Welcome to the Friday 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.
Thursday’s winning GPP line-ups on FantasyDraft fell short of 350 fantasy points and many of the winning rosters had the same core group of plays with a few ties at the top as a result. LeBron James and Damian Lillard were the top two stars to pay up for while high-owned mid tier plays like Jamal Murray, JaVale McGee and punt chalk Larry Nance Jr. were found on nearly all the top line-ups on a night where the chalk certainly hit hard.
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 – Top Guard Plays:
We have seven games on Friday’s NBA DFS slate and every single one of these games has a 218 total or higher – reminding us daily that the NBA scoring is going to be way higher than we have seen in past years so keep that in mind when building your DFS rosters. One interesting schedule quirk tonight – 6 of the games on the slate start between 7PM EST and 8PM EST with only the Wizards and Kings set to tip-off late night at 10 PM EST.
Let’s start with the biggest injury news on the slate as we already know James Harden with a hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined for a few days which means there is quite a bit of usage to go around with the Rockets remaining starters. For the two remaining guards in the Rockets line-up – Chris Paul ($16.8K) and Eric Gordon ($11.7K) we have two years worth of data to rely on when looking at life without The Beard on the court. Since the beginning of last season, when Harden has been out, CP3 sees a 6% usage boost while Gordon sees a 5% usage bump in a 1,000+ minute sample size as both guards have a 30%+ usage rate in this scenario.
CP3 has put up nearly 1.6 FP/M in this scenario and he gets the added bonus of a #RevengeNarrative game against his old Clippers team. We actually have a game last year on January 15th where the Rockets played the Clippers without James Harden and CP3 delivered 40 FPTS on the back of 19 pts, 7 assists and 6 rebounds and I would expect Paul to be one of the highest owned players on this slate. The duo of CP3 and Gordon seems to be priced far too low considering the change in roles and there is simply way too much profit potential to over-look these two as core plays despite their likely high ownership levels.
The other big injury news we have heading into this slate is that the Bulls will be without both Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis for the foreseeable future which means a whole lot of usage is about to come available in Chicago. Not only did we get to see what their rotations would look like last game, they also happen to face the exact same Hornets team they just played so this is about the most confident game log watching you will find in NBA DFS.
In that game, there were 17 minutes where Portis was off the court (Dunn was out the whole game) and in that time Zach LaVine ($14.6K) had a …. 49.6% usage rate. No seriously, almost 50% usage and 1.6 FP/M. LaVine put up 43.5 FPTS in that game and has gone for over 40 fantasy points in every single game he has played this season. LaVine is a cash game lock for me and with Portis now off the court – he has massive GPP upside for a guy in this price range.
Cameron Payne ($9.3K) stepped into the starting role for Dunn and delivered in a big way with 39 FPTS of his own with 13 FGA (second to only LaVine) and a massive 11 3PA. Now the usage and shot attempts is a huge positive indicator but the caveat here (besides the fact it is Cameron Payne) is that he shot 64% from three-point range in that game which is slightly higher than his 34% career mark so this could be a case where it was simply a hot shooting night – so just be careful chasing the game log.
On the other side of this game, Kemba Walker ($14.8K) who just put up 41 FPTS in this spot, seems like the perfect play to run it back with here tonight. Kemba has always played better at home in his career with every statistical category seeing an uptick, he averaged an additional FP/G at home last season and we have already seen him drop 55 in his lone home game this season. Kemba/LaVine make far too much sense in mini-stack here considering their price point and consistent 40+ fantasy point per night output.
NBA DFS – Guard Pivot Plays:
If you scroll through the NBA usage leaders so far this season you are going to find that anyone with a 30% or higher usage rate will cost you a minimum of near $15K on FantasyDraft as LaVine/Kemba are the cheapest high usage guys you can roster. Similarly, if you mosey on over to the players with 20 or more FGA per game you will see only 11 such players are on that list and they are made up of the highest priced stars in the NBA.
What if I told you there were only 8 players in the NBA who have a 30% usage rate and are averaging over 20 shot attempts per game. You would likely nail most on the list – Giannis, PG13, Westbrook, Kemba, Donovan Mitchell, Embiid and Kawhi Leonard.
Oh wait, did I only list 7?
Care to guess who number 8 is? (let’s be honest, this is Picks and Pivots and I am sure the picture gave it away). Tim Mother Trucking Hardaway Junior.
THJ ($12.2K) like most shooters tends to be much better at home and with his price point dropping after a sub-par road game against the Heat, I am all over him tonight at home in an up-tempo spot against Golden State at Madison Square Garden. Yes, I know this is shocking but stay on brand I must.
With the Wizards and Kings being the sole late game, I could see it going a bit over-looked but with these two teams playing at the 4th and 5th fastest paces in the NBA this season – I think having some exposure here tonight is a must. Not only are these two fast paced teams but they also rank 23rd and 24th in DEF rating this young season – so fast pace, no defense – yep sounds like the NBA this year.
With a 236.5 total (tied for highest on the slate) and a 4 point spread, this game should be popular but I wonder if it will be. John Wall and Bradley Beal at under $16K make for interesting pivots off the popular CP3 in a similar price range and you can pair them with De’Aaron Fox ($12.2K) who has gone for 40+ fantasy points in three of his first five games this season.
NBA DFS – Top F/C Plays:
Yes, we have Anthony Davis against Brooklyn and Giannis, KD and Kawhi on the slate but this slate just screams to go more balanced and thus I am avoiding the high-dollar plays on this NBA Slate and focusing on a mid-tier that has significant profit potential. I listen to and read a ton of NBA DFS content and one of the comments I heard that makes a ton of sense is that the sites have all priced the studs for what they are – studs – but early in the season they have not yet adjusted to the mid-range plays where roles are still being sorted out and to be honest, I have found my most successful nights early in the year being more balanced line-up construction.
We already talked about the Rockets with no Harden but they will also be without James Ennis tonight which means we could see Carmelo Anthony ($10.1K) enter the starting line-up. Melo just dropped 39 FPTS against Utah in his last game and in a limited sample this year (33 minutes) with Harden off the court has put up a FP/M with a solid 26% usage rate.
Heading back to Chicago, with Bobby Portis OUT – it likely means significantly more run for Jabari Parker ($10.9K) who played 30+ minutes against the Hornets last game and delivered over 30 fantasy points. In addition to Parker, it was rookie Wendell Carter Jr. ($8.1K) on the court for the Bulls in the 4th quarter with Portis out and this would likely be the same cost-effective duo to target again tonight for a short-handed Bulls team.
Heading back to the late night hammer – with Dwight Howard still out and Ian Mahinmi questionable to play, we could continue to see the Wizards play small which means an added boost to guys like Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre.
Over the last two games against Portland and golden State, it has been Morris who has led the Warriors in fantasy production with 1.46 FP/M with double-digit shot attempts in each game and at only $11K on FantasyDraft, this is a player who dropped 47 FPTS against Portland so the upside is clearly there.
Ignoring the Golden State game a bit because it was over by the end of the 3rd due to Steph Curry doing superhuman things, looking back at the Portland game, the Wizards were totally fine going small with Kieff at the 5. In fact to start the OT game against the Blazers they inserted Kelly Oubre ($8.6K) into the starting line-up and he responded with 35 FPTS in that game which would exceed 4x value at this price point. Again, I want exposure to this late night game and the Wizards front-court is a very inexpensive way to do that if you do not want to spend for Beal/Wall in the back-court.
NBA DFS – F/C Pivot Plays:
The more I look at this slate the more I am liking the Rockets-Clippers as a potential game stack and on a slate where I feel like F/C is weaker than guard, this could be a great spot to target the Clippers front court.
When these two teams played on the 21st in a game that CP3 missed but Harden played, we got a really good view of how the Clippers would play this game. Tobias Harris ($13.3K) and Danilo Gallinari ($12.4K) played 35 and 32 minutes each and put up 15 and 19 shot attempts. The Rockets will be without James Ennis tonight which means the Houston wing defense will be far worse (Melo defense anyone?) which could set mean Tobias/Gallo have big nights here.
I know this is the F/C center but it naturally feels like the spot to mention Lou Williams ($10.3K) as well. In that game against Houston, Lou Will shot the ball 16 times, only making 3 shots and going 0-6 from long-range as his early season woes continue. This is a 45% career shooting making only 35% of his shots but dig deeper into that game and you will see Williams has a massive 36.3% usage rate in that game.
If you need some additional value, look no further than Montrezl Harrell ($9.1K) who had 42 fantasy points in 24 minutes off the bench and racked up 17 points and 10 rebounds. In a faster pace game against an athletic team like Houston, Harrell could get similar run here if you need a cheaper front court option.
Last but not least – going back to the Bulls, if you need a true punt – keep an eye on Cristiano Felicio ($6.1K). Felicio got his first action of the season in this match-up last game against Charlotte and played 15 minutes off the bench where he racked up 9 points, 5 rebounds and 17 fantasy points which puts him close to 3x value in such limited minutes. Felicio played all 15 of his minutes while Bobby Portis was still in the game so it does seem like a likely outcome he gets an uptick in minutes with Portis sidelined. However, it is also worth noting, Felicio did not see any 4th quarter run after Portis came out as Carter Jr. and Parker where the top front court options down the stretch.
NBA DFS – Sample Line-up and Slate Overview:
Please note – this sample line-up is NOT meant to be used as a plug and play optimized line-up and is meant to be an illustrative example of the analysis laid out in this article.
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G: Chris Paul ($16.8K)
G: Eric Gordon ($11.7K)
G: Kemba Walker ($14.8K)
F/C: Carmelo Anthony ($10.1K)
F/C: Kelly Oubre ($8.6K)
F/C: Markieff Morris ($11K)
UTIL: Zach LaVine ($14.6K)
UTIL: Tim Hardaway Jr. ($12.2K)
Slate Overview: It is always scary to fade the stars on a slate especially when you have Curry/KD in The Garden and AD/Giannis available but this looks like a night to stay more balanced and take advantage of the increased usage/expanded roles for the guys in Houston and Chicago. After seeing scores dip below 350 last night, I think we see them spike back up significantly tonight with so many high totals on the board and a solid mid-tier of players who looked primed to outperform their price. Good luck tonight all.
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