A new NBA season is here and Ricky Sanders has your back with today’s breakdown and all the top DFS plays for this two-game slate!!
Golden State Warriors @ Brooklyn Nets
GS – Draymond Green (O), Alen Smailagic (O)
BKN – Nicolas Claxton (O)
Coach Steve Kerr is not known for running insanely deep lineups, outside of blowouts, but with Kevon Looney on a firm minute limit in last year’s opener, the team played a solid 10-man rotation prior to the game getting out of hand (as the team lost by 19).
Considering James Wiseman did not play in preseason, it seems likely he would be on some form of minute limit in his NBA debut, meaning a 10-man rotation seems like a logical expectation once again.
Just how many minutes is Wiseman going to play? My current expectation is around 20 but that number could rise if Marquese Chriss simply ends up being the odd man out of rotation or playing sparingly. Otherwise, the center spot is going to be a three-man rotation between the starter Looney, Wiseman and Chriss.
From an Athletic article earlier in the week, “the Warriors just want Wiseman to do what JaVale McGee did and what they thought Damian Jones could do (but couldn’t): Run the floor, protect the rim, be a dunk threat on the pick-and-roll, maybe hit a mid-range jumper or two and avoid embarrassment in any of the other facets of the game.”
In other words, do not expect a ton out of him immediately, as they just need him to mimic McGee from the get-go.
Meanwhile, the efficiency numbers for Stephen Curry are about to be insane, with Coach Kerr already admitting his plans to stagger the minutes of Curry and Andrew Wiggins. That should help the productivity of each player from a fantasy perspective as they will mostly dominate the usage whenever they are on the floor.
Dating back to 2014, Curry has not fallen below 1.36 DK fantasy points per minute in any season, and with the additions of other scorers in Wiggins/Kelly Oubre Jr., it seems some of the defensive focus should be elsewhere and he should continue to cook.
Some may feel the minutes may be questionable for the start following an injury-plagued 2019 season but he looked great in preseason and played 29-minutes in the exhibition finale without any issues.
Essentially, expect 30-plus minutes from one of the game’s true superstars, and he is easily one of the top plays of the night.
Wiggins, Oubre and Eric Paschall are the other players in the rotation I have projected for sizeable minutes with Draymond Green out.
The notion of Wiggins’ minutes getting staggered with Curry’s improves his fantasy outlook while Paschall is one of the friendliest-priced players on DK specifically. I am projecting he approaches 30-minutes with Oubre Jr. and potentially Marquese Chriss as the only other two active players capable of playing power forward minutes.
In five games playing alongside Curry last season, Paschall was slightly less effective on a per-minute basis (0.81 FPPM) than without (0.88 FPPM), so that is worth taking into consideration.
Wiggins rates better in my model than Oubre Jr. but Oubre Jr. possesses the ability for an outlier stocks game whereas Wiggins is completely scoring-based. Unless full-blown stacking this game, fantasy owners will probably want to roster a maximum two of Curry/Wiggins/Oubre Jr.
On the Nets side of the game, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will be making their triumphant returns to regular season basketball and it remains to be seen whether Irving decides to sage the stadium before playing.
Anyways, Durant posted the higher usage rate than Irving in preseason, besting him by over four percentage points (29.6-25.4). Caris LeVert actually led the team in usage but we will get to that later (and it likely had to do with the limited Durant/Irving minutes).
It is tough to say for sure how the two will fare on a per-minute basis with their new team but I have each projected with caution from a minutes standpoint; Durant is projected at 31-minutes with Irving projected at 29.
Why Durant for more coming off the torn Achilles? Well, Durant averaged almost exactly 3.0 more minutes per game in the preseason, and it is likely the Nets will be careful with both their superstars in the early-going. For those reasons, neither player rates great in my projections compared to the other superstars, but it is also possible Coach Steve Nash is not as conservative as I would expect.
If Durant approaches 34-35 minutes, he then becomes one of the best plays on the slate. However, in single-entry, my preference will likely lie with playing Curry and/or one of the Lakers superstars. On a per-dollar basis, Irving is theoretically the better investment, as the two project similarly and yet Irving is priced $1,300 cheaper.
This morning, Seige and I have been discussing the center minutes for the Nets, as that may end up mattering quite a bit. In early December, Durant told reporters he expects to play some center this year, and he easily could match the minutes of a Marquese Chriss or Eric Paschall at center.
The issue is Looney no longer seems limited and James Wiseman could eliminate Chriss/Paschall’s center minutes completely. For that reason, I am guessing Durant plays a few minutes at center tonight, but even that guess may be high.
Essentially, DeAndre Jordan/Jarrett Allen will be tasked with splitting around 46 center minutes, and Jordan is the expected starter (especially after the Nets declined to pick up Allen’s offer yesterday).
At a 25-minute estimate, Jordan becomes a top eight-or-so per-dollar value on the slate mostly because of his $5,600 price point. If he falls into a double-double, which he has been known to do, then that is the territory where he can potentially win tournaments.
Otherwise, LeVert, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie are the only other players in my model projecting for mid-20s minutes or higher, with Harris surprising rating as the best value. Naturally, I have him projected for the most minutes of the trio, but it remains to be seen how the Nets sprinkle in the usage of Harris and Dinwiddie alongside Irving/Durant.
Last year, Dinwiddie was a fantasy monster with Irving out, but here is the thing: Irving is no longer out. Consequently, he is not going to dominate usage other than the minutes Irving is off the floor, and that gives Dinwiddie a ceiling of around 18 high-usage minutes. If he takes advantage, he has a shot to smash, but he likely splits the usage with Durant/LeVert/etc. during those minutes.
Essentially, Harris just needs to knock down open shots during his stints, and the Warriors rated nothing more than league-average in defensive efficiency versus small forwards a season ago.
LeVert possesses the most multi-categorical upside of the three, and it is possible the plays 30-plus minutes and my estimates are low, in which case he would absolutely become a top target in tournaments. If expecting LeVert to play that many minutes, go ahead and boost him in projections on the site.
Top Plays: Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Kyrie Irving
Top Values: Eric Paschall, DeAndre Jordan, Joe Harris
Los Angeles Clippers @ Los Angeles Lakers
LAC – Marcus Morris Sr. (O)
LAL – N/A
Will Coach Tyronn Lue take it easy with his superstars or will he let them play sizeable minutes versus their intercity rival? That single fact would sway the entire slate as my initial instinct is to just project Paul George and Kawhi Leonard for barely over 30-minutes.
With that being the case, the two obviously are not going to project as well as superstars, like the Lakers guys, with minute projections into the mid-30s. Still, at a 32-minute expectation, George is a fantastic investment at $7,800 on DK, as his raw projection edges out that of the aforementioned Irving.
For what little it is worth, George faced LeBron James and the Lakers three times last year and topped 47 fantasy points in two of those games, including a game where he only played 30-minutes. Due to price alone, George is the preferable option to Leonard.
Beyond the two Clippers stars, there is still value to be had in the mid-tier, with Serge Ibaka having been named the team’s starting center. Naturally, the team could change their mind and go with Ivica Zubac in order to match-up with Marc Gasol, or the team could just put someone like George on Gasol and feel comfortable that the 35-year old is not going to beat them.
Anyways, a starting Ibaka is going to project for around 30-minutes by default, and Ibaka was actually a more productive player on a per-minute basis alongside the Raptors top forward Pascal Siakam last year. Not only can Ibaka knock down the mid-range shot but he is a solid rebounder and a (declining) shot-blocker. At just $5,200, Ibaka would really need to shit the bed in order to fail to solely kill a lineup.
The other rotational mainstays beyond the three already covered would be Luke Kennard, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Ivica Zubac. With Ibaka projecting for 28-minutes, Zubac’s 20-minute assumption makes him pop a bit, but I admittedly could be low on Ibaka (especially if the team wants to match Anthony Davis minutes with him for defensive purposes).
Since Ibaka and Zubac will eat into each other’s minutes, you will not want to play both together, as a big game from one almost assuredly hampers the other.
Is Lou Williams’ role still going to be valuable with all the other firepower on the Clippers offense? Well, since Montrezl Harrell moved onto the Lakers this off-season, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Williams averaged 28.1 minutes per game (MPG) in games that Leonard suited up last season so his 25-minute expectation may be conservative.
Even at just 25-minutes, Williams ranks among the best per-dollar investments of the night, even against an improved Lakers second unit. Williams is quite scoring dependent so he will smash on a good shooting night and could completely tank on an off-night.
Tournament players will learn to love/hate this guy and his sample size versus the Lakers last year tells the full story: 17.8, 21 and 39.3 DK fantasy points in those three contests. It should be noted that his explosion came sans George in rotation and he only shot 27-percent or less in each of the two duds. Still, that personifies his volatility quite well.
As for the $64-million man Kennard, he was brought in for his shooting and decent handles, which will be needed against a fierce defensive team tonight. Like Williams, he is only projecting more minutes in the mid-20s, although I also have Reggie Jackson projected in the rotation. If Jackson has completely fallen out and Coach Lue decides to condense the rotation, Kennard would be one of the main beneficiaries.
Remember, Kennard flourished last season when Derrick Rose was out, and the Clippers rotation has zero high-usage players sitting tonight. His seasonal average of 0.88 FPPM in 2019 includes a lark chunk of the time without Rose and could be setting his number artificially high for projection systems tonight. If he reverts back to the 0.82 FPPM producer he was alongside Rose, he will slide down the ranks a bit, but still sit in the top 10 overall values because of his price alone ($3,600).
Patrick Beverley is a defensive specialist who has done an ample job guarding James before and may be called upon to do so again in stretches. Even with that matchup, there is limited offensive upside, so he is nothing more than a sprinkle play in mass multi-entry (MME).
Oh, and Nicolas Batum has been starting in preseason, and almost assuredly starts again tonight. As a tall forward with the ability to shoot the ball, Batum can produce fantasy points in a variety of ways, although his 0.71 FPPM last year left much to be desired.
At $4,100, he does not need to do much to pay off, and he played 28-minutes in his final preseason game (led the team). If he plays 28-plus again, he should be firmly on the fantasy radar. He could prove to be a minute eater for this ballclub, and if he plays minutes into the 30s, fading him at his price is going to be a mistake.
On the Lakers side, Anthony Davis should be expected to play more minutes than LeBron James if the preseason was any indicator, as Davis’ additional minutes cost me huge money in their final preseason game.
Therefore, I am projecting Davis for two minutes more than James, and that leaves them projected within a point of one another. James is the cheaper player of the two and likely will be the more popular option due to the price difference.
Nevertheless, that could prove to be a mistake given Beverley and Leonard will be the primary defenders on James whereas Davis will either be matched against an undersized Ibaka or guys with simply no chance. When Davis was mismatched in preseason, he was fed over and over again, and the context is the reason for me preferring Davis ever-so-slightly.
Montrezl Harrell is likely out for revenge tonight but it is tough to see how he racks up the minutes given he is forced to split center minutes with both Marc Gasol and Davis. I currently have him at 22-minutes but can see him sneaking a few extras if my Kyle Kuzma or Markieff Morris guesses at power forward prove to be a bit high.
Basically, over 25-minutes is going to be tough for Harrell, but he is extremely productive when on the floor (1.19-plus DK FPPM in each of the past two seasons). In preseason, Harrell ranked third on the Lakers in usage behind only the superstars, and his rebound rate was up from seasons past (14.8-percent versus around 13.0-percent in three straight years).
If that trend continues, we could be seeing an ultra-productive Harrell per-minute, and 22-25 minutes may be all he needs to smash.
Kyle Kuzma should see some significant minutes at $5,500 but he is an extremely scoring-reliant player who relished the opportunities last season without Davis/James in action. With both playing, the offense would need to funnel his way (due to the tough matchups for James) for him to truly factor into the slate.
Amazingly, his rebound rate dropped all the way to 4.1-percent in preseason, so he really needs his scoring (21.7-percent preseason usage rate) to propel him to value. With Dennis Schroder and others now around, it just feels difficult to expect 20-plus real points from Kuzma, so he is mostly a pass for me.
Speaking of Schroder, he is an aggressive offensive-minded guy, but his 21.1-percent preseason usage rate would be his lowest number since his rookie season if it were to continue. If unable to dominate usage while on the floor, there is really no reason to consider him at $5,800.
Otherwise, role players Marc Gasol, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could contribute in a meaningful way with efficient per-minute performances tonight, with Horton-Tucker probably being my favorite of the trio.
Gasol’s minutes are going to get limited by the two younger players with the ability to play center whereas Horton-Tucker could be asked to build on an amazing preseason. The young fella ranked fourth on the team in usage to go along with a 10.0-percent rebound rate and 14.5-percent assist rate.
Mind you, when James/Davis returned to the rotation, his role diminished, but James has talked him up recently (and he clearly is talented). Especially if this game were to blow out, Horton-Tucker would see a favorable stint towards the end, and does have at least an out to 25-plus fantasy points (although extremely unlikely).
Top Plays: Paul George, LeBron James, Anthony Davis
Top Values: Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard, Nicolas Batum, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell