FantasyDraft NBA Core Plays: Tuesday, February 13th

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.

Tuesday, February 13th

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) Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF/PF, Milwaukee Bucks – $20,500

We have a handful of studs that we can target tonight on FantasyDraft, but Giannis is the clear-cut top guy for me. He has the best matchup and one of the best price tags.

The Bucks are getting one of the best matchups on the board tonight against the Hawks, as Atlanta ranks 26th in defensive rating. And while they aren’t exactly one of the fastest teams in the league (14th in pace), it is still a pace-up game for Milwaukee (24th in pace). That has resulted in the Bucks having the biggest projected point differential (3.3) between their team total (107.8) and season average (104.4) of any team on the slate as of now.

The micro matchup is very much in his favor too. Atlanta ranks 21st in defensive efficiency against power forwards and dead last against small forwards. You really only see one guy who even has a shot at slowing down Giannis when looking at Atlanta’s roster, and that guy is Taurean Prince. And Prince has a -1.01 defensive real plus-minus on the season, which has him ranked 74th out of 86 small forwards. That would cause all sorts of matchup problems elsewhere for the Hawks though, so you could even see Ersan Ilyasova try to guard Giannis. Insert monkey covering eyes emoji.

We definitely can spend for at least one stud on FantasyDraft tonight. Giannis is that guy for me, and he will be the first guy I am plugging into my cash game lineup.

(Tournament pivot: LeBron James gets the worse matchup tonight against the Thunder, so I expect DFS owners to definitely click the Greek Freak’s name before they select The King. So I think that will leave LeBron with much lower ownership than Giannis. However, the Thunder’s defensive numbers are ridiculously good with Andre Roberson on the court (96.4 defensive rating in 1,037 minutes) and equally bad with him off of the court (107.7 defensive rating in 1,719 minutes). That 107.7 defensive rating would tie them for 22nd overall on the season. So there is some hidden upside here from LeBron that projections might not reflect just yet. And it goes without saying that the whole team (including LeBron, of course) looked revitalized last game. LeBron only posted a ho-hum 41.6% usage rate and 58.3% assist rate in his 28 minutes of blowing out the Celtics. I would be loading up on The King in tournaments tonight because it appears pretty difficult to fit him in alongside Giannis as of now in cash games.)

2) Davis Bertans, SF/PF, San Antonio Spurs – $9,300

Who the heck knows who suits up for the Spurs tonight, but I feel comfortable saying all of their young guys will unless we hear otherwise. And believe it or not, Bertans is one of the best sources of salary relief we have on this slate as of now.

The way I see it, the frontcourt for the Spurs tonight goes one of three ways.

1. Pau Gasol rests. In this scenario, Bertans is probably the best play on the slate.
2. Pau Gasol plays, but they don’t extend him nearly as much as they did last night (33 minutes). Bertans plays similar minutes to last night, and Joffrey Lauvergne sees an uptick in minutes. In this scenario, both Bertans and Lauvergne are good cash game plays.
3. With All Star Break looming to recuperate, the Spurs run out Gasol similar minutes to last night. In this scenario, Bertans is still cash viable, and Lauvergne probably isn’t.

I personally think #2 is the most likely, but who the heck knows with the Spurs. It doesn’t help that this is the late game too.

But as you can see in all three scenarios, I think we can trust Bertans as a cash game play regardless of how this plays out. The matchup for the Spurs is good, as Denver ranks 22nd in defensive rating. And like most games for the Spurs, this will be pace-up as well.

In the toughest back-to-back in the NBA (at Denver), there is obviously risk here. But so far, it appears there is going to be risk with any player around this price range or below. And quite frankly, I just don’t see any way around Bertans playing a decent amount of minutes tonight. It is a risk we are going to have to take in cash games unless some better value pops up during the day.

(Tournament pivot: On the other side, Jamal Murray is one of my favorite tournament plays on the slate. He has had two brutal fantasy games in a row and now gets a matchup with the Spurs. I highly doubt he garners any attention on this slate. But we have seen this story with Murray before. The usage fluctuates wildly with him. However, when he bounces back, he bounces back in a big way. In mid January, he put together two straight games of 6.25 FantasyDraft points and 11.25 FantasyDraft points. He followed that up with a 47.25-spot and a 54.75-spot. The guy is streaky to say the least. You definitely want to be on that high side of things when no one else will be on him, and that is probably going to be tonight.)


The Spurs are on the second night of a back-to-back in their final game before the All-Star Break. LaMarcus Aldridge has already been ruled out for tonight. Will any other Spurs rest? Tony Parker? Pau Gasol? Danny Green? Manu Ginobili? Considering this is a late west coast game, it could cause all sorts of problems for cash game roster construction.

Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony are questionable again for the Thunder. If they miss another game, Paul George, Raymond Felton, and Jerami Grant get the biggest bumps here.

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About the Author

  • Andy Means (meansy53)

  • Andy Means, aka meansy53, was a walk-on with the esteemed Duke University basketball team for three years before graduating in 2004. He has a Masters in Accounting from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and has been playing DFS since 2014 – professionally since 2016. He is a featured contributor for RotoGrinders who has qualified for multiple live finals and has been a consistent top-ranked Grinder.

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