Let’s dive into some of the top plays on the slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics.
Wednesday features an 11-game slate starting at 7 p.m. ET.
Note: Projections and Leverages Scores/Ratings may change throughout the day after this article is posted. Consult the Player Models directly for any updates.
Damian Lillard is coming off another tremendous season last year. He averaged 28.8 points, 7.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game, resulting in an average of 48.25 DraftKings points per game.
He stands out as one of the top studs on Wednesday’s slate. The Blazers own an elite matchup vs. the Kings, who were the worst defensive team in the league last year. Not much is expected to change with the Kings this year, and the Blazers’ implied team total of 118.75 is the top mark on the slate.
Lillard is also underpriced at $10,000 on FanDuel. It results in a Bargain Rating of 79%, and Lillard has averaged a Plus/Minus of +3.83 with a comparable salary over the past two seasons (per the Trends tool).
Spencer Dinwiddie was limited to just three games last season due to a torn ACL, but he’s primed for a big season with the Wizards. He should serve as the team’s No. 2 option offensively, and Dinwiddie should flourish in that role. He filled a similar role for the Nets in 2019-20 and averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game.
Dinwiddie played well during the preseason, averaging 1.08 DraftKings points per minute, and he’s currently projected for just under 30 minutes in our NBA Models. His $4,900 salary on DraftKings also comes with a Bargain Rating of 97%, so he’s massively underpriced.
Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland was selected with the No. 26 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, and he’s going to play a large role for the Nuggets right out of the gates. He led all rookies in scoring during the preseason, and the Nuggets have an opening at point guard given the injury to Jamal Murray. Highland averaged 1.02 FanDuel points per minute during the preseason, so he doesn’t need a ton of playing time to pay off his minimum salary across the industry.
The Spurs are in rebuilding mode after losing DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge over the past year, which leaves guys like Dejounte Murray and Derrick White as the focal points of their offense. Both players have a strong matchup on opening night vs. the Magic, who ranked just tied for 25th in defensive efficiency last year. Murray stands out on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 89%, while White owns a Bargain Rating of 89% on FanDuel.
Bradley Beal could be set up for a career year. Russell Westbrook is gone, and Dinwiddie is not going to command nearly the same usage rate on offense. Beal increased his usage rate to a whopping 40.5% with Westbrook off the court last season, resulting in an average of 1.42 FanDuel points per minute. He finished second in the league in scoring last year, and it’s not hard to envision him leading the league in that department this year.
Beal is a particularly nice option on FanDuel given his Bargain Rating of 79%.
The Magic could be a nice source of value on opening night. They’re still playing without Michael Carter-Williams, Markelle Fultz, and Jonathan Isaac, and Chuma Okeke has also been ruled out for Wednesday.
That leaves a small group of players to handle most of the usage vs. the Spurs. Cole Anthony and Terrence Ross are both projected for around 30 minutes in our NBA Models, and both players averaged at least 0.98 FanDuel points per minute during the preseason. They’re elite values on FanDuel, where both players own a Bargain Rating of 98%.
The Pelicans are another team that will have some additional usage available on Wednesday. Zion Williamson is sidelined due to a foot injury, so rookie Trey Murphy should play a large role right out of the gates. He was second among rookies in scoring during the preseason, and he averaged 1.02 DraftKings points per minute. He’s an excellent option at just $3,200 on DraftKings.
Zach LaVine is another option to consider paying up for. He quietly turned in an outstanding season in 2020-21, combining excellent scoring volume with elite efficiency. He’s projected for the second-most minutes at the position on Wednesday, and he averaged 1.25 DraftKings points per minute last year.
Brandon Ingram should be asked to do most of the scoring for the Pelicans on Wednesday. He increased his usage rate by a whopping +10.1% with Williamson off the court last season, resulting in an average of 1.23 DraftKings points per minute.
Ingram starts the year with a tough matchup vs. the 76ers, but they may not be the same team defensively without Ben Simmons. They allowed an additional +3.1 points per 100 possessions with Simmons off the court last year, which was the highest mark on the team. Ingram is also underpriced on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 83%.
Rookies are going to be the best source of value on this slate, and Josh Giddey is the preferred target at small forward. He scored at least 25.5 DraftKings points in all four of his preseason games, and he averaged 1.03 DraftKings points per minute. He’s currently projected for around 28 minutes for the rebuilding Thunder, so he should be able to pay off his $3,800 price tag.
Can I interest you in another Pelican? Nickeil Alexander-Walker is not shy about looking for his shot when on the court, and he should see a more significant role with the Pelicans this season. He’s currently projected for 29.5 minutes in our NBA Models, and he averaged 0.98 FanDuel points per minute last year. He’s a steal at just $5,100 on FanDuel given his Bargain Rating of 98%.
Desmond Bane should be asked to play more minutes in his sophomore season, and he averaged a strong 0.99 DraftKings points per minute during the preseason. He’s dirt-cheap at just $3,200 on DraftKings, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 98%.
Tobias Harris stands out as an elite value on FanDuel, and he should be asked to carry a larger offensive workload with Simmons sidelined. He increased his usage rate by a team-high +4.3% with Simmons off the court last season, resulting in an average of 1.16 FanDuel points per minute. His matchup vs. the Pelicans is also excellent: they ranked ninth in pace and 23rd in defensive efficiency last year.
The Raptors draw the Wizards on opening night, and they were arguably the best matchup in fantasy last year. They played at the fastest pace in the league, and they were also below-average in terms of defensive efficiency.
The Raptors also have plenty of minutes available on opening night. Pascal Siakam and Yuta Watanabe are both out with injuries, while Chris Boucher is questionable. That means Precious Achiuwa should have a role. He’s currently projected for around 23.5 minutes, and he averaged 0.99 DraftKings points per minute last year. He increased that figure to 1.26 during the preseason, so he’s definitely in play at $3,100 on DraftKings.
Jayson Tatum feels expensive compared to some of the other options on opening night, but he would still be worth considering if Jaylen Brown is ruled out. Brown is currently questionable due to COVID-19, and Tatum increased his usage rate by +3.8% with Brown off the court last season. He averaged 1.37 DraftKings points per minute in that situation, and his $9,400 salary on DraftKings comes with a Bargain Rating of 86%.
Mo Bamba has PF eligibility on FanDuel, and he’s oozing with upside heading into this season. He averaged 1.29 FanDuel points per minute in limited playing time last year, and he upped that mark to 1.52 during the preseason. He should see a nice boost in playing time this year with Nikola Vucevic in Chicago, so this could be the cheapest he’s priced all year. He’s expected to be one of the highest-owned options on the slate at $5,300 on FanDuel.
Joel Embiid should be the biggest beneficiary of Simmons’ absence. He posted a ridiculous 43% usage rate with Simmons off the court last year, resulting in an average of 1.78 FanDuel points per minute. That’s an absurd figure.
He shouldn’t face much resistance from the Pelicans on opening night. Their defense wasn’t good to begin with last year, and they allowed an additional +2.0 points per 100 possessions with Williamson off the court.
Robert Williams was a per-minute monster at times last year, and he should see a boost in playing time to start the season. Tristan Thompson is gone, and Al Horford is currently sidelined due to health and safety protocols. Williams is currently projected for around 25.5 minutes in our NBA Models, and he should be able to smash his current salary with that much playing time. He’s never been projected for as many minutes with a similar price tag, so this is an unprecedented spot for him.
Jonas Valanciunas and Jaren Jackson Jr. ate into each other’s fantasy numbers in the past, so both should benefit from Valanciunas now being in New Orleans. Valanciunas stands out as a strong option on FanDuel, where his $6,500 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 95%. A lack of playing time is the only thing that has stopped him from scoring fantasy points in the past, and that shouldn’t be a problem with Williamson out of the lineup.
Jackson is the preferred target on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 94%. His skill set is enticing for a big man, and he looked healthy while averaging 1.26 DraftKings points per minute during the preseason.
If you’re looking for a rookie value at center, Evan Mobley is your guy. He averaged 1.04 FanDuel points per minute during the preseason, and he’s projected for nearly 28 minutes on opening night. He’s a nice value across the industry.