Monday provides a seven-game slate. Let’s jump in.
Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and John Wall headline a star-studded PG slate.
I suspect the Heat will assign Justise Winslow to be Westbrook’s primary defender. It’s unclear if that will slow Westbrook down, but his salary has dropped to a place where he needs ‘only’ 50 FanDuel points to meet expectations; he’s surpassed that mark in four of six games this season. He needs to hit 59 points on DraftKings at a $12,000 salary, and that money is arguably better spent on James Harden, Wall, or Paul.
Curry has slid to $8,700 on both platforms. His ownership has justifiably died down since the first night, but his DraftKings and FanDuel scores continue to rise. He doesn’t offer enough savings on DraftKings to be considered the value play. After missing mainly wide open shots in his last game and falling two rebounds shy of a triple-double, Curry strikes me as the leverage point guard for today’s slate.
Wall sat the last game for precautionary reasons, and the Rockets will start Corey Brewer over Eric Gordon to guard Wall. I remain undeterred by this move, but I am giddy about the Rockets’ 28th-ranked defense allowing a ton of wide-open 3s this season. As has been the case in three of the first four games of the season, Wall will have had two days off between contests, a welcome sign for a player who complained about playing 8-10 minute stretches earlier this season.
Paul leads the four PGs with 100 percent Consistency on DraftKings and 83 percent Consistency on FanDuel this season. He’s the cheapest of the four on DraftKings, making him a solid cash play.
The Pelicans waived Lance Stephenson and signed Archie Goodwin, who lost his starting job for the Suns last season to Ronnie Price. Goodwin is expected to join the Pelicans for tonight’s game vs. the Warriors, who are the 23rd-ranked defense and second-fastest team in pace. In the second game of the season, Tim Frazier — now the only true facilitating option for the Pels — recorded 21 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds in 35 minutes against the Warriors. Understanding how the team dynamics unfolded in his two duds makes it easier to go back to him on FanDuel at $5,400.
Every bench player for the Pacers has a Defensive Rating of at least 109.6. On the whole, the Pacers are ranked 27th in Defensive Rating with 108.5 points allowed per 100 possessions. Ramon Sessions is averaging 12.4 DraftKings points per game, just under his implied point total of 12.65, and in the last two games without Jeremy Lamb (hamstring), Sessions averaged the most minutes off the bench (21.6) and 15.3 DraftKings points. It’s entirely unexciting production, but he’s $3,000 and facing a terrible second unit.
The Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic have been among the friendliest defenses to opposing point guards this season, especially on FanDuel. Rolling with Elfrid Payton and Rajon Rondo in what isn’t expected to be a high-scoring affair can allow you to go chalk elsewhere and still field a diverse lineup. Even just relying on Rondo may do the trick. The Magic and Bulls rank 24th and 25th in Defensive Rating, respectively.
James Harden is averaging 1.5 FanDuel points per game more than Westbrook this season and offers a comparable floor and ceiling at a $500 savings on DraftKings. The choice is easily Harden on DraftKings, but since Westbrook costs $100 less on FanDuel, doesn’t share the same position, and is projected to be owned in fewer GPPs, the pivot down to Westbrook is fine in tournaments given projected ownership. Throughout the first part of the season, Harden has been primarily guarded by opposing shooting guards, and that should continue today. Shooting guards don’t typically guard the primary ball-handler, and this newfound stress on the opposition has allowed Harden to thrive.
Bradley Beal was great two games ago when Wall was available. In the Wizards’ last game, Beal responded with his typical blasé performance and still exceeded salary-based expectations in 33 minutes on FanDuel and DraftKings. The Rockets’ defense has been as advertised, ranking 28th in Defensive Rating and allowing opponents to shoot 38 percent on 3-pointers and a league-high 42.5 percent on shots 25-29 feet away from the rim. When Wall has been on the court this season, the Wizards average a team-best 101.2 possessions per 48 minutes, up from Wall’s time off the court at a team-low 94.2 possessions per 48 minutes. More opportunities against a terrible defense should increase Beal’s ceiling.
There’s a ton of shooting guards listed between $5,100 and $5,900 on FanDuel, but Buddy Hield at $4,000 catches my eye. With Stephenson cut and the Pelicans presently a 17-point underdog, I suspect Hield will play close to a career-high in minutes; over the past four games, he’s attempted at least 10 shots while ranking second on the team with a 26.2 percent usage rate. This game features the highest Over/Under (224.5) and two of the top-seven teams in pace this season. If there is a blowout, Hield should benefit from garbage time minutes.
Spending $6,500 on Nicolas Batum when Paul George may end up his primary defender may not appear like proper budgeting. However, we’re still waiting to hear how the league will punish George for his actions in Saturday’s game. The Pacers already have one of the worst defenses in the league, and while a suspension may leave most scrambling to find value on the Pacers’ side, Batum looks to be the largest beneficiary.
Kevin Durant put up a season-high 65.4 FanDuel points against the Pelicans in the second game of the season and is averaging nine more FanDuel points per game than his $9,800 salary implies. Like Biff Tannen states in Back to the Future Part II, “Two McFlys with the same gun.” The Pelicans couldn’t stop Durant in October, and they haven’t upgraded the roster to stop Durant in November. Concerns of a blowout are evident, but even in the blowout win against the Thunder, coach Steve Kerr let Durant return for the fourth quarter. That may have been to pad his stats, or it may have been a symptom of a small bench. Blowout or not, Durant could see a lot of minutes and have a huge game.
C.J. Miles offers the scariest of values. By my count, he has failed to finish 38 games in his career, but I also fabricated that number. Miles leads the Pacers with an average Plus/Minus of +8.9 on DraftKings and +7.4 on FanDuel this season. Aside from the season opener — his first game since the preseason opener due to a sore left knee — Miles exceeded today’s implied point total on both sites. Without Rodney Stuckey (hamstring) on the second unit, Miles is allowed more offensive autonomy.
Justise Winslow ranks second on the Heat in touches per game, and he’s the nominal backup point guard when Goran Dragic is on the bench. Despite shooting 34.8 percent from the field, he leads the team with 77 attempts. He may be overworked on both ends of the court, but the Heat have had two days off and they face the team ranked fourth in pace. Winslow leads the team with a +7.6 Plus/Minus on FanDuel, and his salary has held steady at $5,000 the past three games.
Otto Porter has been either incredibly helpful or characteristically absent in this brief season. He’s posted two double-doubles in his last three games; in the other, he failed to grab a rebound and scored eight actual points. That type of volatility on a team currently implied to score 108.25 points — the second highest total on the slate — can be advantageous in tournaments on FanDuel, where Porter costs $4,900.
Blake Griffin looks like a steal at $8,000 on DraftKings. It will be difficult to fade him in cash games at an implied point total of 37.65 when he’s averaged 40.8 DraftKings points per game this season. At that price, you can pair him with Durant and rely on value guards listed above for salary relief.
Anthony Davis registered 80.25 DraftKings points against the Warriors earlier this season. Since then, he scored less than 50 points three times and less than 30 points twice. Adding Terrence Jones to the starting lineup against the Suns ate into Davis’ touches, but with Stephenson off the team and Dante Cunningham potentially returning to the starting five, Davis should see his usage rate climb to normal levels.
The Wizards lead the NBA in minutes per game for starters at 34.5. It’s concerning and exploitable early in the season. Markieff Morris is averaging a career-high 34.0 minutes per game, and the matchup against Ryan Anderson and the Rockets — ranked 28th in Defensive Rating — boasts the second-highest Over/Under at 216. Morris has been tasked with playing more minutes with the second unit, and he’s the primary option on a unit that includes Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton, Kelly Oubre, and Jason Smith.
The only time Draymond Green didn’t exceed salary-based expectations this season was against the Pelicans on FanDuel. He has a clean record otherwise, but he’ll likely be overshadowed by Durant, Griffin, and Davis. Green joins Durant as the only Warriors to provide 100 percent Consistency this season on DraftKings, and his salary has barely budged since the opener.
Hassan Whiteside is averaging team-highs and career-highs of 20.0 points per game and a 27.6 percent usage rate. He’s recorded five consecutive double-doubles, and he carries the third-highest ceiling behind Harden’s and Westbrook’s. A triple-double with blocks is attainable, especially facing a team that leads the league with 7.0 blocked field goal attempts per game. The tag team of Steven Adams‘ chicanery and Westbrook’s league-leading 13.8 drives per game and 7.2 fouls drawn per game are concerning, making Whiteside the ultimate tournament gambit.
Joel Embiid is expected to be limited to 20-24 minutes per game through at least Christmas. He exceeded the restriction by 1 minute and 15 seconds in the previous game and 52 seconds the game before (sans Jahlil Okafor). It’s not the first time coach Brett Brown played Embiid more than the prescribed dosage, and I assume he’ll continue to test the limits against the Jazz and Rudy Gobert. Embiid, in his 22.0 minutes per game, has averaged a Plus/Minus of +12.5 on FanDuel and +8.6 Plus/Minus on DraftKings. He’s better priced on FanDuel at $5,000, but ownership will be through the roof. I like to think of it this way: Embiid’s 34.6 DraftKings points per game is the 16th-highest mark on the slate, yet he’s priced as the 36th-most expensive player on the slate and the 12th-most expensive center. His 39.7 percent usage rate is second to Russell Westbrook’s.
Marcin Gortat has played at least 30 minutes and grabbed no fewer than 10 rebounds in the first five games. He’s already dropped $500 since opening night despite the consistency, and with Jason Smith as the alternative, coach Scott Brooks will continue to rely on Gortat.
Bismack Biyombo may start for the Magic if Nikola Vucevic (shoulder) is ruled out. The Magic are currently implied to score 98.2 points, the second-lowest mark on the slate. If Vucevic isn’t cleared by game time (8:05 pm ET), Biyombo would be in line for additional minutes at $3,600 on DraftKings. In the game the Magic played when Biyombo was suspended, Vucevic played 35 minutes.
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