3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 3/2/21
"One cannot be betrayed if one has no people."
- Kobayashi (The Usual Suspects)
How many times have we been burned by the chalk in NBA DFS?
When it's time to start building GPP 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 the 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. In an attempt to understand the context of the slate, this column will look at lower-owned plays that help you gain ownership leverage against the competition.
Tuesday's main slate is one the small side with six games, but we should still be able to find plenty of options to differentiate off of the night's chalk plays. Let's dig in to see where we can pivot.
Russell Westbrook ($9,600) - The first three sites I checked this morning all listed Ja Morant as a key cash-game play in FanDuel contests. He certainly fits that description at only $7,100 in a game with the highest implied total (235.5) and lowest spread (Memphis -1.0) on the night. The game also features two teams in the top 14 in pace, including the Washington Wizards, who are first in the NBA in that category.
So in tournaments, why not run it back with Russell Westbrook? Westbrook has been on a tear since returning from injury and has not scored fewer than 40 FanDuel points in a game in more than three weeks. He has put up 51.8 FanDuel points per game across his last six, and even though his salary has risen $900 in that time, he still is crossing the five-times value threshold every single night.
While the Memphis Grizzlies' wing and perimeter defense has seen drastic improvements, Morant is not, shall we say, a great individual defender. In fact, he ranks 82nd out of 83 point guards in defensive plus-minus and ranks 78th in defensive rating out of 97 guards with at least 25 minutes per game. He will likely struggle with the athleticism of Westbrook tonight.
There are some interesting ancillary pieces in this game, but a game stack of Morant, Westbrook, and Bradley Beal looks mighty appealing on this relatively short slate.
Michael Porter Jr. ($6,300) - There are a lot of injury question marks at the small forward position tonight, so it's hard to tell who will be the chalky play. DFS players might have to eventually flow to Porter due to lack of other options, but as of Tuesday morning, his combination of recent minutes, production, and matchup tell me he is a core play in tournaments.
It's safe to say Porter is playing some of the best ball of his young career in his last four games. He has been given at least 35 minutes in three of those four outings and has produced a double-double in all four. Yes, the Denver Nuggets haven't been playing the 2004 Detroit Pistons during this recent stretch, but that train keeps rolling along tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks allow the seventh-most FanDuel points to opposing small forwards, including the second-most points per game to the position (24.11). In fact, Khris Middleton has struggled so much on defense that the Bucks have begun experimenting with switching pick and rolls when he is involved, and there are even some calling for Torrey Craig to be used more as a defensive stopper. With most who want exposure to Denver likely flocking to Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, Porter should have the opportunity to put up some big numbers.
Montrezl Harrell ($6,500) - Listen, I know you're going to play Jokic. You know you're going to play Jokic. You basically have to at this point. He is a walking triple-double and is the league's MVP at the mid-point of the season. But if you ever find the need to pay down at center because you have spent on the Beals, Lebrons and Antetokounmpos of the world, Harrell can provide some much-needed salary relief in a tough position.
As expected, Harrell's production has increased in the absence of Anthony Davis. Before his last game, Harrell scored at least 31 FanDuel points in four of six contests. But box-score watchers might look at his last game and see only 15.6 points in 11 minutes and immediately dismiss him. That would be a mistake. While some might see his worst statistical output of the season, I see a game where he got only 11 minutes because of a massive blowout, and he still put up 1.42 fantasy points per minute. In context, that is the same as LeBron James for the season.
Put Harrell at his typical 24 to 28 minutes, and you are looking at a 34 to 40 FanDuel points at a salary in the mid-6,000s.
This game tonight against the Phoenix Suns should much more competitive with a tight 2.0-point spread. The Suns have surprised everyone this year with the fourth-best record in the Western Conference, but they still allow the 46 points in the paint per game and are just mediocre in the rebounding department (15th in the league). Look for Harrell to be much more involved tonight as the athletic big-man deployed to guard Deandre Ayton.