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NBA DFS Picks: The NBA Slate Starter for DraftKings + FanDuel | August 19th

Eric Lindquist

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NBA DFS Picks: 9/19/20 FanDuel Cheatsheet w/ Jayson Tatum

What a day in the NBA DFS landscape: both #1 seeds fell, what I considered to be the ‘good chalk’ hit, and no one torched the slate in the first five minutes like Monday! It’s now on to the first session of Game 2’s, where I think there are a lot of edges to be had on the field.

As always, these are my initial thoughts for the four-game main slate on DraftKings and FanDuel for August 19th. Lots of strategy to cover today, so let’s get right into it.


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Game 2 Is Not Game 1

The bubble has created a number of unique situations never before seen in NBA playoff history. To name a few:

-No home-court advantage for the higher seeds

-No cross-country travel for anyone

-No Instagram models in attendance

While all fascinating footnotes, none of this is too useful in building a winning DFS lineup.

What is helpful, though, is the repetition that comes with any best-of-seven series: the same team will match up against the same opponent over and over until there’s a winner. And even though each game is its own independent event, a lot of the general public will use the Game 1 box scores to aid in their decision-making, believing they are ‘safer’ plays than those who failed expectations. The players who went bonkers? Higher-owned in Game 2. The players who laid in egg? Lesser-owned. Simple, right?

This effect is commonly-known as recency bias, or the human tendency to favor the results of the most-recent event over what is most likely to happen in the future. The use of recency bias to make lineups has many names in the DFS community—‘box-score watching,’ ‘points chasing,’ ‘being a fish’—but I consider it to be the biggest edge we have in these playoffs.

Cool, But What Does That Mean For Wednesday?

Basketball is widely-known as the most-predictable of the fantasy sports: if Player X projects for Y minutes and produces at a rate of Z fantasy points-per-minute, you get a fairly-good baseline projection. Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into that equation—pace, defensive match-up, etc.—but that’s the simplest way to explain how to predict player performance in NBA DFS.

So what happens when there’s an outlier performance where a player significantly outscores their projection? You know, like when Donovan Mitchell set off an atomic bomb in Orlando on Monday by putting up an 80-burger?

I’ll tell you what happens: they become way higher-owned the second time around. It doesn’t matter that he shot a ridiculous 19-33 from the field and 13-13 from the charity stripe. It doesn’t matter that he played 43 minutes in an overtime game. And most importantly, it doesn’t matter that his price took a sharp hike up to $9,200 on DraftKings (+$1,200 increase) and $8,200 on FanDuel (+$900). Those that played him in Game 1 are likely to go back to the well in Game 2, and those he scorched will jump on the bandwagon, albeit at a spiked price and ownership.

Neither choice is a recipe for long-term profitability in DFS. I, for one, am far more interested in going back to someone like Pascal Siakam–who might have depressed ownership despite being in the exact same spot he was in Game 1–than chase the points with Mitchell.

That doesn’t mean he’s the worst play in the history of world tomorrow, but seriously: what are the chances that he, Fred VanVleet, or Jayson Tatum duplicate their outlier performances from Monday? They’re all capable, sure, but it’s unlikely at best. Teams will adjust their game plans in accordance to what shredded them in Game 1. Unsustainably-hot shooting performances will regress to the mean. Other players on their team take away production by putting up a good game of their own. Factor all that in with the sites adjusting their pricing to account for big outings, and you’re looking at some great GPP fades for tomorrow.

My point is this: I believe there’s a significant edge to be had just by playing the ownership game. Consider going overweight on the Game 1 under-performers, underweight on the Game 1 over-achievers, and let’s all pray together Donovan Mitchell doesn’t ruin our lives with a 100-spot.


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Shipping Up To Boston

On Monday, I felt the Celtics’ prices were a little too efficient across the industry to be in play. That came back to bite me in the end, as both Tatum and Jaylen Brown put up big performances. Those salaries sure look a lot more tolerable now, as Gordon Hayward will be out for the foreseeable future with a Grade 3 ankle sprain, making Boston a big piece of tomorrow’s puzzle to solve.

Only problem is I have no idea how Brad Stevens plans to allocate the 30+ minutes minutes vacated by Hayward. Tatum and Brown already project in the near 40’s for minutes and Marcus Smart played 31 off the bench in Game 1, so it’s going to take a leap of faith to figure out who’s going to get those minutes at the 3.

I’m going to regret saying this, but the possibility of Semi Ojeleye rejoining the rotation intrigues me as a punt play at $3,000 on DraftKings. The starters can’t possibly get any more run, and Ojeleye has shown flashes of production in his limited time down in Orlando. Keep an ear out for news on that situation in the afternoon, as Stevens could very well plug him into the starting unit and keep Smart coming off the bench.

Parting Words

While some of the best match-ups from Monday are still the best matchups on Wednesday, be careful not to chase the big scores, especially if the ownership feels excessive for those plays. Prices become more efficient as the playoffs go on, so if much-needed salary relief pops up (like it did today with the Orlando Magic), be ready to pounce.

Best of luck tomorrow, and see you right back here tomorrow night for another Slate Starter!

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