Wednesday brings a 10-game main slate at 7pm ET. Let’s jump in.
Game of the Day: Houston Rockets at Boston Celtics
This game has the highest Vegas total on the board and features two of the most efficient offenses in the NBA.
James Harden is the second-most expensive player in the slate at $12,300 DK and $12,100 FD, although he has a very nice matchup against a Boston team that ranks only 22nd in defensive efficiency, allowing 106.7 points per 100 possessions. Further, the Celtics are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back, and during last night’s game Marcus Smart got heated on the bench with Boston dropping three games in a row. They are physically and mentally tired. Harden versus Russell Westbrook, who is also in a nice matchup against the Pelicans, is a tough debate. Harden has put up 50-plus FD points in tough matchups on the road in Milwaukee and Memphis over his last two games: He’s currently the No. 3 SG in the Phan Model for FD, where he has a +5.12 Projected Plus/Minus, 13 Pro Trends, and a +3.56 Opponent Plus/Minus.
Harden: DFS Scouting Report
In terms of correlations with teammates, Harden has been mostly neutral or negative with most guys except for Montrezl Harrell, who has fallen out of the rotation with Clint Capela and Nene now soaking up most of the minutes. It’s possible that Harden’s correlation with Capela will rise now that he’s his primary pick-and-roll screener, but Capela lacks a floor worthy of cash games even at just $4,200. The rest of the guys in the main rotation — Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Ryan Anderson, and Eric Gordon — all profile as cash-game plays because of their limited ceilings, but they’ve all had very low floors lately, too. Beverley and Ryno have nice Opponent Plus/Minus marks of +2.85 and +2.56, and they’re worthy of low guaranteed prize pool exposure given their low price tags and the high total of this game: Houston is implied for a slate-high 116.5 points. That said, it’s fine to be heavy on just Harden here.
On the Boston side, it’s anybody’s guess who will start at the PF spot against Anderson tonight:
It was Jonas Jerebko the first time they met earlier this season, although he played only 21 minutes. Amir Johnson got only four in that contest, Kelly Olynyk received 15, and Jaylen Brown — who can slide up to the PF spot — played 18 minutes. None of these guys is imposing defensively for Ryno, and none is interesting as a DFS option considering they’ll likely cannabalize each other’s production. One last note on that prior game from early December: Harden had 37-8-7, and that was with Avery Bradley playing, who remains out of the lineup with an Achilles injury.
Given their high minute loads, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford remain viable cash-game options: They’ve all exceeded salary-based expectations in their last three games and are projected for 33-plus minutes tonight. Smart in particular is an elite play: He’s currently the No. 3 PG in the Phan Model for FD, where his low $5,600 salary comes with a +5.55 Projected Plus/Minus, nine Pro Trends, and a 93 percent Bargain Rating. With Bradley out in this game, Smart will likely have to pull most of the weight in guarding Harden tonight.
Isaiah Thomas has also been incredibly consistent:
He’s exceeded salary-based expectations in nine of his last 10 games, averaging a +6.50 FD Plus/Minus over that time. He’s been over 40 FD points in each of his last six, and his $9,300 price tag requires 38.69 points to hit value. He shot only 36.8 percent in the first game between the two teams, which is mostly because of Beverley’s elite defense: Bev ranks second among all PGs with a +1.85 Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM). It’s hard to fade a guy who has been so consistent lately and is projected for a massive 38.0 minutes and 33.3 percent usage rate, but the matchup is concerning, and there are guys in his price range like Westbrook and Damian Lillard with superior matchups.
The Utah Jazz play at the second-slowest pace in the league and own the league’s second-best defense, and Russell Westbrook torched them for 69.0 FD points on Monday thanks to 38 real points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and four steals. He shot the ball poorly, going 11-of-29, but that largely doesn’t matter because he’s using nearly 40 percent of his team’s possessions while on the floor — and that doesn’t even account for rebounds, assists, or steals. He’s the most expensive player in the slate at $12,500 FD and still projected to outperform his salary-based expectations by 4.76 points. New Orleans has been a solid defense of late, ranking eighth in efficiency and allowing 104.1 points per 100 possessions, but the Pelicans have continued to struggle against lead guards: Westbrook has a +2.82 Opponent Plus/Minus. He’s the No. 2 PG in the FD Phan Model, with 13 Pro Trends and a 90 percent Bargain Rating.
Westbrook: DFS Scouting Report
The best mid-tier ‘value’ at PG is Smart, but we’ll pivot to Matthew Dellavedova since we discussed Smart above. Delly is projected to start again: He’s played 31.1 and 35.8 minutes over the last two games, scoring 27.1 and 26.9 FD points. That’s incredible value at only $3,900 FD — he’s posted Plus/Minus games of +12.99 and +13.67 — and he’s projected to outpace his expectations by 4.52 points tonight. Philly has been better defensively this season, but that’s largely been because of Joel Embiid, who is out with a minor knee issue. The 76ers have posted a 111.2 defensive rating with Embiid off the floor compared to 101.4 with him on. For reference, the ‘on mark’ ties the 76ers with the Jazz for the second-best defense in the league while the ‘off mark’ makes the 76ers the worst. That’s an absolutely massive difference and is a huge reason the Bucks are 11-point favorites tonight.
There are a lot of intriguing options at the PG spot, but none more so than Damian Lillard versus the Lakers and Stephen Curry against the Hornets. The Lakers play at the sixth-fastest pace in the league, averaging 100.3 possessions per 48 minutes, and own the league’s worst defense, allowing 110.5 points per 100 possessions. Lillard put up ‘only’ 38.6 and 40.0 against them when they played twice within a week in early January, but that’s certainly fine production given his low $8,300 FD price tag. Coach Walton has said he’s uncertain whether Jose Calderon or rookie SF Brandon Ingram will start at PG tonight against Lillard. Either way, it won’t be pretty: Lillard is the No. 1 PG in the FD Phan Model.
As for Steph, this will be the third time over the past three years he’s played back in his hometown of Charlotte (per our Trends tools):
That’s a small sample, but he’s a nice value nonetheless: He’s averaged a robust +7.00 FD Plus/Minus over his last 10 games.
Harden is the guy here if you want to pay up, but we’ll quickly touch on the other high-priced ‘stud’ in Giannis Antetokounmpo. He put up 40.2 FD points against the 76ers two weeks ago, and that was with Embiid playing. He has a tough one-on-one matchup against wing defender Robert Covington — Giannis has a -0.63 Opponent Plus/Minus — but he has been excellent in comparable situations:
Giannis has the position’s second-highest projected FD ceiling at 60.7 points, and his matchup data is likely misleading considering that the 76ers are essentially the worst defense in the league sans Embiid. That is especially intriguing for GPPs, as Giannis is projected for only 17-20 percent ownership, compared to a very chalky 31-35 percent for Harden.
There are several values at the SG spot, but we’ll drop toward the bottom of the salary scale. Wayne Ellington and Norman Powell are $3,800 FD and $3,500 FD and are projected to play 30-plus minutes. Ellington has filled in behind Dion Waiters, who is now starting with Tyler Johnson out with a shoulder injury. Ellington has put up 22.9 and 25.0 FD points in each of his last two games and faces a Nets team that ranks first in pace, averaging 104.1 possessions per 48 minutes, and 28th in defensive efficiency, allowing 109.6 points per 100 possessions. Powell is definitely the superior player, and he scored 29.8 FD points in 39 huge minutes last game, but he also faces Tony Allen and the Grizzlies, who rank fourth defensively. Still, it’s hard to imagine Powell not hitting value at $3,600 DK and $3,500 FD: He’s the No. 1 DK SG in the Phan Model, with a position-high +5.95 Projected Plus/Minus.
As for Dion Waiters, he’s put up back-to-back stellar games of 44.0 and 40.1 FD points against the Warriors and the Bucks, and now he gets arguably the worst team in the league in the Nets. Waiters is projected to start opposite Randy Foye, who is 33 years old and ranks 78 out of 98 eligible SGs in the league with a -1.56 DRPM. Waiters has taken a combined 39 field-goal attempts over those last two games and is projected for 33.0 minutes and a 29.67 usage rate tonight. The Heat are currently four-point road favorites implied for 109.25 points against the Nets. No surprise: Waiters is the No. 1 SG in the Phan Model for FD, where his $6,000 salary comes with a +6.10 Projected Plus/Minus, eight Pro Trends, a 97 percent Bargain Rating, and a +4.16 Opponent Plus/Minus.
After struggling last week against the Warriors on the road, LeBron James has since responded with FD outings of 54.0, 43.7, and 56.3 points. Despite those performances, the Cavs have been very poor lately: They’ve lost five of their last seven games, their most recent loss coming in New Orleans without Anthony Davis. LeBron has been vocal about the Cavs’ slump, and it seems likely that he’ll come out tonight and look to dominate a Kings team that ranks 26th in defensive efficiency this season, allowing 108.6 points per 100 possessions. The Kings will likely throw Arron Afflalo at LeBron this time without Rudy Gay, and that would certainly be a win for the Cavs.
The Cavs are currently 11.5-point home favorites implied for 113 points, and LeBron is projected for a position-high 21-25 percent ownership on DK.
Robert Covington has scored at least 31 FD points in each of his last three games and has played at least 31 minutes over his last four. He’s projected for 33.9 minutes and a respectable 20.8 percent usage rate tonight against the Bucks, who own a below-average defense, allowing 106.1 points per 100 possessions. He’ll likely have his hands full guarding Giannis, but that at least gives him a safe minutes floor for tonight. Covington has taken at least 12 shots over his last three games and has hit 10 3-pointers in that span. He owns easily the position’s highest Opponent Plus/Minus of +4.39 on FD, which is a big reason why he’s currently the No. 1 SF in the Phan Model there. He leads all SFs with a +5.53 Projected Plus/Minus, as well as 12 Pro Trends.
Brandon Ingram really struggled last game, scoring only 6.2 FD points in 36.3 minutes against the Dallas Mavericks. That’s scary, although it should be noted that he has a much better matchup tonight against the Trail Blazers, who play at a top-10 pace (Dallas is last) and rank 27th in defensive efficiency, allowing 108.9 points per 100 possessions. Ingram may start at PG tonight because of the Lakers’ lack of depth there, and while that’s probably not a net upgrade for anyone, especially the Lakers, it does mean that Ingram will have the ball in his hands more and should use a higher percentage of possessions. It was encouraging to see his minutes stay up even with the return of Luol Deng last game, and he’s nice for GPPs at just $4,400 FD. He’s projected for 32.3 minutes and comes with a +4.52 Projected Plus/Minus.
Paul Millsap is rarely discussed but remains an incredibly consistent DFS asset:
He’s exceeded salary-based expectations in nine of his last 10 games, averaging a +4.65 FD Plus/Minus over that time frame. He dropped 47.1 FD points last game against the Clippers, and he has a nice matchup tonight against the Bulls, who start two traditional bigs in Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson. Millsap is reasonable at $7,800 DK and $8,300 FD, and he should see low ownership because Anthony Davis has come down in price after his recent slump due to injuries. Millsap is projected for only five to eight percent ownership on DK, where he’s currently the No. 2 option in the Phan Model. He comes with 11 Pro Trends, a +1.20 Opponent Plus/Minus, and an 86 percent Bargain Rating.
Nerlens Noel is likely to be the chalkiest play of the entire slate. With both Embiid and Jahlil Okafor ruled out for the 76ers, Noel should man the majority of the center minutes for Philly tonight against the Bucks. And yes, I meant “center”: Both Noel and Richaun Holmes — the only true big men active currently — have played 97 percent of their minutes at that spot this season. Noel played 29.3 minutes last night against the Clippers and finished with 45.1 FD points thanks to 19 real points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals, and three blocks. He’s only $4,100 today and should play most of his minutes against a Bucks team that has struggled against big men this season: Noel has a +1.68 Opponent Plus/Minus. Nerlens is easily the No. 1 player among all positions today and comes with ridiculous Projected Plus/Minus values of +7.85 and +9.74 on DK and FD.
The 76ers have no available players listed as centers by FD: Noel, Holmes, Ersan Ilyasova, and Dario Saric are all PF-eligible only. The first two guys are clearly positioned incorrectly, but we can use that to our advantage. Because Noel should be so chalky, that should diminish the ownership levels of the other three. Ilyasova and Saric could split minutes, but there’s really no other player on the roster who can play PF outside of Covington moving up to PF in a small-ball lineup, but that likely won’t happen so they can keep him defensively on Giannis. Per our On/Off tool, Okafor and Embiid have been out of the same game twice this season. Both players had big performances, and especially Ilyasova.
He’s projected for only nine to 12 percent ownership on FD.
DeMarcus Cousins will likely be popular tonight at the top of the position, but let’s discuss Hassan Whiteside, who will probably have lower ownership. Whiteside has been awful lately:
He’s exceeded salary-based expectations in only two games over his last 10, averaging a miserable -4.37 DK Plus/Minus over that time. That said, he’s still grabbed 15 rebounds in three of his last four games and now gets a Brooklyn team that ranks 26th in rebound rate, grabbing only 47.8 percent of the available boards. Further, they rank first in pace, averaging 104.1 possessions per 48 minutes, and 27th in offensive efficiency, scoring only 101.3 points per 100 possessions. There should be plenty of rebounds available for the Miami big man. He’s currently the No. 4 center in the Phan Model for DK, where his reasonable $7,900 salary comes with 10 Pro Trends, a 99 percent Bargain Rating, and a slate-high +7.26 Opponent Plus/Minus. He’s projected for only nine to 12 percent ownership.
Mason Plumlee‘s Opponent Plus/Minus of +6.59 FD almost rivals that of Whiteside. Plumlee gets the Lakers, against whom he admittedly performed poorly twice in a row at the beginning of January, scoring only 23.9 and 32.9 FD points. That said, he’s been solid lately, and it’s hard to deny how awful the Lakers have been over the entire season against opposing centers. LA ranks bottom-10 in both rebound rate and defensive rebound rate, and they’re dead last in defensive efficiency, allowing 110.5 points per 100 possessions. Plumlee is projected for only 26.6 minutes, but he’s only $6,500 FD and is projected to be owned in just five to eight percent of lineups. If you’re looking for a cheap, somewhat-contrarian play at center, Plumdog could be your guy.
For as intriguing as Whiteside is because of the Nets’ poor defense, Brook Lopez is also interesting as a GPP play because of how awful the Heat have been against opposing big men this season. BroLo has a high +4.53 Opponent Plus/Minus on DK, where he’s the No. 2 center in the Phan Model and has a +3.65 Projected Plus/Minus, 10 Pro Trends, and a 98 percent Bargain Rating. He struggled last game against the Spurs, but prior to that game he had posted three straight outings of at least 40 DK points. He needs only 29.15 DK points to hit value tonight, and he’s projected for a low five to eight percent ownership. He’s scored 20 real points in seven of his last eight games.
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players herein mentioned. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news blurbs: