The NBA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.
Tuesday features a four-game slate starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.
It is really SLIM pickings tonight, one of the lightest, weirdest slates of the season so far. You may actually find it hard to use all your money at first. But, of course, you should try to come close — every $100 is more possible points. The forwards are especially lean tonight. Be prepared to overspend on a stud elsewhere since they’re the ones who put up the big points, and be sure to use positional flexibility to your advantage at DraftKings.
There are a pair of stud point guards available, and your decision may depend a lot on which site you’re playing at. Trae Young continues to put up huge numbers, now 28.8 points and 8.4 points per game, both top five in the NBA. Young has 13 Pro Trends, even in a difficult matchup against the Heat.
Over his last nine games, Young is scoring more than ever at 34.4 points per game, and he’s exceeded expectations in eight of those games at FanDuel. That’s because his price tag has stayed mostly stable there and actually dropped a sizable amount to $9,600 today, so he’s a solid +1.2 Projected Plus/Minus there with a rare 96% Bargain Rating. Not so at DraftKings, where Young’s hot play has raised his salary to $10,400 and given him an unplayable -3.88 Projected Plus/Minus.
At DraftKings, you’re better off rolling with Damian Lillard. Dame’s 26.7 points and 7.4 dimes a game both rank top 10 in the NBA, just behind Trae, and he has a plus matchup against the terrible Knicks. Lillard’s numbers have faded over the past month, down to just 20.9 points a game over the last 11 games, but he’s looked more himself lately.
Dame looks a good value at DraftKings, where his salary has dropped to $8,800 and given him a +1.3 Projected Plus/Minus, but his ceiling isn’t what it was earlier this season. At FanDuel Lillard costs the same as Young and isn’t as strong of a play; our model gives him a -1.0 Projected Plus/Minus there.
With Isaiah Thomas sidelined indefinitely, Ish Smith looks like a very strong play. The Wizards continue to have one of the league’s best offenses, and both Smith and IT have produced when on the court, with either of them up for a big game any given night. No IT means more playing time for Smith. He’s gone over 30 minutes in three straight, and he’s averaging 16 points and 6.7 assists a game in that span, twice going over 30 fantasy points. Smith has exceeded expectations in nine of his last 12 games and has a Projected Plus/Minus of more than +3.75 at both sites.
Miami rookie Kendrick Nunn has slowed down after a torrid start, but he should get plenty of run tonight with both Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow sidelined. Nunn hasn’t cleared 26 fantasy points in six games, but that gives him a reasonable salary with a minutes boost coming. He has a robust +6.7 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel, highest of any player on the slate.
You’re going to want to get one of the three Portland scoring guards in your lineup tonight against the Knicks. Anfernee Simons is the bargain option, not far from the minimum. Simons typically has a lower ceiling but has exceeded expectations in 58% of his games this month.
There are a bunch of great shooting guard options tonight, led by two terrific stud plays. Bradley Beal is the slightly more expensive option. Beal is averaging 47 fantasy points per game and has a 76% Consistency Rating, and he has a plus matchup against the Hornets. Beal has been remarkably consistent of late, scoring between 47.8 and 52.6 FanDuel points in each of the last 10 games. He has a Projected Plus/Minus of more than +3.5 on both sites and looks a positive option with his salary implied for just 44.4 points.
Jimmy Butler isn’t as reliable but could have the higher ceiling on a night when the Heat are missing Dragic and Winslow, putting Butler on the ball a lot more. The Hawks are an enticing +2.08 Opponent Plus/Minus and Butler has quietly put up 1.31 fantasy points per minute, and his salary hasn’t caught up yet. Butler has exceeded expectations in 75% of his games this month at DraftKings and has today’s top shooting guard Projected Plus/Minus at +4.37. He’s even higher at +6.4 on FanDuel and has had some of his best games playing hero ball with Dragic and/or Winslow out.
Both Butler and Beal look like very strong options on a lean night. You’ll probably want to build your lineup around one of them and may even want to find room for both.
C.J. McCollum is the third Blazers guard option, of course. Like his teammates, his Knicks matchup is quite enticing in a game that won’t feature much defense. McCollum has 50% Upside Rating over the last month and has seen his numbers tick up with Dame fading a bit. He’s a volatile bargain stud option, with a lower floor than a typical stud but just as high a ceiling if everything hits. With a Projected Plus/Minus of more than +4.2 on both sites, McCollum is a tournament winner if he hits for one of his big nights.
Tyler Herro has a plus matchup and gets a boost with Miami’s other handlers sidelined, and he’s scored 49 points his past two games so he could stay hot. Herro is an especially strong play at FanDuel, where his 91% Bargain Rating helps him to a position best +6.95 Projected Plus/Minus.
If you’re looking for a bit of a sleeper at the position, Kevin Huerter could be your guy. Huerter is still working his way back from injury, and so is his salary. He played 15.4 minutes in his return, then 23.9 minutes on Sunday, and his usage has been very low. Our models project him at 25 minutes and almost 18% usage, his highest yet since the injury, and that gives Huerter a lot of upside at a bargain price.
The forward options are very lean tonight, so lean that Tobias Harris is the top stud option at small forward. Harris doesn’t have your typical stud upside but also doesn’t have a typical stud salary. He’s a generally steady producer at just over 1 fantasy point per game, and he could have a slight uptick if Josh Richardson (questionable) ends up sitting out. We haven’t recommended anyone from the Philadelphia-Denver game yet in part because it looks like the night’s slowest and most defensive, but Harris looks like a safe enough option to invest if you have cash to spend at the position.
It’s not exactly a revenge game, but Carmelo Anthony having a huge game against the Knicks sure would be a fun Tuesday night December story. Melo has faded quickly after his Player of the Week win but he’s still getting his shots up, and you have to believe he’ll fire at will with the Knicks in town. He’s still playing huge minutes with heavy usage and could have a great ceiling on a weak small forwards night. Anthony has a +3.66 Projected Plus/Minus at DraftKings.
Marcus Morris has exceeded expectations in 75% of his games this month, and he’s scored at least 20 points in eight of his last 11. Morris has a 78% Bargain Rating at DraftKings and is a far better play there at +3.69 Projected Plus/Minus.
Troy Brown has gone over expectations in five straight and is handling the ball a bit more with Isaiah Thomas out. He’s also coming off his best game of the season at 22 points, five rebounds, and four assists Sunday against the Clippers. Brown has a nice matchup against the Hornets and is a terrific bargain option at FanDuel at +5.18 Projected Plus/Minus, with an unusually high ceiling for a $4,600 player.
Bam Adebayo has been upgraded from questionable to probable with a groin contusion, but be careful to make sure he’s a full go before inserting him into your lineup. He’s the only real “stud” option at power forward tonight, and of course he’s not even eligible at power forward on DraftKings. Bam’s numbers are down a bit of late, but he’s still exceeded expectations in 59% of his games this season, and he’s bounced back strong with 45 points, 27 rebounds, and 10 assists his last two games. Adebayo is another guy who will get to handle and do more with the Miami injuries, so he looks like a strong option if he’s cleared for a full load.
There are extra big men minutes in Washington with Thomas Bryant out, and Davis Bertans has been thriving. He’s exceeded expectations in eight of the last 10 games by an average of more than five fantasy points. Bertans has been raining 3s from deep, and he’s scored at least 19 points in five straight. He has a +3.71 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel in a plus matchup against the Hornets and has been the stronger play than Rui Hachimura lately.
It’s usually a good idea to get big men in your lineup against the Blazers, who sport an ungodly +5.39 Opponent Plus/Minus to opposing 4s. Tonight that gives you two good options. Julius Randle is the more expensive of the two. He’s gone under expectations in 67% of his games the past month but can always explode for a big game, and this could be the night for him to do so. Randle has 10 Pro Trends and a +3.52 Projected Plus/Minus at DraftKings, where he costs only $6,400.
If you can’t afford Randle, Taj Gibson is priced at less than $4,000 at both sites. Gibson has no real ceiling to speak of but looks like a solid bargain bet in a plus matchup. He has a positive Projected Plus/Minus at both sites and looks like a set-it-and-forget-it option if you want to spend elsewhere.
Joel Embiid is the biggest decision in your lineup tonight. In a slate with precious few studs and little worth spending on, Embiid should be a popular option, especially with the +5.03 Opponent Plus/Minus afforded by the Nuggets to opposing centers. Embiid has had some complete duds over the past month and disappointed Sunday against the Raptors (what else is new) at 10 points and under 30 fantasy points. Of course, he also went for more than 50 fantasy points in four of his previous five and tends to be an excellent front-runner in plus matchups where he can play bully ball.
Embiid has a -1.53 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel, which would normally make him a name to avoid, but he’s still a slightly recommended play just because you’ve got to pay for points somewhere and Embiid usually produces. At $9,500, he’s a much better DraftKings play, where his +1.6 Projected Plus/Minus makes him more palatable.
Hassan Whiteside may or may not be a good NBA player, but he continues to be an excellent DFS option. Whiteside has exceeded expectations in 71% of his games for the season, averaging +4.95 points each time out. He’s recorded eight straight double-doubles and has gone for more than 40 fantasy points five times in that stretch and more than 50 twice. Add in a positive matchup against the Knicks, and you can see why Whiteside is such a strong play with a Projected Plus/Minus of more than +3 on both sites.
Kelly Olynyk has bottomed out of late but could bounce back with more playing time if Bam Adebayo ends up limited, so keep an eye on that injury status. Even with Adebayo expected to play, Olynyk is over +1 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites at a bargain salary.
Bobby Portis is another bargain option, for mostly the same reasons as Randle and Gibson. Portis costs under $4,000 and has a great matchup against the Blazers. One of those Knicks bigs will probably produce, but Portis has failed to meet expectations in six of his last seven. He has a +2.15 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel.
Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.
Pictured: Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21).