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NBA DFS Matchups: The Pelicans Have Landed
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

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Point Guard is a really nice position today. Lots of things to like from top to bottom and some prime players to take advantage of. Leading off we have Isaiah Thomas with the stone best matchup in the league (Magic are 30th against Point Guard), and at a depressed price tag at that. Mike Conley will continue to rampage without Marc Gasol in the lineup (foot), and has a killer spot against the Mavericks who have struggled against the Point since Seth Curry took over. Speaking of Curry, Stephen Curry plays at home against the Rockets who are awful all around on defense but are 24th in Defensive Efficiency to Point Guards. Jrue Holiday and Russell Westbrook also have great matchups against the Kings and the Spurs, respectively (23rd, 17th). The worst matchups available belong to Patrick Beverley, Derrick Rose, and Tony Parker, but none of them are really in consideration most nights so that doesn’t hurt us too badly. Last note, when did T.J. McConnell jump to $6,200? Egregious, man.

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Shooting Guard is pretty decent with big names and midrange guys alike. Nicolas Batum plays the Nuggets again, a matchup he won easily last time out (36.5 on only 11 shots, which is over 5x his current price). The other side of that one has Gary Harris who has found an offensive stroke and is underpriced for a great matchup (Hornets are 24th to the position). Klay Thompson has a couple more weeks of spot up shot usage before Kevin Durant comes back, and plays the Rockets for the second time in a week (put up 42 last time out). James Harden, on the other side, is still putting up massive stats even with shooting woes and an injury, and we can expect the same in a playoff pregame against the Warriors. Finally, DeMar DeRozan is back to being a wrecking ball on offense and plays Indiana who will try to cover him with one of Paul George or Monta Ellis so good luck on that one! The worst matchups belong to Jordan Crawford, Victor Oladipo, and Bradley Beal, so let other people torpedo their lineups with those landmines.

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Small Forward is going to be a tough one to decide on, as you either have the top studs in your lineups or you take a shot on a mediocre midrange play. There’s hardly any viable punts here today, but the studs are in less than optimal spots (not that it really matters that often). Justin Anderson will continue to be a great value at the position as long as Robert Covington is out, and the Cavaliers are 29th against the Small Forward position, giving him plenty of reason to be in your core. Danilo Gallinari has a surprisingly good spot against the Hornets who have plummeted down the defensive rankings in the last week and a half (from top 5 to bottom 5 in the league), but his minutes are questionable. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in that same game seems a bit underpriced against a horrible defensive unit. Gordon Hayward should get a nice pace bump against the Wizards (19th against the position) and is priced fairly. Harrison Barnes gets the weak spot on the Grizzlies against Vince Carter and JaMychal Green (questionable) and has flashed good upside for his price at $5,900. The worst matchups go to Paul George, Eric Gordon, and Marcus Morris, although Eric Gordon is a more fluid player in that lineup and shouldn’t be dedicated to that matchup alone.

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Power Forward has DeMarcus Cousins playing his old team for the first time. So, you should play DeMarcus Cousins because #REVENGE. But, as far as matchups go, there’s definitely places you can go if you want to avoid the chalky play. Draymond Green is only $7,800 (low considering ceiling) against the Houston Rockets who he just laid 42 on a couple days ago. Hey look, DeMarcus Cousins against the Kings who are 22nd against Power Forwards and 30th against Centers. JaMychal Green, although questionable, would be in a very lucrative spot against the Dallas Mavericks, although his price is a little high for his floor now ($5,100). Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dario Saric have great matchups against two of the worst defenses in the league this month with Detroit and Cleveland, respectively. I like Saric a lot because his minutes are secure in that game. The Worst matchups are Serge Ibaka against Indiana, LaMarcus Aldridge against OKC, and Taj Gibson on the other side.

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Center is juicy today, with only one player over $10,000 and a lot of solid midrange plays with huge upside. Anthony Davis leads off the list with a matchup against the poor Kings (30th), followed very closely by the much cheaper Hassan Whiteside ($2,400 cheaper, in fact) up against the New York Knicks who have been torn apart by glass cleaning centers all year. Amir Johnson has a nice spot against the Magic and Nikola Vucevic‘s “defense” (27th) and sports a lot of upside at only $4,100. Nikola Jokic might be missing the playoffs, but he’s still a champ and is continuously underpriced with a sweet matchup against the Hornets (24th). Richaun Holmes has been better about foul trouble and should have his way with Tristan Thompson/Kevin Love on the boards at a price that leaves plenty of room for his 50 point ceiling. The worst overall matchups go to Nerlens Noel, Steven Adams, and Guillermo Hernangomez, all of which have been wildly inconsistent and are out of contention today.

Games and Stacks Worth Pursuing

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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:

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The best Overall Stackability Score belongs to the Charlotte vs. Denver game. Both teams sport great offenses and questionable defenses. The last time these two teams played, the score wasn’t as explosive as we had hoped only hitting 214, but I expect more this time around as the Nuggets fight with everything they have to maybe make the playoffs. The key here is really the Nuggets perimeter players being on their game, and having Danilo Gallinari healthy should help a lot to spread the floor. I of course support full stacks here, but would greatly prefer a Nuggets 3 or 4 man stack with Nikola Jokic as an (underpriced) anchor. The Nuggets Efficiency differential is the third highest on the slate, so take advantage of it.

The worst available stack tonight is the Memphis vs. Dallas game. Both of these teams offenses are much worse than the opposing defenses, as you can see from the matrix. With Memphis barely holding onto a playoff spot, they have every reason to try in this game against a team that is just playing around with unit rotations. This game isn’t one I would stack by any means, but I do love Conley tonight as a usage monster, and if JaMychal Green misses another game it’s gunna be Brandon Wright chalk night. So, don’t stack here, but there are pieces that can be used as one offs for sure.

The biggest Efficiency Differential belongs to the New Orleans Pelicans as they face off against the Kings. Now, I don’t think that the Kings can stay in this one, but the Pelicans have still been pretty bad since the big trade. They have let some bad teams keep up with them. So, I think that an interesting contrarian stack is loading up the big three (Jrue Holiday, DeMarcus Cousins, and Anthony Davis) and hoping it stays close. All three should be able to rack up massive points, but the blowout concern is real. Good GPP thought!

Top Picks for Each Position

PG: Isaiah Thomas ($8100)
It’s been extremely profitable to just throw out whatever Point Guard is up against the Magic lately. Heck, Westbrook almost broke 100 points against them the other night. It’s a combination of them being 30th against the position in defensive efficiency as well as them staying in games they really shouldn’t. I can see more of the same happening tonight, and lucky for us, Isaiah Thomas is underpriced and in great form. Coming off a 50 burger against the Bucks, his average usage rate has been over 30% in the last 8 games, he has taken no less than 13 shots in a month, and he is still trying to show people that he’s the real deal. This game will be closer than people anticipate and we may get Isaiah Thomas at lower ownership due to that and the breadth of the slate overall. He’s my top guard today, I’m projecting 46 with a ceiling of 62.

SG: Nicolas Batum ($6900)
I think I have written about Batum more than anyone else in my articles this year, and he very rarely lets me down. Batum has a couple great things going for him today: The matchup is elite (Nuggets are 29th to the position), the game should be close with both teams being very offensive minded, and his price is low for his ceiling. And man, he has had a brutal stretch. In his last 7 games, he has had 5 matchups with top 10 teams against Shooting Guards, and 3 of them have been top 5. The scoreboard watchers will get off of him for this reason, which is great, because in the last 3 matchups against bottom 5 teams to the position he has topped 40 points twice. Last game against Denver he put up 36.5 points on limited shots, and I expect more scoring this time around with Denver in full playoff fight mode. I’m projecting 40, with a ceiling of 55.

SF: Justin Anderson ($4000)
With Robert Covington out for a while, Justin Anderson is going to be a hot commodity in the fantasy sports world. I’m fine with eating a little chalk on this play because the price is right and the matchup is fantastic. The Cavaliers have been a bottom 3 team defensively this month and are on a major skid. The weakest area of the Cavs are the wings, with J.R. Smith and Kyrie Irving being awful and letting shot after shot get up uncontested. His minutes should be safely in the mid 20s until Covington returns (if he returns), and he has shown the ability to handle 25%+ usage in any given game. I’m projecting 25, with a ceiling of 35.

PF: Draymond Green ($7800)
Draymond Green has been pretty bad from a fantasy aspect over the past month, but has definitely had his ceiling games as well. With Ryan Anderson out, Trevor Ariza has to play up to the Power Forward, and he is no match for Draymond’s multifaceted offense. He’s also aggressive, giving plenty of opportunities for blocks and steals. The last time these teams played Draymond Green put up 41.75 points (5x), while taking 6 treys and only making 1 and coming one rebound short of a double double. If he makes one more three and gets that rebound he puts up a 50 burger. I like his chances to find a ceiling game in another fantastic playoff preview. I’m projecting 44 with a ceiling of 60.

C: Amir Johnson ($4100)
GPP play of the day! Amir Johnson is one of my favorite plays on this slate. The way the Celtics use him and Al Horford is that Johnson plays the paint and Horford runs the midrange, so even though Horford is technically the Center, Johnson is really the one playing it. That leads to Johnson being in the paint against Nikola Vucevic who has been destroyed by every center in the league at some point. The Magic rank 27th against Centers and this should be a good game on both sides. He has topped 30 points and double doubled in 2 of his last 3 games, and he has been fantastic from the floor making 13-20 in that time frame. With another easy matchup on tap, I think he can easily get another 30 point game and at $4,100 that would shatter value. I’m projecting 22, with a ceiling of 34.

Closing Thoughts

Late season NBA is a cruel mistress. The variance is insane and the chalk runs wild. Be safe out there my friends, MLB is calling.

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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