Monday features an eight-game NBA slate starting at 7 p.m. ET. We’re nearly a full week through the season, and most teams have around three games under their belt. There have been some big surprises from a fantasy perspective, and salaries have yet to fully adjust. That means there are plenty of strong options to consider on Monday’s slate.
Let’s dive into some of my favorite plays at each position.
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers ($9,000) – Harden is officially back, baby! The Beard is coming off a down campaign in 2021-22, particularly after getting traded to the 76ers. He averaged just 21.0 points per game in 21 regular season games with Philly, and he seemed to have lost the ability to blow by defenders. He shot just 40.2% from the field and 32.6% from 3-point range, both of which were well down from his prime years in Houston.
The 3-point shooting has yet to show up this season, but the rest of his game has been outstanding. He’s averaged 1.50 DKFP per minute, and he’s carrying a monster workload through the first three games. He’s logged at least 40 minutes in back-to-back contests, and another large workload could be on the table with the team currently sitting at 0-3.
The Pacers have also been a dream matchup to start the year, ranking first in pace and 25th in defensive efficiency. He’s one of the top studs on the slate at just $9,000.
Jalen Green, Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz ($6,300) – If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper stud option at guard, it’s hard to do much better than Green. The second-year player has had a strong start to the year, scoring at least 29.75 DKFP in all three games. He also posted a season-high 31.3% usage rate in his last outing, and he’s increased his fantasy production to 1.09 DKFP per minute this season.
He’ll take the floor in what’s expected to be one of the highest-scoring games Monday vs. the Jazz. The total currently sits at 231.5 points, and the 1.5-point spread suggests a back-and-forth affair. Those types of contests always have massive appeal in DFS.
Other Options – Kevin Porter Jr. ($7,300), Desmond Bane ($6,500)
Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves ($5,400) – The Spurs continue to provide a ton of fantasy value in the early season. Their price tags have yet to catch up to their new roles after the team lost Derrick White and Dejounte Murray.
No player on the Spurs provides more value than Vassell, who has been outstanding to start the year. He’s racked up at least 35.0 DKFP in back-to-back games, and while he struggled in the first game of the season, he was just 3-15 from the field. As long as he isn’t ice-cold with his jumper, he’s a near-lock to pay off his current salary.
Other Options – Tre Jones ($5,000), Jaylen Nowell ($3,800)
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls ($9,900) – It’s impossible not to take note of what Tatum has done to start the year. He’s scored at least 47.25 DKFP in all three contests, and he’s had at least 59.0 in two of them. He’s providing career-best production in both blocks and rebounds, and he continues to score the ball at an elite rate. Tatum has averaged 34.7 points per game to start the season, making a hyper-efficient 58.7% of his shots from the field. That figure is likely unsustainable, but he could also be due for some improvement from 3-point range: He’s a career 38.3% shooter from downtown, but he’s at just 33.3% this year.
Add it all up, and Tatum has averaged 1.48 DKFP per minute through his first three games. That represents a sizable increase from his mark of 1.29 last season, which has yet to be reflected in his price tag.
Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets ($6,400) – Markkanen has always been someone with plenty of potential, but he’s never been able to put it on display on a consistent basis. Perhaps a change of scenery will be what finally unlocks his fantasy upside. He’s gotten off to a dream start with the Jazz, and he’s coming off back-to-back games with at least 51.75 DKFP. He isn’t riding fluky shooting numbers either, but rather contributing in every category across the board. He’s tallied 25 boards, seven assists, two steals, two blocks, and four 3-pointers in his last two contests, so he’s provided balanced production.
Overall, he’s averaged 1.27 DKFP per minute through his first three outings, and there’s no reason to expect anything different vs. the Rockets. They were arguably the best matchup in fantasy last year, ranking second in pace and dead-last in defensive efficiency, and their numbers look similar through three games this season.
Other Options – Julius Randle ($8,200), Keldon Johnson ($6,900)
Kelly Olynyk, Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets ($5,200) – Markkanen isn’t the only member of the Jazz exceeding expectations to start the year. Olynyk has also provided plenty of fantasy value, racking up 33.75 DKFP or more in back-to-back games. Olynyk has always been an outstanding producer on a per-minute basis, but his playing time has been inconsistent. That hasn’t been the case in Utah. He’s seen at least 34.5 minutes in his past two contests, and if he continues to play that much, he’s a steal at just $5,200.
Other Options – Josh Hart ($5,600), Isaiah Jackson ($4,500)
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers ($10,900) – DFS players will face a difficult choice at the top of the center position on Monday. Jokic and Joel Embiid ($10,500) are two of the best players in fantasy, and they’re separated by just $400. Embiid has the better matchup, but I’ll pay the extra $400 for Jokic every single time. He was the best player in fantasy last season, averaging 1.83 DKFP per minute, and he’s racked up two triple-doubles through his first three games this year.
Ultimately, Jokic has averaged 1.60 DKFP per minute through his first three contests, which puts him well ahead of Embiid’s mark of 1.22. He’s capable of dominating a game in so many different ways, making him a bit more appealing than Embiid, in my eyes.
Other Options – Joel Embiid ($10,500), Bam Adebayo ($7,000)
Usman Garuba, Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz ($3,500) – The Rockets are going to be without Bruno Fernando and Jae’Sean Tate for the second straight game, and Garuba replaced Fernando in the starting lineup in their last game. He finished with 25 minutes, which he parlayed into 26.5 DKFP. For some reason, the team has shown an unwillingness to start Alperen Sengun ($5,600), and as long as Garuba is back in the starting lineup, there’s no reason not to fire him up at his current price tag.
Other Options – Jarred Vanderbilt ($4,700), P.J. Tucker ($3,700)
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mlamarca) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.