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NBA DFS Matchups: Cavs’alary has Arrived!
DAILY FANTASY RUNDOWN
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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

m1

Point Guard doesn’t look too bad, but a lot of the top scoring options are in less than desirable matchups. I don’t think that I’m going to let that both me too much, because I have no issues pivoting away to lower priced guys in close games. I do really like Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker in a faceoff to see who can defend worse in the ISO game, but have no problems playing the cheaper dudes. T.J. McConnell gets a sweet matchup traveling to Chicago (Bulls are 30th against PGs), but has been very inconsistent. If you don’t like McConnell, maybe I can interest you in Rajon Rondo on the other side of that game? The Sizers are 29th in defensive efficiency to Point Guards, and Rondo has been playing some of the best ball of his season lately. Ish Smith is only $4,200 and pulls a super plus spot at Orlando, and we know his minutes are secure after he was inserted to the starting 5 a game ago. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall are the top priced guys I’ll be targeting, both in positive matchups (Phoenix 26th, Brooklyn 23rd) but we need to be wary of blowout concerns as both opposing teams are playing for nothing on the second leg of B2Bs. Point guard looks nice, with plenty of options to consider.

m2

Shooting Guard: Pay up for James Harden or punt it away. Those are basically your options today. Nicolas Batum is probably the only mid-priced option in consideration at all, as he has a great matchup in a game that will not blowout, but otherwise it’s just ugly out there. Monta Ellis has the softest available matchup hosting the Nuggets, as Gary Harris has been more offensively minded lately and been much worse on defense because of it (now 30th against Shooting Guards). Randy Foye is another cheap shot traveling to the Wizards and their awful wing defenders. James Harden is going to draw Jrue Holiday for the majority of their game, but no one slows down the MVP candidate these days. Paul Zipser may be worth a look after a great game a few days ago, drawing the mediocre defense of whoever the Sixers throw out there (15th overall against Shooting Guards). Bradley Beal should be a high owned option against the Nets, and although he has been efficient, the matchup isn’t as cushy as most will assume. With only one option between $5,000 and $6,000, it’s easy to just punt to Miles or Foye and move on. Shooting Guard shouldn’t be your biggest concern today.

m3

Small Forward is pretty stacked today, with lots of the most efficient players in the league playing. In fact, 8 of the top 10 teams in offensive efficiency at the position are playing on this slate, so your options are nice and open. The main stud for this spot is LeBron James, even though he has been very bad from an efficiency standpoint it hasn’t mattered since he contributes so heavily in other categories. We also have Paul George playing at home against Denver, which is a neutral matchup (15th against Small Forwards) but George has been very good lately, and should keep it rolling in a good game. Caris LeVert had issue playing B2Bs a little earlier in the season but played both during the most recent one. I love his spot against the Wizards and their poor wing play (26th against Small Forwards). Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is up against LeBron in what should be a good close game in Charlotte. Otto Porter is always a great GPP play considering his solid floor, and has a great chance to meet his ceiling in an easy game against the Nets (19th in efficiency). There is some uncertainty with Danilo Gallinari, but if he plays I like him as a good mid-range play in a solid game environment with the Pacers (18th). Jimmy Butler has been much better in fantasy lately, but has a tough game against Robert Covington at a high price ($9,200), so I’m looking to fade there for sure. Overall, I like Small Forward quite a bit and will spread out exposure to the position.

m4

Power Forwards look great today! Loving a lot of the mid-range plays like Nikola Mirotic and Ersan Ilyasova, and have no problem with the matchup for the higher priced options either. This should be a position where you pick 3 or 4 guys and let it run. Tobias Harris has the best overall matchup against the Orlando Magic (28th against Power Forwards), and has been shooting better over his last couple leading to better performances. Giannis Antetokounmpo draws the Atlanta Hawks who have been very bad against opposing Power Forwards, and as long as Giannis is below $10,000 he is underpriced. Ersan Ilyasova, on the other side of that game, will continue to start for Paul Millsap (Injury) and has been a great play. He is still priced fairly at $5,700 and should exploit a good spot (Bucks are 18th in DE to Power Forwards). Dario Saric continues to crush and earn that ROY award, and should continue to do well against the hapless Bulls. Kevin Love doesn’t have the best matchup on the planet, but I don’t really care. At just $7,500 and needing to play hard for the #1 seed, Kevin Love is just simply underpriced. Power Forward is a good position to find pivots and leverage, or to just lock in Love. Your choice!

m5

Center is so good today, it makes me want to play on FantasyDraft and just pick 5 of them. There’s probably only 4 or 5 guys here that would be a bad decision, the rest have plenty of merit and are all in consideration. Robin Lopez comes off suspension and gets to punch the Sixers 29th ranked Big Man defense directly near the face, and Cody Zeller comes up against the 28th ranked Cavaliers. Andre Drummond has one of the highest efficiency differentials on the slate traveling to Orlando (26th), and should be in at least some of your lineups. Al Horford and Brook Lopez are almost identical plays at a $200 dollar difference, playing the 25th and 24th ranked teams to the Center position, respectively. Nikola Jokic is somehow cheaper than $10,000 still, and has a very positive matchup against a (surprisingly good) Pacers team. Finally, Anthony Davis is the cheaper Pelican big man ($9,800), and plays the Rockets who have been clashed by Davis and Cousins already once before. Greg Monroe is worth talking about because he’s only $5,000, although the matchup is very negative. This is a fun position (as always) but it feels like a day to pay up above $7,000, thus limiting you a little bit.

Games and Stacks Worth Pursuing

m6

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. 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:

m7

The best Overall Stackability Score belongs to the Wizards/Nets game, and I think it’s going to be a popular fade due to blowout concerns. While I understand the issue, I’m not so sure I’m worried about it. Both teams have been very bad defensively, and Brooklyn has actually been great on Offense lately, moving up to 15th in efficiency as a team over the Last ten. The Nets have broken 100 points in 4/6 games, and 120 in 2 of them (both wins). Conversely, the Wizards have been consistently over 100, but haven’t broken 120 in regulation since playing at Denver on the 8th. This is a much more evenly matched game than a lot of people will realize, and that’s good for those of us that will stack it. The Matchup is a full 7 points higher than any other on the slate, and that shouldn’t be ignored. Just wait for news to make sure no big pieces sit!

The worst available stack tonight is the Bucks/Hawks game, as both teams have been very inefficient on offense (averaged at 21.5) and above average on Defense (13.5). Milwaukee especially has been good on defense, holding opponents under 100 in 7 of their last 10 games. The Hawks are on a 5 game losing streak, and will be fighting hard in this one to reverse that, so I can understand picking a couple guys with high usage like Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard who may play big minutes, but otherwise I’ll be avoiding them. The best play in this game is Giannis Antetokounmpo and it’s not close at all.

Top Picks for Each Position

PG: John Wall ($9600)
Let’s throw out some facts first: The Nets rank 23rd against the Point Guard Position and are playing on the second night of a B2B, on the road. The Wizards rank 5th at the Point Guard position (read: both Wall and Brandon Jennings), and are rested at home. Wall, at $9600, has exceeded 5x value in 7 of the last 10 games, and is priced very fairly for a night of poor shooting. Now, let’s get into some conjecture: This game will be close, and a lot closer than people think. The last time the Wizards played the Net’s, it ended in OT 114-110, and that’s when Brooklyn was playing much worse. Now, admittedly I don’t think that Wall is priced well for GPPs, as his realistic ceiling is only around 60-65 points, but he is one of my favorite contrarian plays on the day due to people scared of the blowout. I’m projecting 55, with a ceiling of 65.

SG: Monta Ellis ($4000)
Alright let’s look at some salary relief! Monta Ellis is always a volatile play, but that’s why he’s so cheap and worth talking about. The thing that we want to look for when it comes to the Indiana shooting guards is a fast paced environment, with lots perimeter shots available. The Nuggets have been better on Defense, but not on the wings. Gary Harris has taken a much larger offensive load as of late, and his defense has gotten worse because of it. The Nuggets now rank dead last in efficiency to Shooting Guards, enter Monta Ellis. He has taken double digit shots in 5 straight games and maintained a usage rate above 20% in a reserve role. The Nuggets are very bad defensively and their bench is worse. I really like Ellis to be relied on to take plenty of shots and catch the Pacers up to the Jokic onslaught. He has exceeded 20 fantasy points in 3 of the last 5 and I project him around that number again tonight. I’m projecting 22, with a ceiling of 30.

SF: LeBron James ($10500)
So, I don’t like a couple things about this matchup. I don’t like that LeBron draws Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a notoriously good defender. I don’t like that the game is on the road, where the Cavaliers typically struggle to dominate. With those things in consideration, there are things to love here. LeBron James has been playing big minutes in close games, upwards of 40 minutes in some contests. He has triple Doubled in 3 of his last ten and his price hasn’t budged. The biggest reason I want James on my team’s today is because the Cav’s aren’t just coasting into the playoffs with the #1 seed. They are only 1 game ahead of the Celtics and have to fight to have home court which is crucial for a team that doesn’t travel well. I expect a lot of minutes from the Big Three tonight, and a lot of stats for LeBron. I’m projecting 60, with a ceiling of 75.

PF: Dario Saric ($7300)
Rookie of the Year upcoming! The kid has been on fire, expect for his last two games. He has played only 25 minutes in the last two, one being a total blowout at the hands of Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, and one where he ended up fouling out. His price is now lower than it has been since February 25th, and he gets to play against the Chicago Bulls who have given up some big performances to high usage players. This game should be close and relatively high scoring, considering neither team rates well defensively. Saric should matchup against Nikola Mirotic for the majority of his minutes but will also play against Bobby Portis, who is not near a good enough player to keep him out of the bucket. I’m projecting 39, with a ceiling of 55.

C: Andre Drummond ($7100)
Okay, I’m doubling down on Drummond tonight. I said a couple days ago that he was the best play on the board against the Bulls and he let me down, but the usage and boards were there. His matchup today is elite and Drummond has been an absolute monster on the boards. In his last ten games he has grabbed 15 or more rebounds 7 times. Match that with a very soft defensive matchup (Magic are 26th against opposing Centers) and I’m thinking we see the good old 20/20 game from Drummond tonight. The Pistons are in danger of missing the playoffs and need to win this one, and I expect Drummond to be a major piece of the win. I’m projecting 42, with a ceiling of 60.

Closing Thoughts

As we start to wind down the NBA season and merge into MLB season, it’s important to reflect on how you performed and what you could have improved in your process over the last couple months. I think a very overlooked part of DFS is studying your lineups and looking at what you really tend to follow when you build, and learning from your mistakes. A lot of the best players will look back and breakdown their process and construction and take notes on their issues and blind spots and make an emphasis to correct it in the future.

I personally believe that what works today will not necessarily prove correct in the future, so my process stays pretty fluid. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t look back at things like bankroll allocation and winner’s lineups to try to find pieces of my game that I’m not great at. Maybe I haven’t been focusing on price points enough and missing upside. Maybe I have been looking to punt a position too often and missing out on high priced guys on hot streaks. Look around and always inquire if you are doing the best job you can in whatever you do. Not only in DFS, but in life, it’s important to always be improving.

So after this slate, go look at the winning lineup of whatever GPP you enter and really try to figure out their though process. Take some notes, and think on it! It’s a good way to improve, and we can all get a little better.

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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