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Author: Ryan Kirksey

With a massive 11-game slate on tap tonight, I thought the best approach today would be to highlight some of my favorite plays across all price ranges. These recommendations are probably best suited for tournaments on FanDuel tonight, as there is certainly some volatility baked into them, but for the price, you are going to have a tough time beating the upside. Let’s dive in.

D’Angelo Russell ($9,100) – You are the definition of a perfect tournament play when your last four games range between 10.7 points and 56.7 points. That remains the same tonight, but the matchup and game environment couldn’t be much better for Russell. As only the fifth most expensive shooting guard, Russell steps into a high-paced game where the Nets have the second-highest implied total on the slate as both teams play in the top 13 of pace on the season.

Would you believe me if I told you that Russell’s usage is the highest for a point guard and third highest overall on this slate? As of today, Russell’s usage is equal to Lebron’s season number, higher than Giannis, and is second only to Harden over the last two weeks across the entire league. With Spencer Dinwiddie out of his way sue to injury, Russell has been option A, B, and C for the nets and I predict the Wizards putting up very little resistance tonight.

Myles Turner ($7,300) and Kyle O’Quinn ($3,900) –  If you take a peek at the season-long numbers for centers against the Dallas Mavericks, they look pretty average. 14th in defensive efficiency, 17th in real plus-minus against the position, and 15th in FD points allowed per game. But what that doesn’t factor in is the recent trade of DeAndre Jordan and what that has done to the interior defense for the Mavs. Over the last two weeks, no team has a worse defensive rating than the Mavericks, per NBA.com. On the season, the Mavericks still rank 14th overall, so they have seen a massive drop in defensive ability in the weeks since the trade deadline.

With Domantas Sabonis likely to miss this game, front-court minutes should be plentiful for Turner and O’Quinn. It’s tough to lock in one of these guys at your center position when you only have one spot available on FanDuel, but if you need salary relief or are looking to get contrarian, there aren’t too many under-the-radar better matchups for centers than the Pacers see tonight.

Klay Thompson ($7,200) – This price is now simply too cheap with the news that DeMarcus Cousins will not play tonight. At $7,200 Klay is just the 11th most expensive SG on the evening – and this for a player who has scored less than 31 FD points one time in his last 10 games and is suiting up for a team with the sixth highest implied total on the board.

Typically, we think of the Heat as a tough defensive matchup, and with good reason. On the season, the Heat rank 7th in the NBA in defensive rating and 2nd in defensive efficiency. Drilling down, however, we see opportunity for Thompson in his individual matchup. The Heat rank only 25th in defensive efficiency against shooting guards on the season and Dion Waiters being inserted into the starting lineup has certainly not helped matters. Waiters is the ranked 66th in SG real plus-minus on the season. In fact, the recent roster shuffling has had an overall impact on the team defense. As mentioned above, the Heat are 7th in defensive rating on the season, but looking at just the last 10 days that number plummets to 29th in the league. Playing with Justice Winslow tonight should provide a lift to the team defense, but that’s why this makes Klay the perfect tournament option. A great individual matchup plus some increased usage coming his way due to Cousins resting could lead to a fun night in Miami

Joakim Noah ($5,700) – In the nightly game of who is actually available to play in the Grizzlies’ front-court, tonight’s winners look to be Jonas Valanciunas, Noah, and Chandler Parsons. Now, Parsons can land himself a supermodel with the best of ’em, but I wouldn’t want him on a basketball floor for more than about 10 minutes a night (and that’s only if you are a team like the Grizzlies who are trying to lose). With Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ivan Rabb likely out, Noah and J-Val should get all the minutes they can handle. Valanciunas, based on the past few games, is now priced higher than Jusuf Nurkic, Clint Capela, and Al Horford. Think about that for a minute. I would much rather take a shot on Noah at a price point less than Cody Zeller and Dewayne Dedmon.

The Grizzlies and their slow pace typically don’t equate to fantasy goodness, but they are expected to receive an eight point bump tonight against the Bulls. In addition, the Bulls are the worst team in the league for defensive efficiency against the center position. Noah has shown 30-minute upside in two of his last six games, and if he is forced into action for that long tonight, we could be looking at 6x-7x value based on his 1.14 fantasy points per minutes this season. It’s not easy to scroll past all the stud centers on this slate to get to Noah, but he unlocks the key guards and forwards for tonight.

Center is an interesting position across the DFS landscape. Primarily it has to do with site-specific scoring combined with what centers traditionally do on a basketball court. Since I am about to recommend three centers for tonight’s back-from-the-break slate, I thought it prudent to dive into why these might be more relevant choices for a site like FanDuel or Yahoo, but not as much for a site like DraftKings.

FanDuel and Yahoo have an identical scoring system:

Point – 1
Rebound – 1.2
Assist – 1.5
Steal – 3
Block – 3
Turnover – (-1)

DraftKings, on the other hand, scores NBA differently:

Point – 1
3 pt. made – .5
Rebound – 1.25
Assist – 1.5
Steal – 2
Block – 2
Turnover – (-.5)
Double-double – 1.5
Triple-Double – 3

It’s no surprise that we are looking for points, rebounds, and blocks from our centers (typically) and we are not as concerned with assists, three pointers, and steals from the position (again, typically). The turnover scoring on DraftKings also favors centers as FanDuel and Yahoo penalize all players twice as much for a turnover on their sites.

A simple analysis would tell us that points being equal, rebounds slightly in DK’s favor, blocks strongly in FD’s favor, turnovers strongly in DK’s favor, and the double-double bonus in DK’s favor – we should expect larger scores for centers on DK.

HOWEVER

What this broad generalization does not take into account is the type of center we may wish to deploy based on slate options and roster construction. Take, for example, the past five games from a couple of centers on the slate tonight:

In Cousins, we get to almost look at two centers in one. On one hand we have a historically dominant, high-usage big man who has been the focal point of offenses and displays an inside-out game that is tough to beat. On the other, Cousins so far this season is minutes-restricted, lower-usage, and less dominant as he recovers from an Achilles injury and adapts to life on a team of superstars.

In his games on Feb. 12 and Feb. 2, we saw flashes of the pre-injury Cousins, as he put up a combined 32 shots, double-doubled in both games with points and rebounds, and even hit one three pointer in each game. In throwback games like this, he will score higher on DraftKings, as the chart above shows.

For the other three games, we have what was seemingly a more timid Cousins on the floor. In these contests, he put up a combined 23 shots, 14 rebounds, and one three pointer made. Not surprisingly, he scores better on FD and Yahoo those nights. Also contributing are his stocks (steals+blocks). He averaged two stocks per game on Feb. 2 and 12, but averaged 3.67 his other three, lending his performances to better FD/Yahoo scores where those count for three points each.

This quick and dirty analysis begins to introduce for us a pattern that we will see from other mid- to low-priced centers.

Lopez is priced at $5,300 on FD and $4,500 on DK today, so we are talking about another cheap center play, but it’s clear that how he accumulates stats plays more into being rostered on FanDuel than DraftKings. Bro-Lo is a player who rarely double-doubles, his only one this season coming on Jan. 21, and is adept at piling up the steals and blocks – 22 total in his last seven games. This type of player is ideal for prioritizing FD over DK. Even the 2.4 three pointers Lopez makes per game this season are not enough to push him towards higher DK scoring in most cases. In fact, Lopez typically scores higher in DK only when he has low “Stock” numbers. Case in point is Feb. 8 when he had a total of one.

The scoring system flips in favor of DK when we start moving up the pricing list to the stud centers. Players like Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Nikola Vucevic consistently score better on DK because of regular double-doubles and a less punishing turnover score. These high-usage post players have reliably higher turnover numbers, but are not penalized as harshly as they are on FD/Yahoo.

Why does this matter? In the grand scheme of things we are sometimes talking about a couple points or fractions of points. In DFS, while information is more readily available and the edge that once existed among grinders is shrinking, any small advantage we can identify should be prepared to use in our favor. Especially on FanDuel where you are locked into one center, knowing the right plays at the right time can be the difference between a cash line and bust.

The cheap chalk tonight is clearly going to be Boban the Great, but if you are looking to differentiate, the following deserve a look:

DeMarcus Cousins ($7,600) – A recently got a news alert that read “Cousins no longer has a minutes limit.” Music to my ears. As long as the price stays under $9K with no minutes restriction, we should be jumping on Cousins as often as we can. The Warriors, despite being the 10th fastest team in Pace this season, get the biggest Pace bump of the night against Sacramento and are projected to score 3.3 more points per 100 possessions. Combine that with matchup against a team ranked 24th in defensive efficiency against centers and I am running to grab Cousins tonight. On a team with Curry, Thompson, Durant et al, Cousins is still demanding a 25.5% usage rate and is averaging 1.4 fantasy points per minute.

Al Horford ($8,000) – I would certainly want to pay $400 less for Cousins tonight in a track meet game, but if you really want to go YOLO tonight, Horford might be your man. The Celtics are projected for a 2.6 point pace bump tonight, despite the match-up against a stout Bucks defense. But the one vulnerable spot on Milwaukee is against centers, where they rank 29th of 30 teams. Horford has played in one of the two games against the Bucks this year, netting 36 FD points back in November. I wish the price was back in the mid-7K range we saw before the break, but the potential is still there for Horford to 5x his price tonight.

Jusuf Nurkic ($8,100) – Keeping with the theme, I would also want to pay just $100 more for Nurkic than I would for Horford, but there is one substantial question in Portland we need to solve to have full confidence in Nurkic. Obviously, we know what centers do to Brooklyn. They allow the third most FD points and real-life points to the position and have routinely been destroyed by players a lot less talented than Nurkic (i.e. 14 points, 11 rebounds, and six block for Al Horford). But with Enes Kanter joining the team post-break there is a wrinkle here that deserves monitoring. Will Kanter get traditional backup big-man minutes? Will the Blazers try to keep Nurkic fresh for the playoffs? His minutes are slightly down to only 27.3 per game, and while that’s plenty of time to destroy the Nets, if we start seeing a more 25-23 split in minutes among the two centers, I may have to rethink my usage.

But on the positive side, the Nets are 30th in the defense vs. archetype tool against players similar to Nurkic and with Embiid sitting tonight, Nurkic does project to have the highest point total for the position. On a fantasy points per minute basis, we have no worries about the Blazers big man tonight, but it’s the minutes we must watch. Tread carefully.

Using Pace as a leading indicator, what players in prime match-ups can we look to for value and a higher than usual DFS points floor.

The name of the game, as I am learning in NBA DFS this year, is being able to pivot. Especially on FanDuel, where we do not have late swap (bad!) but we do have the punt position (good!), staying on top of news and being able to swiftly pivot to better or more optimal plays when news breaks is overwhelmingly important.

To that end, I have been struck by some Twitter commenters recently who have attempted to take a number of DFS analysts to task on plays they recommended that didn’t work out or unendorsed pivot plays that emerge later in the day after much of the content has been written, videos have been recorded, and projections have been calculated. Listen people, I can assure you these folks are doing the best they can respond to breaking news, but they have their own lineups to set, other personal obligations to attend to and any number of additional professional responsibilities to focus on to produce content for every piece of breaking news.

These guys and gals out there are teaching us to fish, not just dropping the fish in our mouths while we lazily wait around for it to happen. We should each be responsible for keeping up with news and evaluating for ourselves the impact to the game, the slate, and our respective lineups.

As one example, Andy Means at Rotogrinders has been getting it especially tough lately from the I-don’t-want-to-think crowd. He is one of many getting flayed daily for opinions based on facts. Let’s just try not be this guy.

We are capable of using our own brains from time to time and we should not expect to be handed the answers to the test. I’m here to help today, but this is a puzzle we have to each figure out for ourselves.

Here’s hoping we can all find the right plays on this fun eight-game slate.

Dallas Mavericks @ New York Knicks
’18-’19 Pace
Mavericks – 16th
Knicks – 13th

Luka Doncic ($9,800) – Yes, his price is rising and he is creeping into elite salary territory, but it’s not without justification. Doncic’s price on January 2th was a nice $7,800. Since that time, his FD points are 34, 32.8, 35.6, 44.6, 48.5, 61.6, 38.7, 47.6, 30, 49.2, 37.4, 58.6, and 61.4. Notice you don’t see any numbers in the 20’s in that set. And if I compared those point to salary, you would find only one time where he did not 4x his salary.

But for me, tonight is less about recent form, and much more about the stage. You know how there is this narrative when Lebron is at MSG, or Durant plays at MSG, or when Kobe played at MSG, or when Jordan went off at MSG, and most recently it was Madison Square Harden for a night? There is just something about those bright New York lights that bring out the stars and I just think tonight it’s Doncic’s turn. Other than the fact that the Knicks absolutely stink against small forwards, I have no statistical reason to back this up, but I just have this feeling Luka is going off tonight. It’s his one visit to New York this season, the media has been buzzing about how good he is, so I just believe tonight is his showcase to the rest of the country. I’ve been wrong before, but I am done doubting Doncic.

Trey Burke ($5,400) – We are going to need some savings to offset Broadway Doncic tonight, and Burke is the paragon of an outstanding tournament play. The reasons? He was chalk on Tuesday against Charlotte and absolutely burned everyone with only 17.9 FD points in less than 25 minutes so that will lead to low ownership tonight. All other NYK point guards are still on the shelf, so if Coach Fizdale has his right mind about him Burke will approach 30 minutes. Dallas is 20th in the NBA in defensive efficiency against point guards. Burke’s usage when he is on the floor is an elite 26.8% and he has seen at least 24 minutes in the last five game he has played.

Burke’s price is $900 higher than Tuesday, which is a thumbs down emoji, but it’s just the algorithms catching up to his increase in minutes played and opportunity against a marginal defensive team.

Atlanta Hawks @ Sacramento Kings
’18-’19 Pace:
Hawks – 1st
Kings – 2nd

Dewayne Dedmon ($6,300) – If you are a fan of Pace, then this game is basically your Super Bowl. The number one team versus the number two team, two of the three highest totals on the night, both teams get a pace bump by at least 3.3 points, and the spread is less than six. Points are a comin’ in this one, which should be good for us DFS degenerates.

We will start with the cheap player first here. There is a lot of analysis about how bad Willie Cauley-Stein is on the road compared to how good he is at home. And I am sure he will showcase that tonight in a home game against a team ranked 26th against centers, but there is not much said about the fact that WCS stinks defensively everywhere. The Kings are 23rd in defense against centers, and Dedmon has a nice little role of four games with at least 23 minutes and 30 FD points. I won’t be afraid to deploy Dedmon in tournaments as a pivot (WORD OF THE DAY) off of Jahlil Okafor in tournaments. Dedmon checks in at $1,100 cheaper.

De’Aaron Fox ($7,800) – To put that last price in perspective, Fox is only $400 more than Okafor. I mean Okafor is playing well lately, but he does not have the season-long track record nor the attractive match-up that Fox walks into tonight.

I could just post the box score from the last time these two teams played when Fox went off for 65.5 FD points, scoring 31 points with 10 rebounds, 15 assists, and a steal. All you really need to know is the Hawks are 21st in defense against opposing point guards and Trae Young is the second-worst point guard in terms of real plus-minus that has stepped foot on an NBA court this year (Collin Sexton fell lower then Young, congrats Collin!).

Looking at the PGs priced higher than Fox, I think I would only want Damian Lillard over Fox tonight. Kemba and Conley aren’t speaking to me the way Fox is. On sites that allow two point guards, my default build is going to be pairing Fox and Jerrod Bayless which should open up beaucoup de dollars as I move down the roster.

Using Pace as a leading indicator, what players in prime match-ups can we look to for value and a higher than usual DFS points floor on FanDuel.

Andy Grove, the legendary founder and Chairman of Intel once said about has objectives as a leader, “The art of management lies in the capacity to select from the many activities of seemingly comparable significance the one or two or three that provide leverage well beyond the others and concentrate on them.”  He also was fond of saying, “Each time you make a commitment, you forfeit your chance to commit to something else.”

While I am sure he wasn’t thinking about DFS when he said those words – and rather about the much more important work of running a company. But the principles are one and the same. Every night (at least for NBA and MLB) we are looking for the right edge, the one piece of analysis or luck to fall our way that will help us out-leverage the competition and set us apart from what others are doing.

Take last night’s FD-Guru GPP lineup, for example.

Many people – me, you, FD-Guru, and thousands of others – had Devin Booker locked into lineups. He, of course, was ejected in the third quarter for fighting with Gorgui Dieng, disappointing scores of owners. Now, many people were affected equally by this and lost a quarter and a half of production. Owners who went straight chalk with other guards such as Derrick Rose, Kyle Lowry, and SGA were left scrambling with a player who didn’t come close to value because of getting tossed, but had no leverage to weather the storm because their fates were tied to popular player choices.

The right GPP move was to pivot off of some of those plays – as shown by the GPP lineup posted that rostered Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Both of these players crushed last night and – despite the loss of Booker – were able to carry the lineup well past the cash line in GPPs.

That’s our challenge this and every night in NBA. We know the players. We know their abilities and limitations. But the right time to deploy them, providing leverage from the field, is the key to smart roster construction. Differentiate your lineup in some unique way tonight.

Let’s find some players we can commit to who can help us make some money.

Atlanta Hawks @ Chicago Bulls
’18-’19 Pace:
Hawks – 1st
Bulls – 24th

Dewayne Dedmon ($6,200) – I will be honest here, I am not totally in love with Dedmon’s price tonight. I much preferred the $5,500 Dedmon to this upgraded $6,200 version. But Dedmon simply destroys teams with bad defenses against centers, and what do you know, the Bulls come in ranked 28th against the position. One matchup item I love after digging into the numbers: the Bulls are third worst in the NBA in rebound differential. Dedmon has at least six rebounds in five of his last six games, and I project that number to be at least nine tonight if his minutes are there.

Sandwiched around some games lost due to an ankle injury, Dedmon has recently scored 35 FD points against the Magic, 41 against Philly, 27 against Brooklyn, 21 against Toronto, and 27 against Miami. That’s one game in the bunch at less than 4x value and he gets to go up against Robin Lopez tonight. For me, Dedmon makes a logical midrange pivot off the chalky Aron Baynes if not paying up for an Embiid or Jokic tonight.

Lauri Markkanen ($6,900) – More evidence as to why the Dedmon price is not superb – Markkanen comes in only $700 more expensive with a much higher floor and ceiling. The second-year big man has one game in the last month under 20 FD points, that being the 50-point shellacking by the Warriors earlier this month.

Markkanen has finally pushed past 30 minutes per game and is now averaging a point per minute fantasy production. Against the Hawks – ranked 29th against power forwards – Markkanen should have little resistance whether in the post-up or floating out to the three-point line. In a game with the third-highest total of the night, several Bulls should produce some monster lines, and Markkanen has one of the best individual match-ups on the team.

Detroit Pistons @ New Orleans Pelicans
’18-’19 Pace:
Pistons – 22nd
Pelicans – 5th

Luke Kennard ($3,900) – Here is a perfect candidate for your FanDuel punt position tonight. FD does not actually list anyone at the SF position who will actually play SF for Detroit tonight so you have to know about the Pistons lineup plans to take advantage of a weak spot in the Pelicans’ defense. New Orleans ranks 29th in the league against opposing small forwards, which leaves the duo of Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard in tremendous spots to produce tonight.

It’s Kennard who is seeing increased run lately. Kennard now surpasses 20 minutes per game on a nightly basis (up by 5.9 in his last four games) and has seen an 8.2 FD points per game increase over his last four. He has also seen usage of at least 23% in his last three games and scored at least 24 FD points in three of his last four. For a player who is trending up, buy low and give yourself access to the rest of the studs.

Jrue Holiday ($9,500) – Yes, Jrue Holiday is now priced in the range of guys like Blake Griffin, Nikola Vucevic, Andre Drummond, and Kemba Walker. But Jrue’s play recently has justified the price hike. His last five games – all on the road:

@MEM – 45 FD points, 25% usage
@POR – 32 FD points, 20% usage
@GSW – 49 FD points, 24% usage
@LAC – 51 FD points, 30% usage
@MIN – 46 FD points, 28% usage

Finally back home and facing a team ranked 22nd against shooting guards, this is going to be a ceiling game for Holiday. If you need a little icing on the cake to convince you – look at Holiday’s game log the last time these teams played on Dec. 9. In a game on the road and with Anthony Davis in the lineup. Holiday smoked the Pistons for 50.5 FD points and a 33.61 USAGE RATE!

The picks and lineups on FD Guru have been basically on fire lately. If you have not checked it out already, look at some optimal projected plays in the FD Guru Projector Oven. For only four credits, you will get some of the strongest plays of the days, projected points, and a short summary of the appealing match-up. Giannis is a fan of the Oven. I heard he uses it.

Let’s hope we can keep that streak going tonight as we check out some interesting plays from a pace perspective.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Washington Wizards
228.5 Total
’18-’19 Pace:
76ers – 7th
Wizards – 9th

Joel Embiid ($10,800) – Yes, these two teams played just last night with Philly blowing Washington out. Yes, Embiid disappointed relative to salary in that game with only 38 FD points. But tonight should be a different story. The two teams move to Washington for the game, and have a much tighter point spread with the 76ers as only 3.5-point favorites. They were up to nine point favorites in some spots last night. With a closer game, Embiid should get his full allotment of minutes against a weak frontcourt.

In last night’s blowout, Embiid only played 23 minutes. With his 38 points, we can calculate he scored at a rate of 1.65 FD points per minute, a number actually .11 higher than his season average. If he had his normal 32-36 minutes, we could have been staring at a 55-60 point night that would have made owners much happier. I have no concerns rolling The Process back out there tonight against a team ranked 25th against centers on the season.

Jeff Green ($5,700) – With Otto Porter banged up again tonight (he is questionable as of this writing), I am going to ride the Green hot streak for one more game. He has scored more than 20 FD points in each of his last six games. Despite also being a byproduct of the blowout last night, Green had a 16% usage and .75 FD points per minute. As with Embiid, if Green hits his 34-minute average from his last five games, he scores 26 on the night instead of just 20.

Whichever combination of Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala or Jonah Bolden the Sixers deploy tonight, it really isn’t going to slow down Green. The 76ers are 21st on the season in defending power forwards as they have no had no real defensive answers from the revolving door of bigs next to Embiid.

Phoenix Suns @ Dallas Mavericks
219.5 Total
’18-’19 Pace:
Suns – 15th
Mavericks – 11th

Josh Jackson ($4,800) – Yes, he is going to be Josh Chalkson again tonight, but this price is just way too low for what type of opportunity Jackson has with Devin Booker listed as doubtful tonight. It’s not often we see a player in this situation priced lower on FanDuel than on DraftKings, but Jackson is $400 more on DK tonight, so jumping on the value before the price goes up is the smart play on tonight’s slate.

Jackson had a decent showing last night with over with 30 FD points in just 31 minutes, but the usage is the most important takeaway from last night’s showdown with the Kings. Jackson had a usage rate of 22.6%, a number he has beaten only once in his last 11 games. He also played more than 31 minutes for just the second time since mid-December, getting plenty of run with Booker on the shelf. Assuming Kelly Oubre, Jr. doesn’t have another career game like he did last night (his 48 FD points were a season-high), there are going to be ample minutes and shots for Jackson, Warren and Ayton in a potentially high-scoring affair.

DeAndre Jordan ($7,800) – I don’t know what more I can say than just play centers against the Suns. They are dead last in the league against the center position as Ayton has just not found his ability to slow down his counterparts, and the pattern is repeating game after game.

In their past eight games, centers have the following points/rebounds numbers against the Suns:

15/7 – Willie Cauley-Stein
19/6 – Willy Hernangomez
18/13 – Marcin Gortat
42/18 – hello, Joel Embiid
5/4 – Kevon Looney
23/8 – Nikola Jokic
12/13 – Steven Adams
22/13 – Nikola Vucevic

So unless you are Kevon Looney, you are going to have a strong game against Phoenix

Against the Lakers – ranked 16th against centers – Jordan dominated on Monday for 42.8 points despite only a 13% usage rate. His rebounding and block numbers are just so strong against weak frontcourts, and he is chipping in 2.1 assists per game just for good measure.

BONUS IN-PERSON RECOMMENDATION

Eric Bledsoe ($6,700) – I will be attending this game tonight so I can say I was at the game where Harden and the Greek Freak each scored 60 points against one another. At least that is what I am expecting. Looking beyond the two studs, however, we can find some strong plays in this game with a 226 total and 1.5-point spread.

Bledsoe is the ninth most expensive PG on the slate – priced $800 above the infamous Raul Neto. I don’t get it. Bledsoe’s usage has been at least 21% for five straight games and he has a match-up against the Rockets ranked 18th on the year against opposing point guards. Keep in mind that about 85% of that number is comprised of games with Chris Paul at point – playing opposite Austin Rivers is a whole other ballgame. Of all 94 point guards in the NBA, Rivers is ranked 83rd in defensive real plus-minus.

Bledsoe has one game in his last 14 where he has failed to reach 20 FD points, and now we get him at his lowest salary of the season. As long as Giannis doesn’t have a 45% usage rate in this game, I can see Bledsoe reaching a massive profit tonight.

Sometime over your holiday break, you need to read this interview I stumbled across about how the audience and contestants are picked for The Price is Right. So, so many good nuggets in here about what can help and what can hurt your chances of making it in the door to the studio and also what can improve your chances of getting on stage. Who knew that showing up to the line a little drunk might improve your odds of getting in? Also, they allocate more tickets to the show than they can actually accommodate? Some grandma who planned her whole vacation so she could get into The Price is Right is told to go back to Omaha disappointed? Brutal.

Here’s another hint from the former staffer on improving your chances: Don’t be one of those people who says “woooo!”

Perhaps the most interesting piece of info in here is the fact that the producers screen each person before they go into the studio to see if they are the right type of person who would do well on stage. Apparently, they aren’t just taking the pretty people or the old people or those who made the best shirts, but instead the ones who won’t get up there and start licking Drew Carey’s face.

According to their numbers of audience size, that means everyday they are evaluating 325 people to determine whether they can trust them or if they are going to make the producers, the show, the network, and the advertisers look like buffoons.

I don’t know about you, but it sounds to me like every DFS player would be extremely qualified for that job.

How many times a week do we sit and stare at a list of hundreds of players just to determine if they can help us or bankrupt us that day? I love the part in the article talking about regulars who constantly try to crash the studio audience wearing wigs and fake mustaches even though they have been asked to never come back. Sounds familiar…

“Well there is David Njoku again. He’s cheap and has done some good things in the past. Baker Mayfield is improving, right? The match-up isn’t the toughest. He had 182 air yards one week last year.”

No. Get out of my life, David Njoku. I only believe that you are going to royally screw me. And there are countless players like this.

My hope for you this holiday season is that as you screen the tricky list of players in this injury-filled week that you are gifted the players who produce as you expect and that they do it in a way that boosts your ROI enough to pay off the holiday bills.

On to the players whose price is right in Week 16.

Quarterback

Mitchell Trubisky ($7,900) – Trubisky is the 10th most expensive quarterback on the slate this week, despite facing a San Francisco defense that is giving up the 8th most FD QB points on the year. In fact, only the Raiders have given up more passing touchdowns than the 49ers, who also give up the fifth most FD points to opposing wide receivers.

Trubisky, who has been known to throw a bad pass or two in his life, especially on the road, doesn’t have to worry about too much this week. The 49ers are in the basement of the league with only two interceptions all year. Two is pretty awful. The next closest team is six.

But it’s not all about the defense he is facing. Trubisky has 26 total touchdowns on the season – despite missing two games to injury – more than two TDs per game. He tends to torch the teams with bad passing defenses this year – as several millionaire contest winners will testify. Against other teams in the top ten of most FD points to QBs (Tampa Bay, New England, and Miami), Trubisky has scored 43.46, 33.42, and 28.34 points. As Chicago looks to lock up a first-round bye, I imagine they keep their foot on the pedal in this one.

Running Back

Elijah McGuire ($5,700) – Green Bay, McGuire’s opponent, is decidedly average against the run on the season. They have allowed a middle-of-the-pack 20.8 FD points and 11 touchdowns to running backs on the year. They struggle most against pass-catching running backs, ranking 28th in the league in DVOA. McGuire, since his return from injury, has at least four targets in 2/3 of his games and now has the backfield all to himself with Crowell and Powell gone for the year.

In their past five games, the Packers have allowed 4.5 yards per carry and have given up four rushing touchdowns as they have been gashed by Chris Carson, Dalvin Cook, David Johnson, and Jordan Howard. Whether or not you put McGuire in the same class as those rushers is another conversation, but there is no question he is talented. The diminutive running back from UL Lafayette has ranked in the top 25 in fantasy points for running backs the last two weeks despite facing Houston and Buffalo, two teams in the top 10 for rushing defense DVOA.

For $5,700 you could do a lot worse than a back with 41 touches in the past two weeks playing at home against a deflated Packers team just waiting for vacation.

Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper ($7,000) – Despite the fact that his price (correctly) did not drop or rise after last’s weeks disappointing game against the Colts, Cooper is ranked as the 14th most expensive wide receiver on the slate. Now, he is headed home to take on a defense giving up 31.9 FD points per game to wide receivers (and 19 total touchdowns in 14 games). No matter what metric you prefer, Tampa Bay is a bottom seven defense against wide receivers this season – pass DVOA, #1 WR DVOA, FD points allowed, touchdowns allowed, etc. They have just been straight terrible at shutting down receivers.

As mentioned above, the Colts game was a disaster for Cooper (6.3 FD points) and all the Cowboys, but it was on the road against a team allowing the fifth fewest FD points to wide receivers, and in a game where the Cowboys were missing their starting center. Cooper’s last four games at home, on the other hand, have been nothing short of spectacular with scores of 44.7, 9.6, 34, and 14.3.

Give me Cooper over the likes of Julian Edelman, Mike Evans and Kenny Golladay, all priced equally or above him in Week 16.

Using Pace as a leading indicator, what players in prime match-ups can we look to for value and a higher than usual DFS points floor.

Like the majority of other players out there in the DFS universe, I have been burned by John Wall and Nemanja Bjelica the past couple nights so I am ready to wash the taste of those two out of my mouth with this extremely nice 12-game slate we have tonight.

I actually think both of those guys are solid plays tonight, but – Wall especially – has been up and down so much this year, it’s hard to look at a $10,200 price tag ($1,300 more than Jrue Holiday, as an example) and say I am comfortable paying up on the second night of a back-to-back after overnight travel.

The good news is there is plenty of value to pair with the mega-studs on this slate. Here are some of my favorites from a pace perspective.

Oklahoma City @ Sacramento
236 Implied Total
’18-’19 Pace:
Oklahoma City – 6th
Sacramento – 2nd

SINCE PUBLISHING THIS, SCHROEDER HAS BEEN SUSPENDED FOR ONE GAME. FOR VALUE PIECES TONIGHT, I WILL PIVOT OVER TO BUDDY HIELD AND (CRYING WHILE I WRITE IT) NEMANJA BJELICA

Dennis Schroeder ($5,700) – At this price tag, I am absolutely in love with Schroeder tonight. What is so appealing about Schroeder is that, as the sixth man, he is typically game-script neutral. When it is a close match-up, he plays his usual 28-30 minutes and also gets solid minutes in blowouts since he runs the second unit when Westbrook and George are off the floor.

Schroeder’s usage, despite coming off the bench, is a healthy 25.6%, in line with other guards such as Derrick Rose, Klay Thompson and De’Aaron Fox. With a team pace bump of 3.9 points and tied for the highest team total of the night, only an extreme blowout would prevent Schroeder from reaching his regular minutes tonight. Sacramento ranks 28th in defensive efficiency against shooting guards, where he regularly plays when sharing the floor with Westbrook, so look for Dennis to improve slightly on his 1.00 fantasy point per minute production against a giving Kings back-court.

New Orleans @ Milwaukee
233 Implied Total
’18-’19 Pace:
New Orleans – 4th
Milwaukee – 5th

Brook Lopez ($5,700) – With Anthony Davis eligible at power forward, you can get even more exposure to this game by locking in Lopez to the center spot. I am intrigued by his upside tonight in a game where two of the league’s fastest teams are getting a pace bump because of the speed of their opponents. Both teams get at least a 2.5 point pace bump tonight, and while Lopez isn’t your typical bang down low center (hurting his rebounding numbers), this sheer number of possessions allows for more opportunities where he excels, scoring, three pointers, and blocks.

We don’t get many bigs in the NBA who have the combination of 2.5 three pointers and 1.9 blocks per game, but Lopez is defying all logic with those numbers this season. Lopez is averaging over 30 FD points per game in his last five and you have to go back to November 21 to find a game where he didn’t have at least one blocked shot. One a night where I want as much exposure to this game as I can get, Lopez is an affordable way to get there without blocking the path to Davis, Holiday, Giannis, or Bledsoe.

Washington @ Houston
225 Implied Total
’18-’19 Pace:
Washington – 7th
Houston – 29th

Chris Paul ($8,200) – While Paul may be towards the high end on price, the value he could potentially return in this match-up shouldn’t be overlooked. The Rockets see a 2.1 point pace bump tonight and Paul will line up against a team handing out points to point guards like Christmas presents.

As mentioned before, the Wizards are coming off a back-to-back with overnight travel, so I am not particularly high on any of their starters. With tired travel legs, I am relying on some uninspired defense against the Rockets, who have been scoring points in droves the past week. Paul’s price essentially hasn’t changed this month and he is regularly hitting 4x value with double digit points and at least eight assists and a steal in his past five games.

There is a real blowout risk in this game, as Houston is favored by 11 at home, but Paul has played less than 31 minutes only once in his last eight games so a role through at least the first three quarters should be secure. The environment is certainly working in Paul’s favor this evening to be the latest PG to add to the growing number of memes that highlight John Wall’s embarrassing defense.

In this space, we will look each week at players who have strong potential to outperform their price on FanDuel so we can invite them to come on down into our lineups. This is not a play all these picks column, but rather a place to uncover value to allow us to unlock massive upside in our lineups.

I can’t say that I have ever taken down a massive tournament. I have won some small, $100-$200 first place prizes, but never anything that’s significant or life-changing money. I am primarily a cash-game player, usually allocating about 90% of my weekly spend on 50/50 contests or double-ups.

That doesn’t stop me from wondering what winning a huge contest would be like. The way it is romanticized, publicized, and scrutinized across various platforms in this industry, it seems almost surreal and something where your life instantly becomes more glamorous and your DFS fortunes change forever. For example, at the FanDuel Football Fantasy Championship this weekend – some lucky guy or gal is going to take home a large cardboard check for $500,000 and get the football experience of a lifetime.

I mean don’t you want to be that guy? The reality, I imagine, is strikingly different.

Earlier this week I was captivated by this article, which interviews a contestant who won big money and prizes on The Price is Right (have to stay on brand) and what the days and months were like for her after this big win. As you can probably guess, you aren’t driving off that lot with your new car piled up with cash and a bunch of prizes. There are all sorts of legal hurdles to jump over and you have to pay taxes on your prizes as determined by the IRS before they will even release them to you.

It turns out a lot of Price is Right winners end up selling their prizes just so they can recoup what they had to pay out of pocket for what they won. I guess if you win a trip, you are stuck with it, even though not everything in that prize is paid for either.

Here is a short video about Andrea Schwartz’s experience.

I bet winning a six-figure prize is a bit like this for the every-man grinding through DFS each week. You could theoretically withdraw all your winnings the next day, wire it to your bank, and live like a king, but sometime in the next year the tax man will come calling and you will owe a cool 30% on that prize. Then there is the expectation to play larger amounts that inherently come with sharper players and professionals that are more skilled. I wonder how many people reinvest a significant portion back into DFS and try to grow their bankroll exponentially? So many questions and I’m sure there are so many headaches.

Ah, who am I kidding…I am going to keep trying to win it all.

Quarterback

Derek Carr ($6,800) – Alright, hear me out on this one. Carr is actually playing some of the best football of his career with arguably the worst collection of offensive weapons we have seen in quite some time. When the Raiders lost Marshawn Lynch and shipped Amari Cooper out of town, it was assumed that the Raiders offense – with Carr leading the way – would be a dumpster fire. Carr, however, has not thrown an interception since October 7 and has eight passing touchdowns in the last four games, for an average of 17.1 FD points – which includes a 9.8 game against the Ravens.

So far this season, the Bengals have given up the second-most FD points to opposing QBs, just a fraction of a point behind the Falcons. Cincinnati has given up nine passing touchdowns in their last five games and has just one interception since week 8. This game has the fourth-highest total on the main slate, despite the eye-gouging matchup between two teams that have given up on the season (and FYI you can get into this game for $15 a ticket if you are into torturing yourself). This might be one of those check the box score, not the game tape situations, but Carr couldn’t be in a better position to continue his recent successful run.

Running Back

Dalvin Cook ($6,200) – Marlon Mack, Doug Martin, Gus Edwards, and James White are all priced ahead of Dalvin Cook this week, and I would not take any of them ahead of Cook and his premier match-up at home against the Dolphins. He was able to salvage his putrid fantasy day last week with a late touchdown against the Seahawks, but that just sets up the Vikings for a get-right spot against the Dolphins with a new offensive coordinator and a playoff-motivated game script.

Over the past two weeks, there have been some extremely encouraging signs from Cook’s opportunity. In weeks 8-12, Cook saw between 10-15 rush attempts + targets per game. In the past two weeks, he has seen 19 and 20 rushes + targets as the team looks to feature the fully-healthy Cook more. He couldn’t ask more a much better spot than Miami, who have given up the 7th most FD points to running backs this year, and who rank 17th in rushing DVOA and 24th against pass-catching running backs.

As seven-point home favorites on Sunday, the Vikings are set up to grab a lead and then feature Cook throughout the second half. If you are looking to be contrarian in the mid-range of RBs this week, Dalvin looks like he is about to cook.

I will show myself out.

Wide Receiver

Sterling Shepard ($5,200) – With news that Odell Beckham will officially sit out, it’s time to fire up Sterling Shepard this week. He has seen at least six targets in 10 of 13 games this season including six targets with a touchdown in just three quarters of work with OBJ out last week against the Redskins.

Back at home and facing a fading Titans defense, Shepard is set up to have all the volume that doesn’t go to Saquon Barkley. The Titans are the 22nd ranked pass defense DVOA, but drop all the way to 30th when considering just #1 wide receivers – according to Football Outsiders, Tennessee gives up 9 pass attempts and 81.3 yards per game to their opponent’s top wideout. With Beckham out, the potential is there for this to also be a game where Evan Engram is featured, but the Titans are extremely tough against the tight end position, ranking fifth in DVOA on the season.

Have confidence in Shepard this week, likely matched up with Malcolm Butler, who has allowed seven touchdowns this year as well as 13.4 fantasy points per game to his assignments.

Using Pace as a leading indicator, what players in prime match-ups can we look to for value and a higher than usual DFS points floor.

Is it just me or does there seem to be a lot of blowouts in the NBA this year? I guess it started happening last year in the playoffs and you started to see pieces popping up like “With all these blowouts in the NBA playoffs, will fans stop paying attention?” Moving past the hyperbole of that nonsense, I wanted to look at some numbers to determine if there are more blowouts this year compared to the NBA’s recent past.

Heading to Pro Basketball Reference, I was able to research the past 20 years of Margin of Victory, or the aggregation of each team’s point differential. Going back in that time-frame, I discovered that the teams with the worst margin of victory – the teams that lose by the most – are as follows:

  1. 2012 Charlotte Bobcats: -13.91 Margin of Victory (so their average game was a 14-point loss)
  2. 2019 Phoenix Suns: -11.86
  3. 2000 LA Clippers: -11.52
  4. 2019 Chicago Bulls: -11.04
  5. 2014 Philadelphia 76ers: -10.45
  6. 2016 Philadelphia 76ers: -10.23
  7. 2019 Atlanta Hawks: -10.19

It strikes me as quite odd (although not surprising) that three of the seven worst margins of victory in the last 20 years come from this season. Granted, there is still a lot of basketball left to be played so these could change over the last 2/3 of this season, but it’s clear there are a number of teams this year that are taking the concept of losing big to new levels.

This can likely be attributed to a number of things, but number one on that list has to be intentional tanking. The team that shows up twice on this list, the 2014-2016 76ers truly redefined losing and its importance in the NBA, so more teams are taking up the mantle of doing whatever they can to avoid the mediocre middle. Being the worst secures the best chances at a top lottery pick. Being the best assures you the best chance at a championship, so there is no incentive to finishing 8th in your conference, and there REALLY is no incentive to finishing 9th.

So how do we handle situations with all these bad teams (the Cavs and Knicks also have large negative margins of victory)? Should we be afraid of more blowouts and their minutes impact on our DFS lineups? There isn’t too much data specific to DFS, but based on what I can find, the answer is “maybe.”

Based on this research from games a decade ago by Hoop-ball.com, unless a spread reaches 12 or more points in a given game, there really is no indication that a blowout is likely. In the chart that compares game outcome to point spread, you will see that the highest likelihood for any finish is within 5-8 points. That rule stands firm for all games with spreads at 12 or below. Past 12 is when you start seeing game finishes that frequently creep past 13 points.

Games with 12-point spreads are rare and typically match up the absolute best in the association with the absolute worst, so it makes logical sense that this would be the case. In the end, you shouldn’t worry too much about spreads unless the number starts creeping up into the teens.

Tonight’s slate features four games all within a 7-point spread, so no worries here:

Los Angeles Lakers @ Houston Rockets – 225 Total
’18-’19 Pace:
Los Angeles Lakers – 4th
Houston Rockets – 29th

Josh Hart ($4,500) – With the absence of Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram, hart is seeing his minutes per game soar. He has averaged 35 minutes per game over his last three, and assuming he logs around that number tonight, he should feast against a Rockets team ranked 27th in defensive efficiency against shooting guards. Hart’s numbers don’t look great in three of his last four contests, but he faced the spurs in two of those games, who currently rank 6th in defense against shooting guards. On a larger slate, Hart wouldn’t necessarily be on our radar, but if continues to soak up minutes, the opportunity should be there tonight.

Eric Gordon ($5,100) – Recently inserted into the starting lineup, Gordon should see an increase in minutes and usage beyond the solid numbers he was producing off the bench. With Carmelo Anthony a persona non grata and James Ennis on the shelf for a couple week, only Gerald Greed is lurking to steal backup small forward minutes. This is relevant when you consider that among small forwards on the slate, Gordon sees more usage than all players at his position not named LeBron or DeRozan. The Lakers rank 19th against the position defensively, a sign that LeBron is not the defensive force of old or they are rotating over other players to guard that position. With a massive pace bump in this game, Gordon should find plenty of opportunities to get his shot.

Los Angeles Clippers @ San Antonio Spurs – 222 Total
’18-’19 Pace:
Los Angeles Clippers – 9th
San Antonio Spurs – 24th

Rudy Gay ($6,400) – I don’t really think I will full-on recommend anyone from the Clippers in this game as they are playing their third game in four nights and get a massive pace drop facing he Spurs. But San Antonio, on the other hand, sees the second largest pace bump of the night and faces a team ranked only 23rd in defense against the power forward position. Strangely, both Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris are listed as small forwards on the NBA’s real plus-minus but Harris ranks 37th and Gallinari ranks 50th among their peers. But promoting Gay might just be more a product of what San Antonio needs out of him. They need someone with Gay’s height and length to guard Harris all night. Ranked 12th in the NBA in minutes per game, Harris should be on the floor for as much as he can handle tonight, meaning San Antonio should be looking to Gay for at least 32 minutes (something he has accomplished in three of his last six games). At his average 1.03 fantasy points per minute, it could be a big night.

In this space, we will look each week at players who have strong potential to outperform their price on FanDuel and who we can invite to come on down into our lineups. This won’t be a play all these picks column, but rather a place to uncover value to allow us to unlock massive upside in our lineups.

There is a classic game on the Price is Right called Cliffhanger. You’ve probably seen it. There is this yodeler who climbs up a game-board mountain approaching a cliff he can fall from if you overbid on a series of increasingly depressing and unusable small prizes. The best part about this game is the inherent stress when he starts to approach the cliff, and the will-he/won’t-he game based on random price guessing from the contestants.

Sometimes, you just know what’s about to happen and there is nothing that can save that poor guy, and other times, you are sweating the game out right to the final dollar.

I can’t tell you how many weeks the roster construction puzzle conjures up the exact same feelings. I will be shaping and curating that thing only to plug in the final pièce de résistance and get this jerk staring back at me:

It’s even worse on places like Yahoo where they play with a $200 salary cap and you will be $1 over. Seriously? I will give you a freaking dollar. And as is so often the case, there is a not a player you value just as highly at that $1 Or $100 discount. So what does that mean? Entirely new roster construction and making sacrifices where you don’t want.

When is someone going to create the easy version of DFS? Until then, let’s try to keep that yodeler from falling off the cliff this week.

Quarterback

Deshaun Watson ($7,800) – There are 12 starting QB within $1,100 of one another this week, so finding the right person at a decent price shouldn’t be too much of an issue at the position. However, I will gladly take Watson as the QB with the ninth-highest price. On the surface, Watson’s FD points over the last six weeks that been extremely sporadic – 15.96, 29.4, 11, 20.32, 30.96, 10.86. But these performances have been volume- and opponent-driven more than any performance or lingering health issues. The Texans haven’t played a team with a current winning record since the Cowboys on October 7 and in those game they have skewed heavy towards the run.

Houston ranks 31st in the league in percentage of pass plays at 51.8% and that number bottoms out over their last three where they have passed only 46.4% of the time. I don’t think that’s going to cut it this week against the Colts with an over/under of 48 and an opponent ranked 4th in DVOA rush defense but only 21st in pass defense DVOA. In the first meeting against these two teams, Watson had his second highest number of passing attempts (42) and passing yards (375) on the season while also rushing for 41 yards. These are reasonable expectations for an indoor home game that will clinch the division for Houston.

Running Back

Jeff Wilson ($5,600)/Jaylen Samuels ($4,600)/Justin Jackson ($4,500) – This trio of value running backs needs to be addressed collectively. Not since Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock has a trio been so important to the fabric of our lives. Who do we use? One of them or two? There are choices that must be made.

Wilson, for me, is off the list first on FanDuel. The $1,000 can be so helpful elsewhere and even though Wilson may have the largest role of the three, he is on the worst team with a third-string QB and certainly has nothing guaranteed coming his way knowing the Shenanigans of the Shanahans.

Between Samuels and Jackson, I will lean towards Samuels. Pittsburgh is just so pass-heavy on the year (67.2%, and 77.9% in their last three) and that is where Samuels should excel. Steven Ridley might plod through some short-yardage rushing situations and pass-blocking situations, but when dissecting who will receive the high-value targets, it will clearly be Samuels. It’s well documented that he was a tight end at the college level and has excellent pass-catching abilities.

Samuels already is #12 on the year for fantasy points per opportunity, according to Player Profiler, and that opportunity is about the expand dramatically against the hapless Raiders and their 29th ranked total defense.

Aaron Jones ($7,500) – Owners burned by Jones last week should have no problem going back to the well with the stud running back. After three straight weeks of finally seeing at least 74% of Green Bay’s snaps, Jones was inexplicably on the field for only 51% against the Cardinals. Not to worry, the man responsible for that decision is now in the unemployment line and the best players on this offense are about to be unlocked by Aaron Rodgers.

Honestly, I feel sorry for the Falcons. They have to travel to frigid Green Bay in December and then face a QB who is going to be playing some motivated, inspired football. Finally free from the McShackles, Rodgers (who has been very public in his praise for Jones) should dominate play-calling and situational football here. Interim coach Joe Philbin is frankly in a four-week job interview right now and should be doing all he can to make his situation look impressive. Giving Rodgers and Jones control is step number one.

What I am hoping for (not necessarily predicting, but hoping for) is a return to weeks 11-12 usage where Jones was top two in the NFL in rushing market share AND was a top-ten running back in terms of his team’s target share as well. That is nirvana for this situation and for $7,500 against a defense ranked 29th against the run and 28th against pass-catching running backs, I am fully onboard.

Wide Receiver

Chris Godwin ($5,600) – Compared to his teammate Adam Humphries ($6,500), I will gladly take the $900 discount on a player with an increasing role in a pass-happy offense. Godwin’s target share has risen from 8% in week 11 to 20% last week as Tampa Bay narrows it’s passing tree with Winston back under center.

There were essentially only four options last week in the passing game – Evans, Godwin, Brate, and Humphries – and while Humphries and Brate dominated the underneath stuff, both Evans and Godwin accumulated 20% of the air yards with Godwin seeing his highest aDOT since week 9.

Why this is important is New Orleans is 22nd in the league at opponents’ yards per play and the Saints give up the sixth most yards per completion and fourth most yards per pass attempt. For an offense such as the Bucs that throw 63% of the time, this is a perfect spot to feature players like Evans and Godwin.

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