The NBA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.
After a two-game appetizer on Thursday, the NBA DFS is back in full-swing on Friday. There is a six-game main slate starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard are the two options today priced at $9,000 or higher on FanDuel. And they do provide some safety: While numerous players are getting acclimated to the bubble and seeing reduced minutes — Kemba Walker, for example — the Thunder and Blazers, respectively, had no problems playing these guys a ton in their first games.
Among the two, Westbrook is $900 more but projects as a superior value given his likely higher usage rate. He’s an interesting player on today’s slate: The matchup against the Bucks is brutal given their defense, but he should have no shortage of opportunities to accumulate fantasy points.
We saw it Friday against the Mavs: After James Harden went off for 23 points in the first quarter, the Mavs essentially double-teamed him across most of the rest of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bucks try to take the ball out of his hands this evening, which could lead to increased volume for Russ. How efficient he’ll be with those opportunities is another story, but a high ceiling is obviously there.
The Wizards will likely continue to provide early fantasy value given their roster situation plus the fact that DraftKings and FanDuel have properly adjusted salaries to roles. Ish Smith and Shabazz Napier will operate the offense with Bradley Beal out, and Smith is particularly interesting at just $3,800 on DraftKings.
He played really well in his first game, putting up 17 points, four rebounds and seven assists in nearly 27 minutes. At almost the minimum price tag, that’s a ton of value. Napier might be better for tournaments, as his projections for today are nearly identical to Smith’s but he’s nearly $2,000 more expensive. He might go underowned as a result.
Dejounte Murray is only $5,700 on FanDuel and currently owns the highest Projected Plus/Minus among PGs on FanDuel. We’re projecting him for around 30 minutes with a potentially increased role with LaMarcus Aldridge out in Orlando.
Memphis guards Ja Morant and De’Anthony Melton both project as values today against the Spurs, who aren’t exactly stout defensively and should continue to play faster in Orlando without ball-stopper Aldridge on the floor.
To James Harden and Luka Doncic or not; that’s a big question on the slate.
They’re both projecting as values today despite $10k price tags, mostly because it seems they’ll continue their same roles as the regular season: high minutes, high usage. Harden has the much more difficult matchup against the Bucks, but this should be a fast-paced game that potentially makes up for a drop in efficiency. He obviously has a high ceiling against anyone, but the Bucks are a very tough matchup for him given their scheme; he underperformed in his first game against him earlier this season.
Luka has nearly an equally big role and a beautiful matchup against the Suns. He admittedly hasn’t looked completely like himself: He wore down a bit towards the end of that Rockets game. But this is still Luka, and he still owns one of the best roles for fantasy purposes. He’s a pretty great tournament result with his salary proximity to Harden.
Khris Middleton crushed value last game against the Celtics … despite shooting just over 25% from the field. He is solidified for over 30 minutes and took 20 shots in that one — a juicy workload for someone less than $7,000. Against the fast-paced, up-and-down Rockets, he’s quite the value today.
Caris LeVert is a little more expensive than Middleton but pretty much the same value. He’s the alpha of this Nets team as one of the few NBA-level players, and his nearly 32% projected usage rate is about where we’re projecting Luka, for reference. Against the Wizards at less than $8k? That’ll play.
Shooting guard also provides a variety of cheap options, including Garrett Temple, Donte DiVincenzo and Buddy Hield, all of whom are a bit boom-or-bust but have juicy roles compared to their salaries.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has the highest salary on the entire slate on FanDuel at $11,200 — and still the highest Projected Plus/Minus value. How often is the priciest stud the best value? Hello!
The Freak absolutely dominated in his first matchup in Orlando, putting up 36 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists across 32 minutes (a slight increase over his season average, in fact). His usage was nearly 36%. Against a fast-paced Rockets team in a high-total game — yeah, he’s a pretty tough fade and worthy cash-game building block up top.
DraftKings still hasn’t adjusted to the new role for Spurs wing Lonnie Walker, who played over 32 minutes in Game 1. He was a $3,200 starter in that one, and for this game — with the same role — he’s been increased to just $3,500. He’ll take on a Grizzlies team that likes to push the pace with Morant and Co., and the Spurs are playing faster themselves, going smaller with Aldridge.
Joe Harris is pretty shot-dependent for his fantasy value, but if there were ever a time to get hot for a shorthanded Nets squad, it’s probably against the Wizards. At just $5,000 he’s worth some tournament darts.
There are a bunch of other options in the same range as him, including Kyle Anderson, MIkal Bridges, TIm Hardaway Jr., Harrison Barnes, Danuel House and Rudy Gay. Among those, Hardaway and Gay have the highest projected usage rates, thus increasing their ceilings vs. the rest of the group.
At FanDuel, there are only two PF options priced above $6,200 in Jayson Tatum ($8,200) and Kristaps Porzingis ($9,600).
Porzingis is a fine play: He had a huge outing against the Rockets, putting up 39 points and 16 boards on a very high usage rate. The problem is the salary cap: He’s he worth that price tag if it limits exposure to, say, Giannis?
Tatum is the more interesting player. To be blunt, he’s looked pretty terrible in Orlando, both in exhibition games and Game 1 against the Bucks. Maybe it was just the matchup and he’ll bounce back, but five points on 18 shots just won’t cut it. Personally, I think the dude is too talented to play like this; today might be the time to buy low on him.
Again, DraftKings is pretty slow to adjust salaries for new roles. Zach Collins just played nearly 37 minutes for the Blazers in Game 1, and somehow he’s just $3,400 today. He’s admittedly a pretty low-usage player, but minutes shouldn’t be a problem — and at that price tag, it’s pretty hard to fail. He should accidentally fall into hitting value, if nothing else.
Robert Covington currently owns the highest Projected Plus/Minus among all PFs on FanDuel and will continue to see huge minutes, especially given the tough task of defending Giannis and Middleton today. He’s likely get all he can handle with Eric Gordon out injured, and while his offensive output is perhaps a bit limited, he should be able to accumulate stats from all over the place to pay off his price tag.
The top-two guys in salary on FanDuel at the position are NIkola Vucevic and Deandre Ayton, both of whom are projected for a position-high 34 minutes today.
Vuc is projected as the superior value mostly because he’s a more efficient player at this point and certainly has a winnable matchup against the Kings. The issue for both of these guys is like Porzingis: Do you want to pay up for center today? Given the value and with Giannis on the slate, I’ll reserve both of these guys for tournaments personally.
Speaking of value, Jarrett Allen and Thomas Bryant both project as huge ones with Proj Plus/Minus marks over 11 on FanDuel. They’re both expected to get over 30 minutes for teams really hurting for depth in the Nets and Wizards, respectively. They’re also playing each other: Wizards-Nets is an awful game to watch, but it should be juicy for fantasy.
If you want to pay down below those guys, you’ll have to take a risk on a low-usage player and hope they rack up some steals and blocks — worth a juicy three points each on FanDuel. Jakob Poeltl and PJ Tucker are examples: They should play heavy minutes, and while they won’t score too much, they’re in important matchups against teams that should get up and down the floor, providing opportunities for blocks and steals.
Pictured above: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks
Photo credit: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images