The good news is we have a nice big 10 game slate for NBA DFS action today. The bad news is the league resembles a mash unit after a big battle right now. Of the 10 games on the slate, we only have lines on half of them due to a ton of injury information. Normally, I start the article with the highest projected totals and biggest projections over average, but it’s pointless when half the games are awaiting news on player status. Instead, I want to start off with…
The good news is we have a nice big 10 game slate for NBA DFS action today. The bad news is the league resembles a mash unit after a big battle right now. Of the 10 games on the slate, we only have lines on half of them due to a ton of injury information. Normally, I start the article with the highest projected totals and biggest projections over average, but it’s pointless when half the games are awaiting news on player status. Instead, I want to start off with some of the big injury news pieces and what to do if news drops one way or another since I think that is going to be the key to making some money here today. I currently have 15 lineups built. Normally I do one for cash, but based on how things break, I wanted an idea of what being heavy on certain situations would look like. Here are some of those situations.
Kawhi Leonard – I expected him to be back yesterday, and they sat him out again. My hope was they sat him out because they wanted him for the tougher game of the back-to-back, which would be the matchup with Indiana today. With him out, you see big bumps for guys like Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam to a lesser extent. The Raptors are also without Jonas Valanciunas and lately OG Anunoby. I mention this because that is three pieces of what was once a very deep rotation. Minutes are available now, and guys like Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright and Greg Monroe have been playing them now. If Kawhi is available, that sucks a lot of usage from all these guys who have seen a bump. If he sits, we have to look at these guys, as they are all much better fantasy producers without him.
Al Horford – Horford is scheduled to miss this game for rest. It’s a very soft spot against a Cavs team playing without Kevin Love, Larry Nance and Tristan Thompson. Aron Baynes is healthy again and should be the main guy to benefit here. He is likely to only play about half a game, but at $3,500 and $3,700, he has produced 25+ in spot starts like this before. This is a great matchup for any big man, so you get increased minutes and usage for a cheap price in a great spot with him today.
Tristan Thompson – Thompson remains out, and with Nance and Love already out, this frontcourt has thinned out faster than my hairline. Ante Zizic is the main guy who should benefit here. He’s playing around 30 minutes and producing nice numbers near 30 fantasy points a game. The problem is he’s no longer cheap. Zizic is a $6K player on DK and $5,400 on FanDuel. When we were getting him at Aron Baynes price, I was all in. Now, I can’t force myself to take him for $2,000+ more than Baynes today.
Danilo Gallinari – The Clippers game also has no line due to the status of Gallo. This one is not an easy one to nail down. Without Gallo, you do not really have one guy who has benefitted in terms of minutes. The biggest beneficiary of no Gallo over the last few games has been Tobias Harris. Harris benefits because his shots have gone up, which has raised both his floor and his ceiling. He didn’t look great against Dallas last night, and now he draws another crappy matchup in Miami. His price has risen too due to him dropping 60 the other day. Tough matchup, rising price and tail end of the back-to-back are all red flags with him today.
Ben Simmons/Jimmy Butler – The 76ers game has no line because Ben Simmons has a cold and Jimmy Butler has a bum wrist. Those are two very key pieces to this team. Currently, I have no lean on whether or not they play, but if either misses, you should look to Joel Embiid to pick up the offensive slack with his high usage rate. We would have some cheap wing options come into play if one or both of them sit. T.J. McConnell should play more; Landry Shamet, Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden all should get a slight bump up too. These guys are like near minimum, priced dirt cheap. None of them slide into the full minutes or usage of guys like Butler and Simmons, but they all should see increased minutes and production.
Anthony Davis – Davis is likely out for a few weeks right now with a finger injury, and this is going to change quite a few things. The minutes are easy, as Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic should now both consistently get those 30+ minutes a night with higher usage and rebounding totals. That makes both guys better plays without Davis for fantasy production. I also think we should see Jrue Holiday bump up now. Last year with Davis out, we saw Holliday put up a few more points per game and a few more rebounds. So, he also benefits a bit with higher usage and production.
Andre Drummond – Drummond is still in concussion protocol and did not practice with the team yesterday. To add to the Pistons depth problem, Henry Ellenson and Ish Smith are also unlikely to play today. The Pistons do not have a strong team. Zaza Pachulia has seen the biggest bump in minutes, and he’s done OK with them. He’s cheap, but the floor is not really safe or high here. Reggie Bullock and Blake Griffin have been the big minutes getters. Griffin has a way higher floor and ceiling but also is nearly double the price. Still, Blake and Bullock in a paced up spot against a Browless Pelicans defense does make sense. Guys like Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard also see more court time here, but they are more punt types at near min price that you hope get you 25.
This is an all-star list of guys who may not be taking the court tonight, and each of them are high minutes, high usage options that would drastically alter the production of their teammates. This is what makes writing a cash game article tough first thing in the morning. It also makes me think about roster construction. When we have a lot of injuries, we tend to get a lot of underpriced good options and a ton of value plays we can entertain. Today is no different. The Stars and Scrub lineup approach is likely to be the way to go tonight because some of these cheap options are going to be 25-35 point guys for near min price. That means linking them with the right stars who go for 60+ is going to be the likeliest path to a high scoring roster. I’m not sure which situations are going to break for or against our interests here, but with 5 games without lines at 10 AM, you can bet at least some will end up in either direction. With this in mind, you will notice that today’s write up is geared more towards stars and scrubs, as knowing we will have the value somewhere has led to me having enough money left in my initial builds this morning to end up with 2-3 superstars on every DK lineup and sometimes even 4 on FanDuel.
FAVORITE CASH PLAYS
*This is a very weak position today on FanDuel. You can pay up for Kyrie in a game with a 16-point spread, Kemba v. the slow-paced Memphis Grizzlies and Mike Conley defense. Go back to Lowry on the tail end of a back-to-back against a tough defense in Indiana, maybe with lower usage if Kawhi plays. None of that is very appealing. Hell, Ben Simmons would have probably been my #1 if I knew he was playing due to the lack of other exciting high-end options. On DraftKings, we have enough guys PG/SG eligible to stay away from the purebred PG options today. On FanDuel, though, it’s not as easy to do when we have to play two and most of the guys we want to play, who are playing PG for their teams, are listed at SG.
Mike Conley – About the best bet for a high-end option on the day is Mike Conley. One thing I am monitoring here is the status of Marc Gasol, who is listed as questionable. I like Conley more without Gasol, as he will need to be a bigger part of the offense. New Orleans kicked their butts last game, but Conley did his thing, despite the team scoring just 85 points. Conley had just shy of 50 fantasy points in that one, and Gasol was active. He has upside like that today, especially if Gasol is limited or out.
Kris Dunn – Dunn has not been great, and he is not as cheap as I would have liked, but the matchup against the Hawks is one of the best you can ask for in basketball. He is $6,300 on DK and $7,400 on FanDuel. That’s a little over $1,000 cheaper on both sites than Conley. I have the Hawks as a team I project guys for 10-20% above average against at the point guard position, and I think that’s reasonable, given the production bump most point guards tend to see against Trae Young.
Patrick Beverley – I really would rather not chase these big recent games, but without Gallo, his minutes and his production are up. The big surprise is the huge rebounding numbers that have really boosted his scores. While I do not expect him to continue to grab 10 boards a game like he has averaged the last two, the thing which has me interested is the minutes. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has seen his drop, as Beverley has outplayed him and flourished. That, at least, gives me enough confidence in a higher floor. The matchup is not ideal, and this play is one I would rather use in GPPs, but it just goes to show you how unappealing the PG position is today.
Fred VanVleet – He’s $4,600 on both sites. Even if Kawhi plays, I still expect 27-30 minutes out of him. He’s played a little over 30 the last few games due to the injuries, and he’s produced. VanVleet is going to set up teammates, score a bit himself, and add in enough of the other stats to help boost the floor. He’s been crashing lately, but the matchups have been soft and there was no Kawhi. He might have both those things working against him tonight, but still has enough of a floor to be viable.
T.J. McConnell – If Simmons is out and you wanted to punt with McConnell, I would be fine with that today. That’s how weak PG is that I think this is a spot where it makes sense to punt with at least one guy on FD and use the salary savings elsewhere. Guys like Derrick White and Elf Payton also caught my eye, but McConnell is the cheapest of the bunch and I project them all for around 20-28 fantasy points. McConnell also could be the one guy who benefits most if ball handlers like Butler and Simmons happen to sit.
James Harden – When a day sets up with plenty of value to go stars and scrubs, James Harden tops my list of stars to squeeze in my lineup. In fact, forget squeezing in, I start my lineups with him and figure out the rest. Harden only saw 30 minutes last game, as the 76ers blew them out, but he still put up 50+ fantasy points. The five games before that he averaged about 39 minutes a game and put up 70+ in each of them. Even at the sky-high price, the dude is head and shoulders above the field. In the last month, the lowest actual point total he had was 37. Add in the fact he flirts with double-doubles in rebounds or assists every night and you can see why the floor and the ceiling remain high. Harden is playing to a usage rate around 45 lately. There is no better upside play for raw points in the entire league right now at any position.
Eric Gordon – While we are on the subject of the Rockets, let me also discuss Eric Gordon. Gordon is $5,700 on DraftKings, and I’m not likely to go there outside of a GPP game stack. He’s $400 cheaper on FanDuel though at only $5,300. That price really stood out to me. On FanDuel I like Gordon, but I wouldn't pay for him in cash on DK where the multiple is higher and so is this price.
D’Angelo Russell – Russell has put up 50+ in three of the last four games and still feels cheap. One of those games was a few days ago against this same opponent too. Russell has averaged under 30 minutes this season but averaged 34 over the last four games. He’s also taken 25+ shots in three of those last four games too. Anyone who is getting that kind of shot volume is worthy of cash game play. Minutes and usage are huge things to focus on for cash because the guys with high numbers in both have worst case scenarios that don't kill you and best case scenarios that help you win. Russell is currently one of those guys in his role, and you have a lot of potential from the position if you pair him and Harden together with both guys constantly dropping 50+.
Reggie Bullock – The Detroit swingman is not big upside play. He never has been, probably never really will be, but he does have the high minutes and the potential to play more with the thin rotation we discussed in Detroit. Bullock is $5K on FD and $4,500 on DK. We need about 25+ out of him for upside. He is routinely around 20+ and never really in the 30+ range, so the ceiling is capped. Still, we are more interested in the floor here; he does tend to go 20+ and has reasons for upside in this one.
Note: Depending on how the 76ers news breaks, you have Furkan Korkmaz here for basically min price. He has already gotten us 25 in those situations before when filling in for Butler or Simmons. You also would have to look hard at JJ Reddick, as he would basically be the #2 scorer if those guys miss. He’s not dirt cheap and lacks upside since he does little but score. Still, in cash, he can and will be needed to score if there is no Butler or Simmons offense.
Nikola Mirotic – He’ll be incredibly popular tonight and deservingly so. Mirotic was being worked back up to major minutes slowly as he recovered from injury, but with Anthony Davis out, that plan is accelerated. With Davis out last game, he finally saw over 30 minutes and predictably had a good game, putting up 36. That game even got ugly near the end so he could have played more minutes if needed. He’s cheaper on FanDuel at only $6,700, where he is SF eligible, and I love him there. He started next to Okafor and Randle last game, so technically he is playing the SF role. On DraftKings, he is $7,000 and PF/C eligible. I still don't hate him over there either, even at that higher DK price. That should tell you how much I love him on FD though, as we need about 42 on DK for value and just 34 on FD. If he hits value on DK, he’ll crush it on FanDuel, and without Anthony Davis, I expect him to do that.
Tobias Harris – Harris is coming off a bad game, but he was the guy who benefited most from Gallo being out. Today is a strange day at SF, especially on FD. On FD, the most expensive option is Harris at $8K. No Giannis, LeBron, KD or PG13 on this slate, and we normally have at least one or more of those other options to use. I have Harris projected for five points above every other guy too. I think he and Mirotic have very similar floor and ceiling projections though, so if you only choose to pay for one in cash, save the $1,300 and just use Mirotic.
DeAndre Bembry – The return of Taurean Prince does concern me, and I do expect him to start seeing more minutes, as he already has. Still, Bembry has played over 30 minutes in five straight games. He’s taking about 10 shots a game and has been over five rebounds and/or five assists in more than half these games. His price has risen, but he’s also produced 40 fantasy points, which would be well over needed value at his sub $6K price. I’m not looking for major upside, but he does have it, he is still playing a lot of minutes, and he has a high floor in even his worst case scenario. Bembry is not a guy I am jumping to get in my lineups, but he’s definitely worthy of consideration for cash.
Jae Crowder – Maybe I’m just a sucker for Crowder, but the guy is consistently average. He’s not often great, but he also doesn’t suck when he gets the minutes. Lately, he’s been locked into 30 minutes, and even with Rubio back, he saw 30+ last game too. That makes me think he will continue on this path of about that many minutes. It also means he’s likely to put up his 27-32 fantasy points and be a good value for the price. Again, not the guy I want in a GPP, but to keep me on the cash line pace for a reasonable price, I’m in for that.
Blake Griffin – The Pistons looked bad without Andre Drummond last game, but Blake still played about 36 minutes and led them in basically every statistical category. He took the most shots, has the most points (1 of only 2 guys in double figures), led them with nine rebounds and tied with a few teammates for the most assists with four. Blake is going to have to do even more than usual here, as Zaza is not the scorer Andre Drummond is (and Drummond isn't even a big-time scorer), Reggie Jackson is looking bad and Reggie Bullock/Bruce Brown are not exactly scoring threat either. Really, it’s like Blake or nothing here in terms of guys who can put the ball in the basket. The good news is the matchup is ideal. The Pelicans play a fast pace, and without Davis, the defense he will see comes from guys like Mirotic and Randle, neither known for their work on that side of the ball. This is an excellent spot for Blake, who should also benefit from a usage bump without Drummond. Lots of reasons to think he hits and even exceeds an already high floor in this one today.
LaMarcus Aldridge – I have been burned by Spurs in cash before, so I’m always a little bit hesitant, but LMA is on a tear right now. He’s routinely playing over 32 minutes, and when he does, he’s getting up near 20 shots in recent contests. With Rudy Gay still rounding back into form, the Spurs have needed him to score. LMA went for 43 and over 50 twice in the last four games. That’s a high floor and even upside at his price. He is about the same price, a little over $8K, on FD and DK today. Again, when the price is close or less, I love a guy on FD that I would play at the higher price on DK, and LMA is one of those guys today too.
Jaren Jackson – Gasol sat out last weekend in Toronto. It’s tough to really gauge minutes off of that due to the blowout, but the guy who had the biggest game was Jaren Jackson. Gasol is listed as questionable again today. He has been questionable every game for the last week and only sat out once, so there is a chance he still plays. If he is out though, Jaren Jackson is the guy I will be targeting. I like the price, and he needs to put up about 30. He had 16/9 and played under 30 minutes against a tough Toronto defense in that last one without Gasol, so I think he can do it if Gasol sits again here.
Kenneth Faried – Faried was the perfect guy to add to this Houston team off waivers. He’s like a poor man’s Clint Capela. He brings energy, rebounding, and a guy who can finish off passes on the pick and roll. He’s not the ideal center height, but he’ll do as a replacement while Capela is out. We know Nene can't play 30 minutes anymore, and PJ Tucker is already undersized for a PF, forget about for a center. The minutes are there for Faried, and that’s all he really needs. His hustle and energy will get him rebounds and points. As the minutes rise, I am interested, as long as the price doesn't jump up too much.
Bobby Portis – Portis had a bad game last time out, but the price is still pretty reasonable on him. He’s playing over half the game, and with Carter out, that may even continue to rise. Portis has always been a solid per-minute producer. This is a guy putting up over 30 fantasy points and playing less than 30 minutes in recent contests. I much prefer him at the $5,400 price on FanDuel as opposed to being $400 more expensive on DK. On DK, I have been saving $1,400 and dropping down to Faried, but on FanDuel, it’s only $400 and I prefer Portis there.
Joel Embiid – For about six games in a row, Embiid has finished with 48-62 fantasy points. That is both a high floor and a high level of consistency. This game, we may even see one or both of Simmons and Butler rest. Embiid has been going for 50-60 points a game even with those guys playing, and I would expect more of an offensive bump if either of them sat. You have enough value today, and without any other big priced forwards (Seriously, who do you spend on there?), you can easily build lineups paying up at both center and PF, as I have been doing so far today. I didn't start my lineups with Embiid at center, but he ended up there a lot by the end as you start filling in some of the value guys and all of a sudden realize you have the money to make him fit pretty easily.
Nikola Vucevic – The other high-end option I love today is Vucevic. His floor and ceiling are a tad below Embiid’s, but so is his price. What really sold me on including him though is the matchup. The Nets have been a team we have been looking to pick on with big men all year and have done so very successfully. Vuc himself put up just shy of 50 on them last week already. This is a pricey option, but he’s not expensive when you figure he has been around 50 fantasy points in most of his recent games, and that’s about where we need him today in a game that favors him for upside.
Jahlil Okafor – The interesting thing with the Pelicans right now is how they played without Davis. Rather than go with Randle at the 5 and Mirotic playing a stretch 4 role, they used Okafor at center and slid those guys back to the SF and PF role. Okafor came through with a monster game, and the price did rise. He saw 35 minutes in that one and had a double-double. He could always score; he just never played D and was not a big rebounder. If he can contribute the boards to go with the scoring, and if he is going to consistently see 30+ minutes without Anthony Davis, this is a guy who could have some value. I’m not expecting a repeat of that 40 fantasy point outburst, but if he can get us 25-30 at the price, we should be fine with that.
Aron Baynes – Baynes still is unlikely to play over half the game here, but without Horford, he does tend to see 20+ minutes. Baynes is a big-time rebounder, can knock down a shot or two and even come up with a few assists. He’s made value quite often in this exact situation with a higher than normal minutes expectation due to an injury to Horford. He’s basically free at $3,500 and $3,700, and he has a floor around 20 with upside of 30+, as we have seen. This is the kind of punt I love where his floor doesn't hurt me and his ceiling could be the reason I get above a cash line and make up for a miss elsewhere.