DraftKings NBA Core Plays: Sunday, January 14th

Andy Means will be bringing Premium subscribers his top cash game plays and tournament pivots to build around. A former Duke basketball walk-on and now top-ranked DFS player, Andy will take an in-depth look into each of his core plays, and then blend it all together from a roster construction perspective. On weekends, the preseason maestro you all know and love, Allan Lem, takes the reigns.

— Click here for FanDuel Core Plays —

Sunday, January 14th

Update 7:28pm ESTT.J. Warren has been ruled OUT and Josh Jackson is starting in his place. I think Jackson is fine as a punt play but this also means Devin Booker will see even more usage on the offensive end. Meanwhile Domantas Sabonis is starting. I’m replacing Sabonis for Thaddeus Young as a core play, so my updated rankings for the main slate are:

1. Dragan Bender
2. Domantas Sabonis
3. Victor Oladipo

Update 1:26pm ESTEvan Turner will rejoin the starting lineup tonight.

Hello Grinders. If you are reading this and planning to play NBA DFS today, you are a true degen. And I mean that in the kindest, most sincere way possible. We have a two-game early slate and then a two-game “main” slate. In all honesty, this is a day you probably should just take off. Go outside. Get some sunshine. Go watch a movie or spend time with your kids. Heck, go read a book (haha just kidding, that’s a crazy idea). But if you’ve read this far, I suppose there’s no stopping you and you’re going to play this slate. Alright, let’s work together and see if we can make some money today versus other degens. Let’s do a quick recap on the news and notes for this slate:

Indiana PacersDomantas Sabonis (Questionable); Myles Turner (Out)
Miami Heat – Tyler Johnson (Questionable but hopeful to play); Dion Waiters (Out for season); Justise Winslow (Questionable but hopeful to play)
Phoenix SunsIsaiah Canaan (Questionable but hopeful to play); Marquese Chriss (Doubtful); Josh Jackson (Questionable but hopeful to play)
Portland Trail BlazersEvan Turner (Questionable)

I’m going to break this up into two slates and give three core plays per slate, as well as tournament pivots. Feel free to give me a follow on Twitter. Let’s dive in!

THE CORE – Early Slate

1) Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami Heat – $7,300

Whiteside gets one of the easiest matchups on the board on this early slate, which is why he’s my top core play. The Milwaukee Bucks rank 25th in DvP against centers. Whiteside has been playing well too, scoring 37 or more DraftKings points in each of his last three games. The minutes have also been solid during those three games, as he’s played 26, 30 and 28 in that time frame. It looks like he’s recovered from his previous knee injury, and with Dion Waiters out for the season, the Heat will be relying even more on Whiteside going forward.

Tournament Pivot – Enes Kanter: It’s not an ideal matchup against the twin towers of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, and for that reason I expect people to shy away from playing Enes Kanter. But the Pelicans have been awful defensively this season, and I love attacking them. They’re allowing 110.9 points per game this season, which is the 3rd most in the NBA. In terms of centers, the Pelicans have the 15th ranked DvP, so they’re pretty much league average. Kanter has topped 28 DraftKings points in four straight games and has played at least 25 minutes. I don’t mind taking a shot on Kanter in tournaments as the Knicks are going to need his size on Boogie.

2) Anthony Davis, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans – $9,800

I personally think in cash games you should grab at least one of Davis, Cousins or Antetokounmpo. My preference among that group is Davis. Davis is the cheapest of the bunch and has as high a floor and ceiling as any of them. I also prefer the Pelicans/Knicks game environment over the Bucks/Heat, as the Bucks and Heat are both in the bottom third of the league in pace while the Pelicans are tied for 6th and the Knicks are 19th in pace. I will concede that Brow’s matchup against Kristaps Porzingis isn’t ideal. The Knicks have been fantastic this season against opposing power forwards and have the 2nd ranked DvP. There’s also the injury risk that comes with rostering Brow too. But paying $9,800 for a guy with Davis’ talent is something I’m willing to take a chance on.

Tournament Pivot – DeMarcus Cousins: If you don’t want to pay for Brow, which I completely understand, then I’d recommend Cousins. Cousins is $1,100 more so it’ll be interesting to see if that lowers his ownership. One strategy I also don’t hate in tournaments is pairing the two. You’ll have to sacrifice at other positions and dig deep for value, but you’ll soak up a ton of usage between the two.

3) Jarrett Jack, PG, New York Knicks – $4,700

I can’t believe I’m writing these words, but Jarrett Jack is a solid cash play on Sunday. He’s only $4,700 and has posted three monster games in a row. Granted, one of them was a triple-double that required double-overtime, but the man still got his triple-double! Over the past 10 days he’s averaged 32.1 minutes per game and is still getting solid time on the court. Until the Knicks trade him or turn the keys over to Frank Ntilikina, I think you roll Jack out there.

Tournament Pivot – Tim Hardaway Jr.: THJ finally returned to the Knicks after missing the last month and a half. Staying true to his brand, he came out chucking, launching 13 shots in 25 minutes off the bench. He’s going to have to contend for shots with GOAT Michael Beasley as long as he’s coming off the bench, but it’s expected that he’ll eventually rejoin the starters once he’s back up to speed. $5,600 is a fair price for someone who’s going to be shooting as much as he will, and I love him in tournaments.

THE CORE – Main Slate

1) Dragan Bender, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns – $4,800

With Marquese Chriss not expected to suit up again on Sunday, I think we can roll out Bender for another round. He drew the start on Friday and posted a respectable 32.5 DraftKings points over 32 minutes. Bender has some risk as he’s never been a prolific fantasy scorer, but the talent has always been there so perhaps something has clicked for him. At $4,800, I’m willing to go back to the well one more time as long as Chriss is out.

Tournament Pivot – Al-Farouq Aminu: Aminu had a monster 41.75 DraftKings point performance on Friday as Evan Turner was out. Turner is once again questionable and if he were out, that may mean even more usage for Aminu. The one thing to note was that Friday’s game was against the Pelicans, and if you read above, you’ll know they suck on defense. Minnesota has been much better defensively, as they’re in the bottom third of the league in terms of points allowed to opponents. I expect people will chase Aminu’s line and it’s certainly within his range of outcomes to do it again, but I’d rather use him in tournaments as that monster game feels more like an outlier than a habit.

2) Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, Indiana Pacers – $5,400

With Myles Turner out and Domantas Sabonis questionable, Rad Thad Young may get all the minutes he can handle on Sunday. The matchup is ideal as well, as the Suns are 3rd in pace and 27th in defensive efficiency. Young hasn’t topped 30 DraftKings points in any of his last 10 games so he’s not a fantasy beast, but this game environment and possible increased usage if Sabonis is out may allow him that opportunity. If Sabonis is ruled in, I may swap Sabonis for Young, so just monitor that news. Sabonis’ usage rate is 6 points higher than Young’s, so he’s the more attractive player if he’s playing.

Tournament Pivot – Al Jefferson: With the Pacers thin in the front court, old man Al Jefferson may get some minutes (I call him old but he’s actually one year older than I am so I probably shouldn’t joke about his age). This play is dependent on Sabonis missing the game, and if he’s out, the Pacers will be down to Jefferson and Ike Anigbogu as their centers. Jefferson averages more than a fantasy point per minute so if he were somehow called upon to play 20-22 minutes, he could put up a solid game in his limited time.

3) Victor Oladipo, PG/SG, Indiana Pacers – $9,400

The Suns allow the second most fantasy points per game to shooting guards, so this is an elite matchup on paper for Victor Oladipo. While he’s the most expensive player on this slate, you can afford him by going with guys like Bender and Young. He has one of the highest ceilings on this slate and I think it makes sense to plug in him for all formats.

Tournament Pivot – Jimmy Butler: I prefer playing Butler in tournaments on Sunday given my respect for the Portland Trail Blazers’ defense. They rank among the top half of the league in DvP for every position and overall rank 7th in defensive efficiency. Still, Jimmy Butler has been in good form lately and has as much of a chance of being the highest scoring player on this slate as anyone, so it makes sense to get some shares of him in tournaments.

Thanks for reading, and good luck today. May variance be on your side.

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About the Author

  • Allan Lem (fathalpert)

  • Allan Lem (aka fathalpert) began playing fantasy sports in high school and transitioned to DFS in 2015. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Economics and lives in California with his wife and two kids. He dreams of winning a big tournament so he can try cashing one of those giant cardboard checks at his local bank.


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