NBA DFS Matchups: Happy Valentine’s Day!
Welcome to my NBA DFS matchups breakdown! Here I use trend analysis from all the teams in the league and reflect upon how each position matches up to them. I will take each game on the slate and use the FantasyLabs trend tools to see the average amount of points given to each position by individual situation.
The matchups are broken down in 3 ways:
- Whether the game is being played with a home field advantage (opposing team highlighted in green) or on the road (opposing team highlighted in yellow)
- Average points given to the position above expectation, which is the average amount of points given up to the opposing player within the position that is above or below their expected output (a value derived from how they are priced) and;
- The average points given up to the position in the current circumstance (regarding home/away splits) using historical values
My data is derived using a couple guidelines:
- The data begins from the first game of the previous month (since we are in January, it pulls back to December 1st)
- It only includes players projected for at least 18 minutes, and;
- The salary range included is $3000 - $10,000 (Because most players above 10k tend to be matchup proof to some extent, and warp the data)
I'll then take all that neat information and apply it to the current slate, giving us a look at how teams have historically fared in the circumstance, as well as a baseline for how we can project the current players filling those roles. I'll then break things down, give my thoughts on the slate and the players involved, and come up with my favorite plays with games to attack using the data available. It all gets pretty awesome, I hope you enjoy!
Without further ramblings, let's look at things, shall we?
Matchups for each position
Point Guard is an absolute wasteland for this slate. What could have been a nice group with viable options at each price has been reduced to backups and landmines due to injuries and tanking teams. Of the missing guys we have: John Wall (foot, 50/50 chance to play), Isaiah Thomas (out for two games), Eric Bledsoe (Out, team hates him), and Kyle Lowry (out, wrist exploded). Because of this we have a whole lot of apparent value in great spots. Brandon Jennings should jump into the starting lineup for the Wizards and draws a pristine matchup at home against the Bulls (30th against the position), and we know he can fill a stat sheet in a plus spot. Terry Rozier may garner the start in place of Isaiah Thomas and is min price against the hapless Nets (29th against Point Guards). Tyler Ulis continues to flash brilliance, and should start with Bledsoe shut down. He gets a very plus game at home against the Magic (28th to the position) on a road B2B. The best matchup belonging to a starter is Elfrid Payton (Elfrid Westbrook) who needs to go all the way off if he should pay off that price tag ($7,800). Overall the Position is nice, but filled with chalk options.
Shooting Guard comes with some fairly priced options in good spots today, as well as an underpriced James Harden. It's a good spot to focus on as many people will just be flocking to Devin Booker as his usage rate should be inflated without Eric Bledsoe available for the season. There are other options if you feel like being different (or have a live final to win). Wesley Matthews is questionable, but is optimistic to play. He has the best matchup on the board playing at the Sixers (they rank 28th in defensive efficiency to Shooting Guards) so he is worth a look at a low price. Avery Bradley gets to play against the Nets and whoever they decide to throw out there on him, chances are they are an even better spot than advertised (23rd to the position). Two higher priced guys that may have tougher matchups than assumed are Bradley Beal and James Harden. Bradley Beal gets to play the Bulls without Dwyane Wade (out for season with old man elbow) and may have to deal with Jimmy Butler sliding to the Shooting Guard spot, and James Harden will almost certainly draw Jrue Holiday (an elite defender). I did want to mention Randy Foye at min price against the Celtics, as Kilpatrick is out and Foye will almost certainly get 23+ minutes and should easily pay off value. Shooting Guard is a position I'm actually happy about today!
Small Forward will be the position that wins you a GPP or loses you everything today. There are a lot of things in flux and some bad slumps going on here, so how you decide to attack it will be important for the slate. Do you load up on guys like Andrew Wiggins who are underpriced but awful at the moment? Or do you eat the chalk on Jimmy Butler and miss a possible blow up? Some of the best matchups belong to mid-priced dudes. Otto Porter has the largest Efficiency Differential (more on that coming up) against Chicago (23rd to Small Forward), and will almost certainly go low owned. Jae Crowder will be chalky, but has a plus game against the Nets (he says for the third time). Caris Levert is a risky low priced option, but should see good minutes in a pace up spot at home against the Celtics (21st). Denzel Valentine SHOULD be chalk, but it's not a sure thing yet. He may still come off the bench while Paul Zipser starts, but the Bulls love him and his minutes/usage have been trending way up recently. There are not many options at this position today, and it may be best to just eat your chalk.
Power Forwards are not in short supply today, and there's a couple options that are going to get swept underneath the rug for no reason. We know people will be on DeMarcus Cousins as he faces off with the Rockets (he dismantled them last time around), and Dario Saric will continue to draw ownership based off recent performances (he's been good, no hate). I love both of them, as they have very soft matchups (22nd and 17th to the position, respectively) and have been very efficient in their roles. I do think it is worth looking at a couple other mid-priced players in an effort to deviate from the crowd. Aaron Gordon gets the Suns, who rank 26th in defensive efficiency to the position and play way up in pace for the Magic. Gordon has excelled in his new position as the starting Power Forward and should crush this spot. I also want some exposure to Nikola Mirotic. The Bulls remembered that he is their best Power Forward and it's been pretty, pretty good. The Power Forward spot is nice and juicy today, you should have lots of ways to build around these guys.
Center, as usual, is going to be a lucrative spot. I would actually say even more so today considering the options and matchups available. Greg Monroe has a date with the Lakers who rank 30th in defensive efficiency to Centers, but always remember that Jason Kidd doesn't give a hoot about your fantasy lineups and that rotation might get whacky. Nerlens Noel travels back home to Philadelphia to take on his old squad in a nice #NarrativeStreet revenge game! He was always mad about riding the bench, and now gets to take out frustration on their 28th ranked defense to his position. Hassan Whiteside has my personal favorite matchup at home against the Timberwolves. Fun Fact: Karl-Anthony Towns completely forgets how to play defense on the road. Anthony Davis might be too expensive ($10,200), but has a very plus spot against the Rockets who have a very hard time containing elite big men. I also have a lot of interest in Al Horford, who's usage has been trending upward in the last few games. Without Isaiah Thomas playing he has a good path to a high double-double or maybe even a triple-double. This position is very good from top to bottom, and more secure than the others. Load up.
Games and Stacks Worth Pursuing
Above is something new I've been working on called an Efficiency Differential Matrix. This matrix takes the Offensive Efficiency of each position and team, and compares them to the defensive efficiency ratings of the opposition! Its aim is to compare the two and find the largest differentials, with negative numbers being better and positive numbers being worse.
The Efficiency Differential Matrix is a pretty powerful tool that I've been using recently after building it a couple weeks ago. It does a great job of identifying mismatches at individual positions, so that we can attack a team with the best technique. For today's slate, The Suns own the highest team overall differential at -17, which isn't surprising considering the Lakers are 30th in defensive efficiency overall. As you can see, every position has a positive difference, meaning a full team stack would work out great. If we look at Boston, however, we can see that they have a positive differential at all positions except Power Forward (+11), meaning it would be smart to leave that position out of a potential stack. We can also find weak spots in down matchups! The Sixers have a tough spot overall against the Mavericks (+11 overall), but have a very positive difference in Power Forward efficiency rankings (-8). Use this tool to build stacks or find one off players to complete them!
Below is a table that contains the Stackability Scores from the offensive, defensive, and overall standpoints for each matchup. To find these scores, I take the average of the efficiency ratings of each team in the game from the offensive and defensive sides, and find the difference between the two for the overall Stackability Score. The higher the number, the better opportunity to stack the teams:
The best Overall Stackability belongs to the Wizards vs. Bulls game, with a 6 overall. The biggest reason for this being such a high rank really belongs to the Wizards 3rd ranked offensive efficiency rating against the Bulls 30th ranked defensive. This would generally turn me away, but without John Wall these two teams should be much more evenly matched. I do think that a game stack here is fine, and helps to keep you a bit unique with Brandon Jennings being so popular.
The Suns vs. Magic game is a very close second in the rankings, coming in at 5.5 and just a half point below the top overall score. This game would be a whole bunch of fun to stack if both these teams were playing for anything at all! But no, we have two tanking teams instead. The Offensive Advantage does lean heavily in favor of the Suns (best on the board, in fact) and the only reason it doesn't rank higher is because of how atrocious the Magic have been from an offensive standpoint. I think this is the game that you want stacks of, with plenty of Devin Booker and Elfrid Payton to anchor them down.
The worst available stack tonight is the Raptors vs. Pistons, coming in a full 5 points worse than any other score. Toronto has been a top 10 defense since the all star break, and the Pistons play a slow methodical offense. Work that in with two very inefficiency offenses and we have a recipe for a fade. However, there is one player that I definitely want exposure to from this one. More on that in a couple minutes.
Top Picks for Each Position
Point Guard: Tyler Ulis ($5700)
I'll come right out and say this: Tyler Ulis can play some basketball and he can play it really well. In his first NBA start, he had 13 points, 13 assists, and 2 steals in a whopping 38 minutes of game time. He hit 41 fantasy points while only shooting 33% from the field in a tough(ish) matchup. Today, he gets a very soft matchup with the Magic (28th in defensive efficiency to Point Guards) and is still way too cheap for his possible production. At $5,700, he only needs 32 fantasy points to meet value. In a matchup that should allow for a much better shooting percentage, we can expect a great game from the kid. I'm projecting 43, with a ceiling of 55.
Shooting Guard: Denzel Valentine ($4100)
I'm just going to write all my top plays as rookie champions and call it a day. With Dwyane Wade hurt and out for the regular season, the Bulls are going to have to turn to a capable wing in his absence. They typically start Paul Zipser, but he has been out of rotation lately, and it seems they aren't keen on him playing with the big boys. Denzel Valentine has seen a huge jump in minutes since Doug McDermott was traded, and more importantly is seeing plenty of time with the starting unit. I expect him to take the majority of Wade's minutes in his absence and possibly draw the start. The Wizards have been very bad at wing defense in the last ten games, ranking 25th to Shooting Guards and 23rd to Small Forwards. Regardless of where Valentine spends the majority of his minutes, he should see plenty of open looks on the perimeter. Valentine has 20+ fantasy points in 3 of the last 4 games, and I expect extra work coming his way in a plus spot. I'm projecting 24, with a ceiling of 35.
Small Forward: Otto Porter ($6500)
Otto Porter has been a very efficient scorer all season long, it has just always been whether he had the usage to exceed expectations. The Wizards are ranked 2nd in the league in offensive efficiency at the position and there's a great deal of that coming from his shooting. With the situation over on the Bulls side, I expect to see a lot more of Butler on the wing following around Beal (as a priority), and that will leave Porter with a softer matchup against whoever they start at the Small Forward spot. That, plus the usage boost that Porter will get with John Wall missing the game due to a foot injury, and we have a situation that spells out a lot of shots for a very good scorer. I expect Porter to shred the Bulls 23rd ranking Small Forward defense. I'm projecting 38, with a ceiling of 49.
Power Forward: DeMarcus Cousins ($9800)
DeMarcus Cousins gets to push around Ryan Anderson in the paint in an up tempo game against the Houston Rockets, who rank 22nd against Power Forwards and 23rd against Centers. The last game between these two teams Cousins stamped a 70 point game. That would be 7x value at this price. While I don't expect that to happen again, I do expect his usage rates and rebound rates to continue being in the 30s. There's the added benefit of Nene Hilario sitting this one out (elite defender) meaning even less friction. That alone in a tasty matchup is worth his price today. I'm projecting 56, with a ceiling of 70.
Center: Andre Drummond ($7100)
Although I do love Hassan Whiteside, I'm going with Andre Drummond as my GPP pick of the day. Drummond is always low owned because people gravitate towards the sexier options like Whiteside and Karl-Anthony Towns, but that's fine with me. Every slate there is 50 point upside with Drummond but the price is never right for him. He is coming off 2 very tough matchups against the Jazz and the Cavs, where he did very poorly. But before that, he was averaging 43 fantasy points over a ten game stretch, with 3 games above 45. At $7,100, all you need is a double-double and a couple blocks to meet value, and against Toronto I don't see that being an issue. There is always the risk of foul trouble, but that's why he's a GPP play for me only. I'm projecting 39, with a ceiling of 52
This is going to be a very messy slate. I'm guessing that we are going to get plenty more news and more players resting than already known (at 4:24AM my time). I wouldn't be surprised if Avery Bradley rested for the Celtics, and it wouldn't shock me if Nikola Vucevic got the day off either on a road B2B. I think one of the best things you can do today is stray away from the pack and avoid any popular landmines that may hit.
As a study in being contrarian, one of the best ways to stay unique is to go low when others go high, and vice versa. If we know that Brandon Jennings is going to be chalk, it would make sense to take high priced guards and ensure a completely different roster construction. If DeMarcus Cousins is going to be 30% owned (just a number), then making sure to spend no more than $9,000 at any position will keep you with a different lineup from that chalk.
The reason I throw this thought out there today is simply because of the volatility of back up players in starting roles. Typically, it's a fine idea to eat the chalk in NBA DFS. As an industry, we have gotten very good at projecting and predicting minutes and rates for players being thrust into new roles, and going against that grain is more detrimental than it is beneficial in most cases. However, in GPPs, you need to beat a couple hundred thousand other people, so sometimes going against logic is the best way to pass the field.
Regardless of how you build today, I hope you the best of luck! May variance be with you and I'll see you at the cash line.
As always, you can find me on Twitter and shoot me any questions you have! I'll do my best to help all the way to lock! Good luck, and I hope you find the green!
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