Friday night’s NBA slate features eight games with injuries and questionable players. We’ll analyze the following two:
- Los Angeles Lakers at Detroit Pistons: 7 p.m. ET
- Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets: 8 p.m. ET
Rockets PG Chris Paul (rest) is out.
Injury background: The Rockets are not playing in a back-to-back on Friday but will rest Paul anyways, as the team draws a favorable home matchup against the Suns.
Tonight’s impact: There is no word on who will replace Paul in the starting lineup, but Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, Iman Shumpert and Danuel House are candidates to see an uptick in playing time.
James Harden will be the primary beneficiary of Paul’s absence with a shift to the point guard position, and he’s seen a team-high +6.9% assist rate differential in 22 previous games without Paul this season. In those contests, he has averaged a ridiculous 67.97 DraftKings points per game.
In DFS, Harden will command massive ownership as arguably the top play of the slate despite being the highest-priced player, especially on DraftKings. During his recent torrid stretch without Paul, he was priced above $13,000 in seven consecutive games. DraftKings slashed his salary to $11,000 on Friday, resulting in a current Bargain Rating of 98%.
Eric Gordon also steps into an increased role with a +2.6% usage rate bump with Paul off the court this season. At just $4,900 on DraftKings, he joins Harden as a severely underpriced option.
As if the strong rates and favorable salaries aren’t enough to justify rostering both players, the matchup is exceptional: The Suns currently rank 29th in Defensive Rating.
Phoenix has actually performed well lately, accumulating five of its 16 total wins over the last seven games, including victories over the Bucks and Warriors. The Rockets have suffered defensively without Paul this season, recording a 112.0 Defensive Rating with him off the court compared to a 105.4 Defensive Rating with him playing.
Value appears to be on the over, although fourth-quarter scoring could be dependent on bench players with the current 12-point spread.
Lakers SF LeBron James (rest) is out.
Injury background: After logging 32 minutes in Thursday’s loss, James will rest in the second leg of a back-to-back on Friday. The Lakers are essentially eliminated from the postseason, and the front office decided to reduce the minutes for James down the stretch of the season.
In addition, Reggie Bullock (foot) and Lance Stephenson (toe) are probable, Josh Hart (knee) is questionable and Tyson Chandler (neck) has been ruled out.
Tonight’s impact: Friday will mark the first game this season without James, Brandon Ingram (shoulder) and Lonzo Ball (ankle). Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Hart and Moe Wagner are options to replace James in the starting lineup.
Despite several key absences, the Lakers can still field a full rotation. Kyle Kuzma figures to benefit from an increased usage rate, while Rajon Rondo has provided a team-high +10.3% assist rate differential with James, Ingram, Ball and Chandler off the court this season, per our NBA On/Off tool.
Even with a majority of the team’s offensive firepower missing, the Lakers provide little value in DFS with an uncertain rotation. No player currently carries over a 78 rating in the Phan Model on DraftKings or FanDuel.
Alex Caruso makes for a viable punt option after playing at least 26.5 minutes in three of his past four games, and he’s coming off 29.75 DraftKings points in his most recent contest. Wagner costs just $3,400 on DraftKings and is worth a look in tournaments if he draws the start. Rondo and Kuzma will also garner GPP consideration with an expected bump in usage.
The most alarming downside of rostering Lakers players is the team’s current implied total of 101.75 points — the second-lowest total in Friday’s eight-game slate. With James off the court this season, the Lakers’ Offensive Rating drops to 103.2, which would rank dead last in the league this season.
As double-digit underdogs, it is hard to predict much upside for any Lakers starters. The Pistons hold the sixth-best Net Rating (+4.5) over the last 10 games with seven wins, suggesting that the current 12-point spread isn’t high enough.
Photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Pictured: LeBron James