FanDuel NBA Core Plays: Thursday, December 7th
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.
Thursday, December 7th
UPDATE – 1:58 PM EST
With Paul George and Jerami Grant being ruled out, it certainly shakes up the slate a little bit. For starters, we now have another appealing option at center in Steven Adams. There is still a case to be made for plugging in Joel Embiid, but I think it is the right call to go with Adams. Carmelo Anthony becomes a great play at power forward now too. Josh Jackson becomes less of a priority now since we are saving money at center. I still like him as a salary relief play, but he is certainly not a necessity.
For those that read this article last year, welcome back. For those that are new, thanks for reading! Here is a quick review of what I am trying to accomplish with NBA Core Plays.
First and foremost, the Core Plays I reference below are for cash game formats (e.g. 50/50, H2H, double-ups). They are the players I think you absolutely must have in your cash game lineup(s) on that day’s main slate. There is a ton of great DFS information available nowadays. However, it can also be difficult to comb through all of that information and know whom exactly to put in your lineup. After reading a lot of articles and listening to a few podcasts, you suddenly are left thinking that there are 20 guys you should be putting into your cash game lineup (“Player X is an elite play!”; “Player Y is perfect for cash games!”; “Player Z is viable in all formats!”).
My goal with this article is to actually prioritize all of those viable plays. So the first player you see listed below is who I think is the most important. The second player listed is the second most important and so on and so forth. I will usually provide 3-5 players each day. While some (or all) of the plays may seem obvious, we still want to make those plays and let our opponents be the ones to make the mistakes. Not building around this core set of players, in my opinion, is a recipe for an unprofitable night.
Since I know a lot of DFS players only play tournaments, I also provide tournament pivots off of those Core Plays. I usually try to have the pivots be from the same position, same game, or same price range. The Core Plays will usually see some of the highest ownership on the slate, so how you mix them into your lineups for tournaments is up to your own personal tournament strategy.
IMPORTANT: I will make every effort to update this article as news breaks until approximately one hour before rosters lock. So please check back throughout the day as I update my Core Plays. However, if time is tight, I will forego the analysis here and only update my tags on LineupHQ. I plan to keep the tags updated on LineupHQ all the way up until lineup lock, so always make sure to check there first. Remember, what may be a great play at 2:00 PM is not always a great play at 7:00 PM. To get my most up-to-date thoughts on the slate before lineups lock, be sure to tune into Crunch Time. Kevin Roth and I will go live thirty minutes before lineups lock, and you can watch right there in LineupHQ as you build lineups.
If you aren’t already doing so, give me a follow on Twitter. I won’t answer too many specific DFS questions (in order to protect you, the Premium subscribers), but I absolutely love just talking hoops. Let’s get to it!
1) Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder – $11,500
On a small, four-game slate tonight, we don’t need to get too fancy here when spending up. Russ gets one of the best matchups a team can have facing a Brooklyn team that plays at the third fastest pace and is 22nd in defensive rating. That has resulted in the Thunder having a team total (111.3) that is 9.3 points higher than their season average (102). That margin is the most on the slate.
Two other things stick out for Russ tonight. The first being that Brooklyn is also awful at defending point guards, as they rank 24th in defensive efficiency against that position. The second is that his minutes have been extremely safe lately as the Thunder try to climb out of the hole they have dug themselves. While it looked like they were trying to keep him in the low to mid 30’s at the start of the year, he has seen at least 37 in the past seven games.
Russ is one of the safer bets for fantasy production on the slate and has a ton of things working in his favor tonight. I will lock him into cash games at point guard.
(Tournament pivot: With everyone likely spending up on Westbrook and Joel Embiid tonight, a great pivot in tournaments is to drop off of one or both of those guys and go to James Harden. Even on a four-game slate, his ownership will be dwarfed by those two because of his matchup against the Jazz. That matchup is enough to not use him in cash games, but Harden has a huge ceiling no matter whom he plays. He already gave the Jazz 76.9 FanDuel points on November 5th. Yes, Chris Paul and Rudy Gobert did not play that game, but I feel safe in saying the point still stands. You should always take advantage of nights when you can get Harden low owned in tournaments, regardless of whom he is playing.)
2) Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers – $10,800
This is one of the rare nights on FanDuel where I feel like I DO want to recommend a center as a must-play. The options after Embiid on FanDuel are unappealing to say the least, and I think the opportunity cost is just too big by not playing him.
It is not as if this is a no-brainer or anything, as I would say he is pretty efficiently priced on FanDuel. On the other hand, it also feels a little like chasing points considering Embiid dropped NINETY THREE AND A HALF FANDUEL POINTS on these Lakers in the middle of November.
This is definitely a pace-up spot for Philly; any game against the Lakers is since they play at the fastest pace in the league. To their credit though, they are eighth in the league in defensive rating. The pace bump wins though as Philly has a team total (114.3) that is 6.1 points higher than their season average (108.2). And that team total just so happens to be the highest on the slate.
I highly doubt we see Julius Randle try to cover Embiid for most of the game like we saw last time these two teams faced off. Does it really matter who guards him though? No one on the Lakers stands a chance. Embiid is an extremely safe cash game play tonight, and I think it is a mistake not to lock him in on FanDuel.
(Tournament pivot: For me, the pivot here in tournaments is to drop down to Rudy Gobert and hope that we continue to see the minutes increase as he works his way back from injury. If he gets back up into the low or mid 30’s for whatever reason, then we suddenly have a discounted price on him. This is a massive pace-up game for the Jazz. Furthermore, the Rockets give up the second most blocks on average to the center position. This is a prime blowup spot for Gobert if he gets the minutes.)
3) Josh Jackson, SF, Phoenix Suns – $4,600
We obviously need some salary relief at this point in our roster construction, and my early lean is to look at Josh Jackson. With Devin Booker out a few weeks, logic would tell us that this is a great time for the Suns to get a nice look at Jackson.
Booker missed one game so far this season, and while Jackson only played 23 minutes that game, he did post the second highest usage rate on the team (25.2%). Strictly judging by the box score, it appeared he might have been in some foul trouble that game too. So that very well could explain the minutes. I will make a point today to go back and watch that game to confirm.
Hopefully, we get some solid news today from the Phoenix beat writers as to how the team plans to handle the absence of Booker. If they are forthright in saying that this is now Jackson’s opportunity, then I am locking him into one of my small forward slots.
(Tournament pivot: A good tournament pivot in this price range on FanDuel is to roll out Thabo Sefolosha. Regardless of what happens with the statuses of Rodney Hood and Raul Neto, Thabo could see extended run tonight as a primary defender on James Harden. When he has games like he did two nights ago, where he just piles up blocks/steals, basically anything else you are getting on top of that is gravy. I doubt many give Thabo a second thought tonight as a guy to roster. We should take advantage of that in tournaments, even on a small slate.)
ROSTER CONSTRUCTION THOUGHTS
Finding the right salary relief will be the key to the slate I think. Mike James should get a nice bump as well without Devin Booker, so he looks enticing at only $4,400. You can say the same thing for Markieff Morris at only $4,800 against a Phoenix team that is dead last in defensive efficiency against power forwards. Both of those guys would normally be too risky for cash games on a normal slate, but I am much more willing to take on that risk on a four-game slate where the options are limited.
INJURY/REST SITUATIONS TO MONITOR
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