3 NBA FanDuel Tournament Plays to Target on 3/4/21

"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.

Thursday's main slate is a large nine games, so we should 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.


Paul George ($7,900) - Can someone please explain this salary to me? Despite his minutes and fantasy points increasing in each of his last four games, George's salary has decreased by $1,000 since February 20th. I don't believe there are any lingering injury concerns with George after he missed some time. In fact his teammate -- Kawhi Leonard -- is the one who is questionable tonight. We have seen how PG13 has been able to produce with Kawhi off the floor, so given tonight's opponent, this could be a pre-All Star Break slate-breaker incoming.

As they are with every other position, the Washington Wizards are a bottom-10 team against shooting guards and small forwards (depending on where George plays tonight), they are first in the NBA in pace and are 27th in the league in defensive rating. Considering all of this, what's not surprising is the massive implied total here tonight -- 237.0 points. What is surprising is the fact that the Clippers are only 5.5-point favorites, likely due to oddsmakers expecting Leonard to sit.

If Leonard does sit, we are looking at a situation where George's usage goes up by 4.7 percentage points per 36 minutes in those situations. Considering we also have Bradley Beal on the other side of the game and then Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Devin Booker sandwiching George in the salary range, there is a strong possibility George is not highly rostered tonight. Things might end up getting crazy in the hours approaching this last slate before the break, so give me solid producers in strong game environments where I can set and forget.


Jayson Tatum ($9,000) - I'm not sure how other daily fantasy analysts see this, but I when see Tatum at his lowest salary of the season and coming off three extremely poor performances in his last four games, and I immediately think "Sign me up in tournaments!"

There is simply no way a player of Tatum's caliber will continue to average only 32 FanDuel points per game (as he has in his last four), when he is at 43 FanDuel points per game on the year and averaged 48 FanDuel points per game in five contests before his recent poor stretch. There is nothing inherently wrong with Tatum the past week. He has played at least 38 minutes in three of four games. He has just simply seen a three-point drop in offensive rating primarily due to a poor effective field goal percentage (36.8% compared to 50% on the year) and true shooting percentage (41.4% compared to 54% on the year).

It's a shooting slump -- plain and simple.

And I can assure you Tatum is extremely eager to get out of it. What better time than in a matchup with the undermanned Toronto Raptors right before a long All-Star break? In their last four games, the Raptors' defensive rating ranks 27th in the league as they continue to struggle with so many rotation players out due to COVID protocols. Toronto particularly struggles against power forwards, allowing the third-most FanDuel points per game to the position. In an effort to build some positive momentum for his game (and for the Celtics) before the break, Tatum could bust out tonight.


Nerlens Noel ($5,500) - Here we are once again playing the game Joker vs. The Field. Our projections have Nikola Jokic outscoring every other center on the slate by more than 20 FanDuel points tonight, so it leads to a tough decision. Do you want the high floor and 90-point ceiling from Jokic at $11,600 (his highest salary of the year) or pay down and look for upside at less than half the salary?

I know plenty of my lineups will have Jokic, but when I'm paying down, I will be looking squarely at Noel. We already know that the New York Knicks will be without Mitchell Robinson, Elfrid Payton, and Taj Gibson. And now Derrick Rose is questionable tonight. The opportunity for minutes and fantasy points will certainly be there, but the same could be said for his last six games, when he has crossed the 30 FanDuel-point threshold just one time. So why should we invest?

Noel has never developed into a consistent NBA scorer. In fact, he has scored 10 or more points just twice all season. What he does do well, however, is rebound, block shots, and create steals. Enter the Detroit Pistons, who rank bottom five in both rebounds allowed and blocked shots to centers. They give up the most blocks in the NBA to opposing centers (3.11 per game) and the second-most overall (5.8 per game). This matchup seems tailor-made to suit Noel's strengths, so I am rolling the dice on him when I'm not using Jokic.