Welcome to the Monday edition of NBA DFS Picks and Pivots, a fantasy basketball column focused on helping you find the best core lineup for this slate of DFS action!
For those of you finding us for the first time, the concept behind NBA DFS Picks and Pivots is to give you a first look at the day’s NBA DFS slate, including our top picks, plays and pivots, using FantasyDraft pricing as a reference to help you build your best line-up and win big.
Picks and Pivots is not a simple “best plays” column but rather it focuses on slate strategy and roster construction to help give you insight into how I will look to play this slate.
Sunday’s NBA DFS slate had a whole lot of “new” to it but for those playing NBA DFS for sometime it felt like many slates before as Russell Westbrook returned as a one-man wrecking crew for the Thunder and James Harden was a usage monster with CP3 suspended for “SpitGate.” Overall, it was Harden and Westbrook that dominated the stars but it was rookie Trae Young who really stood out, going for 60+ fantasy points at only $11K salary which when paired with the higher-priced stars made for a difficult trio to beat on this four game slate where once against winning GPP scores sat in the 350-360 range which is officially a trend.
Picks and Pivots is not a simple “best plays” column but rather it focuses on slate strategy and roster construction to help give you insight into how I will look to play this slate. The goal of this article is to dig through the slate, highlight our top plays and help you identify the best slate strategy across your NBA DFS line-ups.
As always, we will look to update our final lineup thoughts throughout the day on our twitter account @FantasyCPR so make sure to give us a follow for all the late breaking lineup news.
Without further ado, let’s get into today’s slate!
NBA DFS – Nine Game Slate:
At first glance looking over this nine game Monday NBA DFS slate, there is one thing that jumps out when looking first at the Vegas game data – of the 8 games with totals (Lakers-Spurs not yet out), only the Celtics-Magic is under 219 while five games have a 225 or higher total which means once again – fantasy scoring is going to be up on this slate.
The one game without any Vegas information, the Lakers and Spurs is actually where I want to stop and look at first as we have an interesting match-up between the team leading the league in pace (Lakers) thus far versus a team in the Spurs that is dead last in pace this season – something has to give right?
To this point in the season, the Lakers have been a LeBron James or bust kind of team for me with the Lakers simply being too deep and having entirely too much usage to go around as LeBron has been the clear leader with a near 31% usage rate while putting up 1.23 FP/M. With the news that Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram will both be suspended, this is the perfect time to jump on the Lakers while the logjam is cleared up as this should be a major boost to LeBron as well as Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.
With Ball and Kuzma likely to join the starting line-up, do not overlook Josh Hart and/or Lance Stephenson as they should get a significant bump in usage as the clear second team leaders with Ball and Kuzma moving up to replace the suspended starters for LA. Hart actually has a solid 24% usage and 1.1 FP/M rate off the bench for LA and with the Lakers being depleted tonight – this seems like the opportune time to get some exposure with all the usage up for grabs.
The Spurs side of this game could make for an interesting stack spot as the Spurs will likely see a massive pace boost considering how much the Lakers want to run. Newest Spur DeMar DeRozan has taken quickly to his new team with some serious advanced metrics in two games – sporting a massive 37.3% usage rate and 1.19 FP/M while his teammate LaMarcus Aldridge is playing a solid second fiddle with a 26% usage rate and 1.1 FP/M mark of his own.
For as much as the Spurs have been a team we have often avoided in recent years, it is worth noting that this San Antonio team ranks 28th out of 30 NBA in defensive rating so far this year and just gave up 121 points to Portland in their last meeting so do not be afraid to attack San Antonio tonight with LeBron and his short-handed Lakers squad.
NBA DFS – Blowouts and Back to Backs:
At first glance, I doubt it would shock many to see the Golden State Warriors have the highest team total (120) on the board and it certainly would not surprise anyone to see their game total near 230 against an up-tempo squad like the Suns. What is interesting for this game and four others is that we have double-digit spreads in 5 of the 9 games tonight as of this writing so we do have to at least consider the blow-out risk when limiting our player pool.
Even more so than the blowout risk for the Warriors tonight, I think it is the back-to-back which scares me more when considering paying up for Kevin Durant and/or Stephen Curry. The Warriors are playing their third game in four nights, going from Utah to the thin air of Denver and now flying back home to take on the Suns in Golden State. Now, I am not going to pretend to be some human body expert and these are world-class athletes we are talking about here – but with three flights in four days and having to adjust from the altitude in Denver to going back home the next night to play again – would it surprise you if a jump shooting team like the Warriors is a little off tonight?
Vegas obviously doesn’t think so considering the total and 13 point spread against the Suns who have had polar opposite games – blowing out the Mavericks by 21 points and then getting whooped by the Nuggets by 28 so – well, who knows what we are going to get from Phoenix.
Devin Booker is the obvious “run back” play here tonight if you want to stack this spot as he leads the Suns with a 36% usage rate and 1.3 FP/M and has put up no less than 15 FGA in each of his first two games. Deandre Ayton dropped 45 fantasy points in his NBA debut but was limited to only 22 minutes and got absolutely destroyed by Nikola Jokic in his next outing so the ups and downs of a rookie will be there but this could be a nice bounce back spot at low ownership. If you need a nice cheap filler option at guard, Isaiah Canaan has played 29 and 33 minutes in each of his first two games alongside Booker in the Suns back-court while putting up 24 and 25 fantasy points and priced at just above $8K in his first two outings, he is giving you the 3x+ salary you want with the minutes upside for more!
NBA DFS – Pivot Plays:
With so many big totals and stars on the board tonight, it may be easy to overlook a game like the Mavericks and Bulls – two teams without any big name stars but with a 228.5 game total, the same as Warriors-Suns, and only a 4 point spread – this could be a sneaky balanced game stack to build around. So far this season, the Mavericks rank dead last in the NBA in defensive rating while the Bulls are not far behind at 26 out of 30 NBA teams, so maybe Vegas is on to something with the high game total here tonight.
Dennis Smith Jr. is play #1 from the Mavericks side as his 32.7% usage rate and 1.12 FP/M mark can justify while his rookie teammate Luka Doncic is coming off a 41 fantasy point outing against Minnesota where he hit 4 of his 9 3PA and is now sporting a 28% usage rate with over a FP/M of production.
DeAndre Jordan is never going to be a high usage NBA DFS target (15% this season) but his 1.3 FP/M mark and this match-up against the Bulls is tough to ignore. After giving up 30/12 to Joel Embiid in their opener and 13/10 to Andre Drummond and 33/12 to Blake Griffin, I think we can safely say that attacking the Bulls interior seems like a profitable strategy. With Harrison Barnes listed as OUT in the game notes, it could mean another start and big minutes for DFS – Dorian Finney-Smith who has played 30 minutes in each of his first two games for Dallas with 22-23 FPTS in each start. Basically, if you play for the Mavericks tonight, you are going to be in play.
On the Bulls side, it is expected that Kris Dunn will be back which means we can stop chasing Cameron Payne‘s DFS game but it also means a dip to the usage of Zach LaVine. LaVine has led the bulls with a 34% usage rate while putting up 1.25 FP/M but we have seen over the last two years that LaVine’s usage tends to be just under 30% while putting up a FP/M with Dunn on the court.
Now LaVine is still a good play here but do not simply look at the game logs and expect a repeat performance – but I think a LaVine, Dunn and Bobby Portis mini-stack could be an interesting way to attack this game stack.
NBA DFS – Play it High and Tight:
One of the things that experienced NBA DFS players will tell you to look for when sorting through Vegas data is to find games that are high and tight – meaning, high totals with small spreads – which on the surfaces makes all the sense in the world. Now, do NOT confuse Vegas totals with guaranteed outcomes and although I think they can be over-used by NBA DFS players, it does not mean they are not valuable data points to help identify your player pool.
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Minnesota and Indiana have a solid 225 total with a 2 point spread and with Jimmy Butler expected back tonight, Coach Thibs can go back to his usual rotations of playing his core guys major minutes. Butler on the season is leading Minnesota with a 30% usage rate and 1.55 FP/M and we saw on Saturday what it does for Minnesota when he is out – as all of Karl Anthony Towns, Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins and even Derrick Rose saw 3-4% usage bumps with Butler off the court with all four players putting up 1.1 or more FP/M. Now this becomes nothing more than a “file it away for another slate” type data point with Butler expected back but it goes to show how critical Butler is to this Minnesota offense.
We have not had that massive Victor Oladipo game yet, but with a 35.5% usage rate and over 1.2 FP/M, it would seem like that day is coming for Dipo and he did put up 40 FPTS against Minnesota in his only match-up against them last season. The interesting thing with Indiana thus far is that Oladipo is the only starter getting more than 30 minutes so this is a team with a deep rotation, even with Leaf/Sabonis questionable tonight, that may be a Oladipo spot or nothing until a reliable second option surfaces.
Washington and Portland has a 226 total and a 4 point spread and a lethal four guard core of John Wall, Bradley Beal, CJ McCollum and John Wall to choose from. These two teams are ranked 10th and 11th in pace this season but the issue I have with stacking these teams is that we rarely see these backcourts correlate well together. While Lillard has put up 45 and 44 FPTS in his first two outings, McCollum has been limited to 27 and 28 fantasy points while Wall has gone for 47/49 FPTS with Beal being way more volatile with 25 and 48 fantasy points.
Now to be clear – I am writing this article early and the pricing for FantasyDraft has not yet been released so it is tough to gauge how much exposure I want to these “High and Tight” games as if they are priced up they become a very top-heavy stack that feels more cash game safe than GPP upside. Follow me on Twitter @2LockSports and I will update m NBA DFS thoughts throughout the day as we get more news.
Stay tuned to Fantasy CPR for all the latest DFS NBA news across FantasyDraft, FanDuel and DraftKings each and every day!