DRAFT Strategy Thursday
This new column covers daily rankings and strategy for Draft.com's DFS games. If you aren’t familiar with DRAFT, it’s an innovative DFS game with a live draft feature -- instead of building within a salary cap, you're participating in snake drafts that typically last 2-5 minutes. The scoring system is identical to FanDuel, and anyone you draft is yours alone -- if you take LeBron James with your first pick, nobody else in your league can have him.
You’ll draft two guards, two forwards and one center. Leagues are 2, 3, 6, or 10 people and the draft begins when the league is full, usually within minutes. You can find more information at Draft.com or quickly join a contest from anywhere after downloading the app!
Today's slate is interesting, encompassing four games with just a couple top targets. Let's begin with team-vs.-position matchups -- which teams have been easiest or hardest to rack up DFS value against?
Pace: Two pace mismatches stand out: the No. 1 fastest team, LA, visiting the fifth-slowest team, Miami and the sixth-fastest team, Brooklyn traveling to Sacramento, who’s tied with Miami in pace. The Kings and Heat get a boost, and both games carry a total around 215 points tonight with narrow spreads. Philadelphia and Cleveland both play relatively fast, and this game carries the highest point total of the night, 222.5, making it a priority in deeper DRAFTs. Minnesota and Portland both fall in the bottom half of the league in pace, but their combined offensive efficiency makes up for the slowness.
Defensive Efficiency: The Brooklyn-Sacramento game features the worst defensive efficiency of the night, with the Kings ranking dead last in the statistic and Brooklyn 23rd. That’s a fantasy-friendly formula. The Cavaliers are still 28th in the league in defensive efficiency, which combined with the fast pace here makes the 76ers my top team to target in DRAFTs. Cleveland also ranks 25th in rebounding rate, while Philly boasts the best RebR in the league.
Positional Defense (DvP) and Scarcity
G: Brooklyn, Cleveland and LA are the three most generous teams in terms of fantasy points allowed to PGs, while we should be wary of guards in the Minnesota-Portland game, as these teams both limit opposing guards fairly efficiently. Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell should be safe, along with Goran Dragic, but I’m still not super comfortable with the Cavs guard rotation. George Hill is coming off a great game, but there’s a decent chance he’s a bust tonight.
Advice: With no top G, I’m waiting here. The middle tier is full of possibilities, including De’Aaron Fox, JJ Redick, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. I don’t want to reach for Damian Lillard in a tough matchup or Ben Simmons, who’s been anything but reliable lately, but if either falls to the second or third round of 2-3 person DRAFTs, I’ll bite.
F: Cleveland, LA and Brooklyn have been the best matchups to select opposing forwards from. After LeBron James, there’s a huge drop to Josh Richardson and if you don’t have the first pick tonight, you’re not getting James. I do think you want to lock in Richardson, Dario Saric, Julius Randle, or maybe Andrew Wiggins early. DeMarre Carroll, who was nice on Tuesday, Robert Covington, and Nemanja Bjelica make for later round or bigger DRAFT targets based on their favorable matchups.
Advice: Take James first overall, and if you can lock in another top 4 forward, do it.
C: Brooklyn (surprise!), Sacramento and Minnesota are the best center matchups, which provides some incentive to wait on center. Willie Cauley-Stein, Jarrett Allen, and Jusef Nurkic will be there late, and all should reach value with ease tonight.
Advice: Center is deep tonight. The top centers, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns and Hassan Whiteside are interchangeable to me, so in 2-3 man DRAFTS, take one of them in the last round. I’m also okay with waiting on center in a six-person DRAFT, because one of the three I mentioned above will be there. In a 10-person DRAFT, which I don’t recommend on small slates like this, you’ll want to reach for one of the top three centers early.
These players have a great chance to outperform their DRAFT projection/ranking.
TJ McConnell, G (11.6 projection): If you’re in a deeper draft, McConnell has averaged 25 minutes per game since the All-Star break, and has met or exceeded this projection in each of those. Cleveland is the second-best matchup for PGs, and McConnell scored 11 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists against them earlier in the season. If you prioritize forwards and miss out on the mid-range PGs in a 6-10 person DRAFT, I like his floor/upside combo tonight.
Dwyane Wade, G (21.4 projection): With Tyler Johnson out tonight along with Wayne Ellington, the door is open for Wade to repeat his big game vs. Philly Tuesday night. This is a fair projection for Wade on a normal night, but it’s a premier guard matchup with the Lakers, and Miami certainly needs his sharpshooting given the lack of backcourt depth right now. He made 10-of-16 shots including two threes Tuesday night and should be in line for similar volume tonight.
Kelly Olynyk, C (14.6 projection): The Heat provide a lot of upside options tonight, including Olynyk who is playing well off the bench. The pace bump and good matchup of the Lakers and a steady role in the second unit give me confidence Olynyk gets 20-plus fantasy points tonight. If you’re in a bigger DRAFT and stuck for a good center, I prefer him to anyone after Jarrett Allen.
These players may not live up to their DRAFT projection or ranking.
Joel Embiid, C (58.5 projection): This is a big projection for Embiid, especially considering he’s achieved such a number just twice this month, vs. the Clippers and at Chicago. Cleveland is a hot mess on defense, but where they have had some success in limiting opponents is the frontcourt. Embiid had a good game against the Cavs earlier this season—30 points and 11 rebounds—but it was still worth just 45 fantasy points. Along with what I said above about the position, I don’t think Embiid is the must-have center tonight, and I do think he comes in closer to 48 fantasy points than 58.
Brandon Ingram, F (34.0 projection): Ingram is coming off a 50-fantasy point game in Atlanta, but we should not be as optimistic tonight. He heads to Miami to take on a Heat team that ranks seventh in defensive efficiency, and hasn’t been a good matchup for forwards. In the last five games, Miami has allowed the fewest fantasy points (~19) to opposing SFs. Based on his recent production, people are going to make an effort to grab Ingram early, while I’m comfortable waiting on Covington, Bjelica, or Carroll in deeper DRAFTs.