FantasyDraft NBA Core Plays: Tuesday, November 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.

Tuesday, November 14th

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!


A quick reminder that with only three games on the slate, it is probably best to lower your volume and perhaps avoid cash games altogether. Even on a site with multi positional eligibility, there will still be a fair amount of overlap in cash games.

1) Spencer Dinwiddie, PG/SG, Brooklyn Nets – $9,400

With D’Angelo Russell ruled out for at least a few games, Spencer Dinwiddie will draw the start at point guard in his place. In the only game that DAR missed earlier this season, Dinwiddie logged 31 minutes in a tight game with Sean Kilpatrick getting most of the backup minutes. Dinwiddie dropped 40.25 FantasyDraft points that game, so add in that with the fact that we only have three games on this slate, and you will be looking at a very chalky play.

There isn’t much that needs to be said here except that Dinwiddie is too cheap for his expected minutes and rate bumps. It is only one game to go on, yes, but check out the increases he saw in that game compared to his seasonal numbers.

2017-2018 (12 games): 22.3 minutes per game, 18.7% usage rate, 33% assist rate, 6.6% rebound rate

10/25/2017 vs. Cleveland: 31.75 minutes, 22.2% usage rate, 30.8% assist rate, 8.9% rebound rate

Dinwiddie had a 74.5% true shooting percentage that game, so don’t go expecting 40.25 FantasyDraft points again. However, he is still underpriced and, if nothing else, he showed what kind of ceiling he has at this price when given the minutes. If you are brave enough to play cash games this evening, you absolutely have to eat the chalk and play Spencer.

(Tournament pivot: You will need to get creative here in tournaments due to the small slate, and I think a good play for large field tournaments is taking a stab at either Isaiah Whitehead or Sean Kilpatrick. I haven’t quite been able to glean from the news who Coach Atkinson prefers for the backup PG duties. Neither of them have been playing much at all lately. Keep your ears to the news to see what information might come out during the day. Once you feel comfortable with who the backup is, throw a dart with him in tournaments in the hopes that variance is on your side. Maybe Dinwiddie gets in foul trouble. Maybe he rolls an ankle. Maybe he plays so badly that Atkinson benches him. I highly doubt many DFS owners will take a stab with the backup since neither got much run in this same scenario on 10/25. I think it is worth a shot in large field tournaments as a very low owned play.)

2) James Harden, PG/SG, Houston Rockets – $21,700

Harden makes for a very interesting case on this tiny slate considering his price tag is $6,100 more than the next player. While he may not come close to making the greatest point per dollar play on the slate, he is miles ahead of the next closest player in expected fantasy production. Furthermore, the scoring system on FantasyDraft is much more advantageous for a guy like Harden compared to a site like FanDuel.

This is my rather simplistic way of saying that I think you need to pay up for him if you are playing cash games. There are cases to be made for perhaps taking a more balanced route with your roster construction. However, I think the optimal build is to lock in Harden’s floor. And the guy has been playing phenomenal ball of late. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable without him on my cash game roster on a three-game slate.

(Tournament pivot: There is a strong case to be made for a Harden fade in tournaments on this slate due to the big price tag and gap between him and the rest of the field. I think a logical pivot off of Harden is to go to DeMar DeRozan. DDR isn’t that much better of a point per dollar play than Harden, but moving down to him off of Harden immediately will give you a much more unique roster construction. Because DeRozan is so scoring dependent, you are hoping for an extremely efficient night in that regard or for him to contribute in other ancillary stats that we aren’t accustomed to.)

3) Dennis Smith Jr., PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks – $12,400

Despite a difficult matchup on paper in a game that should be played at a snail’s pace, I still think we are getting a discount on DSJ. And he would get a slight boost (mainly adding an extra few minutes) if Devin Harris sat out again tonight (he is currently questionable).

DSJ leads the Mavs in the early going here in usage rate (29.1%) and is second in assist rate (29.6%). That has led to him getting approximately 1.0 FantasyDraft points per minute in this small sample of 12 games. If we are to expect that to continue, along with his 30-32 minutes per game, then he looks pretty good at this price tag.

Even if we want to be conservative on his FPPM (which is probably appropriate due to the game environment), he still makes for a great cash game play at only $12,400. As a result, I think he is someone who needs to be in our core on this small slate.

(Tournament pivot: I like J.J. Barea a lot in tournaments tonight, and even more so if we don’t have news on Devin Harris before lock. At only $8,000, he sees enough volume when he is out on the court that he can crush this price tag in not that many minutes. On a three-game slate that should come with depressed ownership because of the matchup, that is good enough for me in tournaments.)



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  • 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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