NBA preseason is not a time when I want to be going heavy with my bankroll. I’m as excited as anyone that NBA is gearing up to start, but the edge for preseason is small. In order to understand what that edge is, we need to discuss why preseason is different from the regular season.
One of the main reasons I love cash games in NBA DFS is that the NBA is the most easily projectable of sports. Minutes tend to remain constant for most of the players on a given team as long as injuries do not factor in. A guy seeing 30 minutes a night is likely to continue seeing 30 minutes a night and a guy seeing 15 is likely to continue to see around 15. That number may fluctuate a couple minutes in either direction, but barring injuries or foul trouble, it tends to remain constant.
In the preseason, this is not always the case. Take a look at some of the games played already and you will notice we don’t have many guys seeing 30+ minutes of action. Hell, many don’t even get over 24 and these are the guys we project for 30-35 a night when the season starts. Preseason is a time when we tend to see everyone on the team play 12-24 minutes and that means trying to parse guys based on playing time is tough to do. What we instead want to look for is fantasy points per minute. If everyone is going to be playing roughly the same number of minutes whether they start or are second string, then the guys who can produce big numbers in short periods of time are going to be the ones with a high point per minute number.
The salaries in the preseason are little changed from where they are likely to be during the season. I have no problem paying up $8K+ for Damian Lillard playing 35 minutes in a good matchup, but preseason might not be the best time to find the highest priced guy at a position and pay for him. Point guard and center are spots where you can usually get good production from mid salaried players in preseason, leaving shooting guard, small forward, and power forward as spots I tend to pay up for starters. With this lineup construction in mind, here is how I’m building my GPP teams for tonight. (Don’t play preseason cash games….and this is coming from a guy who plays tons of regular season cash action).
San Antonio Spurs @ Miami Heat
The Spurs are the only team that has already played a preseason game and in true San Antonio fashion, they really did not care. A bunch of the veterans sat that one out with no Demarre Carroll and no Demar DeRozan. It led to a ton of minutes at the SG spot and a nice return from Bryn Forbes. Patty Mills also sat that one out. Mills is expected to play today, so I wouldn’t expect the same from Forbes as his minutes could suffer. Lonnie Walker played a lot of minutes as a swing forward in this one with the veteran forwards outside of Aldridge sitting out. We could see that again and his price is reasonable for a cheap play. Not a single player on the team played over the 24:41 Lonnie Walker saw, so this is not a place we should be looking for many plays tonight. Outside of a cheap Walker, my second favorite play is Dejounte Murray and his stat sheet stuffing ability, but I’m doubtful he sees even 20 minutes and others should get more. I love his points per minute, but know the way Pop treats preseason action.
Top Plays: Lonnie Walker, Dejounte Murray
Secondary Plays: none
We don’t know how Miami will treat the first game of the preseason, but we do know they have some new pieces this year. Guys like Dragic, Waiters, and Winslow are healthy and they all missed parts of last season with injuries. The Heat added Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro to the mix and both guys should see plenty of action as Butler is a proven star and Herro lit up the summer league. How much any of these guys play is a mystery, but I would expect no more than half a game from any of them given the depth and talent on the perimeter. The big men are a little thinner and we could find some value here. Bam Adebajo is the clear starter at Center, but with Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson both unlikely to play, we could see guys like Meyers Leonard or Derrick Jones Jr. end up playing a lot of minutes. We do have a lot of reasonably priced players for the Heat and I expect them to beat a Spurs team that doesn’t really show you much in the preseason. Guys like Winslow, Herro, Waiters, Jones, and Leonard are all under $5000 on DraftKings and even a guy like Jimmy Butler is not expensive at only $6200. The Spurs gave up 120 to the Orlando Magic in their first preseason contest and lost by 30 in the process. I love Miami if you want to bet on one of these games tonight and because of that I am looking for exposure here.
Top Plays: Justise Winslow, Jimmy Butler, Meyers Leonard
Secondary Plays: Tyler Herro, Dion Waiters, Derrick Jones Jr.
Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder
So this is an interesting spot for some big man value. Dwight Powell is out and Kristaps Porzingis is limited as he recovers from an injury. They did add Boban Marjanovic in the offseason and this is the type of game Boban makes sense in. He’s a high per minute guy and may see a decent number of minutes, so he will be on some of my teams. Maxi Kleber also is likely to get a heavy workload, so I would be interested in him at the price as well. As for the guards, that is where they have a little more depth. Luka Doncic is an absolute monster producing fantasy points across the board, but he’s not likely to play 30 minutes tonight either. However, he’s a high PPM guy which makes him a viable play even in just 22-28 minutes of action. They have numerous pieces to surround him with from Jalen Brunson to Delon Wright to Tim Hardaway, Seth Curry, Justin Jackson, and Courtney Lee. The rotation will thin out in the regular season, but it’s tough to really want to take any of these guards as they all likely see 20ish minutes here.
Top Plays: Luka Doncic, Boban Marjanovic
Secondary Plays: Maxi Kleber
So the rumors have yet to prove true of Chris Paul shipping off to Dallas for Hardaway, Brunson, and Lee. I guess we have to consider him part of the rotation here, but I would not be expecting big minutes. I actually like other guards like Dennis Schroeder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander more tonight. Schroeder at $4300 on DK is very interesting to me. If I had to pay up for anyone it’s likely to be Danilo Gallinari. With Westbrook and George gone, someone is going to have to step up and score for this team. They likely rotate Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel here, so I’d rather take a cheap option like Noel if Adams minutes will be limited. We have guys like Hamidou Diallo that are interesting too, but not interesting enough for me to really want to play.
Top Plays: Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schroeder
Secondary Plays: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nerlens Noel
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Phoenix Suns
This entire offense runs through Karl-Anthony Towns and he is one of the few guys worth paying up for, even in limited minutes. He’ll rebound, score, and pass the rock well enough to get a few assists. I also love the matchup as DeAndre Ayton was a guy who gave up big games to opposing centers last season. I’m not expecting 30 minutes from Towns either, but he could end up being the top overall scorer on the day and we have enough value plays to get him in our lineups. Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins will play a lot of perimeter minutes this year, but I am not expecting a ton of minutes from either tonight. I prefer Teague to Wiggins in terms of fantasy production if I had to play one. Shabazz Napier and Josh Okogie should both get minutes backing up those guys and they are cheaper. I prefer Napier to Okogie in terms of production, but again neither are my favorite plays. Guys like Dieng, Vonleh, and Layman are interesting options, but not much in terms of upside there either. Really Towns is the only slam dunk play for me here and I’m not as high on anyone else despite what should be a good matchup.
Top Plays: Karl-Anthony Towns
Secondary Plays: Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh
This is and always will be Devin Booker’s team with everyone else playing secondary roles. Like Towns on the other side, his high usage when on the floor and high number of shots makes him a guy to pay up for, even in the preseason. He is really the only perimeter guy I am high on as they are loaded with players like Rubio, Elie Okobo, and Tyler Johnson who all played minutes last year for their respective teams. The weakness for the Suns is at the forward spot where they are banged up. Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre are listed as out. Frank Kaminsky and Aron Baynes are both questionable, which opens up a ton of minutes for the guys who are active. Cam Johnson, Dario Saric, Chieck Diallo, and DeAndre Ayton are all in line for big roles. Johnson is very interesting without Bridges and Oubre as he could see a ton of minutes. The UNC product was the #11 overall pick and he is someone the coaches are high on. Saric and Diallo have proven capable when given opportunities before and they could each see north of 24 minutes in a thin frontcourt tonight at cheap prices.
Top Plays: Devin Booker, Cam Johnson
Secondary Plays: Dario Saric, Chieck Diallo
Denver Nuggets @ Portland Trail Blazers
Nikola Jokic is an absolute monster, but he’s not playing in the preseason. Bol Bol has not been cleared either, so that leaves Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant, and maybe Tyler Zeller as potential options to play big man spots here. Millsap is also active, but I would not be surprised if they go easy on him as well given they babied him all of last season, too. That could mean big games from Plumlee and Grant who should get the bulk of the playing time. One guy I am really excited to watch tonight is Michael Porter. This guy was arguably talented enough to be a top 5 pick, but had to miss an entire year with an injury. He has been rumored to be running with the starters for the Nuggets and I would expect we see him anxious to make an impact given how long he has been waiting for this moment. The Nuggets are stacked on the perimeter with almost everyone back from last year and all of them are healthy now. You have Jamal Murray and Gary Harris as the main guys, but Monte Morris, Torrey Craig, Malik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez are all here too. None of them project for major minutes in preseason action with so many mouths to feed. I would bet they all see 20ish minutes and no one puts up earth shattering numbers.
Top Plays: Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant
Secondary Plays: Michael Porter
I do not want to pay top dollar for Lillard in this spot. I love Dame Dollar, but I doubt they push him here and both of these teams are solid defensively. CJ McCollum is a better price, but also not a huge fan of his in this spot. Guys like Rodney Hood and Kent Bazemore are nice cheap options who could pop here, but I like other guys more for upside and potential playing time. The guys I prefer to use on the Blazers are the frontcourt players. Pau Gasol is unlikely to play and Jusuf Nurkic is out. Recently acquired Hassan Whiteside is a high per minute guy and I can see a clear path to 20+ minutes for him given the lack of depth. The other guy I am interested in here is Zach Collins. He had a finger issue that was a setback, but appears to be ready to go. With Aminu no longer on the roster, he projects as a starter and a big time contributor this season. He showed flashes of his talent in limited minutes last year, so I’m expecting a big step forward. Guys like Anthony Tolliver and Skal Labissierre also project to see minutes in preseason action, but the frontcourt is still the thinnest part of this rotation currently.
Top Plays: Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins
Secondary Plays: Kent Bazemore