Well, we’ve reached that point of the calendar between Christmas and New Year’s Day that no one really knows what to do with. It’s a week that doesn’t totally feel real even when going to work throughout it. Really, it’s a perfect microcosm for the current state of the NBA, where COVID and the league’s health and safety protocols have given almost every contest an exhibition vibe.
Still, we push forward, learning a new set of G League names each and every night. What does Tuesday’s eight-game slate have in store? Let’s break it down.
Kemba Walker, New York Knicks at Minnesota Timberwolves, $6,900 - Walker’s overall volume might be set to decline slightly with Immanuel Quickley ($5,000) returning to action this evening and RJ Barrett ($5,700) another game removed from his stint in COVID protocols; but there’s some wiggle room with the guard’s salary still below $7K. Across his past four starts, Walker is averaging a league high 40.2 minutes, which has translated into 26.0 points and 50.1 DKFP per game. In a matchup with a decimated Minnesota roster on the second night of a back-to-back, Kemba can keep doing damage.
Jaylen Nowell, Minnesota Timberwolves at New York Knicks, $3,800 - Speaking of that decimated roster, the Timberwolves took down the Celtics on Monday, with Nowell leading the charge. The former second-round pick logged 34.7 minutes off the bench, registering 45.5 DKFP and a team-high 25.6% usage rate. Make sure to keep an eye on the status of Patrick Beverley ($5,400; conditioning), who should be able to play through a questionable tag this evening; yet even if the veteran is active, there should be 30-plus minutes available to a red-hot Nowell.
Editor’s Note: Cavaliers PG/SG Darius Garland has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers at New Orleans Pelicans , $9,900 - I’m a little lukewarm about spending up at either guard position this evening, but Garland is in a nice spot. With Evan Mobley (health protocols) and Collin Sexton (knee) off the court this season, Garland’s posted a 28.3% usage rate and 1.14 DKFP per minute. The Pelicans are also a great matchup, as they’ve surrendered the second-most DKFP per contest to opposing point guards in 2021-22. The only real concern is New Orleans keeping things competitive enough to let Garland reach his ceiling.
Garrett Temple, New Orleans Pelicans vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, $3,600 - Surprisingly, Josh Hart ($7,300; ankle) is one of the most-important assets on this whole slate. If Hart plays through a questionable tag, he’s a great mid-tier value, as the Pelicans will be without Brandon Ingram (Achilles) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (health protocols). But, if Hart’s also sidelined, that opens up huge minutes for someone like Temple, who was already forced to log 35.3 minutes in the team’s loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday. Temple tied Hart with a team-high 17 field goal attempts that night. I can only imagine his usage rate if his teammate sits.
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Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat vs. Washington Wizards, $9,300 - Despite missing three weeks prior to suiting up for Sunday’s win over Orlando, Butler did not need a grace period to get back up to full-speed. The All-Star logged 34.9 minutes with Kyle Lowry (health protocols) and Bam Adebayo (thumb) on the shelf, finishing with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 44.75 DKFP. Butler also racked up 11.0 potential assists in the victory, as he’s an obvious triple-double threat with Lowry not able to run the offense. The Wizards own the East’s second-worst defensive rating in December (116.7). Butler is going to pick them apart.
Yuta Watanabe, Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers, $5,300 - This is an interesting spot. The Raptors shouldn’t be quite as hilariously undermanned as they were in Sunday’s lopsided loss to the Cavaliers, as Pascal Siakam ($9,400), Gary Trent ($6,100) and Khem Birch ($4,300) have all cleared the COVID protocols. However, all three remain questionable to play in tonight’s contest and, even if they are active, will likely face minutes restrictions. Regardless, Toronto will have seven roster players at most on Tuesday, which likely necessitates Watanabe starting and seeing well over 30 minutes once again.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets, $11,300 - Oh, the ever-changing positional eligibility of LeBron James. He’s a power forward now? Alright. Anyway, it doesn’t matter where you can stick James in a lineup on Tuesday, just know you’ll want him in there somewhere. James has scored over 60.0 DKFP in three of his last four starts, as he tries to single-handedly carry a spiralling Lakers team. Usually I’d worry about script in a matchup with Houston, but with Los Angeles having dropped five in a row, I can’t see James logging fewer than 35 minutes tonight.
Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings, $5,500 - Allow me start by saying the positional eligibility listings for the Thunder are a joke. Ideally, with Darius Bazley, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Aleksej Pokusevski all in COVID protocols, you’d be able to slot Kenrich Williams ($3,700) — a man who’s spent almost half his career playing the four — at power forward on tonight’s slate, but this is not the case. Dort’s a perfectly viable replacement, as he’s the cheapest he’s been in three weeks, but on a per dollar basis, Williams is the better play. I guess just use LeBron then slot Williams at the forward spot.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors, $12,100 - Even before losing two-thirds of their roster to COVID, the Raptors were a terrible rebounding team. In fact, for the season as a whole, Toronto’s 69.1% defensive rebounding rate is the worst in the NBA. These are the kinds of things that happen when you don’t have anyone taller than 6’9 in your organization. The point being, Embiid would be an amazing DFS asset against a full-strength Raptors squad. Against this shell of a team that surrendered 144 points to the Cavaliers on Sunday? Embiid might go for 50.
Nathan Knight, Minnesota Timberwolves at New York Knicks, $3,200 - No Karl-Anthony Towns. No Jarred Vanderbilt. No Naz Reid. Knight is the only remaining “true big” on the Timberwolves’ roster and he dropped 45.25 DKFP on the Celtics on Monday in just 29.1 minutes of work. For the season, Knight is averaging 1.18 DKFP per minute, so if he sees anything close to 30 minutes again, we could be looking at 10x value at a minimum.
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