Can’t wait a full week for NBA DFS to return? Don’t worry, you can still get your fix with the NBA Rising Stars game on Friday night.
This game kicks off the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities and features two teams comprised of 10 rookies and sophomores each. It’s featured a lot of formats over the years, but the current iteration is Team U.S.A. against Team World. Team U.S.A. is currently a 4.5-point favorite, and the total sits at 282.5.
On the surface, this game does seem largely unpredictable. Most players will see between 15 and 25 minutes, with some of the bigger names serving as possible exceptions.
Over the past four games, only Kristaps Porzingis cracked the 30-minute mark, and Andrew Wiggins just missed it at 29.5. Only two other players have approached the same level of playing time in the past decade: Damian Lillard in 2014 and DeJuan Blair in 2010 (lol). Jayson Tatum led all players with 26.3 minutes last season, and each player saw at least 15 minutes.
With playing time mostly equal, it’s going to come down to how shots are distributed.
That said, there do appear to be a few trends from the past few years that we can use to gain an edge in this format. Let’s dive in.
Both DraftKings and FanDuel offer guaranteed prize pools (GPPs) for this game, but each site features a slightly different format.
DraftKings features its Showdown format, where you select one captain and five utility players. Your captain will score 1.5x fantasy points, but his salary will also be 1.5x more expensive.
FanDuel’s format is a little more complicated. You only have to choose five players, but you have to select one captain (2x scoring), one star (1.5x scoring), one pro (1.2x scoring) and two utilities. Most players will likely choose to put their highest-salaried players in the premium roster positions, so fading some of the big names at captain should increase your chances for a unique lineup.
Like most all-star games, defense is optional in this contest.
This game has produced an average of 296.5 points per game the past four seasons. Given that this contest is only 40 minutes, that’s a ridiculous amount of offense. The teams have unsurprisingly shot well from the field, with only one team shooting worse than 55.4% over the past four games (the World shot 51.4% in 2018). That’s limited the number of available rebounds, which does somewhat decrease the value of the big men in this contest.
You can forget about blocks, too: Donovan Mitchell and Jared Allen are the only players to record more than one over the past four seasons. Basically, the majority of the fantasy scoring in this game is going to come from actual scoring, assists, and steals.
Another factor that pushes the needle in the direction of guards is how the points in this game have increasingly been scored. When they changed the format to Team U.S. vs. Team World four years ago, the two teams combined to shoot just 52 3-pointers. That number increased to 84 in 2016, 95 in 2017 and 96 in 2018. The two teams finally managed to crack the century mark last year, combing for 103 attempts from downtown.
Teams are shooting more 3s than ever in regular-season NBA games, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see these teams set a new high-mark this season.
The sheer volume of 3-pointers obviously increases the value for guys that are prolific from long range. Here are the top-scoring players from the past four years:
- Kyle Kuzma (2019): 35 points, three 3-pointers made
- Jayson Tatum (2019): 30 points, six 3-pointers made
- Trae Young (2019): 25 points, six 3-pointers made
- Ben Simmons (2018): 28 points, zero 3-pointers made
- Buddy Hield (2018): 29 points, five 3-pointers made
- Bogdan Bogdanovic (2018): 26 points, seven 3-pointers made
- Jaylen Brown (2018): 35 points, three 3-pointers made
- Jamal Murray (2017): 36 points, nine 3-pointers made
- Frank Kaminsky (2017): 33 points, nine 3-pointers made
- Hield (2017): 28 points, three 3-pointers made
- Emmanuel Mudiay (2016): 30 points, five 3-pointers made
- Kristaps Porzingis (2016): 30 points, five 3-pointers made
- Zach LaVine (2016): 30 points, two 3-pointers made
- Andrew Wiggins (2016): 29 points, zero 3-pointers made
It seems like you really want guys who can fill it up from deep, especially on DraftKings given the 0.5-point bonus for 3-pointers. Simmons and Wiggins were really the only two guys to make an impact without the 3-ball, and both guys are special athletes who can put on a show with their dunking ability.
Basically, if you’re not going to target someone who can shoot, they better be able to throw it down and fill up the stat sheet. Guys who can’t do either are players you want to avoid.
Guards: Collin Sexton, Devonte’ Graham, Ja Morant, Kenrick Nunn, Trae Young
This is a pretty crowded backcourt, with a ton of guys who are used to having the ball in their hands.
Let’s start with Young. He’s been an awesome fantasy asset this season, averaging 1.47 DraftKings points per minute. His playing style fits this format well, and he unsurprisingly showed out in this game last year. He racked up 25 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds, and his 19 shot attempts ranked third on the team.
His proficiency from behind the arc is also a huge plus in the format, and he made six 3s in this contest last year. He’s the second-most expensive option on both DraftKings and FanDuel, but he has one of the highest ceilings.
Morant is next up on the pricing spectrum, and he seems made for this format. He’s definitely capable of filling it up from deep, and he’s also ferocious when attacking the basket. He’s already tried to put multiple people on posters this season, and I’m expecting at least one hammer dunk in this game. Morant is drastically cheaper than Young on FanDuel, which makes him the more appealing value, and he’s my pick to win the MVP.
The other three options are bigger question marks. Graham has been awesome this season, but it seems unlikely that he’ll carry as big of a workload as Young or Morant. That said, he’s only slightly cheaper than Morant on both DraftKings and FanDuel, which will probably result in lower ownership. That’s appealing in a format where it’s hard to have a unique lineup.
Sexton is someone I’m definitely comfortable fading. He’s not a disaster as a shooter, but I don’t expect him to command a very large usage rate in this contest.
Nunn was never supposed to be in this game as an undrafted rookie, but he’s put together an excellent season for the Heat. That said, he’s shot just 34.1% from 3-point range this season, which is the lowest mark among the US guards. He’s overpriced at $6,800 on DraftKings, but he could be worth a look on FanDuel. He’s priced at just $8,500, which makes him the sixth cheapest player.
Wings: Miles Bridges, Zion Williamson, Eric Paschall
The US team is pretty thin in terms of wing players. Williamson and Paschall could very easily be considered big men, so expect to see plenty of three guard lineups.
Williamson is obviously the biggest name in this group, and he’s the third-priciest option on both DraftKings and FanDuel. That said, I’m not sure if I love his fit in this contest. For starters, we already talked about how guards get a boost in this format, so I’m not particularly interested in paying up for a non-guard.
Zion’s jump shot is also definitely still a work in progress, so I don’t know if he’ll be able to pile up the points like some of the other options on the slate. Yes, he’ll have a few highlight dunks, but is that enough to make him DFS relevant? He’ll need a Ben Simmons-like performance, but I don’t think he’ll contribute enough as a distributor.
Bridges and Pascall are two of the cheapest options on the US roster. Bridges has some appeal given his ability to contribute in every category, and he has shown some improvement from behind the arc this season.
Paschall doesn’t offer nearly as much value. He’s shot just 28.3% from 3 this season, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he sees the lowest number of minutes on the squad.
Bigs: Jaren Jackson Jr., P.J. Washington
Jackson seems like he’ll draw the start at center, which could make him an interesting option. He has the ability to make some 3-pointers, which is definitely a plus in this format, and he shot 2-4 from 3-point range in this contest last season. He ultimately scored 10 points and pulled down six boards in just 15.5 minutes, and he could play more this year.
Washington is overpriced on FanDuel, but he could be an interesting value on DraftKings. He’s priced at just $5,800, making him the second-cheapest option on the US roster. He’s shooting 37.6% from 3-point range on 3.3 attempts per game this season.
Guards: Luka Doncic, Josh Okogie, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, R.J. Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Doncic is easily the biggest X-factor on this slate. He’s blossomed into one of the best players in fantasy this season, averaging 1.69 DraftKings points per minute. He’s the highest-priced option on the slate, and he has a monster ceiling if he plays a bunch of minutes.
That said, that’s far from a guarantee today. He’s only played one game since returning from an injury that caused him to miss seven straight games. He’s also going to play in the main event on Sunday, so the Rising Stars game might not mean much to him. Simmons played in both games last year and was limited to just 20.6 minutes, and Joel Embiid played just 8.7 minutes two years ago. Doncic obviously has big upside, but he has more downside than guys like Young and Morant.
SGA is going to be a popular sleeper pick in this contest, and it’s easy to see why. He’s been excellent this season, averaging just under one a fantasy point per minute, and he trails only Doncic in MVP odds on the World roster. The biggest factor in his favor is his lack of competition for touches. The World just doesn’t have the same amount of ball-dominant players as the US squad does, especially if Doncic is limited.
Barrett has had a disappointing rookie season, but he was still the No. 3 pick in the draft. He clearly has talent, and that could shine through in this format. He doesn’t have the shooting prowess I’m typically looking for — he’s shot just 31.8% from 3-point range this season — but he should put his elite athleticism on display.
Okogie will play in this contest for the second straight season, but he wasn’t particularly effective as a rookie. He finished with just 10 shot attempts, and he could be looking at a similar workload today.
Alexander-Walker is the cheapest player on both DraftKings and FanDuel, and I’m very interested in him as a punt play. He probably won’t play a ton of minutes, but expect him to be hyper aggressive when on the court. He’s posted a usage rate of 22.9% this season, and he’s toned down his aggressiveness as the season has progressed. I wouldn’t expect that to continue in an exhibition contest.
Wings: Brandon Clarke, Svi Mykhailiuk
Clarke and Mykhailiuk both have their merits in this contest. Clarke has been one of the best per-minute producers in this game during the regular season, averaging 1.10 DraftKings points per minute. He has the ability to fill up the stat sheet, including from behind the arc. He’s only averaging 1.1 3-point attempt per game this season, but he’s shooting 42.0% on those attempts.
Mykhailiuk is a bit of an unknown to non-hardcore NBA fans, but he has sneaky appeal tonight. He’s shooting 42.2% from 3-point range this season, and he should see plenty of open shots from behind the arc in this contest. He’s not quite as cheap as Alexander-Walker, but he’s the second-cheapest option on FanDuel and third-cheapest on DraftKings.
Bigs: Mo Wagner, Nicolo Melli, Rui Hachimura
None of these guys stand out as particularly appealing options. I think you’re fine with fading all three, but Melli is my preferred target of the trio. He’s a capable 3-point shooter, and he’s one of the cheapest options on the slate.
Pictured: Team USA PG Trae Young (11) & Team World PG Luka Doncic (77)
Photo Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler-NBAE via Getty Images