All levels of professional and collegiate athletics have been put on hold all over the world as everybody tries to come to grips with the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, sports bettors are essentially having to take a little hiatus of their own.
While there are some sports going on (Russian soccer, for example), you’d be hard-pressed to find many Americans that would consider themselves to be experts. Daily fantasy sports sites have also had to get creative due to the shortage of options out there at the moment.
For the past few days, FanDuel has been running a new “NBA Sim” contest. It’s free to enter, and those that win will earn some cash that can be used to play in paid contests on the site. Players will fill out a 9-man NBA lineup, just as they would for a normal NBA DFS slate.
Players earn points based on a random simulation of games that have already happened this season. For example, if Giannis Antetokounmpo is randomly drawn the number 26, his score will reflect his stat line from the 26th game he played this season.
While this is essentially a lottery, there can still be some strategy involved. Not all players have played in the same number of games, for example. Others have wider ranges of outcomes than others, as well. While it’s something of a crapshoot, there is still value to be found in the salaries.
It’s also worth noting that matchups obviously don’t matter. You’ll see “Cleveland at Orlando” on the schedule on the site, but the Cavs obviously aren’t really playing the Magic. So, don’t base your picks off of matchups.
Let’s highlight a few of the more appealing picks for Thursday’s “5-game” NBA Sim slate, shall we?
Collin Sexton, PG ($5,900)
Sexton makes for something of a risky option on a normal DFS slate due to his dependence on scoring, but in this game he looks like a decent value at a sub-$6,000 salary. Sexton is averaging a shade under 30 fantasy points per game.
Before the hiatus, the Cavs were dealing with some rampant injury issues. Sexton was logging massive minutes in those games, and he put up some pretty beefy stat lines along the way. While the floor is a little lower than I’d like, the fact that he’s only $5,900 mitigates some of the risk. His recent string of quality outings has also given him a very nice ceiling for the current price tag.
There isn’t a ton of depth at point guard with only 10 teams “playing,” so I don’t mind saving a little salary with Sexton right off the bat.
Khris Middleton, SG ($7,000)
Shooting guard is a weird position. You have James Harden ($11,200) at the very top, and then the next most-expensive option is a $7,200 CJ McCollum. The quality at this position also gets very thin in a hurry.
I like Middleton’s $7,000 salary. He has contributed a decent number of ceiling games on the year, especially in games Giannis Antetokounmpo has missed. Middleton is averaging 35 FanDuel points per game on the year, and he has failed to crack 30 FD points just 17 times across 56 games played.
That high floor means Middleton is very unlikely to completely tank your lineup, which is why I like him tonight for just $7,000. Devonte’ Graham is a comparable option for $300 less, but Graham has failed to crack 30 FD points 22 times on the year. I’ll fork over the extra cash to get the safety Middleton offers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF ($11,400)
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the most prolific fantasy producer of them all. He’s averaging 57.24 fantasy points per game across 58 games on the season. He is averaging an incredible 1.85 FanDuel points per minute played on the year, which is insane production.
We have a number of expensive players on this slate (Harden, Luka Doncic, Andre Drummond), but Antetokounmpo looks like the best way to spend that salary. With this lottery-style game, my strategy is to look for a high floor/high ceiling combination.
Luka and Harden are great, but both have lower floors than Giannis. Doncic has played in 21 games in which he has recorded fewer than 50 FanDuel points this season. Harden has played 20 such games. Antetokounmpo only has 13 sub-50 games all year. He has also gone over 70 fantasy points 8 times.
I’ll hear an argument for Harden considering he’s topped 70 12 times, but I prefer Antetokounmpo.
Kristaps Porzingis, PF ($7,900)
Power forward is a dark place tonight. Porzingis is the most expensive option at $7,900. That’s $1,100 more than the next-best option (Kevin Love) and there isn’t much value to be comfortable with. Might as well just spend some salary to get Porzingis.
The big Latvian has averaged just under 40 fantasy points per game this season, but at the time the NBA shut down he was priced up over $9,000 at most DFS sites. That’s because he was on an absolute tear. In March, Porzingis averaged just under 53 FanDuel points per game.
He’s another guy that generally offers a high floor with a considerably higher ceiling. You’re paying less for him here than you would normally be, so I have no qualms with plugging him in. The position stinks, so you might as well pay for some safety.
Jonas Valanciunas, C ($6,600)
Center has some solid spends tonight, but if we’re prioritizing getting to Antetokounmpo and Porzingis we probably need to save some money at this position. I don’t mind going to Jonas Valanciunas to fill the lone center slot at $6,600.
He doesn’t have the highest floor, but he has a monster ceiling. He has gone over 40 FD points 19 times on the season, and he’s gone under 20 fantasy points just 7 times. Center also drops off in quality once you get past JoVal. Tristan Thompson, Brook Lopez and Cody Zeller don’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence.
I expect Valanciunas to be a popular option tonight, but that’s some chalk I have no problem eating with limited options at our disposal.
Good luck, and stay safe out there!