The NBA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each day’s slate using the FantasyLabs Tools and metrics to highlight notable players.
Sunday features a five-game slate starting at 6 p.m. ET.
Notes about Today’s Slate
You’ll want to note a couple key things about today’s slate.
First, there’s that one early game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors. You’ll have to choose whether to play the full slate or just the later games tonight, but you’d be wise to include the early game since there’s some good value there with Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Danilo Gallinari, and Dennis Schroder out injured.
In the four later games, you should also take note that both Russell Westbrook and Clint Capela are missing for the Houston Rockets. That’s more than 69 minutes, 38 points, 22 rebounds, and 31 field goal attempts to be replaced by Houston teammates for a team that’s playing in the game with today’s highest over/under. You’re going to see a ton of value Rockets today and would be wise to load up on a Houston stack in this unique situation.
And, of course, ESPN’s nightcap features three of the NBA’s biggest stars in LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Luka Doncic. You’ll need to decide what you expect from that game first and foremost when setting your lineup. With all the value Rockets on the board, you might even consider a stars and scrubs squad.
Luka Doncic is back after missing three (four, really) games and doesn’t seem to have missed a beat. Doncic has played more than 30 minutes in both games since his return, piling up 55 combined points, 22 rebounds, and 23 assists. Doncic already had a big game in a win in his first game against the Lakers this season, so he won’t be bashful.
At DraftKings, Doncic’s salary is already back to $11,400 so his value is somewhat muted. Not so at FanDuel, where Luka is still at $10,600. That gives him an implied point total of under 49 and leaves him with a 97% Bargain Rating. It also gives him a +5.29 Projected Plus/Minus with all the usual upside, making him a very strong stud play, especially on a night when many may be playing other options.
Chris Paul is one of those early game values. He has the top Projected Plus/Minus among point guards at +7.21 on FanDuel, and he should get a slight boost in minutes and usage with Schroder out. CP3 has exceeded expectations in nine of his last 11 games as the Thunder surge forward into the playoff hunt, and his rebounds and assists are up. He has a whopping 13 Pro Trends in his favor today.
The Nuggets and Kings game could be a bit of a slog with slow pace and a number of players banged up or out, but Jamal Murray is one name from that game worth watching. Murray is over +4.4 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites and always has big tournament upside if he gets hot from the field.
You’ll have a lot of fun if you play Ja Morant, even with that -5.6 pace differential against the Hornets. Morant has the second highest point guard usage on the slate behind Doncic. He’s fallen short of expectations in seven of his last 10 games, but our Models likes him to bounce back tonight with better than +3.9 Projected Plus/Minus at both sites.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to slot James Harden into your lineup today. Remember, the Rockets are without both Westbrook and Capela tonight, so this is going to be the Harden show. (Assuming he plays, of course. He’s currently listed as questionable. You can get alerts on his status here as news breaks.) Harden already leads the league in minutes and usage, and our Models project both of those numbers to be up tonight with so little help around him.
Let’s just say it like it is: if you don’t build your lineup around Harden tonight, you must know something our computers don’t. Harden has an implied point total of around 53 fantasy points at both sites. His expected floor outcome is around 49 to 51, meaning his worst-case scenario is already almost paying off your investment, while his projection is in the 69 to 71 range with a ceiling over 88. Harden has a +15.56 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel and a +18.09 at DraftKings, and honestly those might be low. Get the Beard in your lineup. If the Pelicans keep this game close and Harden has to gun all game, he could have a shot at some historic scoring numbers.
Think of Ben McLemore as something like the poor man’s homeless man’s dead man’s Harden. Fine, don’t think of him that way. Just know that McLemore is one of many value Rockets today. He’s scoring 0.78 fantasy points per minute over the last month and projected to play 31.7 minutes, so that alone gives him value with a Projected Plus/Minus over +8.3 at both sites at a bargain salary. And yes, you should feel free to stack these value Rockets around Harden in your lineup.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to be a positive fantasy play. He’s another of those early game values. SGA has exceeded expectations in five straight and is playing a huge minutes load of late, which should continue with Schroder out. He’s scored over 20 points in each of those five games and comes in with a +7.88 Projected Plus/Minus at FanDuel.
Terence Davis is another good option in that game. Davis plays for the minimum at FanDuel but should get some run with all the Toronto injuries. He only has to score 14 fantasy points to beat expectations at the minimum, and he’s done that in three of the last four games. He has a low ceiling but is a good bet to provide bargain value if you need a cheap filler.
Doncic showed up LeBron James the last time he visited the Staples Center, so maybe LeBron will be out for revenge. James was banged up in the Christmas game but played his usual load Saturday and is listed as probable with a new elbow injury. LeBron should play, but it’s reasonable to expect an older player on the second night of a back-to-back playing through injuries to be somewhat limited — even if it’s LeBron.
That said, this is a plus matchup for James and he has a Projected Plus/Minus of more than +3.6 at both sites, and he always has tournament-winning upside. LeBron continues to be a bargain at FanDuel, where he’s exceeded expectations in eight of his last nine games, and he has 15 Pro Trends in his favor. It’ll be hard to slot all three of Doncic, Harden, and James into one lineup, but you can build a lot of interesting lineups around at least two of these guys.
Danuel House is another bargain Rocket. He’s scored double-digit points in four of his last five games and averages 0.71 fantasy points per minute this season, and our models project him at over 36 minutes with all the Houston injuries. Just playing time alone is enough sometimes in a Mike D’Antoni offense. House has a Projected Plus/Minus of +7.8 on both sites.
You might also consider Eric Gordon, who is expected to play for the first time since November 11. Gordon is a gamble coming off injury but he has higher upside than the other cheap Rockets if he gets hot from deep. He plays for just above the minimum and comes in with a Projected Plus/Minus of more than +3.8 on both sites.
Will Barton continues to be one of the season’s breakout fantasy players. Barton gets a +2.05 Opponent Plus/Minus boost against the Kings, and he’s exceeded expectations in seven of his last 10. He could get a further boost if Paul Millsap (questionable) is limited or out, and he’s really filled up the box score this season, yet he still remains a value mid-priced option with a Projected Plus/Minus of more than +4.2 on both sites.
Brandon Ingram has one of the juicier matchups on the board with Houston offering a +3.93 Opponent Plus/Minus. His salary is finally starting to creep up, but he’s still at an 81% Bargain Rating on DraftKings with a +4.5 Projected Plus/Minus. He’s a high-upside pivot if you’re fading the night’s biggest stars.
Anthony Davis is the one superstar on tonight’s slate that our Models are not super excited about. Like LeBron, Davis is listed as probable and expected to play despite aggravating a shoulder injury yesterday. And like LeBron, there’s reason for you to be cautious here on a back-to-back with a player who has a history of starting but not always finishing games.
Davis has a slightly negative matchup against the Mavericks, and he certainly doesn’t have the monster upside of the other studs on the slate. With a Projected Plus/Minus of less than +2 at both sites, he’s not a bad play but probably not the stud to build around tonight.
Hey look, more bargain Rockets! We project P.J. Tucker to play more than 38 minutes tonight, probably plenty of that at center with Capela out. That should be a boost to his rebounding numbers, especially against the Pelicans who offer +2.07 Opponent Plus/Minus at the four and even better at center. Tucker has exceeded expectations in 58% of his games this season. Tucker looks like a great stack with Harden at under $5,000. He has a Projected Plus/Minus over +8 at both sites, including a whopping +10.09 at FanDuel.
If you need a cheaper bargain Rocket at the position, think about Isaiah Hartenstein. He has a Projected Plus/Minus of more than +6.8 and plays at the minimum at both sites. With a projected 21.5 minutes, he should provide positive value.
Richaun Holmes has exceeded expectations in five of his last six games and should be a positive play again with Marvin Bagley out. Holmes has 12 Pro Trends today and a +4.44 Opponent Plus/Minus. He’s a strong mid-level option.
Derrick Favors has a Projected Plus/Minus of more than +4.4 on both sites. He’s finally healthy again and has exceeded expectations in six straight games as his salary has not caught back up to his production yet. He’ll benefit from Capela’s absence and a +2.91 Opponent Plus/Minus.
Center probably isn’t the position to pay up tonight. Nikola Jokic is the headliner, but he plays in the slowest-paced game with a projected point total of 210 and falling. Still, Jokic has finally looked more like himself of late and has exceeded expectations in 10 of his last 12 now that his price tag finally dropped. Jokic has three triple-doubles in his last five games. He’s a slightly positive play and an interesting pivot from the top studs if you want to stay away from the Lakers-Mavs game.
Steven Adams is another one of those early game bargains. He should get a few more scoring opportunities with Gallinari and Schroder out. He has a -1.55 Opponent Plus/Minus, but remember, most of that is due to Marc Gasol, who’s also missing. Without Gasol and Siakam, Adams should have his way in the paint. He’s at +5.83 Projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel.
Bismack Biyombo has more than a +4 Projected Plus/Minus on both sites. He benefits from a +5.6 pace differential against the new run-and-gun Grizzlies, and he has three double-doubles in his last six games.
His opponent, Jonas Valanciunas, also looks like a positive play. He loses from that same pace differential but benefits from, well, playing Biyombo. That +2.68 Opponent Plus/Minus is best on the slate among centers, though you might be better off playing someone with dual eligibility at center if you’re at DraftKings today.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports.
Pictured: Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13).