- Nets-Bucks and Lakers-Warriors highlight Opening Night of the 2021-22 NBA season, meaning NBA DFS will soon be in full swing.
- Tuesday night, the slate offers plenty of star power, but only a few ways to differentiate your lineups with four teams in play.
- Matt LaMarca breaks down the Tuesday NBA slate using the FantasyLabs tools and models below.
The NBA is back baby! The season kicks off with a two-game slate on Tuesday starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Let’s dive into some of the top plays on the slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics.
The Lakers made a splash this offseason by acquiring Russell Westbrook. It remains to be seen how much he’ll help the team on the court, but Westbrook is a proven fantasy superstar. He averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in the past five seasons in 2020-21, averaging 22.2 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.5 rebounds per game. Overall, he averaged a stout 1.57 DraftKings points per minute.
With that in mind, his $8,600 salary seems insanely low. He will have to share the ball with two other superstars in Los Angeles, but Westbrook should still be able to crush that price tag. He’s only had a comparable salary in 35 previous games since the start of the 2014 season, but he’s posted an average Plus/Minus of +2.80 in those outings (per the Trends tool).
Westbrook leads all players in projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings, and it’s not even that close.
Jordan Poole showed some promise down the stretch for the Warriors last season. He averaged a Plus/Minus of +2.46 over the final three months of the year, and he should be locked into a sizable workload on opening night. Klay Thompson is not ready to make his return to the court, so the Warriors will need Poole’s scoring alongside Steph Curry.
Speaking of Curry, he’s obviously in play on a two-game slate. He was fantastic last year, leading the league with an average of 32.0 points per game. If the preseason is any indication, Curry is poised to carry another sizable workload this season. He posted a usage rate of at least 36.9% in each of his final three preseason games, and he dropped 41 points in his last outing before the regular season.
Jrue Holiday could be a bit overlooked on this slate, but he stands out as an elite value on DraftKings. His $7,000 price tag comes with a Bargain Rating of 97%, and he’s historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +3.58 with a comparable salary as a member of the Bucks.
The Nets are going to be without Kyrie Irving on opening night – and possibly all season – but they have plenty of players who can pick up the slack. They’re still implied for a slate-high 119.5 points despite facing a tough Bucks’ defense.
James Harden figures to be one of the biggest beneficiaries. He was a monster in nine games without Irving last season, averaging more than 60 DraftKings points per game. He increased his usage rate by +6.9% and his assist rate by +9.3%, so he should do some damage for as long as Irving is sidelined.
His $9,300 salary on DraftKings is also comical. It results in a Bargain Rating of 96%, and Harden has historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +4.51 with a comparable price tag.
Bruce Brown is another strong option for the Nets. He’s a candidate to replace Irving in the starting lineup, and he should see a solid boost in playing time even if he comes off the bench. He’s currently projected for 23.9 minutes in our NBA Models, and he averaged 0.90 DraftKings points per minute last year. His $3,600 salary on DraftKings also comes with a Bargain Rating of 96%.
Austin Reaves did enough with the Lakers during the preseason to earn a spot in the rotation to start the year. He’s projected for around 23 minutes in our NBA Models, which is plenty for someone priced at the minimum across the industry. Historically, min-priced players have averaged a Plus/Minus of +2.24 with a comparable minute projection.
Grayson Allen was brought in by the Bucks this offseason, and he should see a sizable workload on opening night. They won’t have Bobby Portis, Semi Ojeleye, or Rodney Hood available on Tuesday, and Donte DiVincenzo is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered last year. Allen averaged 0.77 FanDuel points per minute last season, and he could improve upon that number in a more fantasy-friendly offense.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant are interesting options on this slate. Some of the other superstars are expected to carry more ownership, and guys like LeBron and Durant are always worth considering as leverage plays.
LeBron is entering his 19th NBA season, but he’s shown no signs of slowing down. He averaged 1.45 DraftKings points per minute last year, albeit over a career-low 33.4 minutes per game. LeBron recently told reporters that he doesn’t think playing fewer minutes will necessarily help keep him healthier – he missed 27 regular-season games last year – and that he “feels worse” when he plays low minutes. There’s no guarantee that the coaching staff feels the same way, but LeBron could theoretically see a few additional minutes this year.
Durant was absolutely breathtaking in the playoffs last season. He couldn’t get the shorthanded Nets past the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but he played some of the best basketball of his entire career. He averaged 35.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 2.7 steals + blocks in that series, despite the fact that P.J. Tucker was essentially in his jersey for 92 feet. Tucker is now gone, and the Bucks don’t have anyone who can give him the same treatment on opening night. That gives Durant immense scoring upside in this matchup, especially with Irving out of the lineup.
How about an opening night #revengegame? I’m not sure if Kent Bazemore vs. the Warriors actually qualifies, but Bazemore still stands out as a quality option on DraftKings. He’s projected for more than 29 minutes in our NBA Models at just $3,600, and Bazemore has always been solid on a per-minute basis. He averaged 0.85 DraftKings points per minute last season.
Otto Porter is the preferred value option on FanDuel. He’s averaged a stout 0.98 FanDuel points per minute last year, and he increased that mark to 1.29 during his preseason games with the Warriors. His $4,400 salary also comes with a Bargain Rating of 95%.
Joe Harris is another potential source of value on FanDuel. He was dreadful in the playoffs last season, but he knocked down 47.5% of his 3-point attempts during the regular season. That’s an absurd number. He’s priced at just $4,300 vs. the Bucks, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 98%.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is arguably the best fantasy player in the league on a per-minute basis, so he’s definitely in play on a two-game slate. He averaged 1.66 DraftKings points per minute last year, and he increased that figure to 1.81 during the preseason.
Giannis is also underpriced to start the season. His $10,000 salary on DraftKings comes with a Bargain Rating of 93%, and he’s averaged a Plus/Minus of +4.61 with a comparable salary since the start of 2018.
Carmelo Anthony has finally fulfilled his lifelong dream of getting to play alongside his good friend LeBron. His career looked finished in 2019, but he was able to carve out a role with the Trail Blazers. He should play a similar role for the Lakers this season, and he’s currently projected for just under 29 minutes on opening night. That makes him very appealing at just $3,900 on DraftKings.
Jordan Nwora is another member of the Bucks who could see some decent playing time tonight. He’s been an excellent per-minute contributor – he averaged 1.13 FanDuel points per minute last year and 1.22 during the preseason – so he doesn’t need a ton of playing time to make his mark. He’s particularly appealing at the minimum on FanDuel.
Draymond Green has not been the same player recently that he was in his prime. He averaged just seven points per game last year. Seven! Green can do a lot of things on a basketball court, but it’s hard to overcome such minimal scoring numbers in DFS. Still, his ability to rack up stats in the other categories does give him nice upside on nights where his shot is falling.
Anthony Davis is one of the best big men in basketball, but he may be asked to sacrifice some of his numbers this season. Westbrook has already proven that he’s not willing to defer to anyone, and LeBron is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. That leaves Davis as the clear No. 3 in the Lakers “big three.”
His projections in our NBA Models are very modest. He would be an easy fade on a regular slate, but he’s an interesting contrarian target with just two games to choose from. He’s projected for just 17-20% ownership on DraftKings, which is easily the lowest mark among the stud options. His $8,800 salary on DraftKings also comes with a Bargain Rating of 95%. I would definitely avoid him in cash games, but there are reasons to consider him in GPPs.
The Nets have turned into a retirement home for former All-Star big men. Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Paul Millsap should all see minutes on opening night, but Aldridge stands out as the preferred target. He’s still an effective fantasy option on a per-minute basis, and he’s very affordable across the industry. He’s particularly appealing at just $4,100 on FanDuel.
Who is Sandro Mamukelashvili? To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not really sure. What I do know is he’s the only backup big man who is available on the Bucks’ roster vs. the Nets. He’s also priced at the minimum across the industry, and he delivered some solid performances during the preseason.
James Wiseman is still out for the Warriors, so Kevon Looney will likely draw the start at center. That puts him in play at $3,900 on FanDuel.