Hello everybody and welcome to my first article here at GoingFor2. My name is Dan Karpuc and I’ve been playing DFS religiously for the past six years. Having briefly worked in the industry, I also hold an extensive sports writing background, recently serving as a senior NBA Writer at GiveMeSport for nearly two years. I’m going to provide daily FanDuel NBA analysis here and will highlight a stud, value play and fade for each position as the season rolls on.
Note: All odds are obtained from Vegas Insider, defense vs. position stats are from Fantasy Pros, pace stats are from NBA.com and usage rates/fantasy points per minute metrics are found at Rotogrinders.
Let’s get into Thursday’s three-game slate.
Stud: Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets, $8,000)
The Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings met once previously this season back on October 23rd and Murray was ultra-efficient in his time on the court, posting 19 points, a rebound, four assists and a steal in just 19 minutes of work. Most notably, he hoisted up 10 shots in that abbreviated playing time and made easy work of De’Aaron Fox’s defense. Since the game was out of hand and Mike Malone is Mike Malone, he checked out of the game in the third quarter and didn’t return.
Murray is the perfect GPP play tonight. He flashed his upside on December 29th against the Phoenix Suns when he dropped 63.2 FanDuel points before coming back down to earth last time out against the New York Knicks when he put up just 24.1 FanDuel points over 32 minutes. That abysmal showing, coupled with the presence of Stephen Curry, will likely keep his ownership down on this slate. I’m going to take the stance that James Harden won’t be able to take on the defending champs by himself tonight and will be fading most of the late game, thus making Murray one of my prime targets.
As of early Thursday morning, this game has a 3-point spread in favor of the Nuggets, which creates the assumption that the contest will remain close. In order for Murray to pay off his salary and exceed it, that will likely be necessary. The Kings have allowed 58.18 FanDuel points per game to point guards this season, the 7th-worst mark in the NBA. In over 1,157 minutes played this season with the currently-injured Nuggets sitting, Murray surprisingly leads Denver with a 27.4% usage rate, narrowly edging out Nikola Jokic. Additionally, Denver will receive a massive pace bump in this contest, as the Nuggets rank 26th in the league in that regard while the Kings rank 2nd. Therefore, there isn’t much of a better spot for Murray to deliver a stellar performance.
Value: Bryn Forbes (San Antonio Spurs, $4,400)
Bryn Forbes is the definition of a solid real-life player, but unappealing fantasy player. In a similar mold of Avery Bradley, he affects the game defensively and has proven to be a proficient catch-and-shoot option on the perimeter for the San Antonio Spurs. He’s been on a hot streak lately, scoring in double-figures seven-straight times while logging 30-plus minutes in each of his last four contests, albeit with low offensive usage. While this game will feature a slow pace (the Spurs rank 24th and the Toronto Raptors rank 19th), there are no other viable options at Forbes’ price point or below on this three-game slate and the contest is expected to stay close, as indicated by a 1.5-point spread.
Since Rudy Gay is doubtful to play in this contest yet again due to injury, Forbes will likely see a heavy allotment of playing time. Last time out in the same scenario, he was on the court for 38 minutes. At this price, he will be difficult to pass up if you’re fading Curry.
Fade: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors, $10,400)
Stephen Curry has recorded three-straight 50-plus point FanDuel performances. Interestingly, none have exceeded 50.8, a true testament to his consistency. However, we have to pay attention to the salary cap on this slate, especially if you want to pay up elsewhere. The Golden State Warriors are an 8-point favorite over Harden and the Houston Rockets and are back at full strength. The last time I checked, four All-Stars is better than one. Therefore, I fully expect Steve Kerr to place a combination of Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant on Harden. If The Beard is limited (held to under 50 real-life points), I don’t see how this game can stay close. Due to the blowout scenario and the fact that Curry would have to put up over 60 FanDuel points to exceed the 6x value we want in tournaments while sharing the offensive usage with his co-stars, I’m going to pay up elsewhere.
Stud: DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs, $8,800)
If you believe in narratives, there’s no chance that you’re going to fade DeMar DeRozan in his first matchup against his former team. Check out what he said on Wednesday about his time in Toronto.
“I wanted to break every single record that was there and be the first to do every single thing there. I always expressed that. Sometimes you don’t get in life the opportunity to marry the woman you felt was the woman of your dreams,” he told reporters, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.
DeMar DeRozan describes his feelings ahead of the Spurs’ matchup against the Raptors tomorrow. 👀 pic.twitter.com/dBWOJosIR4NFL Stats are via StatRoute.com Use Promo Code G42FF to save 25%
— theScore (@theScore) January 3, 2019
Those words should be music to every DFS player’s ears.
With Dejounte Murray and Rudy Gay off the floor this season, DeRozan has had a sky-high 34.5% usage rate and has managed 1.33 FanDuel points per minute. Not only is this game expected to remain extremely close with a 1.5-point spread, but it’s a certainty that the All-Star will want to stick it to his old team, especially since Kawhi Leonard has received so much attention this year. Even though he will likely face off head-to-head against Leonard, arguably the best on-ball defender in the NBA, it wouldn’t be a shock to see DeRozan put up a 60-burger in what might be the most emotionally-driven game of his life.
Value: Austin Rivers (Houston Rockets, $3,800)
While Austin Rivers is never a fun name to click in any DFS setting, he’s played 31, 33, 37 and 40 minutes over his last four contests and is priced ridiculously at $300 over the minimum. Most people are going to pair him with Harden, who’s priced at $13,000, and that’s a viable route if you think the Warriors/Rockets game will stay close. I’ll gladly throw in Rivers and accept if he’s my lowest-scoring player in FanDuel’s lowest-score-drops format. The best aspect of rostering Rivers is that he’s most likely game-script-proof.
Fade: Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors, $7,400)
This one will be quick, I promise. Never play a one-dimensional fantasy player for $7,400. Although he’s going to see Harden defense, he might get in quick foul trouble on the other and of the floor and has not had a total of four assists and four turnovers over his last four games. Don’t forget that he posted 9.9 FanDuel points in 33 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day. Next…
Stud: Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors, $10,300)
I’m skipping down narrative street on this slate. This is Kawhi’s first game back in San Antonio since the entire debacle last season and after Gregg Popovich said this in November.
“Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn’t a leader or anything,” Popovich said, per Matt Eppers of USA TODAY. “Manu and Patty were the leaders. Kawhi’s talent will always be missed, but that leadership wasn’t his deal at that time. That may come as he progresses, but Manu and Patty filled that role last year, and LaMarcus (Aldridge) came a long way in that regard also.”
“It’s just funny to me because, I don’t know if he’s talking about last year or not, but I guess when you stop playing they forget how you lead,” Leonard said in response, per Eppers. “Other than that, it doesn’t matter. I’m here with the Raptors.”
Averaging 45.9 FanDuel points per game this season, Leonard is coming off of a career-high 45-point outing against the defensively-sound Utah Jazz last time out and should be able to absolutely torch the Spurs (and their presumably unwelcoming fanbase) in this contest.
Kawhi Leonard on playing the Spurs – “It’s going to be fun.” pic.twitter.com/as45hWNCah
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) January 2, 2019
San Antonio has given up the 7th-most FanDuel points per game to small forwards (42.14). With Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas off the floor this season, Leonard has had a 36.9% usage rate and has put up 1.34 FanDuel points per minute. Although Leonard rarely shows emotion on or off the court, he’s most likely going to come out with some extra firepower in this contest.
Value: Gerald Green (Houston Rockets, $3,700)
While I’m most likely going to avoid paying up for starters in this game, I won’t hesitate to take a shot on some role players in order to save salary. Although James Ennis is expected to return for the Rockets tonight, Eric Gordon is going to sit out again due to injury, thus opening the door for Green on the second unit. Although he’s scoring-dependent, he put up 25 FanDuel points in 24 minutes last time out and should see the bulk of the fourth-quarter usage if the game blows out. Rostering both Green and Rivers is going to be a popular site-specific strategy tonight, but it’s most likely the best move to make.
Fade: Nemanja Bjelica (Sacramento Kings, $6,500)
Over his last eight games, Bjelica has recorded 22-or-fewer FanDuel points four times and has produced 31-plus FanDuel points three times. At this price tag and against a solid defensive team, there’s seemingly little upside or safety due to his low ceiling and floor.
Stud: LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs, $9,000)
It’s no secret that most people are going to pay up to attack the Warriors/Rockets contest tonight. But, very quietly, LaMarcus Aldridge is playing his best basketball of the season, logging 53.4 and then 57.3 FanDuel points in his last two contests. He’s averaging 30.25 real-life points over his last four outings as well, as he has been extremely aggressive lately.
The matchup is a juicy one, too. Not only will Aldridge benefit from Gay’s absence, but the Raptors have allowed 60.56 FanDuel points per game to opposing centers (where Aldridge has really been playing) over their last seven contests, clearly a negative result of Valanciunas’ injury. Therefore, pairing Aldridge and DeRozan against Leonard in a concentrated game stack could be a very contrarian and profitable strategy on this slate.
Value: PJ Tucker (Houston Rockets, $4,400)
Here’s another short and sweet one. There’s no one cheaper than Tucker that’s guaranteed to see the court and he has not logged fewer than 34 minutes over his last 10 contests. Paul Millsap is priced right above him at $6,200 and he’s not even guaranteed to see 25 minutes. It’s never pleasant to roster someone like Tucker due to his low usage rate, but if this game somehow stays close, it will be because he helps hold Durant in check defensively and knocks down some corner threes. I’m not paying up for Pascal Siakam, Green, Serge Ibaka or Millsap at their respective prices.
Fade: Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors, $7,000)
At this price, Siakam hasn’t reached 6x value in any of his last 18 games. Could he put up 30 FanDuel points? Sure. 35? Maybe. But, against a slowly-paced squad and with much of the usage likely concentrated around Leonard in his return to San Antonio, I don’t see the upside.
Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets, $10,300)
As noted above, this is a massive pace-up spot for the Nuggets and is a perfect spot for Jokic to continue his recent string of success. Over his last four games, he’s averaging 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 10.8 assists… as a center. That’s absurd.
Last time out, fellow European big man Jusuf Nurkic torched these same exact Kings for 24 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and five steals. His 88 FanDuel points was a glimpse of the potential upside that opposing centers have against Sacramento if they catch fire in all aspects of the game.
How do you do the things that you do, Nikola Jokić? pic.twitter.com/fI0NAUrmqJ
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) January 2, 2019
No one possesses Jokic’s skill set in the entire NBA, including Nurkic. As perhaps the best passing center ever (already), Jokic could easily repeat his output from last game (63.5 FanDuel points) and will likely see decreased ownership due to the presence of Clint Capela in a solid matchup at a cheaper price, along with the Warriors stars and Harden. After all, you can’t pay up for everybody. The best part is that Jokic and Murray can both find success in this matchup since Jokic has excelled at finding open teammates on the perimeter. Therefore, that pairing could carry tournament-winning upside on the abbreviated slate.
Sleeper: Jakob Poeltl (San Antonio Spurs, $3,800)
With Gay sidelined, Poeltl picked up the start last time out and has seen 20-plus minutes in half of his last eight games. If you’re punting the position as a whole, he’s the only sub-4k center to consider alongside Greg Monroe. If Poeltl picks up the start again, you can roster two starters (him and Rivers) for the bargain price of $3,800 each and hope for one of them to take advantage of the opportunity.
Fade: Willy Cauley-Stein (Sacramento Kings, $7,600)
Similarly to Siakam, at this price, Cauley-Stein isn’t an optimal play based solely on his salary. He has gone 5x on this salary just twice in his last 10 games and is squaring off against a combination of Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee, both of which are plus-defenders.
That’s all I have for tonight’s slate. Hit me up at @DanielKarpuc on Twitter and let me know what you think!Download the Free GoingFor2 App by Clicking Here...