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Best lineup strategy for Rockets vs. Thunder NBA Showdown [UPDATE]

We go over how to craft a winning lineup for Monday’s featured DraftKings Showdown between Houston and OKC on MLK Day.

Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook drives to the basket around Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder during the first half at Chesapeake Energy Arena.  Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve got Narrative-palooza Round 3 when the Houston Rockets host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at 5:00 p.m. ET. It wasn’t too long ago when Russell Westbrook played his first game back in OKC since being traded to the Rockets during the offseason. Now, Houston will welcome back Chris Paul when the Thunder are in town (though we already had that homecoming narrative earlier in the season). So really this is just three really competitive ballers with ties to each other playing on the same court for the third time this season. Let’s take a look at the Showdown contest on DraftKings and how we can build a cashing lineup.

Update: Nerlens Noel (ankle) has been ruled out vs. the Rockets. This opens up some more playing time for Muscala, who I don’t mind as a value. I’d also say Adams is a better play now since the Thunder lack center options.

Who should you play in the Captain’s slot?

If you want to cash? I mean, the clear choice is James Harden ($18,300) on almost any slate, classic or Showdown. It’s been so long people forget Harden used to be on the Thunder. Considering The Beard was pretty bad a little over a week ago against OKC (17 points, 27.75 FPTS), I’d expect a more motivated Harden today. It was obvious Harden was conceding a bit to Russ ($16,500) in his first game back in OKC. A more aggressive Harden should get to the line more often in this game and if Steven Adams is out, it’ll be easier to get to the basket. In Houston earlier in the season, Harden dropped 40 on the Thunder — maybe that doesn’t happen again, but I’d expect a result closer to that than to 17 points.

I think Russ is the next best option at Captain the way he’s been playing. You kind of get the sense that there’s some hidden agreement right now between Harden and Westbrook to let Russ take over more right now. Maybe Harden needs a break? Either way, we’ve seen some vintage Westbrook the past two games, both north of 60 FPTS. The pivot would be Clint Capela ($14,700), who would be more of a GPP play at lower ownership. The Thunder are good defensively, but allow a lot of points in the paint and are below average rebounding the ball.

Who should you play in the UTIL spots?

If you’re paying up at Captain (which I think is the best way to go clearly), then you’ll need to find some value (which isn’t easy in this game). The Rockets run a tight rotation, but the good thing there is most of those rotation guys see a good amount of minutes. P.J. Tucker ($4,600) has been pretty awful in terms of fantasy lately, but is cheap and is going to play 30+ minutes, if not more. Danuel House Jr. ($3,800) should get at least 20 minutes and has attempted 14 three-pointers the past two games. That opportunity alone at this cheap price makes House a decent GPP play.

Adams (knee; $7,600) only played 24 minutes in a return to the lineup on Saturday. If he’s limited again, Nerlens Noel ($5,800) is a good value. Since returning to the lineup last Friday, Noel has a combined 25 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in 40 minutes. If Noel is extended a bit here — against a Rockets team that lacks size and depth — I think he’s a good value play if you’re looking for a more balanced approach. Ultimately I’d say stars-and-scrubs isn’t a bad idea, though.