Identify the players on tonight’s NBA DFS slate who have the safest floors for your DraftKings & FanDuel cash game lineups!
Small five-game slate of NBA DFS action on this trade deadline day. Remember to check for updates and watch the livestream tonight, as this article comes out around noon and we may have some major changes to these rosters before tip-off. As we saw yesterday, trades happen and it takes a couple days for new players to end up on new teams. That left quite a few teams with 7-9 man rosters and led to some major minutes for the remaining players. Guys like Marcus Morris and Taj Gibson are names mentioned in a few trade scenarios. Philly has to shed some players to get under the league maximum after trading picks for players to the Warriors. Houston made a major move already and may still not be done either, so we could end up with another day of short rotations depending on how this news breaks.
In terms of injuries, the major news to watch out for is Russell Westbrook. The Rockets are already a bit thin after trading away Capela in the frontcourt but also may be thin if Russ sits out as well. That’s a ton of minutes, points, and rebounding that need to be distributed to the remaining players, and we all know how much of a boost Harden gets when his #2 and #3 options are not on the floor.
The rest of the news is not that big. RJ Barrett was upgraded to questionable, and he could sap some of the upside potential from the Knicks backcourt. That’s been a good source of fantasy production lately. Guys like Elf Payton and Dennis Smith Jr. have played well. Reggie Bullock is also listed as questionable for the Knicks, and while he has not produced well, he’s seen a bunch of minutes that would need to be covered by whoever is left after the 3 PM trade deadline today.
In terms of the overall slate, we do have four of the five games with pretty high totals of 227-236. That really makes that fourth game between the Orlando Magic and the New York Knicks stand out for all the wrong reasons. The 207 total there is 20-30 points below the rest of these games. If you end up with a team heavy on Magic and Knicks players, you may want to pause and reconsider that. On top of blowout potential, the pace and scoring in that one are likely to be well behind the sexier games on the slate, and the production should be for those players as well.
Top Projected Totals
- Lakers – 120.5
- Pelicans – 118
- Bucks – 117.5
- Trail Blazers – 117.5
Biggest Pace Bump
- 76ers: +6.1
- Bulls: +4.2
- Lakers: +3.5
Highest Projection over Average
- Bulls: +7.5
- Lakers: +6
- Trail Blazers: +4.25
- Pelicans: +3
NBA DFS Position By Position
- Damian Lillard – Dame cooled off after the ridiculous run he was on, but I’m willing to go back here tonight. The Spurs have struggled to contain good point guards this year, and people are more scared of the name on their jersey than they should be. The Spurs defense is not what it once was, and neither is the pace of play. Dame is expensive, but he’s at home where his team is favored and projected for four points above their norms. I know he regressed a little last game, but he was routinely scoring 40-50 real life points and averaging over 70 fantasy points for the two weeks preceding this, so he could easily get back to those lofty levels here.
- Lonzo Ball – The second tier plays are guys like Lonzo Ball and Elf Payton. Ball plays in a paced up game with a 230+ total. Elf plays against one of the slower-paced and stingier defenses in the league and is at about his ceiling price for the year. To me, the better cash game value is Lonzo. Lonzo’s upside is probably shaped a bit with the team getting healthier, but he’s also still playing a ton of minutes and has the rare ability to contribute in every single stat category. While the upside is topped, he is a good cash play because of the safety of the high total, good match, and his ability to do a little bit of everything.
Note: If you are looking to punt the second spot at what looks to be one of the weaker positions on this slate, I would consider the cheaper options in the Orlando/New York game. Dennis Smith Jr. and Michael Carter Williams are both benefiting from injuries to key pieces. The Knicks have both RJ Barrett and Reggie Bullock listed as questionable, and DSJ is coming off a massive upside game even in limited minutes. If those guys miss, or some combo of players blocking his path to minutes gets traded, he’s a near min price guy who does have some ability. MCW is seeing more minutes because of the injury to DJ Augustin. He is also near min price, although a tad more than DSJ. He has safer minutes, a better match, and gets a slight pace bump. He’s still the secondary piece behind Markelle Fultz, but without Augustin, he can keep seeing playing time.
- James Harden – I assume Westbrook will play, and the match against the Lakers is not a soft one, but if Westbrook is out, then Harden has to be near the top of plays to consider tonight. It’s not really how I want to build lineups, and we do have a few others below him who grade out better on points per dollar, but Harden is a top 3 projected player tonight and has 70+ points upside. He’s probably more of a GPP play today with Studs at other positions I want more, but he can never be ignored.
- Zach LaVine – LaVine is a guy I am very high on today. He’s been carrying the Bulls offense lately, and this match is ideal for him. The Bulls project for a day’s best 7.5 points over average with the second-fastest pace bump at +4.2. I want some exposure to them today, and really, he is the only guy I trust on that team. I debated some of the secondary players like Satoransky or Hutchinson, but when it comes to consistency, the only guy on the Bulls who has it is really LaVine. You can pencil him in for 30+ minutes a night, as the last time he failed to get there was before Thanksgiving. He averages around 35 minutes with a usage rate around 30, so he’s the guy most likely to benefit from the increased projections.
- DeMar DeRozan – DeRozan has always been able to score, but lately, he’s doing more rebounding and assisting as well. It might not sound like a big deal, but it’s always been the knock on him in fantasy that he doesn’t do enough of the other things to keep his scores high. That Portland match is a soft one for wing players against guys like McCollum and Carmelo, who are not known as defensive stalwarts. San Antonio does have a slight pace bump and projects for a few points above their seasonal averages. That makes this a good spot, a soft match, and a decent price for the increased overall production he is giving us.
- Evan Fournier – Fournier’s price has come down a bit, and we already know his minutes and role are pretty safe, as he tends to see 32-36 minutes in close games with 15+ shot attempts and a usage rate in the mid to upper 20s. We have a few interesting cheap options, but not enough of a discount and with too much risk to take on in cash. Fournier is not a world-beater, and the total here is low, but the Orlando Magic get both a pace bump and a projection above average in this one.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo – Giannis averages 1.9 fantasy points per minute. He’s had some massive rebounding totals to add to massive point scoring totals and a few assists and defensive stats. I prefer to use Giannis in close games, which this projects to be. On the season, he barely averages 30 minutes yet is just shy of 60 fantasy points per game. When the games are close, we get 32-35 minutes, and for a guy who is averaging 1.8-1.9 fantasy points per minute, an extra 4-6 minutes is a huge deal. It translates into an extra 8-12 fantasy points, and that’s the difference between his good games of 55 and his monster fantasy scores flirting with 70+. He’s coming off a few of these type games recently, and not surprisingly, he’s averaged 65-70 fantasy points in the last three games with averages of 32 minutes, 32 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists. He projects as one of the top scorers on the day overall with guys like LeBron, AD and Harden.
- Danuel House – The Rockets decided to go small ball here by trading away Capela. Maybe that changes with another deal today, but it won’t be for tonight. Danuel House has been a guy who benefitted from this switch. He’s playing more minutes and doing it with more rebounding responsibilities. He’s had 9+ rebounds in three of the last five games and has basically been playing at or above his season average of 4.5 every game since the last match with the Lakers. He’s averaged 11 points on the season, a number he has matched or exceeded in five of the last six to go along with increased shot attempts, minutes and rebounding.
- Chad Hutchinson – Hutchinson is a very interesting value play. He’s starting to get more minutes and is producing decently with them. The Bulls are in such a good spot here with bumps to their pace and projected totals. Hutchinson is the cheaper way to get exposure as opposed to LaVine, but he also carries more risk. The low price helps mitigate that risk a bit though, and he could end up being the best value option here if the Knicks don’t move Marcus Morris.
- Kevin Knox – I’m assuming the rumors are true and Marcus Morris is on his way out before the deadline today. If he is, that means Kevin Knox at near min price should step into a 30 minute or more role. He’s not the most elite producer, but at near min price for 30+ minutes, he’d definitely be in play.
- LaMarcus Aldridge – Revenge game I guess for Aldridge, as he ventures back to his old stomping grounds. He looked like crap on the tail end of the recent LA back-to-back, but he dominated the first game against the Clippers. He’s rested now and still really cheap. Despite the underdog status, the Spurs project for a slight pace bump and points above their average. In two previous meetings this year, he had 44 and 52 fantasy points. He’s priced down below $6K, so if he matches either of those numbers, you are looking at a 6X+ return for him.
- Aaron Gordon – Yes, we do have expensive options like Zion, AD and Julius Randle here, but I’m not spending at PF today. One of the reasons is all the value we have in this mid-range here. Aaron Gordon draws a decent match and is coming in hot. He’s averaged 34 minutes over the last three games and 41+ fantasy points. He’s priced in the $6K range, which means upside if he keeps this up. He’s averaged 21/9/3/2 over the last three games, and despite the low total, Orlando does project for above average production and gets a pace bump.
- Robert Covington – I’m not 100% sure he is going to be available today, but everything I am seeing says he will. The reason they traded Capela is to bring in a 3 and D guy like Covington to be able to run with the first unit. He’s not even available on the DK slate, so don’t bother looking for him. He is available on FD though for a cheap price. If he goes, you won’t find many who can give you 30+ at his price.
- Joel Embiid – One of the lower prices we have seen on Embiid in a while today. He still produces more fantasy points per minute than other options at the position, and despite the tougher match, he also projects for the most points of any Center today. With his price down, the discount to Vucevic and Whiteside is not that much money, and with the higher projection, he still makes the most sense to use. He hasn’t had the massive games we are used to seeing since coming off injury, but he’s gone for 20/12 or better in three of his four games, so it’s not like he sucked either. His minutes have crept up, and they may need max minutes from him today. Unlike Horford and Simmons, he has range out to the 3-point arc, which is something that tends to come in handy against the Bucks as you can avoid Giannis in the paint defensively.
- Brook Lopez – With the double big men in Horford and Embiid for the 76ers, the Bucks should be able to play big as well, which benefits Lopez with added minutes. He’s played at least 32 in three of the last four games. Lopez is not an elite rebounder, but he’s a good floor spacing option who can score from outside, a good passer, and will grab some boards and get a few blocks due to his size. He’s also pretty cheap here today and has safe minutes. I’m trying to spend up where I can, but if you can’t, he is a viable PP$ play in the mid-range.
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