NBA is back baby, and we have a high scoring six-game slate with the lowest total at 218 and three games at 230 or above. The pricing for this slate has also been out for a week now. The reason that matters is we did not know…
NBA is back baby, and we have a high scoring six-game slate with the lowest total at 218 and three games at 230 or above. The pricing for this slate has also been out for a week now. The reason that matters is we did not know Joel Embiid was going to sit; we did not know Tristan Thompson was going to be out, and we also didn’t know guys like Kevin Love, Nikola Mirotic, Goran Dragic and Clint Capela were going to play today. Big stars being out opens up value, and today, that value was not adjusted up in price for those absences. We also have guys priced as they were when stars like Mirotic, Love, Dragic and Capela were out. The return of high usage guys who could see minutes is going to damage the upside for guys we have been using on those teams. For a small six-game slate, we have quite a lot of things to factor into our projections.
The big news is Joel Embiid being out for not only this game but probably a week or more. This is going to create some new lineup combinations we have not seen before. Between the trade for Tobias Harris and losing a high minute, high usage guy like Embiid, we have to try to figure out where the production is going to come from, and we don’t have a ton of history to help us out. Ben Simmons has not really seen a major boost without Embiid. He’s still a good play, but I don’t think he’s the guy who gets a massive bump, as the numbers don’t really show that. JJ Reddick may help out a little, but he’s averaged more points with Embiid than without him. The guy who has seen the biggest bump is Jimmy Butler. Butler has seen 3+ more field goal attempts and finished with 7 DK points more with Embiid not in the lineup. Tobias Harris is the wild card here. We have yet to see him in a 76ers uniform without Embiid. We do know that no Embiid opens up a lot of rebounds and shots for the rest of the 76ers to cover, so it makes sense to figure Harris for a breakout type game. Still, in cash, I like certainty and there is a real lack of it with this situation. As for the direct beneficiaries, you have three guys likely to see an increased role. Boban Marjanovic is a high per minute producer, but he is a defensive liability and can’t really play much more than maybe 20 minutes. That means he can pick up maybe 10 minutes of the 30+ Embiid plays regularly on top of his normal workload. At his price, there is definitely interest, as he is a guy who can put up 20 in 12-14 minutes of action, so 30+ in 20ish minutes is very doable for Boban. At his price, that would be a 7-8X kind of return or better. Amir Johnson has not looked good this year in limited court time. His season-high in minutes is 19, so I would expect him to play above his average of under 10 minutes, but not by much. Again, maybe he picks up 5-10 minutes of Embiid court time. That leaves Jonah Bolden, who skills-wise fits the best here, as he can run up and down with the 76ers core better than Boban could. Bolden doesn’t average a lot of minutes or production, but at least we have seen him play 20+, unlike the other options available. Bolden has played over 25 minutes three times this year and has 19, 23 and 30 fantasy points in those three games. Again, I’m not in love with his upside, but at $3200 on DK and $3500 on FanDuel, getting us 20 would be enough to hit value and allow you the cash to spend elsewhere. I like the idea of playing Boban and Bolden together on FD and then spending up everywhere else. Both guys could have good games, but either of them could also shit the bed. My guess is, if one craps out, it likely is because the other played well and saw big minutes. This way you can catch the upside and drop the bad game while being able to afford studs everywhere else.
The other big injury news is Tristan Thompson, who is out with a foot issue, which is really code for his Kartrashian GF catching him plowing her sister’s best friend. You really can’t make this stuff up. Either way, this situation is not as juicy as I hoped it would be. You have Cedi Osman and Kevin Love healthy, so both guys are back in the rotation and can play some big man minutes. You have Ante Zizic still around, and Larry Nance also healthy. The one guy I am looking at though is Marquese Chriss. Chriss has been playing big minutes, and with Love still on a pitch count, that should continue. Chriss is not a great skilled basketball player, but he’s big, athletic, and can jump out of the jump. He’ll get his rebounds and will do enough scoring to make him a solid option at a pretty cheap price, especially with the minutes being pretty safe.
The last piece of injury news to note is Damian Lillard. He is not out but listed as questionable. If Lillard misses, Seth Curry becomes a value option and likely sees the minutes boost. CJ McCollum would be the guy I look at to benefit from higher usage, and guys like Evan Turner and Rodney Hood would probably also earn more minutes and a slight bump in usage. Again, we need more information about Lillard before these guys become playable, but if he sits, we do need to look at CJ as a big boost up and guys like Curry and Turner as viable punt options.
HIGHEST PROJECTED TOTAL
- Warriors – 125.25
- Rockets – 118
- Bucks – 116.25
- Blazers – 115.25
- Lakers – 115
BIGGEST PACE BUMP
- Rockets: +5.4
- Cavs: +3.7
- Heat: +3.5
- Celtics: +3.3
HIGHEST PROJECTION OVER AVERAGE
- Cavs: +6.5
- Rockets: +5
- Warriors: +5
- Lakers: +3
*The Celtics (-2) and 76ers (-2.5) are the only two teams on this slate that don’t project for their average or above it
TOP CASH PLAYS
Ben Simmons – With Lillard banged up, I don’t want to pay for him in cash as the highest priced PG on the slate. Kyrie Irving has one of the toughest matchups on the slate, and guys below Simmons like CP3, Eric Bledsoe and De’Aaron Fox lack consistent floors lately. Simmons, on the other hand, should benefit from higher usage, more minutes and even a bump in rebounding with Embiid’s production off the court. Normally I’m not keen on taking guys against Miami, but given the black hole of production the 76ers need to fill, I’m happy to do it today. Simmons is going to be very popular tonight, but I in cash that’s not a bad thing. I’ll lock him in at one spot on FanDuel as the position is very weak today. You don’t have to pay up for him on DK, but I think he’ll be popular over there too in cash. Due to multiple position eligibility, you have way more options on DK to fill that PG spot.
Collin Sexton – I know it’s gross and I’m really not a huge fan of his game, but I’m not going to let that stop me from taking the production at his price. Sexton is one of the few guys the Cavs want to get minutes for and see as a part of their future. He’s had some big upside spots but normally is just OK. Over his last five games, he’s averaging 37+ minutes and 20 field goal attempts, scoring 20 or more in four of the last five games. It’s not a high percentage and doesn’t always look pretty, but for a guy priced around the $5K range, you are basically getting 4X just in points scored lately. He’s been reeling off a combined seven rebounds and assists per game as well lately, so you are talking about 30 fantasy points there from a guy playing a ton of minutes. That is the kind of safe floor we like for cash. It isn’t always pretty, but he’s been able to get the job done at the price and keep you in line to cash.
Steph – The other two PG options I am looking into are the Curry brothers. I love the matchup for Steph and his price is reasonable, but I always worry in cash about taking the Warriors at home where they tend to blow people out. They are an 11.5 point favorite. This is one of the best matchups a PG can have, so Steph definitely makes sense on paper. I currently have a decent amount of him in GPPs due to that upside, but still prefer Simmons in cash for a safe floor.
Seth – This is if, and only if, Damian Lillard sits this one out. Curry would benefit from added minutes in that case. He’s min price on FanDuel where you really could use some better PG options. I doubt I would need him for DK, but value is value and he could make some lineups there too. If Lillard plays, you ignore Curry, as he is not likely to get any upside and may not even have a safe enough floor to not hurt you.
D’Angelo Russell – Will update shortly
Jimmy Butler – When you run the numbers for the 76ers with and without Embiid, the guy who seems to get the biggest boost is Jimmy Butler. Butler is an alpha so I like guys like that in situations like this. Embiid was the highest usage guy on the team and one of the higher usage guys in all of basketball, not just at his position. That means the offense and scoring are going to have to be really adjusted around to cover his absence. The guys likely to see those minutes do not have the skill set Embiid did, so the shots are going to end up with guys like Butler, Simmons, Reddick and Harris. Of all these guys, Butler’s the one who tends to see the biggest production boost. His price on DraftKings is solid. FanDuel he’s a tad pricier than I would like, but still a guy I will be looking to play tonight in a matchup without Embiid.
Dion Waiters – The Heat traded Tyler Johnson, got rid of Wayne Ellington and were without Goran Dragic for a while. Dragic is expected back but on a limited minutes basis. Waiters has routinely seen 30 minutes and even played as many as 40 in recent games with the perimeter not being as crowded. He’s still dirt cheap, and you know he’s going to get his shots up when he’s in the game. He doesn’t project for a huge ceiling, but he does project for above pace production at a cheap price, allowing you the cash to spend elsewhere.
Reggie Bullock – Not much upside and definitely not a GPP play, but for the cheap price, he does make sense. I don’t feel like much has changed for him with the trade to LA from Detroit. Bullock plays a lot of minutes, is mostly a standstill shooter, but is cheap enough and plays enough minutes that he creeps up near value every time. In two games as a Laker, he has seen 30 and 35 minutes. He’s $4100 on DK and $4700 on FD. If he gets us near 25 points today, he was worth the price tag. He’s coming off a game where he looked more comfortable and put up nearly 30 DK points. That would be 7-8X his price over there today and even at 25 he is returning 6-7X and is good value.
Note: CJ McCollum is not a bad option either, but I likely do not touch him if Lillard plays. If Lillard sits, he is probably my favorite shooting guard to roster and will be on all my FanDuel lineups. I’ll even make room for him at one of the guard spots on DK if Lillard is out. If Lillard plays though, I likely take Jimmy and punt the other spot to allow me to spend up at other spots.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – Not only is Giannis playing well, but this is one of the spots where I prefer to use him. Giannis is normally the first guy to sit when the Bucks are in a blowout. When games are close, that’s when we get 38 minutes of Giannis instead of 33. Lately, even at 33 minutes, we are looking at a guy putting up near 60. When he gets more minutes than that, he’s had ceiling games like the 80+ he put up last time out. My analysis was the same in that game too. When you can project Giannis for his ceiling minutes, that’s when you want to play him and a game with the Celtics is one I expect to stay close and afford him that chance. He played 35 and 38 minutes the last two games and had 67 and 82 DK points. If you look through the game logs, when he sees 35 minutes or more, he rarely ever misses 60 fantasy points and often is at 55-60 even when he does.
LeBron James – No one with half a brain ever questions his talent, but for fantasy purposes, we always wonder when he’s going to turn on the switch. When LeBron has help and a team that can get to the playoffs without him, you don’t always see him push as hard. This team is in danger of missing the playoffs, and that has forced LeBron to not only play more assertive but to remain on the floor for bigger minutes. That has translated into better fantasy production as his team needs him to do it all in order for them to win and keep in the hunt for the playoffs. It’s led to two games with 70+ fantasy points in the last three. The thing I love is the minutes. Since returning from injury, the Lakers have had three close games and two blowouts. In the blowouts, he played 30-33 minutes; but in the close games, he saw 37, 40 and 41. 40 minutes of LeBron James level production is not normally something we see in February. We have to take the guy we have now and project him based on the current situation and the current situation is the Lakers need wins and the best chance for that to happen is LeBron James playing near 40 minutes and flirting with triple doubles every night. Last three games 28/11/16, 18/10/9 in 33 minutes, and 28/12/12. He’s still the King, so fade him at your own risk at these levels of minutes. You know how the saying goes, “If you come at the KING, you best not miss.”
Kelly Oubre – So if you need to save, the guy who keeps catching my eye on lineup builds is Kelly Oubre. In four of the last five games, he’s played 32 or more minutes, and recently, the usage rate is up above 25. TJ Warren remains out after the break here, so the minutes should remain high for Oubre. The matchup is not particularly tough against the Cavs and the Suns are also projected to score above average in this one. Oubre has had three games of 6X his price in the last five, coming up short in the blowout loss to Utah and when he played fewer minutes against Sacramento. The rest of the time he’s been producing well above expectations and should keep that up here today.
Note: I am also looking at guys like Joe Harris and Cedi Osman here. Osman makes more sense on FanDuel, where he is $4800 as opposed to $5000 on DraftKings where you need the higher multiple anyway. Harris is the opposite, where he is $5500 on FanDuel and I’d ignore him there, but at $4300 on DraftKings, he can be a value option if you need one. The Nets do have Crabbe, LaVert, Graham, Carroll, Napier and Russell playing the wing spots as well, so it’s getting crowded. Still, the reigning NBA 3-pt champ has put up some nice numbers in recent games and continues to get his minutes and opportunities to do so.
Tobias Harris – As mentioned, Harris is the biggest wildcard today. It’s not that I expect him to play well and have a bigger role without Embiid, but the question is how much does that help him. No one knows the answer, which is normally something I avoid in cash. Harris has never worn a 76ers uniform without Embiid. What we do know is guys like Dario Saric and even Richaun Holmes last year had big games filling in with Embiid missing. Harris is basically playing that other big man role, so he too should benefit. More importantly, though, is the price. $7100 on FD and $6600 on DK means about 35-40 fantasy points. If you bump up his field goal attempts and give him more minutes and rebounds without Embiid it’s not hard to see how he could get there and even more. The matchup is not great against Miami, but like Simmons you have to factor a bad matchup against a huge production bump and with the price being depressed from his norms, I think he’s actually the best deal on the 76ers of the guys who benefit.
Marquese Chriss – Love is back but still on a minutes limit. Tristan Thompson is out. Zizic, Nance and even Cedi Osman also should see some big man minutes, but the guy who has played the best and produced the best per dollar lately is the newly acquired Chriss. The numbers are improving too, as he played a season-high 27 minutes, took a season-high 16 shots, and scored just shy of 40 DK points last time out. Since the acquisition, he’s seen at least half the game and the numbers have slowly improved. Chriss is no longer min price, but he’s still relatively cheap at around $4500 on both sites. As long as Love is being babied, and with Tristan out, I can easily see a path to another 24+ minutes for him. He’s produced over a fantasy point per minute since the trade, so you can still get value out of him at this price.
Jonah Bolden – Bolden is near minimum and the guy likeliest to benefit from minutes without Embiid. Amir Johnson and Boban are both guys who can’t play 20+ minutes. Bolden was already seeing court time increase after the moves and should continue to see it here. He’ll provide depth behind Harris and also see some center minutes alongside him. Unlike the other two, we have seen Bolden play 25+ minutes before. He’s done it with a safe enough floor over 6X and a ceiling of nearly 10X his price today. I’d be more likely to project him for 20-25, in 25-30 minutes, but that’s still 6-8X his price today in a relatively safe spot for projected increased minutes.
Demarcus Cousins – Sometimes reading the news and the coach speak leads you to a guy others may not be on yet, and I think Boogie is the perfect example of that tonight. The news is his minutes restriction is lifted, so we can now get 30+ minutes out of Boogie instead of just half the game. In half the game (22-27 minutes) lately, he is putting up scores of 30-35 fantasy points, so adding 20% to his minutes would put him in the 36-42 range. At around $6K on DraftKings and just over $7K on FanDuel, that would give him a nice 6X+ type of projection. Not to mention the Warriors have the highest projected total, play in one of the fastest projected games, and it’s a Boogie Cousins’ revenge spot against his old team in the Kings. So many reasons to think Boogie smashes his value number today, and at the price, it’s tough to want to go anywhere else.
Al Horford – This is really not a great spot for Horford, but you can’t knock the recent production or the price. Technically, you can knock the price on FanDuel, where $8K is too much to pay, but for $6000 on DraftKings, I am very interested in a guy with locked in minutes in a tight game that has dropped about 50 DK points in each of the last two contests.
Boban Marjanovic – Boban is never going to get 30 minutes of action, but in 12-15 minutes, he can score 20 fantasy points. If Boban gets 20 minutes, he projects for 30 at a price near minimum on both sites. Without Embiid, he does project for 20 minutes, and some places have him for even more. Is there a risk of him not seeing 20? Sure, but I would bet he gets at least 15-20, and that’s still more than normal. Boban should end up with 20-30 fantasy points today and has potential for more if he gets closer to 25 minutes, which is not out of the question. I mean, the guy had a higher lifetime PER (Player Efficiency Rating) than Shaq, Jordan and any other player in NBA history at one point earlier this season. That stat literally translates into him being the best per minute producer of fantasy points. When he gets the minutes to perform, he doesn’t disappoint.