NBA DFS: Matchups to Exploit March 21, 2016
We know by now that one of the most predictable spots in NBA DFS is targeting Stephen Curry on the road in a game where he and the Warriors are favored by single digits. On the season, Curry is scoring over nine fantasy points more per game in these scenarios versus all other scenarios. We got to take advantage of that spot on Friday night, as the Mavericks hosted the Warriors as nine point dogs and Curry predictably hung 59.8 FD points on them. If you were targeting Curry this weekend, did you think the better scenario was Friday night’s setup or Saturday night’s setup, where the Warriors faced off with the Spurs as underdogs for the first time on the season?
For all the amazing things Golden State has done this year, they are now only three games ahead of the San Antonio Spurs, who are not getting their due because they don’t conform to the rest of the league. San Antonio doesn’t hesitate to rest players, they don’t put their stars back in to games where they are in control, and Gregg Popovich seemingly trusts every player on his bench to get the job done regardless of the score. Sure, they aren’t a fantasy friendly team, but they are beyond elite, resting in that same stratosphere that we’ve all elevated Golden State to throughout the season.
The number one thing I heard ahead of Friday night’s Warriors-Mavericks game was that the Warriors could get surprised by the Mavericks because they were looking ahead to San Antonio. From a fantasy perspective, it was an absolutely ridiculous notion. Very few players this season have gone into San Antonio and put up massive fantasy totals. If there was one spot to roster Curry this past weekend, it was Friday. The Warriors have stayed especially disciplined this season and getting caught “looking ahead” is not something they’ve done at any point this season. The teaching point here: unless a player is announced out ahead of a game, don’t assume they’ll be limited in-game.
Tonight’s nine game slate has some really attackable spots with five teams playing the second night of a back to back with four of those teams on the road. We’ll obviously want to tread lightly despite some favorable matchups, so we’ll analyze matchups and make decisions based on that. BOLD UNDERLINE will denote a matchup we can attack with extreme bias. STANDARD BOLD will represent a matchup that can be attacked in most cases, but due to either the available personnel or the game situation carries a certain degree of risk. BOLD ITALICS will represent a matchup that should really only be attacked with an elite option but is otherwise avoidable. STANDARD ITALICS are matchups best avoided overall. Let’s dive in.
I haven’t rostered Derrick Rose ($6700FD/$5800DK) very much this season, even during Jimmy Butler’s absence. Before Anthony Davis became everyone’s number one injury risk, Rose was the man we all feared rostering because of the risk of in-game injury. Rose has been playing well of late, exceeding salary based point expectations in five of his last seven games and tonight he and the Bulls host the SACRAMENTO KINGS. The Kings are coming off a low scoring victory in New York last night, and they allow the fifth most FD points per game to opposing point guards. Point guards also score 4.96 points above expectation against the Kings. Rose had one of his best fantasy performances of the season in Sacramento earlier this season, scoring 21 points and handing out nine assists on his way to 38.7 FD points. Rose has been very dependable from a minutes’ standpoint lately, playing 29 minutes or more in six straight games as the Bulls try to sneak back into playoff contention in the East. The Bulls are 7.5 point favorites tonight with the second highest team total on the board at 112 points. This is a great spot for Rose.
Stephen Curry ($10200FD/$10300DK) and the Warriors are still on the road, where Curry is scoring 3.5 FD points more per game on the season. The Warriors are not surprisingly favored against the MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, but this is a different spot than we’ve seen lately, as Golden State is a double digit favorite. I continue to pound the “single digit road favorite” in every write up in reference to Curry, but double digit road favorite hasn’t come up in quite a while. As you might guess, the home versus road splits are heavily influenced by his performances as a single digit favorite. As a double digit favorite, Curry is actually averaging 9.74 FD points less per game than in all other scenarios. The matchup is pristine, as the Timberwolves allow the sixth most FD points per game to opposing point guards, allowing them to score 2.65 points above expectation. This is not a recommendation to use Curry. I’ll be avoiding him tonight in this unusual spot in favor of other Warriors. His price is still down on both sites, and he’s certainly a viable tournament option because of his ability to blow up, but after Saturday’s low scoring loss, I think the Warriors will take care of business early on and leave the fourth quarter responsibilities to the bench.
For some reason, people rarely roster Isaiah Thomas ($7700FD/$7600DK), and with tonight being the second night of a back to back for the Celtics, I would assume that trend continues. I used Thomas last night against the 76ers with fantastic results, and I’m planning to get exposure to him tonight at home against the ORLANDO MAGIC. The risk here comes from the back to back scenario, but back to backs have not phased Thomas this season. He averages 3.38 FD points per game more on the second leg of the back to back, playing almost two minutes more per game and scoring almost three more actual points per game. The Magic allow the 14th most FD points per game to point guards this season, but they score 3.47 points above expectation. The Magic are also playing the second night of a back to back, negating the tired factor. Point guards with a usage rate between 28 and 35 playing the second leg of a back to back at home are scoring, on average, 4.55 points above expectation. This scenario has played out favorably 62.5% of the time, and I’m willing to bet on Thomas’ track record tonight.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PHOENIX SUNS, CHICAGO BULLS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, DENVER NUGGETS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, DETROIT PISTONS, INDIANA PACERS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, ATLANTA HAWKS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS, BOSTON CELTICS
I think a lot of people are going to see a matchup with the PHOENIX SUNS on the table and immediately assume Lance Stephenson ($7000FD/$6500DK) and Tony Allen ($4700FD/$4700DK) are automatically in play. Stephenson and Allen did a lot of damage over the past few weeks when the Grizzlies’’ top three players were sidelined, but that came to a screeching halt on Saturday as Zach Randolph returned to the rotation and hung a triple double on the Clippers. Randolph immediately became Memphis’ highest usage player for good reason, as he’s their best remaining player. Stephenson and Allen immediately resumed their roles as complimentary players, and those who paid excessive price tags for them were burned as a result. Memphis has actually lost their last two games to Phoenix, so they’ll lean heavily on Randolph tonight to end that trend. Stephenson and Allen are in line for big minutes, but they will lose a lot of the usage they had been racking up over the last few weeks. I’m avoiding this spot tonight.
Use your wings against the SACRAMENTO KINGS. We all tried to do that the last time the Bulls faced the Kings and that was the night Jimmy Butler ($8300FD/$7700DK) was mysteriously scratched hours after lock that led to his month long absence. Tonight, Butler is back in play and people aren’t using him, so it’s the perfect spot to get back with Jimmy. The Kings allow the fifth most FD points per night to opposing shooting guards, allowing them to score 5.41 points above expectation. There have been 13 other scenarios similar to tonight for Butler, and the results have been very positive. Shooting guards with a projected usage between 20 and 25 playing the Kings have exceeded expectations by 5.37 points per game at a rate of 76.9%. The players who didn’t exceed expectations were bench type players who don’t see the type of minutes Butler sees on a nightly basis. It’s risky, but Butler and the Bulls are sizeable favorites with a massive team total. Points will be there and with the Kings on the second night of a back to back, expect plenty of sloppy play leading to peripheral stats.
Your rosters have been in good shape lately rostering Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($5600FD/$5800DK), as he’s exceeded salary based point expectations in nine straight games. He plays top five minutes in the league and tonight’s matchup with the MILWAUKEE BUCKS is especially juicy. The Bucks allow the ninth most FD points per night to shooting guards and they allow 2.47 points above expectation to the position on the season. Milwaukee struggles with pace down opponents, and KCP is in a prime spot to keep up his recent surge. He has scored double digit points in eight straight games and has begun picking it up in other categories, averaging 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in that same eight game timeframe, both above his season averages. KCP is a better player at home as well, averaging 3.33 FD points per game more than on the road.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: DENVER NUGGETS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, PHILADELPHIA 76ers, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, DETROIT PISTONS, BOSTON CELTICS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, ATLANTA HAWKS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, CHICAGO BULLS, INDIANA PACERS, ORLANDO MAGIC, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
If you read my work often, you know I struggle to recommend and roster Paul George ($9200FD/$8600DK). I prefer to play George when his price is on the decline, and after exceeding salary based point expectations in four of his last five games, his price is back on the rise. His recent success has come against subpar competition, and it doesn’t get any more subpar than tonight’s opponent, the PHILADELPHIA 76ers. In one earlier meeting this season, George dropped 34 points, eight rebounds and four steals on the 76ers on his way to 57.1 FD points. Philadelphia is allowing the fourth most FD points per game to opposing small forwards, allowing 3.22 points above expectation in the process. George and the Pacers are literally a game away from being on the outside looking in to the Eastern Conference playoffs, so I don’t expect rest or reduced minutes with every game meaning life and death. Philadelphia is on the second night of a back to back themselves and playing shorthanded. George has struggled to crush value when his price has exceeded $9000 on FanDuel, but there is no safer play at the position tonight.
If you haven’t been keeping up with pricing trends, please know that LeBron James ($9500FD/$9200DK) has not been priced this cheaply in NBA DFS at any point over the last two seasons. I’m never comfortable playing James priced above $10000, because we know that the Cavaliers are trying to get him as much rest as possible on a regular basis. It’s frustrating to see this generations’ best player being held back so much when his contemporaries are playing huge minutes and finishing in the same spot as James at the end of almost every season: WITHOUT A RING. James and the Cavaliers have been scuffling lately and after an embarrassing loss Saturday night in Miami, I look for James to hang a massive stat line on the DENVER NUGGETS tonight. The Nuggets allow the eleventh most FD points per game to opposing small forwards, allowing 2.14 points above expectation on the season. James has struggled in his last two games, but prior to that, he had exceeded salary based point expectations in ten straight games. The King is now priced where 50 or more FD points is an upside performance. I don’t know how he isn’t one of the most heavily owned players on the slate tonight.
I’m keeping the small forward analysis at the top of the player pool today, because the best options are all in great spots tonight. We prefer to target our Spurs’ options on the road, as they are likely to see a more competitive game. San Antonio is taking on the CHARLOTTE HORNETS tonight, and Kawhi Leonard ($8700FD/$8300DK) draws a favorable matchup. The Hornets allow the twelfth most FD points per game to opposing small forwards, allowing 2.2 points above expectation in the process. Charlotte is one of the better home teams in the league and have been white hot over the last three weeks, vaulting themselves into the sixth spot in the East. Leonard is a multiple category contributor, so his path to value is always safe, as he can easily pick up slack in other categories if his shot isn’t falling. Leonard has scored 20 or more actual points twelve times in his last fifteen games, averaging 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game in that same timeframe. With George in a great spot and James so inexpensive, Leonard will likely go overlooked tonight with the ability to provide the same ceiling.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: PHOENIX SUNS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, CHICAGO BULLS, BOSTON CELTICS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, INDIANA PACERS, ORLANDO MAGIC, ATLANTA HAWKS, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, DETROIT PISTONS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
On the season, Draymond Green ($8100FD/$7800DK) has seen his price range anywhere from $7800 to $9900 on FanDuel. I have made a really conscious effort to roster Green at a lower price regardless of his matchup because he’s not your standard power forward. He’s one of the top distributors in the NBA and a top twenty rebounder, so when you have a player who contributes across multiple categories without reliance on scoring, you want to take the discount when you get it. On the season, Green has exceeded salary based point expectations in 66.2% of his games by an average of 3.97 points per game. When you narrow his salary range to the bottom end ($7800-$8200), the numbers are startlingly better. When Green is priced in that range, he exceeds salary based point expectations 75% of the time by an average of 6.89 points per game. Those numbers are strong enough to make him my favorite Warrior tonight as they take on the MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, who allow the 13th most FD points per game to power forwards and 3.54 points above expectation overall. Over their last five games, Minnesota has allowed 50.8 FD points per game to power forwards, 9.4 points per game above their season average. You want to have exposure to the Warriors coming off of a loss, and Green especially has been consistently elite in these spots. Green has three triple doubles following a Warriors’ loss, averaging 11.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 10.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocked shots per game in the six post-loss outings. Green is the first player I’m plugging in today.
Everyone and their mother is getting away from Alex Len ($6600FD/$6400DK) as fast as they can after his ridiculous statistical stretch from just a few weeks ago. One might recall that during his massive six game stretch, he victimized the MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES twice in that stretch, and I see more of that coming tonight. Len is averaging 41.27 FD points per game in three meetings with the Grizzlies this season, playing 32 minutes or more in every contest. Len clearly hit rock bottom on Friday with an 8.9 FD point performance against the Lakers, but a weekend off and a price drop has Len back in a familiar spot that he has performed well in. Zach Randolph is back for Memphis, but my guess is that he draws Tyson Chandler’s attention in order for Len to get himself on track offensively. Len has been one of fantasy basketball’s biggest surprises this season, and tonight’s spot offers you the opportunity to roster him at minimal ownership. The Grizzlies allow the 14th most FD points per game this season, with most of the damage occurring after Marc Gasol hit the shelf for the season. Don’t be scared off tonight.
It’s been a while since we could feel comfortable rostering Myles Turner ($4900FD/$4900DK), but there’s no need to sweat tonight’s matchup with the PHILADELPHIA 76ers, who allow the second most FD points per game to opposing power forwards. Power forwards also score 5.04 points above expectation against the 76ers, which is a massive point bump for a player that only needs 25 fantasy points to reach value. On the season, only four other power forwards with Turner’s set up (projected usage of 20-25, projected minutes of 20-25, price between $3500-$5000 on FD) have faced the 76ers. Three of those four have exceeded expectations by an average of 5.23 points per game. Turner is trending in the right direction lately, exceeding salary based point expectations five times in his last six games. Turner doesn’t require huge minutes to reach value, and with a soft matchup like tonights, he’s a 7X candidate who can push you over the top in GPPs.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: BOSTON CELTICS, DENVER NUGGETS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, ORLANDO MAGIC, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, PHOENIX SUNS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, CHICAGO BULLS, ATLANTA HAWKS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, INDIANA PACERS, DETROIT PISTONS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
I have to mention centers against the CHICAGO BULLS as an obligatory reference. They’ve been terrible against the position all season, but tonight’s circumstances are a bit different. DeMarcus Cousins ($11100FD/$10400DK) rolls into the Windy City tonight on the second night of a road back to back, a spot that has delivered less than favorable results this season for Boogie. Cousins has played the second half of a back to back on the road nine times this season and is averaging 38.08 FD points per game in those instances. Is Cousins capable of performing better? Of course. The Bulls allow the third most FD points per game to centers and allow them to score 6.92 points above expectation. Cousins and the Kings have all but checked out on this season. The Bulls are suddenly rejuvenated by the return of Jimmy Butler, and as 7.5 point favorites, threaten to blow this game out of the water before Cousins can do his damage. Earlier this season, Cousins scored 53.2 FD points against Chicago in his own building, and that was against the softer defense of Pau Gasol. On a night where we need 60-65 FD points to fully enjoy the spoils in GPPs, I’m just not seeing it. If this game were being played after a night off, I’d feel differently, but I’m not about to trust the most expensive player on FanDuel to crush value on the road despite the soft spot. Spend elsewhere tonight, because there are more balanced approaches that can be utilized tonight.
If you’re going to spend up at center, Karl-Anthony Towns ($8800FD/$8400DK) makes just a little bit more sense at home against the GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS. The Timberwolves have the highest team total of any underdog on the slate at 110.5 points, good for the sixth highest total overall. In a limited three game sample size, Towns is averaging 4.83 FD points more per game with a team total as high as tonight’s. As a professional, Towns has only played in two games with a total higher than 215 points, and he’s averaging 46.05 FD points in those contests. The Warriors are allowing seventh most FD points per game to centers despite holding the position 0.22 points below expectation. On 14 different occasions, the Warriors have faced a center priced over $7000 on FanDuel on the road. Those centers have exceeded salary based point expectations 71.4% of the time by an average of 7.98 points. Centers priced at $8000 or more have exceeded expectations at the same ratio, but only by 3.78 points per game. Either way, Towns is a much better play than you probably realize, and the game environment will likely push Towns to a better score.
I like the value in Ian Mahinmi ($5000FD/$4800DK) tonight against the PHILADELPHIA 76ers, who allow the most FD points per game to centers, allowing them to score 5.68 points above expectation. Mahinmi is always minimally owned because his upside is limited, but playing Philadelphia at home has a way of making value priced players look a lot better than they are. Home centers priced from $3500-$5500 on FanDuel projected to play 20-25 minutes against the 76ers have exceeded expectations 77.8% of the time by an average of 2.39 points per game. Mahinmi has exceeded his own salary based point expectations in seven of his last nine games, and is trending upwards at the right time of the season. If you need value at the position tonight, Mahinmi is a vanilla option that can easily return 5X value in a soft spot.
REMAINING MATCHUPS: ATLANTA HAWKS, BOSTON CELTICS, DETROIT PISTONS, SACRAMENTO KINGS, ORLANDO MAGIC, PHOENIX SUNS, INDIANA PACERS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS, DENVER NUGGETS, CHARLOTTE HORNETS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, SAN ANTONIO SPURS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS