you can really differentiate yourself more than you would think on a small slate.
I don’t know which of the three I’m going to build around tonight at the moment, but I can tell you with certainty that I really only want one of them. I want to build a little more balance in to my lineups and get exposure to every game on the slate because the matchups are exploitable from top to bottom. I don’t want to limit myself to a stars and scrubs approach if possible, so I’m going to do what I usually do and dig in to matchups and situations and figure out where I can be different.
Because this is a smaller slate, I’m going to focus on the games rather than specific matchups, so my color coding system is out there window for just one day. I think there are advantages to uncover elsewhere, so I’ll leave you with this disclaimer: make sure you go to war with at least one of the three most expensive players. There will be plenty of room to do this. I’m not going to break down their spots here because they’re all fine plays. Let’s look at the other three games a bit more in depth and find our edges there.
Charlotte Hornets vs. Brooklyn Nets
The Hornets came back from a major first half deficit to stun the Spurs last night at home and one thing I thought could happen that did was a point guard getting whatever he wanted against San Antonio. That point guard turned out to be Jeremy Lin rather than Kemba Walker ($8600FD/$8300DK), much to my surprise. This exact scenario is as old as time in the NBA though, and I expect a major bounce back from Walker tonight. When a team comes together for an emotional victory against a difficult opponent without a big effort from their leader, that leader usually comes out the next game and over-compensates for his lack of contributions to that win. The complimentary players exerted so much energy and effort last night that Walker is the only Hornet I’m eyeing tonight. The price is fair and the matchup is great, as the Nets allow the seventh most FD points to opposing point guards, allowing them to score 3.64 points above expectation. Points guards priced at $7000 or more on FanDuel playing the second night of a back to back on the road against an opponent that allows the position to score three to four points above expectation score 3.71 points above expectation 61.1% of the time. Walker is the best player on this team and should make it a personal point to bounce back against a below average opponent.
On the Brooklyn side, I’m not actively targeting their expensive options. Brook Lopez ($8000FD/$7400DK) has a difficult matchup on paper, but he has performed well against the Hornets in two meetings this season, averaging 39.75 FD points per game in two meetings this season. He should be active after a surprise scratch Saturday night. Thaddeus Young ($7800FD/$7100DK) is overpriced at the moment, as his ceiling and floor are too close together priced in the $7000 range. We all recall Young’s greatest successes this season have come when he’s priced in the mid-$6000 range. Bojan Bogdanovic ($5200FD/$5500DK) is way pricier than I would like, but he likely ends up being your strongest Brooklyn target facing a Hornets squad allowing the 13th most FD points per game to opposing small forwards and 2.17 points above expectation to the position overall. Bogdanovic has exceeded salary based expectations in eight of his last nine games, playing over 30 minutes seven times in that span. He’s averaging 19.6 points per game in those nine games, a massive bump from his 10.9 points per game season average.
Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Save this play for tournaments only, as Hassan Whiteside ($8200FD/$8000DK) has the best matchup on the board among centers. The Pelicans allow the second most FD points per game to opposing centers, allowing them to score 5.35 points above expectation. I’m reserving my use of Whiteside for tournaments only because this game is more than likely going to have the largest spread of any game on the board, as the Pels have packed it in for the season, ruling Anthony Davis out for the season and sitting Ryan Anderson for a second consecutive game. Whiteside is the kind of player that can put up a huge stat line in a limited amount of minutes, proven by his eight point, 17 rebound, four block effort in only 25 minutes against this team earlier this season. Whiteside has only played 30 or more minutes three times in his last six games, so don’t expect a world of minutes for him tonight, but the matchup is too sweet to ignore. I also like Goran Dragic ($7000FD/$6500DK) tonight against a Pelicans’ defense allowing the eighth most FD points per night to point guards. New Orleans allows point guards to score 4.11 points above expectation, and Dragic’s recent minutes leave me optimistic that he can destroy value in such a positive matchup. He’s played 29 minutes or more in each of his last 15 games and after two nights of rest, I’m expecting him to get full run even in the face of a blowout.
The New Orleans Pelicans will go nine deep tonight, which makes them the top source of value on the slate. Jrue Holiday ($7700FD/$8200DK) is listed as a shooting guard for some reason on FanDuel, but I’m calling him a point guard for the purposes on my analysis. Whichever way you view Holiday, Miami is a top seven defense against opposing backcourts, and despite an astronomical usage bump, I’m avoiding Holiday tonight. The player I’m targeting in their backcourt is Toney Douglas ($5000FD/$5100DK) because the price still has not caught up to his current role. Douglas has exceeded salary based point expectations in each of his last eight games, playing 30 minutes or more five times in that span. Without Davis and Anderson, Douglas is in line for 35-40 minutes every night for the rest of the season and he contributes across all categories. The only hiccup in using Douglas is the potential return of Norris Cole, but based on recent trends, my assumption is that Cole is the next Pelican in line to be shut down for the season. Finally, the Pelicans’ frontcourt doesn’t have anything on its side except for minutes. Luke Babbitt ($3600FD/$3700DK) is my favorite play among the group because his splits say he benefits the most from a spike in playing time. In the seven games where Babbitt gets 20 minutes or more of playing time, he’s averaging 15.67 FD points per game. When he doesn’t get 20 minutes, he averages 4.08 FD points per game. Dante Cunningham and Alonzo Gee have been playing big enough minutes all season for us to know what they are. Babbitt is the only one of the trio with any upside, as he’s still near minimum price and will likely continue to start in Davis’ absence.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Memphis played a competitive game with Phoenix last night, but being tired only helps the overall outlook of this game, as they should still handle the Lakers, but it might take a little bit longer to do it. Zach Randolph ($6900FD/$6800DK) is the only Memphis option I’d be leery of tonight, as he just returned from injury over the weekend and played 30 minutes last night in an up tempo spot. He obviously gets a great draw facing the Lakers’ front court, and he’ll be chalky in cash games, but is a reasonable fade in tournaments. I’m intrigued by Jordan Farmar playing against his former team after a nice debut last night, but he’s not available in either player pool, so my intrigue is pointless. Matt Barnes ($6400FD/$5600DK) is in play with a top two matchup in his back pocket. He’s actually performed better on the second night of back to backs, averaging 3.58 FD points more in these scenarios. I would prefer to roster Tony Allen ($4700FD/$4700DK) over all other Memphis options simply because he’s the least expensive of the starting five and has the motor required for back to back play. Allen has crushed expectations eight times in his last nine games and has the easiest path to value with another 28-32 minutes likely.
This is a decent spot to target your Lakers’ options despite the fact that Kobe Bryant ($5700FD/$5300DK) is likely to play tonight after missing time last week. We always want to roster talented youth facing an older team on a back to back, as the usual blowout in play against the Lakers is less of a risk than usual. Byron Scott came out over the weekend and said he would no longer bench his youthful core in the fourth quarter in any circumstance, which potentially opens up fourth quarter run for the Lakers we prefer to roster, if you believe in coach-speak. Julius Randle ($5900FD/$6000DK) is too cheap for this matchup, as the Grizzlies have descended the rankings against power forwards since losing Marc Gasol, now allowing the 14th most FD points per game to power forwards and positive points above expectation. Randle really struggled against Phoenix on Friday night, but has had three nights off and should be ready to produce a big stat line against a shorthanded Memphis front court. I’m avoiding the Lakers’ backcourt in this spot, because Kobe muddies up the waters, but if Bryant sits for some reason, Jordan Clarkson ($5500FD/$5100DK) is the preferred play at a fraction of the cost of a D’Angelo Russell ($6600FD/$6400DK).