Monday brings a three-game main slate at 7:30pm ET. Let’s jump in.

New Orleans Pelicans at New York Knicks

Vegas: 215 over/under, Knicks -4

These two teams met on December 30th and the Pelicans won 104-92. Sasha Vujacic started for the injured Courtney Lee, and Tyreke Evans had his best performance of the season.

The Pelicans started Anthony Davis at center on December 26th, and over the past six games, they rank third in Defensive Rating, allowing 100.8 points per 100 possessions, and 24th in Offensive Rating, scoring 103.2 points per 100 possessions. They also dropped to 29th in rebound rate, and when the Pelicans bested the Knicks less than two weeks ago, Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony combined for 25 rebounds while Joakim Noah played 16 minutes due to foul trouble. The Pelicans are likely to run out the same starting five, but now that Donatas Motiejunas is in the mix, Solomon Hill or Dante Cunningham may come off the bench to aid the Pelicans’ rebounding woes. Motiejunas played 20.3 minutes in his season debut, but that may have been a hair too much, as coach Alvin Gentry left him in the game longer than expected due to his solid performance.

Davis has the best Opponent Plus/Minus on either site for a projected starter, and his recent string of 50-plus DK performances began against the Knicks at the end of December. He’s played at least 36 minutes in six of the past seven games, and due to his recent performance against the Knicks and the small size of the slate, it will be difficult to execute an outright fade.

Jrue Holiday‘s salary has dipped to a season-low $6,900 on FanDuel after he failed to exceed salary-based expectations in consecutive games. He gets the most consistent playing time among the Pelicans’ backcourt rotation, but with Evans inching closer to 20 minutes per night, Holiday has ceded some ball-handling duties, which could limit his ceiling. Nonetheless, Holiday offers the second-highest projected ceiling at his position and is playable in all formats.

Anthony is dealing with a sore right shoulder, and that partially explains his erratic shooting performances over the past 13 games. He is adamant about not resting, but he also had this to say:

“It’s bad. You know what it is, it’s an adjustment that you have to make on the fly. Like some days it feels good, some days it’s tight. Throughout the course of the game, certain shots, certain moves, you feel like the strength isn’t there.”

Recently, Anthony has struggled on the second night of back-to-backs. The Knicks had one day off after a game in which Anthony played 27 minutes in a blowout loss. He was able to post 48.75 DK points last week against the Pelicans after a day off, and based on the available options at small forward, Anthony may be the safest play in cash games despite the shoulder injury.

Porzingis is also dealing with an injury, and his minutes have been dialed back as a result. He met minimal resistance in the last game against the Pelicans (21 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks, 38 minutes), and he’s been able to continually reach his implied total due to blocks and steals he provides on a nightly basis. The power forward position is deeper than that of small forward, making Porzingis more of a luxury given the projected minute reduction.

Ron Baker is the elephant in the room. He has played every second of the past two fourth quarters, limiting playing time for Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings. I don’t expect this trend to continue, but it would be beneficial for the values of Anthony and Porzingis since Baker attempted four total shots in those 24 minutes. His role is mainly to not screw up on offense and keep the ball moving while offering effort on defense. Rose possesses the best Opponent Plus/Minus for a projected starting point guard, but he was stymied over a week ago against the Pelicans, posting 28.5 DraftKings points in 38.3 minutes. Rose will be the pivot play in GPPs as the third-most expensive point guard on both sites. If Anthony doesn’t play or leaves the game early, or if coach Jeff Hornacek doesn’t ask Baker to play caretaker late in the game, Rose will have ample opportunity to do what he hasn’t done in five of the past six games: Meet salary-based expectations.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Chicago Bulls

Vegas: 209.5 over/under, Bulls -1

Russell Westbrook played the Bulls four times in 2015 and averaged 53.83 FanDuel points. Not including his recent ejection against the Grizzlies on December 29th, he’s averaged 63.61 FanDuel points in 11 of the past 12 games, and his salary-implied point total on this three-game slate is 52.3. His recent stretch has been comprised of unsustainable 3-point shooting (15-of-27), which is the chief concern. However, it’s a minimal one given his FD salary of $12,400, and he’ll remain the top cash and GPP option at his position on that site.

The Bulls are expected to guard Westbrook with Michael Carter-Williams at the start of the game. During Carter-Williams’ rookie season, Westbrook recorded a triple-double in less than 21 minutes against the Sixers. Based on the impending news surrounding Jimmy Butler, it appears Westbrook won’t have much in the way of opposition, and he’ll likely be owned in more than 50 percent of GPPs.

As Mears wrote in Saturday’s breakdown, Victor Oladipo’s salary undercuts his recent production, and he’s too cheap to ignore at shooting guard after attempting 67 shots over the past four games. He scored roughly a point per shot during that span, but he’s continued to surpass his salary-based expectations.

It is Rajon Rondo bobblehead night at the United Center. Rondo hasn’t been in the Bulls’ rotation over the past four games, a stretch that has culminated in Butler leading the team with a 33.1 percent usage rate, a 30.3 percent assist rate, and 1.5 DK points per minute. Butler, Doug McDermott, and Nikola Mirotic have played the most total minutes over the past four games, and the latter two have been instrumental in providing ample floor-spacing for Butler to operate. The Bulls offense subsisted on Butler-McDermott pick-and-rolls late during Saturday’s overtime win, and Butler has exceeded 50 DK points in three of the past four games thanks to the new rotation.

The matchup of the evening is Butler versus Andre Roberson. Roberson ranks fourth among small forwards in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus metric, and per, he holds opponents to 39.3 percent accuracy from the field on shots he contests. Even the Rockets’ James Harden has been limited to 25.5 percent from the field when sharing the court with Roberson this season.


Butler has been downgraded to a game-time decision, and if he can’t play, McDermott will start and Dwyane Wade will likely be guarded by Roberson, capping his ceiling. Wade will play tonight and likely sit tomorrow, but if the Thunder prefer to keep Roberson on Butler’s replacement, Wade will command most of the offensive responsibility and make for a solid tournament play. When Butler and Rondo have been off the court this season, Wade leads the Bulls with a 38.7 percent usage rate and a 38.8 percent assist rate, per the On/Off tool. However, the threat of Roberson sliding down is enough to limit exposure in cash games if Butler is ruled out before lineups lock.

The Thunder and Bulls are among the best matchups for opposing power forwards projected to play at least 18 minutes. All four listed power forwards in this matchup are projected to play between 22 and 27 minutes, and the projected starters possess lower ceilings and floors compared to those of their backups.


Nikola Mirotic and Enes Kanter may be stuck in the middle of a game of “which coach blinks first.” It’s unfair to ask Kanter to guard Mirotic on the perimeter, and Mirotic likely won’t be able to handle Kanter on the low block. McDermott and Mirotic are cheap cash-game avenues if Butler does play, but if Butler can’t go, Mirotic and McDermott will likely see an uptick in shots and be asked to consume a larger portion of the offense.

Dallas Mavericks at Minnesota Timberwolves

Vegas: 194 over/under, Timberwolves -4.5

The question in Dallas revolves around who will start at center. Andrew Bogut replaced Dorian Finney-Smith in the previous game to help contain the Hawks’ Dwight Howard. Gorgui Dieng isn’t as imposing as Dwight, and Bogut would prefer to come off the bench, Either way, Harrison Barnes will likely be tasked with guarding Karl-Anthony Towns.

Deron Williams remains a cash-game option despite a recent hiccup with the return of J.J. Barea, who was limited to 17 minutes after missing seven games because of a leg injury. Barnes will warrant cash-game shares as well with his 100 percent Consistency on FD and DK over the past month, but the Mavericks’ slate-low 94.75 implied total and 93.38 possessions per 48 minutes — the second-lowest mark in the league — generally diminishes any tournament consideration.

The Timberwolves starters lead the league at 34.8 minutes per game. Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins rank in the top-six in minutes per game, and Towns comes in 14th. All three are presently projected to play at least 36 minutes, and all three have played at least 37 minutes in the past three games. Wiggins is the cheaper small forward option behind Anthony, and LaVine is the second-most expensive shooting guard option on the slate. Over the past four games, they’ve alternated who gets more shots based on who is having the better shooting game. In terms of correlation, they are highly negative, and if you choose one, you’d be wise to fade the other.


Towns has been much more reliable in home games this season, and that’s even more apparent in home games in which the Timberwolves have been implied to score 99 to 103 points this year. He’s found his sweet spot in the offense when LaVine and Wiggins duel for possessions, and he’s the premier option at center on the three-game slate.



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