Seems sort of crazy to think it, but ahead of tonight’s seven-game slate on DraftKings, we’re basically sitting a third of the way through the NBA’s regular season. It’s been a bit of a bumpy road for some teams, yet the year is starting to take shape, with clear cut candidates for MVP and ROY emerging as the days flick past.
Still, we don’t really care about the future. We care about what’s going on this Tuesday evening in mid-February. So let’s break down everything you’ll need to know position-by-position.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers vs. Orlando Magic, $10,000 - I won’t go so far as to say that Lillard’s cheap on this evening’s slate, yet this is the lowest price tag the All-Star has carried since back on Jan. 24 — just a few days after C.J. McCollum (foot) went down with an injury. Lillard hasn’t been reaching the herculean heights that most assumed he would as Portland’s clear-cut No. 1 option, yet he is averaging 1.42 DKFP per minute with a 33.0% usage rate with McCollum off the court in 2020-21. Lillard’s ceiling is massive against a Magic team giving up over 115.0 points per 100 possessions across its last 15 games, so I’ll jump on the slight discount.
Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers, $5,900 - Funny enough, across that same 15-game stretch, the Blazers’ 115.7 defensive rating is identical to Orlando’s, as this is truly a matchup of two teams that couldn’t care less on that side of the ball. This might end up as a very high-scoring affair, which makes an asset like Anthony interesting. The rookie’s role has increased since Aaron Gordon (ankle) went down with an injury, as Anthony has exceeded 28.0 DKFP in each of his past four starts. The guard is also averaging 31.2 minutes and a team-best 10.3 potential assists during this recent run. Frank Mason ($3,300) is another name to keep an eye on, but he lacks anything close to the upside of his teammate.
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James Harden, Brooklyn Nets at Detroit Pistons, $10,900 - With Victor Oladipo (rest) not expected to play on Tuesday, there are only two shooting guards priced above $7K on this slate. So, if you’re looking to pay up at the position, Harden is sort of your guy by default. That’s not to suggest a huge performance isn’t in the cards for the dynamic guard; however, as the largest favories on the schedule, there is some blowout potential in this matchup. Still, putting that aside, Harden’s averaging 1.43 DKFP per minute without Kevin Durant (health protocols) on the floor this season. The opportunity is clearly there.
Josh Jackson, Detroit Pistons vs. Brooklyn Nets, $5,700 - While Jackson isn’t starting for the Pistons, he’s recently proven he doesn’t need that designation to be viable. In fact, across Detroit’s past four games — a stretch where Jackson is averaging 1.21 DKFP per minute — the former lottery pick still ranks third on the Pistons in possessions played (237), while his 29.9% usage rate is tops on the team. If either Delon Wright ($6,000; ankle) or Wayne Ellington ($4,700; calf) is unable to suit up through their questionable tag, Jackson should only continue to see his role increase in a great matchup against the Nets.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers at Sacramento Kings, $8,400 - To be completely honest, Simmons is an asset I don’t usually enjoy owning, as his scoring potential is limited by his reluctance to shoot. That being said, the former first-overall pick tends to thrive in transition and we could see a lot of that in this matchup with the Kings. Sacramento is allowing 13.4 opponent fastbreak points per game this season — the 10th-most in the NBA. In fact, across their last 15 games, the Kings simply have the worst defensive rating in the entire Western Conference (118.8). In a setting that should prove to be uptempo, and going against a poor defense, I like Simmons to return value this evening.
Editor’s Note: Spurs SG/SF Lonnie Walker IV (illness) will be on a minutes limit in tonight’s game vs. the Warriors, per Gregg Popovich.
Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors, $3,600 - I’m not expecting 40.0 DKFP out of Walker or anything like that, but with the 22-year-old’s price tag having fallen this far, he’s got a chance to return 6x or 7x value on Tuesday. Yes, Walker wasn’t shooting the ball particularly well before missing two games with an illness, yet we are discussing a player that’s scored double-digit points in 12 of his 22 games in 2020-21. He should also have a few extra opportunities with the news that Derrick White (rest) will be sitting out, on top of the projected absence of LaMarcus Aldridge (hip).
DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors, $7,800 - Speaking of people set to benefit from the absences of White and Aldridge, let’s talk about DeRozan. The former All-Star has managed to exceed 44.0 DKFP in each of his three starts since Aldridge’s injury, averaging 27.0 points, 7.7 assists and 7.3 rebounds over that span. This lines up with past trends, as DeRozan’s usage rate this season has jumped from 20.0% while sharing the floor with Aldridge to 27.7% with the duo separated. Even on a back-to-back, DeRozan’s price should be above $8K.
Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons vs. Brooklyn Nets, $5,000 - I’d be wary to use Griffin if the aforementioned Wright ends up playing this evening; however, if he’s eventually ruled out, you might have to take a look at the veteran forward. With Derrick Rose now a member of the Knicks — and Frank Jackson ($3,000; illness) and Dennis Smith Jr. ($3,000; health protocols) also both questionable on Tuesday — there’s a chance that Griffin is the closest thing Detroit will have to a point guard. The returns have been poor recently, yet Griffin has had three days off coming into tonight’s tilt and I’m confident almost anyone can score against this Brooklyn defense.
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers, $8,900 - It’s a little insane that Vucevic is continuously priced below $9K. For the season as a whole, the All-Star is averaging 1.39 DKFP per minute. Since Gordon went down with an injury back on Jan. 31? The figure jumps up to 1.52 DKFP per minute, and that includes a relatively poor performance against the Bulls on Saturday. Essentially, Vuecvic is shouldering a larger role with his teammate sidelined, which only adds to his immense value, as he was already a walking double-double shooting 42.3% from three-point range. Enes Kanter ($7,500) doesn’t have a prayer of stopping Vucevic tonight.
Daniel Theis, Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz, $4,800 - In the past six games where Theis has logged at least 25 minutes of action, he’s averaged 30.9 DKFP. Heck, Theis didn’t even start Boston’s 100-91 loss to Phoenix on Sunday, yet he still finished with 25.5 DKFP in 34.5 minutes of work. He’s the best center the Celtics have on the roster and he has a relatively high floor when he gets the proper opportunity.
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