The NBA season officially got underway with a two-game appetizer on Tuesday night, but Wednesday is the main course. There are a whopping 13 games to choose from and DraftKings has decided to celebrate by offering not one, but two contests with a $1M prize pool.
Let’s break down some of the top studs and values at each position to help you build your lineups.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Rockets-Thunder game scheduled for December 23 was officially postponed by the NBA and removed from Wednesday night’s DraftKings slate.
Opt-in and if a player hits a 3-pointer in the last minute of the fourth quarter in tonight’s Milwaukee vs. Boston game or tonight’s Dallas vs. Phoenix game, you get an entry to an exclusive $100K contest on 12/29! See the DraftKings Big Trey Payday page for more details!
Luka Doncic, DAL @ PHO, $10,000 – Doncic is going to warrant stud consideration every time he’s on the slate, but he’s particularly appealing at the moment. Kristaps Porzingis is out while recovering from a knee injury, so Doncic should carry an even larger workload than usual. He increased his usage rate by +2.0% with Porzingis off the court last season, resulting in an average of 1.64 DKFP per minute.
The total on DraftKings Sportsbook for the game between the Mavericks and Suns also sits at 237.0 points, which is the top mark on the slate by a significant margin. No other game on the slate has a total higher than 231.5.
Other Options – James Harden ($10,400), Russell Westbrook ($9,300)
Dejounte Murray, SA @ MEM, $5,600 – The Spurs are in a solid spot on opening night vs. the Grizzlies. Memphis played at the sixth-fastest pace last season, and they were simply middle of the pack in terms of defensive efficiency.
Murray should also benefit from Derrick White being out of the lineup. He’s still recovering after undergoing surgery on his left toe, and he emerged as one of San Antonio’s top offensive weapons last season. Murray averaged 1.06 DraftKings points per minute with White off the court, and he has the potential to see a nice uptick in playing time.
Other Options – Coby White ($6,500), Collin Sexton ($6,100), Darius Garland ($4,100)
Zach LaVine, CHI vs. ATL, $7,900 – LaVine has come into his own with the Bulls over the past two seasons. He averaged a career-high 25.5 points per game in 2020 while shooting 45.0% from the field and 38.0% from 3-point range. Those are solid marks for someone who shoots as much as LaVine.
He starts the year with an excellent matchup vs. the Hawks. Atlanta should be improved this season, but the Hawks were one of the juiciest possible matchups last season. Atlanta ranked fifth in pace and 28th in defensive efficiency and allowed the most fantasy points per game to the SG position.
Other Options – Devin Booker ($8,900), D’Angelo Russell ($7,200)
Josh Richardson, DAL @ PHO, $5,300 – Richardson struggled last season with the 76ers, but he’s a prime bounce-back candidate in his first season with the Mavericks. He served as the fourth-option offensively at best last season for a 76ers team that struggled on that side of the ball. The Mavericks had the top offense in the league by offensive rating, and Richardson has a chance to be their No. 2 option while Porzingis is sidelined.
Other Options – RJ Barrett ($5,700), Eric Bledsoe ($5,600), Lonnie Walker IV ($4,200)
Jayson Tatum, BOS vs. MIL, $9,200 – Tatum took another step forward in 2020, and he is arguably one of the 10 best players in the league at just 22 years old. He took his game to another level in the playoffs, particularly in the peripheral categories. He averaged 5.0 assists and 10.0 rebounds over 17 playoff games, and he could be poised for a huge year if he carries that production over to the start of the new season.
The Celtics are going to need a huge effort from Tatum this season. Not only is Gordon Hayward gone, but Kemba Walker is also going to miss an extended period with a knee injury. Tatum increased his usage rate by a whopping +8.5% with both players off the court last season, resulting in an average of 1.35 DKFP per minute.
Other Options – Ben Simmons ($8,700), DeMar DeRozan ($7,300)
Jerami Grant, DET @ MIN, $4,700 – Grant decided to sign with the Pistons instead of re-signing with the Nuggets during the offseason because he wanted to be a larger part of the offense. If the preseason is any indication, he’s going to get his wish. He led the team with an average of 24.1 minutes per game during four preseason games, and his 10.2 shot attempts per game were also tied for the team lead. He will probably take a backseat to guys like Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose during the regular season, but he still figures to be much more productive than he was in Denver.
Other Options – OG Anunoby ($5,000), Troy Brown Jr. ($4,700)
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL @ BOS, $10,200 – The Bucks have been the most dominant regular-season team over the past two seasons, and Antetokounmpo has also been the most dominant fantasy asset. His production on a per-minute basis is absolutely insane, and he averaged 59.25 DKFP per game despite an average of just 30.4 minutes.
This version of the Bucks has the potential to be the best yet. Milwaukee swapped out Eric Bledsoe for Jrue Holiday, who is a much more natural fit around Giannis. He’s capable of knocking down open 3-pointers – something that has plagued Bledsoe during the postseason – and should provide Giannis with additional spacing.
It’s also scary to consider, but it’s possible that Giannis took another step forward with his game during the offseason. If he developed the ability to knock down a mid-range jump shot – or dare I say even a 3-pointer – he could be putting up fantasy numbers that we’ve never seen before.
Other Options – Zion Williamson ($7,500), Domantas Sabonis ($7,400)
Marvin Bagley III, SAC @ DEN, $4,900 – Bagley is going to break out at some point this season if he’s able to stay healthy. He’s been an excellent fantasy producer when on the court, but a variety of injuries have limited his playing time. I’m not sure if he’s going to see a full workload on opening night – he got a late start this season after testing positive for COVID-19 – but he should draw the start at PF. Bagley is going to make this price tag look silly at some point in the near future, and I’d rather be too early than too late.
Other Options – Larry Nance Jr. ($5,900), Cam Johnson ($4,600)
Joel Embiid, PHI vs. WAS, $9,800 – This is a huge season for Embiid and the 76ers. They brought in a new coach in Doc Rivers, and the pressure is starting to build on Embiid and Ben Simmons. If they can’t show that they can learn to play together this season, it could be time to consider blowing it up and trying again.
Luckily, Embiid gets to start his season in a smash spot vs. Washington. The Wizards were dreadful against opposing centers last year, which is not surprising considering they ranked 29th in defensive efficiency and dead last in rebound rate. Embiid should have an absolute field day on the interior.
Other Options – Karl-Anthony Towns ($9,700), Andre Drummond ($8,000)
PJ Washington, CHA @ CLE, $4,200 – This game between the Hornets and Cavaliers has some sneaky shootout potential. Both of these teams were terrible defensively last year – the Hornets ranked 25th, the Cavaliers ranked last – so this game could be higher scoring than the inital 213.5 total had implied.
Washington is one player who stands out to me as underpriced. He’s coming off a strong rookie season, averaging 25.45 DKFP over 30.3 minutes per game, and he’s expected to spend more time at center this season. That should lead to an uptick in rebounds, and he should be able to use his athleticism to exploit Andre Drummond on the perimeter in this matchup.
Other Options – Maxi Kleber ($3,900), Hassan Whiteside ($3,800)
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
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 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.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL). Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ/WV/PA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (NH/CO), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA) or TN REDLINE: 800-889-9789. 21+ (18+ NH). NJ/PA/WV/NH/IN/NH/IA/CO/IL/TN only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.