The NBA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.
Basketball is back, baby! The NBA season gets underway with a two-game slate starting at 8 p.m. ET.
New Orleans Pelicans @ Toronto Raptors (-7), 231.0 total
Pelicans (112.0 implied points)
This game became a lot less appealing after the injury to Zion Williamson. He’s expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks after tearing his meniscus, which has caused his Rookie of the Year odds to plummet.
That said, this injury will obviously create some value from a DFS perspective. Let’s start with Jrue Holiday. He was an excellent fantasy asset last season with Anthony Davis, Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic off the court, averaging 1.31 DraftKings points per minute and leading the team with a usage rate of 28.1%. Overall, Holiday averaged 44.21 DraftKings points per game with all three players out of the lineup.
The Pelicans brought in some new teammates for Holiday this offseason, but Holiday still figures to be a massive presence. He posted a usage rate of 25.7% during the preseason, and that was with Zion in the lineup. It’s very reasonable to expect that number to be higher today.
Holiday stands out as an excellent value on DraftKings, where his $7,900 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 87%.
Brandon Ingram was acquired in the Davis trade this offseason, and he’ll have the opportunity to spread his wings in New Orleans. He led the team with a usage rate of 26.8% during the preseason, and that represents a solid increase from his time with the Lakers. He averaged 0.98 DraftKings points per minute when playing without LeBron James last season, and he could improve upon that mark with the Pelicans.
Lonzo Ball was also acquired in the Davis deal, and he’ll be looking to revive his career. He’s struggled with injuries through his first two seasons with the Lakers, limiting him to just 99 total games played. He’s also struggled with efficiency when on the court, shooting just 38.0% from the field and 31.5% from 3-point range.
Given his putrid shooting numbers, his average of 0.93 DraftKings points per minute last season is actually pretty impressive. He’s elite when it comes to piling up peripheral statistics, and he led the Pelicans with an average of 8.6 assists per 36 minutes during the preseason.
Lonzo is one of the best pure values of the day on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 99%.
Derrick Favors could be the biggest beneficiary of the Zion injury. He averaged a stout 1.16 DraftKings points per minute as a member of the Jazz last season, but he was limited to just 23.2 minutes per game. His only real competition for center minutes in New Orleans is Jahlil Okafor, so Favors should definitely see a boost in playing time this season.
Speaking of Okafor, he’s someone worth considering at just $3,200. He’s always been a fantasy-friendly player, and he averaged 1.08 DraftKings points per minute with Davis, Randle and Mirotic off the court last season. He doesn’t need more than 15-18 minutes to be relevant at his current salary.
J.J. Redick is a pretty one-dimensional player, with virtually all of his fantasy scoring coming from his shooting ability. That gives him a pretty low floor on a night-to-night basis, but he does have a solid ceiling when his shot is falling.
Raptors (119.0 implied points)
Today’s slate is loaded with superstars, yet the Raptors quietly lead the slate with an implied team total of 119.0 points. They obviously lost Kawhi Leonard during the offseason, which opens up lots of opportunities for the rest of the roster. Unlike the Pelicans, the Raptors didn’t bring in anyone to replace Leonard, which makes this situation slightly easier to dissect.
Kyle Lowry saw a team-high usage bump of +4.2% in games without Leonard last season, resulting in an average of 40.88 DraftKings points per game. That kind of production would make him an elite value at just $6,800 on DraftKings.
That said, he does have a difficult individual matchup. Holiday and Ball both ranked in the top 10 of Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM) at the PG position last season.
Pascal Siakam took a massive step forward last season and was a big reason why the Raptors were able to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. He was at his best in games without Leonard, averaging a Plus/Minus of +7.5 on DraftKings. He’s the Raptors’ most-expensive option on DraftKings, but he possesses the highest ceiling projection on the team in our NBA Models.
Fred VanVleet was another player who was at his best with Leonard out of the lineup last season. He averaged 27.53 DraftKings points over 30.6 minutes per game, good for an average Plus/Minus of +6.6. He’s projected for massive ownership, but he’s one of the strongest value options on the slate.
It will be interesting to see how the Raptors handle the minutes for Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol this season. They were essentially a platoon at center last year, and they shared the court for just 140 total minutes between the regular season and playoffs. That said, the removal of Kawhi does open things up a bit. The Raptors could play the two of them together more often while sliding Siakam to the SF position.
If that happens, both big men figure to be strong fantasy options. Each player averaged at least 1.07 DraftKings points per minute last season, so a few more minutes than expected would make them excellent values.
OG Anunoby and Norman Powell figure to round out the Raptors’ rotation. Anunoby is the better bet for minutes — he’s currently projected to start at the SF position — but Powell has the bigger upside. He averaged 0.83 DraftKings points per minute last season, and comparable players have averaged a Plus/Minus of +3.22 on DraftKings (per the Trends tool).
Los Angeles Lakers (-3.5) @ Los Angeles Clippers, 224.5 total
This game features more DFS star power, but the total is actually 6.5 points lower. The Raptors and Pelicans both ranked in the top five in pace during the preseason, while the Lakers ranked just 23rd. Both L.A. teams also figure to be improved defensively given their offseason additions.
Lakers (114.0 implied points)
The Lakers figure to be a two-man show this season. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the only players on the team currently projected for more than 27.7 minutes in our NBA Models, and they’re also the only players projected for a usage rate greater than 19.5%.
Davis was the superior fantasy asset last season. He averaged 1.66 DraftKings points per minute, which rivaled guys like James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo for the best marks in the league. He’s a force both defensively and on the glass — he averaged 3.95 steals + blocks and 12.0 rebounds per game — which should help him overcome any potential decrease to his usage rate.
He could see a boost in his efficiency numbers as well. He has never played with someone who can distribute the basketball like LeBron, which should result in some easier baskets.
Overall, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Davis produce at a similar level with the Lakers from a fantasy perspective despite a reduction in volume.
LeBron is a bit trickier to project. The general consensus is that he had a disappointing Year 1 with the Lakers, but he was his usual dominant self from a fantasy perspective. He averaged 53.48 DraftKings points per game, which was just slightly lower than his mark of 55.3 in his final year with the Cavs.
The biggest question is just how much does his production decrease given the addition of Davis? Well, if the preseason is any indication, it might not be as much as you think. He did see a slight reduction in usage rate, but he more than made up for it with an increased assist rate. He posted an assist rate of 51.3% during the preseason, which would represent a new career-high.
Davis and LeBron own the two highest ceiling projections on today’s slate, and, frankly, no one else is all that close.
Outside of Davis and LeBron, it’s tough to see much fantasy value with the Lakers. JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard are expected to split the center minutes 50/50. That said, JaVale was slightly better on a per-minute basis last season, and he doesn’t cost that much more than Howard on DraftKings. He’s the superior fantasy option.
The Lakers have a logjam of options on the wing. Danny Green, Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope figure to handle the majority of the minutes, while Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook could see some playing time as well. No one in the group really stands out from a fantasy perspective, but that could change if Rajon Rondo is ultimately ruled out. He’s currently listed as questionable with a sore calf, and his absence would open up a few additional minutes.
Bradley and Green are currently projected for the most minutes on the wing, but neither player was productive from a fantasy perspective last season.
Clippers (110.5 implied points)
The Clippers enter this season with high hopes, but they’ll have to wait to see their lineup at full strength. Paul George is expected to miss the first few weeks after undergoing shoulder surgery, and their current implied team total is the lowest on the slate.
Kawhi will have to shoulder the load for the Clippers with George out of the lineup, and Doc Rivers has stated that he won’t be on any sort of minutes restriction. That said, don’t expect him to play 40-plus minutes. He averaged just 34.0 minutes per game in his only year with the Raptors, and that was the highest mark of his career. The Clippers’ main goal is winning a title, so expect them to take it easy on Leonard during the regular season.
Leonard is coming off a career-high 45.02 DraftKings points per game last season, but that production still makes him overpriced at $9,600. It’s important to separate the regular season from the postseason with Kawhi, and he’s just not a particularly strong DFS option during the regular season. He’s historically averaged a Plus/Minus of -0.63 with a comparable salary on DraftKings.
Leonard will also have to share some possessions with Lou Williams this season, who will undoubtedly post a higher usage rate than any of his teammates in Toronto did last season. Williams averaged a stout 1.27 DraftKings points per minute last year, which gives him excellent upside at $6,500.
Ivica Zubac is expected to draw the start at center, and his $4,500 salary on FanDuel comes with a Bargain Rating of 96%. He averaged 1.15 FanDuel points per minute last season, so he doesn’t need a ton of playing time to return value at his current salary.
Montrezl Harrell should see the majority of the center minutes off the bench, and he stands out on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 96%. He’s an elite producer on a per-minute basis, and he ranked third on the team in usage rate during the preseason.
JaMychal Green will also factor into the frontcourt rotation, and he’s dirt-cheap at just $3,800 on DraftKings. He averaged 0.98 DraftKings points per minute last season, which makes him one of the best pure values on the team.
Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet should see plenty of minutes in the backcourt, and both players own a Bargain Rating of least 88% on FanDuel. Beverley was the superior fantasy asset last season, but he’s slightly more expensive and should command higher ownership.