In terms of slate changing news, the only real huge issue is the status of Kawhi Leonard. He played last night and is still resting on one end of back-to-back games. That would point to him sitting out tonight against the Suns. It is interesting to run the numbers with and without Kawhi for the other Raptors players this year. Some see huge boosts…
UPDATE: Slate changing news from the Raptors as we will have not only Kawhi Leonard, but also Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby out for this one. VanVleet likely steps in for Lowry, so he should get a big bump in minutes and usage. Norman Powell likely steps in for Kawhi and the same goes for him. Danny Green and Delon Wright should play most of the backup minutes bhind those guys, so all of them are interesting here. We also have the big bump mentioned for Serge Ibaka, but now without Lowry Pascal Siakam is also more interesting. The Raptors rotation is very thing and a lot of these guys are cheap for the roles they will be playing today. Toronto also has an ideal matchup against a bad defensive Suns team.
Happy to see we at least have five games today on this Thursday slate. It’s not the best slate though for DFS NBA action. Three games have spreads of 10 or more, which adds another layer to our roster-building, as we want to try to avoid the blowouts. One of these games likely does get ugly, so I would make sure not to go too heavy on any of them. You absolutely want to play a few guys from each in cash; this way, you mitigate the risk of any one game becoming a runaway laugher and killing your rosters. Four of the five have totals between 225-229 with the Chicago/Denver game being the one outlier there at only a 214.
In terms of slate changing news, the only real huge issue is the status of Kawhi Leonard. He played last night and is still resting on one end of back-to-back games. That would point to him sitting out tonight against the Suns. It is interesting to run the numbers with and without Kawhi for the other Raptors players this year. Some see huge boosts. Kyle Lowry averages 34 DK points per game with Kawhi, but a monster 47 without him. Serge Ibaka also sees a big jump, averaging 28.9 with and 37.3 without. Siakam sees only about a 3 point difference from 30 to 33, and other guys pretty much fall in line with slight boosts up, but nothing as major as Lowry and Ibaka. Ibaka is also cheaper than Siakam on both sites and has done better without Kawhi. If I had to choose one over the other, give me Serge Ibaka all day today.
It is also a fun slate because we have some teams clearly benefiting from pace with higher projections and other teams who clearly will not benefit. We also end the slate with two of the fastest teams in the league in terms of pace, as the Lakers and Thunder are tied for 3rd in that department. You have some studs in that late game and guys at medium range prices who should benefit from the hot pace, so don't start counting your winnings at 10:30 tonight if you aren't exposed to that game as well.
TOP PROJECTED TOTALS
- Thunder – 118.25
- Raptors – 118.25
- Hornets – 116.25
- Nuggets – 113.25
- Kings – 113.25
BIGGEST PACE BUMPS
- Hornets: +3.8
- Pacers: +3.5
- Nuggets: +1.4
*Lakers/Thunder tied for third in pace and Suns/Raptors are 14th and 16th, so neither spot sees a bump
HIGHEST PROJECTION OVER AVERAGE
- Thunder: +5
- Pacers: +4.5
- Raptors: +4.5
- Hornets: +4
FAVORITE CASH PLAYS
Russell Westbrook – This is a matchup where point guards tend to excel, given the pace of the game. Pace and more possessions for a high PER guy like Westbrook could mean big outperformance. He is pricey, but his Thunder team project for the highest total on the day. This game should be super fast paced with two of the top-4 teams in the league squaring off in terms of speed of play, and Westbrook is playing well and producing stats across the board lately. So many reasons to be excited about him today.
Ben Simmons – Simmons has quietly become my preferred 76er to play over Embiid. Embiid is still great, but Simmons fantasy production is a thing of beauty. He’s flirting with triple-doubles on a daily basis in recent games. He has one in the last four games and three other times missed by 2 assists or less. He had 15 assists when he did triple-double, which means he’s averaged one over the last 4 games with 19.5 points, 13.25 rebounds and 10.25 assists for 56+ DK points. He’s $1,000 less than Embiid and has been as good or better recently.
Kyle Lowry – So this one really hinges on the status of Kawhi. Kyle Lowry is a very solid performer if Kawhi plays, but not cheap enough to be a great play. Without Kawhi, his production goes way up from 34 a game to 47.8. That would make him a great option to consider. The Suns are not a defense I would worry too much about, so the matchup is ideal too. If Kawhi sits, I expect a big game from Lowry, as that is what the stats show he does.
Lonzo Ball – The way this team currently is constructed is the same way it was made up late last season. In that scenario, Ball, Kuzma and Ingram play 35+ minutes nightly and carry the load. The Lakers also revert to playing that fast-paced, uptempo style like they did in 2018 as well. Over his last five games, he is averaging 7 rebounds and 7 assists. With Ball, the upside always comes when he scores too. In the games he has had double-digit points, he dropped 35+ fantasy points in recent contests. The good news is he is taking more shots; the bad news is the percentages are still low. Still, with the fast pace and his minutes load, you have a high enough floor to consider him if you need a discount.
Darren Collison – Collison has played real well in recent games despite being listed as questionable every day for the last week or two. That tag is gone now, so we don't have to worry. Indy gets one of the bigger pace bumps and is projected over average by 4.5 points tonight, and Collison already felt cheap for what he was doing in lesser matchups. The 76ers score and give up a ton of points, so I do expect this one to be higher scoring. If so, Collison stands to benefit and is a very solid price on both sites.
Devin Booker – Booker was injured, and then in the first game back, they got blown off the floor. Booker tends to play 35+ minutes when he is healthy and tends to be priced in the $8-$9K range. Today, he is under $8K on both sites. Yes, it is a tough matchup, but softer without Kawhi. Yes, he is coming off injury and could be limited, but they tend to let him play when he does play. Booker is a price enforcement type of play today, especially on FanDuel, where he is cheaper than he is on DK. When a guy is cheaper on FanDuel, it makes him a great play. I don’t hate the DK price, but I probably look elsewhere. On FanDuel at $7,700 though, it’s tough to ignore that type of discount.
Jeremy Lamb – Lamb was the #2 scoring option much of the year before suffering an injury. He is back now and slowly seeing the minutes creep up again. When Lamb was playing 35+ minutes, he was routinely hitting 30+ fantasy points. Now he draws one of the best matchups in the league against the fast-paced Kings and also has ascending minutes. He’s under $6K on both sites, so if he can get over the 30 mark, he is making value, and I think he can given all the up arrows on him today.
Malik Beasley – Boring, lack of upside, but consistently making value. As long as Gary Harris remains out, Beasley’s minutes are safe enough for him to perform. He may not end up producing at a massively high level, but he is producing well enough. He’s going to get us about 25 fantasy points. If you need to save, he can keep you on cashing pace. Just don't expect any upside to help push you over the top.
Will Barton – I like taking these guys who are underpriced and have ascending minutes. That is exactly where Will Barton is right now. We get used to a certain level with guys because they tend to produce at those levels. When they first return to the lineup, they tend to be at that same price. The first few games off injury tend to be fewer minutes, as teams roll guys out slowly. The Algo’s over adjust to that, and the price drops as the minutes are ascending each game. That is the cycle Barton is in now. When you start to see the minutes take a big jump, like they did last game for Barton, that is when you want to hop on the play. Barton is a guy who should be priced $1,000 or more higher when healthy. He’s starting to approach the minutes he played before the injury, so you are basically getting something that we normally pay $1,000 more for at 90-95% of his effective level.
Tyreke Evans – Evans role does not allow him the opportunity to go off for 40+ as he has in the past, but he’s dirt cheap at the $4,000 level and 25 is all he needs for value. Even playing half a game, he has been able to do that. He might see a slight tick up in minutes from here, but not by much. Still, he is producing anyway, and there is no need to not look his way, especially on FanDuel where he can save you salary with a 6X performance or be dropped if he doesn't get the playing time for some reason. He’s high usage when out there, so if he plays, he’ll produce.
Jabari Parker – I have not been a fan of his and never really understood the move, to begin with, but he has played better recently. On top of working back into the rotation, the Bulls are now without Wendell Carter. Parker can play either forward spot, but the Bulls had a log jam with guys like Carter, Markkanen and Portis all playing that PF spot as well. With Carter out, Portis will be playing some more center, so now he has minutes open at the SF spot from the Holliday trade and at the PF spot as Portis vacates some to play more center. That is why Parker, at near min price, is cash viable to me. Not only was he already earning a few more minutes, but now we have another path for him to earn more. He produces decently if given the minutes, and for the price if he plays 24 minutes or more, he is likely to return 6X or better. He even has the ability to get us 30, which would be an 8-9X return.
Serge Ibaka – So I went over the numbers in the opener a little, but basically to rehash the argument, Serge Ibaka sees a bigger bump than Siakam when Kawhi sits. If Kawhi sits the tail end of this B2B, Ibaka has actually even outproduced Siakam in games Kawhi was out. Siakam is more expensive on both sites and not a bad play either, but Ibaka gets the bigger bump, outproduces him and is cheaper. When you factor those three things together, it makes sense to prefer Ibaka to Siakam here.
Jerami Grant – I mentioned last week when Nerlens Noel goes down, JeramiGrantt is basically the backup center. Not only has he seen more minutes, but has been more productive in his minutes. Grant had 37 DK points last game after averaging 37 in a home and away with the Spurs the two games before that. He’s priced under $6K on both sites and averaging 37 fantasy points since the Noel injury. That makes him a guy who projects for over 6X again and could even miss by a little and still end up at cash game value. That game is a super soft matchup with the Lakers and one of the fastest expected paces and highest totals on the night.
UPDATE: Nerlens Noel is available to play. I still like Grant, but the floor and ceiling are lower without the additional center minutes he was seeing.
Bobby Portis – Wendell Carter JR. is now out. Bobby Portis has produced nicely but is seeing barely 20 minutes a night. He has the ability to produce good per minute numbers but needs more minutes to see any upside. Now he is in line to see more of those minutes. Portis has a high rebound rate and can score as well. He is also dirt cheap. The Bulls have been babying him, and I don't expect him to jump into a 35-40 minute role, as they will divide those minutes amongst him, Lopez and Felicio. Still, if each sees an extra 10-12 minutes here, that would put Portis in the 28-30 range instead of the 18-20 range. That’s a 33% increase in his court time and a 33% increase in production would have him around 30 fantasy points for under $5K.
Nikola Jokic – So it really comes down to Jokic v. Embiid up at the top today, and I always love Jokic at home. The matchup for Jokic is just much softer, and the Bulls just lost Wendell Carter Jr. who was playing center for them. Jokic likely draws a combo of Bobby Portis, Robin Lopez and Cristiano Felicio here, and that trio is not going to stop him. Jokic has been living around the 50-70 fantasy point range. He’s a lock for double-digit rebounds and well into double-digit points, and he’s a guy who has 6 assists on a bad game and a triple-double when everything clicks. The floor is high, the ceiling is high, and the matchup is ideal for outperformance. That’s why I have Jokic as my #1 today at the position.
Willie Cauley-Stein – So I debated DeAndre Ayton v. WCS pretty hard. Both have positives and negatives. I prefer the matchup for WCS against the Hornets, who are on their third and fourth centers of the year. That is not a great interior defense, whether it’s Williams/Biyombo or Williams/Hernangomez. WCS should be able to eat down there. The drawback here is that the Kings are healthy finally. All these guys who were forced to play 34-38 minutes are now getting 31-34. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but that’s 5-6 fantasy points for a guy who scores around a fantasy point per minute. 38-40 is a lot nicer than 32-34 when you paying over $6K for a guy. Still, Ayton is even more expensive, more volatile and has a worse matchup against a much better interior defense. That was ultimately why I leaned WCS over Ayton. I don't hate Ayton, just like I don't hate Embiid, but for the price, I would rather go with Jokic up top and WCS if I needed some salary relief.