FanDuel NBA Core Plays: Thursday, March 15th
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 great STLCardinals84 takes the reigns.
Thursday, March 15th
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) Noah Vonleh, PF, Chicago Bulls – $3,600
We will start out with the best salary relief play on the slate, albeit one that won’t get you too excited to roster.
Vonleh will continue to draw the start at power forward in the absence of Lauri Markkanen, and Coach Hoiberg said that he wants to get most of his guys between 26-28 minutes. In a similar spot on Tuesday, Vonleh grinded his way to 21.4 FanDuel points in 27 minutes despite shooting 3 for 11 from the field.
That 0.8 FanDuel points per minute rate is right on par with what it looks like this season with the Bulls. The matchup isn’t ideal because of how slow Memphis plays, but they are actually a bottom 10 defense in the league. So at 26-28 minutes again tonight, Vonleh’s salary relief is a great way to start our builds.
(Tournament pivot: Ersan Ilyasova is an interesting tournament pivot at $3,900. Since he is a reserve (albeit a key one now) on a good team with a deep frontcourt, he is basically never owned. You always can get him at 1%-2% ownership on any slate assuming the Sixers frontcourt is fully healthy. With the price tag this cheap, however, you have a few outs to him getting you to a great spot in tournaments. One way is for him to see the minutes extended past the 20 or so he gets most nights. Maybe it is foul trouble. Maybe it is a blowout. Or maybe he just performs exceedingly well in his initial rotation(s). That last one is your next out. If he has an efficient shooting night while pulling down a lot of rebounds, you really don’t need much else from him due to how cheap he is. We saw a game a few nights ago where the minutes got pushed to the mid 20’s, and he dropped 37.1 FanDuel points. I definitely like this play more if you are entering a bunch of lineups in a large field tournament, but I wouldn’t hate it either if you put him on one lineup in a 3-max.)
2) James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets – $11,300
When it comes to which stud to pay up for, I have no problem taking this discount on Harden.
Both Anthony Davis and LeBron James are priced at $12,500 tonight. AD gets a matchup against the Spurs, a team that is second in defensive rating, fifth in defensive efficiency against centers, and plays at the second slowest pace in the league. In that matchup, I think I would rather attack AD in tournament formats.
LeBron gets a matchup against Portland, a team that is seventh in defensive rating, middle of the pack in defensive efficiency against forwards, and plays at the 13th slowest pace in the league. The lack of opportunity cost at small forward has me at least considering LeBron at small forward. But do I want to allocate that much of my salary cap to him in a less than ideal spot? Probably not.
That leaves Harden, which I am perfectly fine with anyways in this matchup against the Clippers. I know the Rockets are double digit favorites, but they also have the highest team total on the slate (117.8) by more than four points. This is actually a nice pace-up game for the Rockets (14th in pace), as the Clippers play at the league’s sixth fastest pace.
And even though MDA has been better lately about managing the minutes of his guys, he still has a longer leash than most. He has been trying to keep Harden around the 34-35 mark lately (Harden is perfectly fine tonight in cash games if we see those minutes), but we have seen those tick up on occasion in close games. So it is nice to have a little hidden upside here just in case the Clippers can keep this one close.
Lastly, I am not crazy about the other options at shooting guard either, which results in Harden making even more sense as one of the guys to plug in here. As far as the three studs go on FanDuel tonight, Harden is my guy.
(Tournament pivot: Despite the difficult matchup, I still think Anthony Davis is the high end pivot in tournaments. My hope is that DFS owners see him as an okay play in projection models and that one of his worst games in this crazy stretch lately (that wasn’t a game he got injured in) was against this same San Antonio team (“only” 47.5 FanDuel points). But this guy’s ceiling is like no other, regardless of what team he is playing. That is especially true on a site like FanDuel that gives you +3 for steals and blocks. Hopefully the ownership remains tame on the Brow tonight, because he can still drop an 80-burger tonight like it’s nothing.)
3) Myles Turner, C, Indiana Pacers – $6,800
Almost all of my early builds have me plugging in Turner at my center spot today. I think he is one of, if not the, best point per dollar plays at the position. So for now, I am going to leave him in here. However, I know roster construction can get weird on FanDuel with one little piece of news and only being able to roster one center, so this is subject to change.
What we do know though is that Domantas Sabonis has been ruled out for tonight’s game. Trevor Booker is also questionable. So once a guy who had all kinds of volatility in the minutes, Turner’s should be pretty darn safe tonight (assuming he doesn’t get into foul trouble). Low 30’s minutes at the least seems very realistic for tonight’s game, and I think there is upside for a whole lot more.
Turner has had one of the most up-and-down seasons I can recall. From a fantasy perspective though, a lot of that volatility has been tied to his minutes. And we already addressed there should be some stability to those. He has still gotten 1.1 FanDuel points per minute this season, which is right in line with what he did last season. And the recent form is great too if that is something that you are into, as he has averaged 34 FanDuel points over his past six games.
The matchup brings a little bit of concern, being that Toronto is fourth in defensive rating and 10th in defensive efficiency against centers. However, I think Turner can still have success against JoVal and the other Toronto bigs with his ability to draw them away from the basket. I think Turner makes for a great play tonight at $6,800.
(Tournament pivot: We will go back to the same guy we put in here on Tuesday, and that is Jusuf Nurkic who absolutely destroyed the Heat. Nurkic has been an equally volatile option this season, and again, most of it is tied to his minutes. When he sees the minutes get up to 30ish, we often see performances like we saw on Tuesday. And now he gets to face an undersized Cavs team that is rolling out Larry Nance as its center. Nurkic is still only $6,600 on FanDuel, which means he has all sorts of profit potential if he can stay on the court.)
ROSTER CONSTRUCTION THOUGHTS
I honestly don’t have too much to add here. After a wild four-game slate last night, this seems like a run-of-the-mill nine-gamer tonight. Of course, this is the NBA, so who the heck knows what the slate looks like by the time lineup lock rolls around.
INJURY/REST SITUATIONS TO MONITOR
Dwight Buycks and Reggie Bullock are questionable for tonight’s game against the Nuggets. If they both miss, Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard probably get the biggest bumps here, but they are far from being guys we must have in cash games.
Tyreke Evans is questionable for tonight after missing the past several games. If he plays, it makes the Memphis backcourt situation even messier.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is questionable and the status of Lance Thomas is up in the air as well. If THJ misses the game tonight, Troy Williams is probably the biggest beneficiary followed by the three point guards (Mudiay, Burke, Ntilikina). Courtney Lee probably sees his minutes managed no matter what.
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