I don’t want to suggest that tonight’s NBA slate is special because it features a matchup that sets up to be as weird as Heat-Clippers — this is 2020-21 after all — but with both those teams still reeling due to COVID health protocols, it’s a contest that certainly stands out. Heck, that’s before even factoring in that this is just a four-game slate, an environment where any inactive player can have a massive ripple effect.
Will Miami be home to all the value this evening? Let’s break it all down position-by-position.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets, $10,600 - We’re not quite at the point of Dame Time from mid-February last season, but Lillard’s definitely had to pick up some slack since C.J. McCollum (foot) went down with an injury a couple weeks back. Portland’s played three games without the star guard and in those contests Lillard’s posted a 35.3% usage rate while averaging 1.47 DKFP per minute. Yes, the Rockets are a fantastic defensive team, yet they’ve also been playing at a top three pace across their past five matchups (103.1), opening up the opportunity for Lillard to shine on Thursday.
Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Clippers, $5,900 - Obviously you’ll have to once again watch the status of assets like Jimmy Butler ($7,500; conditioning), Tyler Herro ($7,400; neck) and Goran Dragic ($6,200; groin) before completely investing in Nunn; but if two of the three are inactive or limited, this remains a fair price for the guard. The sophomore is averaging 35.5 minutes, 19.0 points and 33.3 DKFP over the Heat’s past six games, a stretch where he’s also registered a 22.5% usage rate. Honestly, if Herro and Dragic are eventually ruled out, why would you ever pay for Reggie Jackson ($7,000) when you could have Nunn for so much less?
Delon Wright, Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers, $6,700 - There’s really no one to pay up for at shooting guard this evening — with John Wall ($7,300) actively ruining Victor Oladipo’s ($8,100) viability — so I’ll be taking a chance on the controlled upside of Wright. What’s controlled upside? Well, the former first-round pick has scored 30-plus DKFP seven times in 2020-21, but he’s only managed to exceed 35.0 DKFP once. Basically, the floor’s elevated, but the ceiling isn’t much higher. That’s fine at this price point, especially with Wright averaging 36.3 DKFP across his past five starts.
Wayne Ellington, Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers, $5,100 - We find ourselves in a similar situation with Ellington, who is averaging 5.2 made three-pointers over Detroit’s past six contests. The issue with the veteran as a fantasy asset is he doesn’t do much more than score, yet the fact that someone this close to $5K is producing 28.2 DKFP going back to Jan. 18 is intriguing. With Ellington’s minutes volume seemingly locked in above 30 per game, he’s viable on this small slate.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers at Detroit Pistons, $10,400 - I guess the only thing you worry about here is game script, with the Lakers currently the heaviest favorites of the day on the DraftKings Sportsbook. Well, to be fair, there’s also the chance that one or both of James and Anthony Davis ($8,900) sit after logging big minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the 76ers. If that’s the case, we have to explore assets like Dennis Schroder ($5,700) and Kyle Kuzma ($4,300); but, if it’s not, feel free to roll with LeBron, as the former MVP is averaging 1.57 DKFP per minute across his past four games.
Rodney Hood, Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets, $4,300 - I’d expect Hood to rejoin the starting lineup after missing Monday’s game with a thigh issue, and if that’s the case, he shouldn’t have to do much to hit 5x value. With Robert Covington (concussion) already ruled out for tonight’s tilt — not to mention McCollum — there should be plenty of minutes and shots available for Hood, who dropped 21 points (9-of-14) as recently as Jan. 18.
Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers, $8,400 - I’m not thrilled to pay up for Grant at his highest price point of the season, but the forward really couldn’t be playing with any more consistency as of late. In fact, Grant’s managed to exceed 30.0 DKFP in each of his past 17 games; a span where he’s also only failed to score at least 20 points on one occasion. I think we all had our fun mocking this contract when Detroit handed it out during the truncated offseason, but equipped with a career-best 26.5% usage rate, Grant’s looking pretty good.
Jae Crowder, Phoenix Suns vs. Golden State Warriors, $5,500 - A lot of Crowder’s viability comes down to the status of Devin Booker ($8,300; hamstring), but if the All-Star is unable to go, the veteran immediately becomes one of my favorite plays on the slate. In the two games Booker has missed, Crowder sits first on the Suns in possessions logged (156) and second to only Chris Paul ($8,000) in usage rate (21.2%). Crowder has also averaged 37.3 DKFP in this span of time, despite shooting just 35.5% (11-for-31) from the field. That’s the magic volume, right?
Christian Wood, Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers, $8,700 - The case can be made that Bam Adebayo ($9,200) is the safer play on this slate, but with Wood stating yesterday that he feels 100% healthy, I’m cool to roll with this season’s breakout star. While we have yet to see how the combination of Wall, Oladipo and Wood shakes out, the latter was able to maintain a 29.3% usage rate playing alongside both Wall and James Harden earlier this year. If he can make that experience beneficial to owners, I don’t think this new wrinkle will be all the much of a detriment.
Editor’s Note: Lakers PF/C Anthony Davis (quad) has been ruled out tonight vs. the Pistons.
Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Lakers at Detroit Pistons, $5,800 - There’s a lot to consider here. First and foremost, Harrell’s usage rate is a team-high 26.4% in the minutes he’s played without the aforementioned James and Davis on the court (if such a situation arises). On top of that, with Marc Gasol ($3,300) handling most of the Joel Embiid duty on Wednesday, Harrell should be well rested on the second night of this back-to-back. That bodes well with the Pistons surrendering the most DKFP to opposing centers.
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