The NBA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.
The NBA is back baby! The regular season gets underway on Tuesday with a two-game slate starting at 7 p.m. ET.
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Steph Curry headlines the PG position, and he stands out as one of the best plays on the slate. In case you need a reminder of how good this guy is, he’s a back-to-back MVP who averaged 52.4 DraftKings points per game in 2016. His fantasy production has declined since then, but keep in mind that he’s had to share the ball with both Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. He doesn’t have those concerns this season.
Curry only played five games last season, but he still managed a dominant 1.5 DraftKings points per minute when on the court. He led the team with a usage rate of 34.4% during the preseason, so he’s poised for a monster year.
Patrick Beverley is affordable across the industry, and he should start at PG for the Clippers. He may not see a huge workload – the Clippers still have Lou Williams and Reggie Jackson – but Beverley is projected for 26.1 minutes in our NBA Models. He averaged 0.87 DraftKings points per minute last season, so he’s capable of paying off his current salary with that much playing time.
There could be some growing pains for the Nets to start the season, but they have the sheer talent to overcome it. Kyrie Irving stands out as an excellent value on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 90%, and he also stands out from a Vegas perspective. The Nets are currently implied for 119.5 points, and no other team on the slate is implied for greater than 112.25.
Dennis Schroder will be playing his first game with the Lakers, and he could carry a larger workload than expected. LeBron James has talked about prioritizing rest more this season, so he may not play as many minutes as we’ve become accustomed to. If that happens, Schroder will be one of the players tasked with picking up the slack. He’s fairly priced at $5,800 on DraftKings, and he’s historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +2.07 with a comparable price tag (per the Trends tool).
Paul George has become a polarizing player. He struggled mightily in the playoffs last season, and his preferential treatment from the coaching staff apparently rubbed some of his teammates the wrong way.
The Clippers will look to turn over a new leaf this season, starting with their opening night matchup vs. the Lakers. It’s a tough matchup – the Lakers finished third in defensive rating last season – but George did some of his best work vs. the Lakers last season. He averaged a Plus/Minus of +10.19 over three games, and he scored at least 34.5 FanDuel points in all three contests.
George is also slightly underpriced at $7,600 on FanDuel. He was priced with a comparable salary in 28 games last season and averaged a Plus/Minus of +1.40. Given the weakness of the position on today’s slate, it makes sense to pay up for the safety of George in cash games.
Luke Kennard has the potential to play a big role for the Clippers on opening night. The team clearly believes in his talent after signing him to a four-year, $64M extension, and Marcus Morris will be unavailable due to knee soreness. There’s a chance the team slots Kennard into the starting lineup and moves George to small forward and Kawhi Leonard to power forward.
Kennard will almost certainly see a reduction in usage after serving as one of the Pistons’ primary scorers last season, but he’s capable of contributing in other ways. He averaged 4.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game last season, which makes him more productive in the peripheral categories than the average player in this price range. He’s also a career 40.2% 3-point shooter, so he can make defenses pay if they overload to stop the Clippers’ big two.
Andrew Wiggins is another polarizing player looking for a fresh start. He never figured things out in Minnesota, but perhaps a change of scenery will help him. His preseason numbers aren’t encouraging – he shot just 40% from the field and averaged just 2.7 assists and 1.7 rebounds – but he figures to have plenty of opportunities as the Warriors’ No. 2 offensive option. Playing alongside Curry shouldn’t hurt either.
It will be interesting to see how the Nets utilize Spencer Dinwiddie this season. He was fantastic last season, particularly in games where Irving was out of the lineup, but their depth chart is much more crowded on opening night. Still, he averaged 0.99 FanDuel points per minute last year and is priced at just $5,200 on FanDuel.
Paying up at SF comes down to a choice between LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.
LeBron is coming off another incredible season in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down in his 18th season. LeBron ranks ninth in career minutes during the regular season and first in playoff minutes, so his longevity is truly remarkable. He averaged 54.4 DraftKings points per game last season, which was the third-highest mark of his illustrious career.
Unfortunately, his minutes this season could be problematic. If he does prioritize load management – which is probably a good idea in the long run – it will make an impact on his fantasy production. He’s projected for just 30.0 minutes in our NBA Models, and even LeBron will struggle to pay off his lofty salary in just 30 minutes.
Of course, no one knows load management better than Kawhi. He basically invented it, and he’s only projected for 32.9 minutes. Kawhi is not nearly the same fantasy producer as LeBron on a per-minute basis, so it’s tough to trust him as well.
The deciding factor here could be which site you’re playing on. The difference between LeBron and Kawhi on FanDuel is $1,500, so it makes sense to save the money with Kawhi there. The difference between the two players is just $500 on DraftKings, so it will be much easier for LeBron to close the gap in terms of value.
You’re not obligated to pay up for either stud option, and Joe Harris looks like a quality option if you’re paying down at the position. The Nets brought him back on a four-year, $75M deal, and he should fit perfectly next to Irving and Kevin Durant. He’s quite possibly the best 3-point shooter in the league, and those guys should create plenty of open looks for him.
Kelly Oubre broke out as a member of the Suns, averaging approximately 1.00 DraftKings points per minute during his tenure in Phoenix. The Warriors will be counting on him to bring that same production to Golden State, and they are going to give him every opportunity to prove himself. He was much more impressive than Wiggins during the preseason, ranking second on the team in points per game despite ranking seventh in usage.
Talen Horton-Tucker is a very intriguing punt play at $3,500 on DraftKings and FanDuel. He was arguably the biggest breakout star from the preseason, scoring 41.25, 62.0, and 29.75 DraftKings points in his three games. Horton-Tucker may not see a huge role to start the season, but the Lakers are definitely looking for contributors off the bench. He has the opportunity to play his way into the rotation.
Anthony Davis stands out as the clear top option on tonight’s slate. He served as the 1B to LeBron’s 1A last season, but those roles could be reversed this season. Davis was incredible during the preseason, averaging 22.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.0 blocks over just 23.6 minutes per game. He also shot a ridiculous 6-7 from 3-point range, and it’s scary to imagine how good he can be if he adds a consistent 3-point shot to his game. Davis is just a 31.3% 3-point shooter for his career – including 33.0% last season – but he still averaged 50.96 FanDuel points per game.
He leads all players in our NBA Models in median, ceiling, and floor projection, and there’s a real shot he ends up in the MVP discussion at the end of the season.
Eric Paschall had some impressive moments as a rookie last season. He averaged 14.0 points per game for the shorthanded Warriors, and he was rewarded with a spot on the All-Rookie First Team. He shouldn’t be asked to contribute nearly as much this season, but he does have a chance to start on opening night. Draymond Green has been ruled out with a foot injury, and Paschall is one of the most likely candidates to replace him.
Paschall stands out as one of the best pure values on the slate on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 99%, and he leads all players in terms of projected Plus/Minus.
Kevin Durant will garner plenty of ownership in his first game with the Nets, but you might want to exercise some caution. Not only will he have to share the ball with a high-usage player in Irving, but there’s no guarantee that the Nets push him too hard in his first real NBA game in nearly 18 months. The Nets have title aspirations this season, but they can only do that if Durant is healthy for the playoffs.
Montrezl Harrell is a new addition for the Lakers, and he gets to start the season with a #RevengeGame against his former team. Harrell will likely be used in a very similar fashion with his new team, and he was excellent on a points-per-minute basis last season. He doesn’t need a ton of playing time to potential return value at his current salary.
This is probably the weakest position on tonight’s slate. You can roster Davis at center on DraftKings – and that’s not the worst idea – but no one at the position is priced above $5,100 on FanDuel. That said, even though these options may not possess a ton of ceiling, they are standing out as some of the best plays on the slate from a points-per-dollar perspective.
DeAndre Jordan is still on the Nets, which is not surprising since Durant and Irving supposedly lobbied to get him there. Fantasy players would love it if the team would hand the reigns to Jarrett Allen, but it appears we’re going to have to wait at least one more year for that to happen.
For the time being, Jordan stands out as an excellent value at just $4,500 on FanDuel. His salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 73%, and he leads the position with a projected Plus/Minus of +6.17.
The Warriors liked James Wiseman enough to make him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft, and he should see a solid handful of playing time with Green out of the lineup. That said, he is a complete mystery as a fantasy option. He didn’t play at all during the preseason, so we have no idea just how active he’ll be when on the court. However, he’s garnered plenty of hype in practice recently, and there’s even a chance that he starts in his first career NBA game. He could be worth rolling the dice on.
If you want to take a flyer on someone with a bit more experience for the Warriors, consider Marquese Chriss. Chriss is phenomenal on a per-minute basis – he averaged 1.31 DraftKings points per minute last season – so he’s capable of doing a lot of damage in a short period of time.
Serge Ibaka was the Clippers’ big addition during the offseason, and he should fill Harrell’s old role. Ibaka was a very capable fantasy producer last season, averaging 1.11 DraftKings points per minute, so he seems underpriced at $5,200. There’s also a chance that he sees a few more minutes than usual with Morris out of the lineup.