FantasyDraft NBA Core Plays: Wednesday, February 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.

Wednesday, February 14th


We have some value open up in Atlanta with news that Ilyasova, Schroder, and Bazemore are all out. My favorite of the Hawks are Malcolm Delaney and John Collins. I slightly prefer Delaney to Tyler Dorsey because of his much higher assist rate (they should be pretty close in usage). Dorsey is of course fine for cash games as well if you need that salary relief.

Taurean Prince is definitely viable too. I think you are playing at lease one of he and Royce O’Neale. I have untagged O’Neale now because those guys are pretty close for me.

Lastly, I have tagged Anthony Davis instead of Andre Drummond, as it is extremely easy to get all the way up to him now.

1) Donovan Mitchell
2) Anthony Davis
3) Malcolm Delaney
4) John Collins

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) Donovan Mitchell, PG/SG, Utah Jazz – $14,800

I am going to write this as if Ricky Rubio sits out again tonight. He has missed the past two games with a hip injury, and it just makes sense for the Jazz to let him get an extended recovery with the All Star Break looming. I can always circle back around with an update later in the day depending on what news we get from shootaround, but Mitchell would be cash viable at the very least anyways if Rubio does play based on the matchup.

So if Rubio does indeed sit out, we have to lock in Mitchell in cash games at $14,800. In addition to the (potential) Rubio absence, we can’t forget either that Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood are out of town too. Those are three pretty important wings/guards that Mitchell does not have to share the ball with. Let’s start out this little exercise by just looking at Mitchell’s minutes and rates for the whole season.

Season: 32 minutes per game, 29% usage rate, 19% assist rate, 6.2% rebound rate

Next, let’s see what CourtIQ tells us regarding the court time Mitchell has this season with Rubio, Johnson, and Hood off of the court:

330 minutes, 36.7% usage rate, 1.29 FantasyDraft points per minute (0.27 increase!)

And finally, let’s look at the minutes and rates for each of the past three games without these three guys playing (Rubio played about a half of the first one).

02/09/2018 vs. Charlotte: 39 minutes, 31.1% usage rate, 15.8% assist rate, 9% rebound rate

02/11/2018 vs. Portland: 37 minutes, 34.4% usage rate, 9.3% assist rate, 8.2% rebound rate

02/12/2018 vs. San Antonio: 38 minutes, 37.6% usage rate, 26.7% assist rate, 10.2% rebound rate

Looking at all of these huge bumps he gets, it should come as literally no surprise that his FantasyDraft output in those three games were the following:

41, 39, 48.25

And here is the thing; he shot terribly in all of those games! He had a 45% true shooting percentage in two of them and 37.5% in the other. He shoots 54.5% on the season. We can always expect efficiency to go down as usage goes up, but I don’t expect it to dip that much.

And when teams play the Suns, efficiency usually goes up. Considering I have written a novel already about Mitchell on his own, I don’t need to dive too deep here as to why we love the matchup against Phoenix (we know this already anyways).

Dead last in defensive rating.
Third fastest team in the league.
Dead last in defensive efficiency against opposing backcourts.

Please Utah, sit out Rubio tonight!

(Tournament pivot: I like going up to Bradley Beal in tournaments, and he even popped up into a few of my cash builds. I have no idea what is going to happen tonight with the Washington point guard situation (see below), but Beal should be in line for some more ball handling duties with Tim Frazier (at the least) almost certainly out tonight. That should help his assist rate a little bit, which helps push his ceiling a little higher. We saw what kind of ceiling he has against OKC a few weeks ago when he completely takes over the offense (72.5 FantasyDraft points). If their backcourt is depleted tonight, we could see him try to do something similar against the Knicks. I absolutely love Beal for tournaments tonight.)

2) Royce O’Neale, SF, Utah Jazz – $8,400

If we are going to assume Rubio is out for Mitchell, we can assume the same thing for Royce. And he of course benefits from Johnson and Hood not being on the team anymore too. I know Royce was a letdown on Monday, but I am going right back to the well here in the matchup against Phoenix.

Royce is one of those rare scenarios in that he sees rate DECREASES in the absence of all of these guys. In 270+ minutes he has been on the court without Rubio, Johnson, and Hood, his usage/assist/rebound rates are all down 1%-2%. As a result, the fantasy point per minute rate is down to about 0.75 (a slight 0.05 decrease). This is due to the fact that he is mostly sharing the court with higher usage guys (Mitchell) and better rebounders (Gobert, Favors).

However, the minutes he should play tonight still make him a good cash game play at this price tag. He has played 33 and 38 minutes the past two games since entering the starting lineup. Royce looks just fine for cash games even at that 33 mark, and that doesn’t even factor in the boost in efficiency he should almost certainly get against that same Phoenix defense we just discussed above.

Plenty of people said he was a bad play the other night; I disagree. Several others will say he is a bad play again tonight; I disagree. Assuming Rubio sits out again, Royce will be in my cash game lineup unless some better cheap value opens up on this slate (which is entirely plausible considering we have 12 games).

(Tournament pivot: With the price tag back down below $12,000 after a disappointing fantasy performance on Monday, I like pivoting to Josh Jackson in tournaments in this difficult matchup against Utah. The guy has flipped some sort of switch over the past month or so, and that is reflected in his fantasy outputs. In six of his last 10 games, he has recorded between 31.5 and 46.25 FantasyDraft points. That kind of ceiling remains there tonight as long as Devin Booker remains out (which we should expect him to). And with this matchup against Utah, I suspect he goes a tad overlooked tonight even though he has been a popular guy to roster lately. I would happily get some exposure to him in tournaments tonight on this massive 12-game slate.)

3) Andre Drummond, C, Detroit Pistons – $18,100

If you haven’t stopped reading after the Royce plug, then I might be risking losing even more of you right now with Drummond here again in this space. He was a bit of a letdown on Monday as well in the sense that he ‘only’ got us 44.75 FantasyDraft points at $18,900. However, the micro matchup is significantly better tonight against Atlanta. As such, Drummond has been my highest spend so far in my lineup builds as of early this morning.

Drummond disappointed on Monday basically because he didn’t score enough points; 21 rebounds obviously ain’t too shabby. However, he only had a 41.9% true shooting percentage that game, and it is 56% on the season.

The numbers say he should be a little better in that regard tonight against Atlanta. While they don’t play as fast as New Orleans, they are a worse defense overall (25th in defensive rating) and against centers (24th in defensive efficiency against that position). In addition, here are more stats that make me like Drummond tonight.

Atlanta gives up the fifth most rebounds on average to centers. (Drummond averages the most rebounds per game in the entire league)

Atlanta gives up the third most steals on average to centers. (Drummond averages the most steals per game amongst centers in the entire league)

Atlanta gives up the sixth most blocks on average to centers. (Drummond averages the fifth most blocks per game amongst centers in the entire league)

I know it usually isn’t a popular stance to take these days, but Drummond is an extremely safe allocation of our salary cap for cash games tonight.

(Tournament pivot: This will sound repetitive too, but I think Blake Griffin is the tournament pivot here. That is especially so if Drummond happens to become chalky (he was 30+% on Monday, but it was of course a much smaller slate). Blake finally shot the ball better on Monday, but his assist rate came tumbling down and the blowout cost him about three and a half minutes of game time. Although he hasn’t shown it yet in his limited time with Detroit, I do think there is profit potential here at only $16,300 in this great matchup against Atlanta.)


Ricky Rubio is listed questionable yet again for this matchup against the Suns. Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, and Royce O’Neale all get the bumps here if Rubio sits out.

Washington could very well be without a point guard, with Tim Frazier likely to be out (nasal surgery) and Tomas Satoransky questionable. Depending on whether or not they sign a point guard, Bradley Beal would probably handle the bulk of the ball handling here mixed in with Jodie Meeks and their wings (Porter, Oubre).

Devin Booker, Tyson Chandler, and Troy Daniels are all listed as questionable for the Suns. Booker certainly sounds closer to doubtful. If he sits out again, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, and Elfrid Payton get the biggest bumps here. Dragan Bender will get a boost if Tyson Chandler sits out.

JaMychal Green is questionable for tonight’s game against the Thunder. If he sits out, Jarell Martin would get a nice bump.

Draymond Green is listed as questionable, but it sounds like he is closer to probable.

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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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