The NBA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.
Friday features a nine-game slate starting at 7 p.m. ET.
Ben Simmons is an interesting option today for the 76ers. He’s struggled mightily over his past three contests, posting an average Plus/Minus of -10.27 on FanDuel. He attempted just six field goals in each of his past two contests, which is low even for Simmons.
That said, he’s in one of the best possible spots today vs. the New Orleans Pelicans. They have been a fantasy goldmine for PGs this season, resulting in an Opponent Plus/Minus of +3.31 on FanDuel. The 76ers are currently implied for 115.0 points, which represents a significant increase compared to their season average (109.8).
Philly will also be shorthanded in this contest. Al Horford has already been ruled out, so Simmons could potentially see a few additional minutes.
The Memphis Grizzlies look like one of the best sources of value on today’s slate. Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke and Grayson Allen will all be inactive, which opens up a lot of minutes in the backcourt specifically.
Tyus Jones will likely move into the starting lineup, and he stands out at just $3,700 on DraftKings. He’s averaged 0.82 DraftKings points per minute this season, and he’s averaged 21.4 DraftKings points in five games without Morant.
De’Anthony Melton is the more appealing target on FanDuel. He probably won’t see as much playing time as Jones, but he’s been far more effective when on the court this season. He’s averaged 1.15 FanDuel points per minute, including 1.20 FanDuel points per minute over the past month. He’s averaged 25.88 FanDuel points in five games without Morant, resulting in an average Plus/Minus of +9.3.
Jeff Teague is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, but he’s simply too cheap at $5,000 on FanDuel if he’s ultimately able to suit up. He was dealing with a sore ankle in his last game as well, and that didn’t stop him from putting up 51.8 FanDuel points in a tough matchup vs. the Jazz. Today’s matchup vs. the Clippers isn’t much friendlier on paper, but they will be without star defensive PG Patrick Beverley.
The Magic are another potential source of value at the PG position. Markelle Fultz is questionable with an illness, and his absence would open up a few additional minutes for Michael Carter-Williams and D.J. Augustin. Augustin is the better bet for minutes, while MCW has more upside on a per-minute basis.
James Harden was able to overcome his massive $12,900 salary in his last contest, scoring 80.75 DraftKings points over 41.3 minutes vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers. That said, a lot of things worked in his favor. For starters, the Cavaliers managed to keep that game competitive, which allowed him to rack up a ton of minutes. He also dominated the basketball for the Rockets, posting a usage rate of 46.4%, and he shot a blistering 58.8% from the field and 55.5% from 3-point range. Overall, Harden has now averaged a Plus/Minus of +4.51 in 26 contests with a price tag of $12,500 or greater on DraftKings (per the Trends tool).
That said, I’m a little less optimistic about his potential today vs. the Orlando Magic. For starters, it’s a much tougher matchup. The Cavs ranked 29th in defensive efficiency, while the Magic rank 10th. The Magic have also played at the third-slowest pace this season, giving Harden an Opponent Plus/Minus of -0.50. The Rockets are currently implied for 113.5 points, which is a far cry from their season average of 120.2.
I have no problems paying an exorbitant salary for Harden on most nights, but this seems like one of the few exceptions.
Terrence Ross is another candidate to see a few additional minutes for the Magic vs. the Rockets. He’s seen a healthy amount of playing time recently, logging at least 26.6 minutes in each of his past three games, and he’s currently projected for 28.5 minutes in our NBA Models. Ross ranks second on the team in usage with both Fultz and Nikola Vucevic off the court this season, resulting in an average of 0.89 DraftKings points per minute.
He has the potential to exceed that average in an excellent spot vs. the Rockets. This is a massive pace-up spot for the Magic, who own a slate-high pace differential of +6.7.
Josh Richardson has played limited minutes since returning from an injury two games ago, but he doesn’t need to play a ton to pay off his $4,500 price tag on FanDuel. It results in a Bargain Rating of 91%, and Richardson has averaged 0.97 FanDuel points per minute over the past month. He’s also seen a team-high usage bump of +2.1% with Horford off the court this season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is currently listed as questionable, and his absence would obviously give Khris Middleton a huge boost in value. He’s seen a usage bump of +7.4% with Giannis off the court this season, resulting in an average of 1.27 FanDuel points per minute. He would be extremely tough to pass up at just $6,700 on FanDuel in that situation, especially in a great matchup vs. the Grizzlies.
It’s tough to trust Giannis today even if he is active. The Bucks have been blowing the doors off every opponent recently, winning 16 straight games by an average of 16.1 points. Giannis has seen a reduced workload over that time frame, averaging just 30.9 minutes per game, and he’s played 28.4 minutes or fewer in six of those contests. It’s tough to see him carrying a large workload today if he’s active on the front leg of a back-to-back.
With that in mind, going with LeBron James is probably the preferred option if you’re paying up at SF. He’s a better value on DraftKings, where his $10,000 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 71%. He’s scored at least 54.25 DraftKings points in each of his past three games, and he’s operating as more of a scorer with Rajon Rondo back in the lineup. Overall, he’s averaged 1.60 DraftKings points per minute over the past month, and he’s projected for the second-most minutes at the position on today’s slate. He also owns 13 Pro Trends on DraftKings, which is tied for the most at the position.
Jonathan Isaac has taken a bit of a step forward in his third NBA season. He’s currently averaging career-highs in usage rate, assist rate and rebound rate, and he’s also racking up steals and blocks at an elite level. He’s currently averaging 2.8 blocks per game, which is the top mark in the NBA. His average of 4.1 blocks + steals makes him a particularly strong option on FanDuel, where those defensive stats are worth three fantasy points a piece.
Isaac has also seen a usage bump of +1.8% with both Fultz and Vucevic off the court this season, so he would see a bump in value if both players are ultimately ruled out.
Matisse Thybulle has seen a nice spike in playing time recently. He’s played at least 25.5 minutes in five of his past six contests, and he’s posted a positive Plus/Minus on DraftKings in each of them. He should continue to see a boost in playing time with Horford out of the lineup, and his $3,700 salary on DraftKings comes with a Bargain Rating of 78%.
The Heat have one of the toughest matchups on the slate vs. the Lakers, but Jimmy Butler has the potential to carry one of the largest offensive workloads. He’s logged at least 41.7 minutes in back-to-back games, and the Heat will be without Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters for today’s contest. Butler has averaged 50.63 DraftKings points in four games with those three players out of the lineup this season, resulting in an average Plus/Minus of +9.7.
Domantas Sabonis has been a wonderful source of value recently, and there’s no reason to avoid him today vs. the Atlanta Hawks. They rank 28th in defensive efficiency, and they’ve also been a below-average team on the glass this season. Sabonis leads the position with 13 Pro Trends on DraftKings, where his $8,100 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 81%.
The Golden State Warriors have gone from a dynasty to a dumpster fire in less than a season. They were always expected to regress with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson injured, but things have been so much worse than expected. Steph Curry getting hurt obviously didn’t help matters, and Draymond Green will miss today’s contest as well. Eric Paschall has been one of the lone bright spots this season, and even he has gone down with an injury.
That leaves very few options for the Warriors in the frontcourt. Marquese Chriss figures to see a few additional minutes, and he’s always been a fantasy-friendly player. He does a lot of things when on the court — some good, some bad — resulting in an average of 1.13 FanDuel points per minute over the past month. He’s a very appealing punt play at the absolute minimum on FanDuel.
Jaren Jackson Jr. has had some nice moments for the Grizzlies this season, particularly with Morant out of the lineup. He’s seen a team-high usage bump of +7.3% in those contests, resulting in an average of 1.15 DraftKings points per minute. He has plenty of upside at just $6,100 on DraftKings.
Richaun Holmes is one of the best pure values of the day on DraftKings, where his $5,600 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 93%. He’s coming off just 25 minutes in his last contest, which has caused his salary to plummet for today’s contest vs. the Knicks. It’s an excellent buy-low opportunity, with the Knicks ranking 25th in defensive efficiency.
There are lots of questions with the typical stud options like Harden and Giannis, which makes it a great day to pay up for an elite center. Luckily, there are a few good options to choose from.
Let’s start with Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s the most-expensive option at the position on DraftKings, but his $9,900 salary still comes with a Bargain Rating of 88%. He leads all players with 14 Pro Trends, and his matchup vs. the Clippers results in an Opponent Plus/Minus of +3.42. Towns has been up-and-down after a scorching start to the season, but he has excellent upside in this matchup.
Joel Embiid is another possibility. The Pelicans aren’t as weak vs. opposing centers as they are vs. opposing backcourts, but it’s still hard to ignore Embiid with Horford out of the lineup. Embiid has averaged 1.67 DraftKings points per minute in three games without Horford this season while increasing his usage rate to 35.1%.
It’s tough to get too excited about Bismack Biyombo with Cody Zeller back in the lineup, but he has a dream matchup vs. the Chicago Bulls. They’ve been eviscerated by opposing centers this season, giving Biyombo an Opponent Plus/Minus of +4.16 on FanDuel. He remains affordable at just $4,200 and has averaged 0.99 FanDuel points per minute over the past month, so he doesn’t need a ton of playing time to pay off his current salary.
Rudy Gobert has seen one of the biggest spikes in production over the past month, increasing his per-minute average to 1.25 FanDuel points per minute. He should have no problems today vs. the Warriors, who have been a disaster defensively to start the season. The only question is if this game will stay competitive: The Jazz are currently favored by 13.5 points.
Jonas Valanciunas is very reasonably priced at $6,500 on DraftKings, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 91%. He has absolutely dominated in games without Morant this season, averaging 1.31 DraftKings points per minute. He should be able to take advantage of the Bucks frontcourt given his Opponent Plus/Minus of +3.86.
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Pictured: 76ers C Joel Embiid (21) and Timberwolves C Karl-Anthony Towns (32)