Every Wednesday I go through the night’s NBA slate and try to pick out my favorite values. That’s been a relatively easy task the past month, as essentially every team in the league has dealt with a COVID outbreak, leaving rotations short and predictable. However, for the first time in what seems like forever, this evening’s nine-game featured late is mostly free of the dreaded health protocols, making bargain assets more difficult to identify.
I’m up for the challenge. Let’s dive in.
SF/PF Chuma Okeke, Orlando Magic at Washington Wizards, $4,600
The Magic are going to be missing their entire starting frontcourt this evening, as both Wendell Carter Jr. (hamstring) and Mo Bamba (toe) have been ruled out against Washington. At first blush, your inclination might be to turn to Robin Lopez ($4,000), who will now likely make his sixth start of the season. In a vacuum, I wouldn’t blame you. Lopez has averaged 30.1 DKFP in his previous five opportunities, even going for a season-best 39.5 DKFP versus Brooklyn back on Dec. 18. However, Lopez hasn’t played in two weeks and conditioning could be an issue on Wednesday.
That’s not to suggest that Lopez isn’t still viable, I’d just rather go with Okeke. The Auburn product started in place of Carter in Orlando’s most recent contest, logging 34.1 minutes and registering 31.5 DKFP. In fact, the last four times Okeke has played over 30 minutes, he’s averaging an eye-popping 37.6 DKFP. Specific to tonight, the matchup is also fantastic, as the Wizards have surrendered 115.5 points per 100 possessions across their past 15 games.
SG/SF Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets, $4,600
I guess I lied a little off the top. There are still a couple of teams in the midst of a COVID scare, and one of those rosters is certainly the Spurs. San Antonio comes into tonight’s contest with Houston down the services of Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Doug McDermott and Tre Jones. That is quite the long list of rotation players on the wing.
Walker’s viability on this slate isn’t just about acquired minutes, though. It’s also about acquired shot volume. While Dejounte Murray ($9,700) has had to essentially be the Spurs’ first and second offensive option the past three games, Walker’s posted massive usage rates of 31.0%, 29.5% and 35.0% within that span, respectively. That 35.0% figure came in Monday’s loss to the Knicks, a contest where Walker went a putrid 5-for-19 from the field. Still, we’re process over results here. If anyone has the capacity to hoist almost 20 field goal attempts with a price tag below $5K, I’m going to take note.
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PF/C Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat, $3,900
Okongwu’s salary is up $600 from where it sat on Sunday, but that’s not nearly enough to dissuade me if his role is going to be similar on Wednesday. In that loss to the Clippers, the sophomore started in place of the injured Clint Capela ($7,900; ankle), who is doubtful to suit up this evening against the Heat. Okongwu logged a jaw-dropping 37.9 minutes, missing out on his first double-double of the season by a single point.
Now, as you might expect in a lineup with Trae Young ($10,300) and John Collins ($7,400), Okongwu wasn’t exactly a high-volume offensive asset in his extended run. He finished the contest with just four field goal attempts and an underwhelming 11.2% usage rate. However, Okongwu’s price point and rebounding potential alone make him viable. For his career, he’s also averaging 13.9 points per 36 minutes, so it’s not like there isn’t a chance for slightly more point production if he sees over 35 minutes once again.
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