3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 1/29/20
"One cannot be betrayed if one has no people."
- Kobayashi (The Usual Suspects)
When it's time to start building DFS tournament lineups, especially for NBA tournaments, the fundamental choice to make is whether or not to buy into the chalk plays of the slate. More than any other sport, the popular plays in NBA are popular for a reason. Where we often get into trouble in tournaments, however, is when we begin to blindly trust a slate's chalk.
This regular piece will focus on tournaments looking through the lens of the projected chalk plays -- the usual suspects -- of that night's games. The Usual DFSuspects, if you will. In an attempt to understand the context of the slate, we will look at lower-owned plays that help you gain leverage against the competition.
Let's look at plays for Wednesday's FanDuel main slate.
Kyrie Irving ($9,300) - Just like Kristoff in Frozen 2, Irving seems to be somewhat lost in the woods on tonight's slate. Big spenders will surely be focused on James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Russell Westbrook in the matchup du jour with a massive 237 implied total. But the Brooklyn Nets total is only three points shy of the Houston Rockets and they get a magnificent home matchup against a depleted Detroit Pistons team.
Looking past the fact that he just dropped 61.7 FanDuel points against this team on the road just four days ago, Detroit allows the fifth-most points in the paint this year, and Irving is averaging a career-high 10.5 points in that area as he has turned to a more aggressive, attacking style of scoring this season (his ratio of points from threes is down three percentage points this year compared to last).
I'm also not normally one to let narratives drive my thought process in making recommended plays, but Irving -- a close friend of Kobe Bryant -- is one of the players who has taken the recent news the hardest, even sitting out Sunday's game after being overcome with emotion. If there is one player in the NBA who I believe can, at will, drive himself to a special performance, it is Irving. We have seen Irving do some magical things on the basketball court in the past, and I have this feeling tonight could be one of those moments.
Nemanja Bjelica ($6,400) - I've got an easy way for you to win a bar bet tonight. Ask someone to name the 10 NBA players who average the most minutes in the last 10 games. You will get some right answers in Harden, Westbrook, Lillard, etc. I imagine you would get several dozen names before one considered Bjelica, but there he is at the ninth most minutes per game in the last ten. That increased playing time has not led to decreased efficiency as Bjelica is also averaging more than 27% more FanDuel points than his season average over that time. In fact, he has scored less than 32 FanDuel points one time in his last nine matchups.
With Marvin Bagley III out tonight and Richaun Holmes still on the mend, look for Bjelica to continue soaking up frontcourt minutes against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that allows the eighth-most points in the paint this season and deploys Danilo Gallinari at power forward. Gallinari is a fine offensive force, but he ranks 73rd out of 96 forwards in defensive rating and is the worst performer on his team.
Rudy Gobert ($9,200) - You better believe I am going right back to the well with Gobert after he was shut down by the Rockets and -- checks notes -- Thabo Sefolosha?! The Rockets deployed 6'6" Sefolosha against Gobert in an effort to front him all night on offense and keep him out of position in the lane on defense. It worked wonderfully as Gobert had his lowest FanDuel point total in more than three weeks (36.8). But tonight against the Spurs without LaMarcus Aldridge, I don't see Jakob Poeltl having that kind of success.
Before Monday, Gobert had run off nine straight games with at least 42 FanDuel points, putting him squarely in the 5x range even at his high salary. Fortunately, his price dropped $400 after Monday's embarrassing loss and he gets to square off with Poeltl, who is the NBA's 56th ranked center in defensive rating on the season. Even with the relative dud on Monday, Gobert is still averaging more than 19% above his seasonal average in FanDuel points the past couple weeks, as he now has worked his way into the top five in both defensive and offensive rating among all centers with at least 25 minutes per game.