The NBA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players.
Saturday offers a five-game main slate starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Note that the Bulls, Pelicans, and Knicks are playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t play vs the Knicks, the team with the worst Defensive Rating since the trade deadline (113.4). When Antetokounmpo, Sterling Brown (personal), and Shabazz Muhammad (ankle) have been off the court during that period, Eric Bledsoe‘s peripheral stats haven’t improved much, but the Bucks’ pace has increased, and Bledsoe’s usage rate has jumped by 2.5%, which trails only Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker (per our NBA On/Off tool):
Bledsoe’s per-minute production (1.07 DraftKings points) with Antetokounmpo on the bench recently has slightly undercut his yearly mark of 1.09, and the potential return of Malcolm Brogdon (quad) could infringe on Bledsoe’s role. You have to wonder if Bledsoe’s head is in the game but his heart is in the song. He was nearly a non-entity in the game against the Knicks last month, depositing seven points in 28 minutes. His ownership will surely skyrocket in Antetokounmpo’s absence, creating a potential fade situation in tournaments. In 134 minutes with Middleton and Parker on the court and Antetokounmpo off, Bledsoe has held firm at 1.07 DraftKings points per minute.
Emmanuel Mudiay has been diagnosed with a concussion and won’t play Saturday. His absence opens up minutes in the backcourt for Frank Ntilikina to run the second unit as the primary ballhandler. Ntilikina averages a measly 0.62 DraftKings points per minute over the past month, but when Mudiay, Ron Baker (shoulder), Jarrett Jack (DNP-CD), and Trey Burke all have been off the court since the All-Star break, Ntilikina has averaged 0.98 DraftKings points per minute and a team-high 35.2% assist rate. Whether Ntilikia starts or comes off the bench, he’ll likely run the offense more than usual. In a game Mudiay recently missed, Ntilikina provided 18.75 DraftKings points off the bench in 18 minutes.
Damian Lillard is expected to return to the lineup after missing one game with an ankle injury. He has strong DraftKings ratings with the exception of a slate-low implied team total of 98.5. And in addition to coming off an injury, he faces one of the league’s top defenses in the Spurs. However, he’s provided encouraging results against the top-six defenses over the past three months (per our NBA Trends tool):
Lillard’s current DraftKings salary of $8,400 undersells his recent production. When he’s faced teams with an average pace below 98.5 possessions per 48 minutes over the last three months, he’s thrived:
If you’re looking for more of a mid-range play consider that Mudiay is already out for the Knicks, and Kristaps Porzingis (knee), Troy Williams (jaw), Joakim Noah (personal), and Baker won’t return this season. Tim Hardaway Jr. (ankle) and Enes Kanter (back, wrist) are also doubtful, and Michael Beasley (knee) and Lance Thomas (illness) are questionable. Jack has been excised from the rotation. That all means Knicks could be extremely shorthanded and thin in the backcourt on Saturday. Enter Trey Burke. When the 10 players I just mentioned have been off the court since the trade deadline, Burke has averaged a team-high 1.49 DraftKings points per minute and a 32.8% usage rate. If all the guys dealing with ailments don’t play, the Knicks will have only eight healthy players, in which case they’d likely be the primary team stack despite their low implied team total (102.5).
James Harden costs less than $11,000 on DraftKings for the fourth time since the beginning of February. He’s normally struggled against the Thunder due to the presence of Andre Roberson, but Roberson is done for the season. And Harden didn’t have trouble against the Thunder when Roberson was healthy on Christmas, rewarding DraftKings users who picked him with 68.5 fantasy points in the game Roberson played. Harden also provided 52.75 DraftKings points against the Thunder last month despite committing 10 turnovers. The Rockets aren’t playing for anything — they’ve locked up home-court advantage throughout the postseason — and that may be the biggest hindrance to comfortably rostering their players.
Damyean Dotson scored a career-high 30 points in 36 minutes during Friday’s win, and as the injuries mount in New York, Dotson figures to remain a key figure in the rotation tonight. He could even move into the starting lineup if Hardaway Jr. is ruled out, with Ntilikina coming off the bench to steward the second unit. Dotson costs no more than $3,500 on DraftKings or FanDuel.
The Bulls have allowed opponents to attempt a league-high 34.8 threes since the All-Star break, and the Nets rank second to the Rockets during that span with 36.9 three-point attempts per game. With DeMarre Carroll (hip) sidelined once more, Allen Crabbe and Joe Harris possess a higher ceiling than usual. Harris started the previous game in Carroll’s absence, and he averages a +3.77 DraftKings Plus/Minus against teams yielding at least 30.5 three-point attempts since the beginning of January. Also note that D’Angelo Russell has eligibility at shooting guard on DraftKings, and he’s tied with Crabbe at 6.9 attempts per game from 3 since the All-Star break.
Sean Kilpatrick has attempted at least 11 shots in four straight games off the bench, and now he faces one of his former teams. Recently, the Bulls have gone away from their starters late in games in order to help ensure losses, and Kilpatrick has been the true beneficiary. He averages a 27.1% usage rate since joining the Bulls at the end of March. Brooklyn’s reserves have recorded a 113.0 Defensive Rating over the last 15 games, which is the third-worst mark over that span — and one Kilpatrick can exploit.
Jordan Crawford put on a fireworks display last night in his first game since getting waived in October, scoring 12 points in the final five minutes of the blowout win. With Ian Clark (ankle) unavailable, Crawford could finagle his way into the core rotation. Crawford is a cheaper version of Kilpatrick, albeit with much less assurances about his role.
Kevin Durant‘s usage rate has exceeded 40% in three of the last five games while his salary continues to hover around $11,000 on FanDuel. With Stephen Curry off the court this season, Durant averages a team-high 51.06 FanDuel points per 36 minutes as well as a +4.7% usage rate differential. Since the beginning of 2018, small forwards projected to play at least 20 minutes against the Pelicans have averaged the fifth-highest DraftKings Plus/Minus in the league. It’s not much of a mystery as to why — the Pelicans start 6-foot-4 E’Twaun Moore as their nominal three. Jrue Holiday also spent time on Durant in the teams’ previous meeting. The Warriors are implied to score a slate-best 116 points, and Durant has averaged 52.27 DraftKings points this season when they’ve been implied for at least 110 points at home without Curry.
Khris Middleton averages a team-high 50.25 DraftKings points in the five games he’s played sans Antetokounmpo this season. Middleton’s usage rate increases from 21.4% when Antetokounmpo is on the court to 31.2% when Antetokounmpo is on the bench. Middleton is nowhere near Durant’s price range, but he’s a stellar option against going against a terrible defensive team in a game Antetokounmpo will miss. Middleton’s performance on the road has been better than it’s been at home, and on the road he averages more than the 36.42 DraftKings points that his $7,700 salary implies:
Rudy Gay has been the primary scoring punch off the Spurs’ bench lately, helping him exceed salary-based expectations in eight straight games on FanDuel. Over that stretch, he ranks second on the team with a 25.2% usage rate despite playing just 21.2 minutes per game. Playing time is an obvious concern, but Gay ranks second to Durant at small forward in per-minute production over the last month. Gay is also the only small forward on FanDuel that has a projected usage rate higher than 21.0% at a cost of $5,000 or less, per our NBA Models.
Paul George is in a dire shooting slump. He’s failed to connect on at least half his attempts in every game since before the All-Star break. He does enough in other areas to keep his floor relatively safe, however, and he’s played at least 36 minutes in nine straight games. He’s also played at least 38 minutes in the first two games against the Rockets this season. His salary has dipped below $8,000 on both DraftKings and FanDuel, and when the Thunder have been road underdogs this season, George has been reliable:
Anthony Davis has historically dominated the matchup against Draymond Green and the Warriors:
Davis has averaged an elite 1.60 DraftKings points per minute since the trade deadline, but when Nikola Mirotic is on the court and Emeka Okafor is off, it increases to 1.65. Mirotic started the last two games ahead of Okafor, and Davis had nearly similar stat lines against bottom feeders of the West. Also note that in the last six games Davis has played on zero days rest with DeMarcus Cousins sidelined, he averages 59.79 DraftKings points per game.
Jabari Parker has attempted at least 20 shots in two of the last three games, playing at least 30 minutes in each outing. The last time Antetokounmpo was unavailable, though, Parker slid into the starting lineup but generated only 15.75 DraftKings points in 30 minutes. It’s unclear if the Bucks will look to manage Parker’s minutes on the second leg of a back-to-back set, but he’ll likely continue to hoist a ton of shots.
It’s possible Lauri Markkanen is rested on the second night of a back-to-back, and Noah Vonleh (calf) has already been ruled out. Bobby Portis hasn’t played more than 24 minutes in the each of the last four games as coach Fred Hoiberg has juggled a 10-man rotation where everyone gets 20-30 minutes a night. Omer Asik made his Bulls debut on Friday after Portis was ejected, and Cristiano Felicio may be Chicago’s only frontcourt player with a solidified role.
LaMarcus Aldridge exploded for 30 points and 14 rebounds in his last meeting against his former team. He’s played at least 34 minutes in four straight games as the Spurs are trying to secure a playoff bid, and save for the game he left early against the Wizards two weeks ago, he’s registered at least 43.0 FanDuel points in nine straight.
Clint Capela, Jusuf Nurkic, and Steven Adams are all priced within $600 of each other on DraftKings and FanDuel and are the most expensive center-only options in the main slate. All three are considerably more expensive on FanDuel compared to DraftKings, and all three face teams that have held opposing centers projected for at least 20 minutes to a negative DraftKings Plus/Minus over the last three months. Among the cluster, Nurkic has averaged 33.87 DraftKings points in 13 matchups against such teams during that span, and ranks third among all starting centers with a +3.34 DraftKings Plus/Minus. Capela exceeded salary-based expectation in two of six such occurrences, and Adams was stymied as well, averaging 25.54 DraftKings points in seven such occurrences. Nurkic also averages 33.28 DraftKings points in nine contests against teams with a defensive rating under 104.0 since the beginning of January, once again outperforming Capela and Adams.
Jarrett Allen played at least 30 minutes for the third time since the beginning of March in Thursday’s win, but that required backup center Dante Cunningham (back) and fourth-string center Jahlil Okafor (ankle) to miss the game. Both are questionable Saturday, but in the first game against the Bulls this season, Allen recorded 39.8 DraftKings points in less than 24 minutes.
Quincy Acy will also be in line for more minutes if Cunningham is ruled out again. He added a modest 20.1 FanDuel points in 23 minutes on Thursday.
Kyle O’Quinn has started three straight games and averaged 38.58 DraftKings points per game with Enes Kanter sidelined. Among projected starters in the main slate, O’Quinn has the third-highest Opponent Plus/Minus at +5.59. Since the beginning of January, he’s feasted when projected for at least 15 minutes against teams with a rebound rate below 49%:
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our NBA News Feed.
Pictured above: Trey Burke and Eric Bledsoe.
Photo credit: Jim McIsaac — Getty Images.