This article last updated 10/22/2018 – Featured image from Google Images
Yesterday I mentioned that I do not typically play heavy basketball volume on NFL Sundays, and I did end up playing pretty light last night. I wish I had played much heavier, though. I nearly entered the Fanduel NBA Monster last night but opted not to. I ended up making 2 lineups. My best lineup placed 6th out 2079 in the Sunday NBA Slam (would have been 5th if it hadn’t been for that last second Eric Gordon rebound!) and 81st out of 60,173 in the Sunday NBA Shot. That lineup would have tied for 1st place in the Monster. The biggest wins were Alex Len at 7% ownership, who scored 46.2 FD points on a $5400 salary for a cool 8.5x return, and Nemanja Bjelica, who came in at 3% ownership and scored 35 points on a $5200 salary for a 6.7x return. Kevin Love and Trae Young were both chalky hits, and James Harden came through with a big game. I was really hoping he would nail that three as time expired to send the game into overtime, but alas, he did not. Lou Williams was my biggest miss, and looking back at my article from yesterday, I identified Kent Bazemore and Gary Harris as my top 2 pt/$ value plays at the position. Sweet Lou had a SLIGHTLY higher projection in my model, and I had the salary for him, but if I had saved the $200 and gone with Harris or the $300 and gone with Bazemore, either of those guys would have significantly improved my final result. Either way, I’m happy with the finish and hope that we can continue the success that we have enjoyed to begin this NBA season.
On to tonight’s slate, which looks like a pretty good one! At first glance, I think the team that provides the most value is the Dallas Mavericks. They’re 5.5-point favorites in the game with the highest O/U on the slate at 229, and they have the third highest implied team total behind only the Golden State Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks. The line is much closer in the Mavs/Bulls game, though, so with less chance of a blowout, the starters should get more run and should be playing until the very end. They’re also affordably priced, especially compared to the Warriors. If you were going to game stack, this would be the game I would choose, as the Bulls have some nice looking options as well. There are some intriguing one-off options tonight, and there is a good selection of big-name studs to choose from as well. It should be a fun slate, and I hope to have time to dissect it further as we lead up to opening tip-off at 7:30 PM Eastern.
At the top end, I have John Wall with the highest raw points projection, but all of the studs are clustered together with very similar projections. I think you could pretty much throw a dart for Wall, Stephen Curry, or Damian Lillard. I like Kemba Walker and Kyle Lowry to have similar output to those top 3 guys, and at relatively significant savings, so I very much doubt I’ll be paying all the way to the top at point guard tonight. I really like the way Lowry has started the year. He seems to have a confidence and swagger that I never noticed while DeMar DeRozan was there, and I think he’s my favorite of the top-priced guys. I also don’t hate the idea of pairing Kemba and Lowry together in a lineup as they face each other. Kemba’s usage rate is up over 37% to begin the season and he’s had a game with 38 minutes and another 40 minutes this season. On the 19th, when the Hornets played the Magic, he only played 26 minutes, but it was a complete blowout so they didn’t need him the whole game. Tonight, the Hornets have a tough matchup at 9-point underdogs to one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in the Toronto Raptors, so they may need Kemba to play 40 minutes again.
I mentioned the Mavericks above, and one of those Mavericks that I am locking in on is Dennis Smith Jr. He’s only $7100, should see 30 minutes, and has about a ~30% usage rate in this offense. Kris Dunn should be back tonight, so the Bulls will have more depth than they have had to begin the year. Dunn missed the first two games due to the birth of his child. You could look at this as a narrative opportunity that he will play inspired basketball in honor of his child, or you could wonder if the off-court stuff will distract him in any way. I am of the mind that it won’t have much impact either way and that he’ll play like he normally does. I don’t think Dunn playing tonight does anything to make me shy away from Smith, so he’s a strong contender for one of the PG spots on my main roster.
Lonzo Ball could be a sneaky play tonight. Both Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram will miss the next few games after being suspended for fighting a couple of nights ago, and that should open up a lot of extra minutes for Lakers bench players. It should also push Ball into the starting lineup. Lonzo is the kind of player who is unlikely to drop a 40-point night on you, but he is active defensively and fills up the stat sheet with assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks, and has proven to be fantasy relevant when given the appropriate opportunity. I think he’ll have that opportunity tonight, as he should push for 30-34 minutes.
I really kind of like the mid- to the mid-high range at point guard tonight. I don’t love any of the super low priced guys, but if I were looking at any of those guys, here is who I would be primarily considering:
- Frank Ntilikina (playing a ton of minutes, not the most efficient guy in the world, but at his price, he doesn’t have to be)
- JJ Barea
- Patty Mills
Trey Burke has been pretty popular in DFS the last few Knicks games, and he’s a fade for me tonight.
Jimmy Butler put up a monster of a game against the Cavs Friday night, filling the stat sheet with 33 points, 7 boards, 3 dimes, 2 blocks, and 4 steals across 36 minutes of action. Jimmy has always been a player that gets and can handle tons of minutes, but it seems that his conditioning might not be 100% yet, as he sat out against the Mavericks on the second night of a back-to-back for rest. He’s my top guy from a raw points projection standpoint tonight, about 5 points ahead of the next tier of guys which includes Devin Booker, Victor Oladipo, Bradley Beal, Donovan Mitchell, Khris Middleton, and DeMar DeRozan. None of those guys are bad plays, but none of them stand out as exceptional plays either, so I think I’ll be fading that top tier of shooting guards altogether and utilizing the value available at this position.
Harrison Barnes is going to miss at least another couple of games, which is part of why the Mavericks are such a great value. Luka Doncic has started the year with extra opportunity because of Barnes’s absence, and should once again see 34-36 minutes tonight in what should be a high-paced, high-scoring affair. AT $7500, he’s still a value considering the playing time he should see and his usage rate. If you can’t afford to spend all the way up to get Doncic, Wesley Matthews is another guy who has benefited greatly from Barnes sitting out. Matthews should also see 35 minutes or so. He has posted Fanduel scores of 25.9 and 24.8 in his first two games this season, and if we got another one of those outings tonight, we’d have a 5x+ return without eating big into our salary dollars. A guy at a low price who can get you a floor of about 4x, but could easily push for 7-8x, is a guy we should be interested in having on our rosters.
Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to impress, but I think it may be a little bit of fool’s gold. He is the kind of guy who can pop off on any night, and if he catches fire, can break a slate, but he is very dependent on his scoring to get fantasy points. Even though his minutes have increased each game this season, his fantasy scoring (and real-life scoring) have decreased each game, so his efficiency is declining back to his career averages. The first game was against the Hawks, who are terrible defensively, and that has been by far his best game this season. I won’t be playing Hardaway tonight, but he’s worth mentioning at least.
I’m going to take a “wait and see” approach with Zach LaVine, except maybe in a situation where I was stacking that game. I’m interested to see how Dunn coming back into the fold impacts LaVine’s usage and production.
Jaylen Brown is one of those guys that I think is underrated as a player. He’s a big part of the Celtics success and plays very hard. Unfortunately, his impact for his team doesn’t seem to translate very well to fantasy production. He gets minutes, but often doesn’t really show up in the box score. I think there will be a night to play him soon, but tonight isn’t that night.
The other guys at the position I’d be looking at tonight would be:
- Josh Hart (again – additional minutes and opportunity for Lakers bench guys with Rondo and Ingram out)
- Andre Iguodala
I’ll be fading Garrett Temple this evening. I know a lot of folks will chase his 30-point night from Friday, but that’s just not who he is for his career. I’ve already mentioned a couple of times how bad the Hawks defense is, and we’ll be targeting them throughout the season if they don’t improve in that area. Everybody in the NBA is pretty good at basketball. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there. So there will be nights when a guy like Temple looks like a superstar, but it’s not sustainable based on his total body of work. If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize tomorrow, but I’m a hard pass on Temple tonight.
If you want to build a lineup around LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo, who am I to tell you not to do that? Both of these guys are superstar MVP candidates who are capable of 70-80 point fantasy nights any time they step on the floor. We’ve already talked about the opportunities for the Lakers with Rondo and Ingram off the floor, although I don’t think LeBron will play more minutes than he normally would or have a higher usage rate. I think those guys being out mainly impacts the rest of the team. The Bucks have the second-highest implied team total of the day and Giannis will be a big part of their efforts tonight. You can use either one of these guys if they fit around the rest of your lineup.
Kevin Durant opened up last night’s game strong, with like 18 fantasy points in 5 minutes or so. I definitely thought for a bit that he was going to crack the slate wide open and be one of those guys you can’t win without, but he calmed down and finished with a pedestrian-by-his-standards 20 point, 11 rebound, 7 assist, 1 block, 1 steal game. I have a hard time playing Warriors players in DFS most nights because their team is so balanced, and so good, that any of them could go berserk on any given night and it wouldn’t surprise you, but they can also all have great games that just don’t elevate you above the crowd. They’re all priced way up too, and I just prefer to have guys that I am relatively sure will be “the guy” for their team on a given night, with the same or similar upside, and preferably with some salary savings. For those reasons, I typically won’t be on Curry or Durant most nights, but I wouldn’t try to talk you out of it if you felt strongly about them.
Kawhi Leonard is once again my favorite high-priced small forward. Like Butler, Leonard’s conditioning at this point of the season may be questionable. He only played a handful of minutes all of last season, so he’s got to round back into game shape, and the Raptors rested him on Saturday against the Wizards. He should be good to go for a full workload tonight, though, and I like him a lot in this matchup against the Hornets. On my main team, I’m not positive that I’m going to be able to get there salary-wise at this position for him, but he is definitely in the hunt to make my squad.
I do think there’s some value at small forward tonight. If we go back to the well with the Mavericks, Dorian Finney-Smith should see 30 minutes or so at $4300. That’s a good bet for 4x at least. Joe Ingles is setting the world on fire in his first two games this season, with 22 points in the season opener against the Kings and 27 points against the Warriors Friday night. He’s not the world’s most exciting player to watch, but if he’s getting you 40-45 Fanduel points per night, especially if he’s priced at $7100, take it!
Other guys to look at include:
- Jabari Parker (gross, I know…)
- Rudy Gay (ew…)
- Otto Porter (I promise I’m not trolling you…)
- Andrew Wiggins
- Tyreke Evans
My stone-cold lock button play of the night is Jaren Jackson Jr for the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s moving into the starting lineup tonight after JaMychal Green broke his jaw the other night. This should push him up over 30 minutes, and the Jazz should push the pace a bit against the Grizzlies. I’ve watched his first couple of games, and offensively, he doesn’t demand the ball, so he’s not a huge threat to post monster numbers in the scoring column, but he is a capable scorer and he is active on the boards and defensively. I’m a bit bullish on him tonight, and I would caution you to do your own research and form your own opinion, as I believe my opinion of him may be in the minority at the moment, but he’s going to be on my main lineup for sure.
Jayson Tatum is the other guy I really like tonight for about $200 more than Jackson. This kid is going to be a star sooner rather than later, and as long as he stays this cheap, I’m going to continue rolling him out on my lineups.
Serge Ibaka is a guy who is having a resurgent year early on with the Raptors. He’s put up at least 30 Fanduel points in each outing this season and has played at least 27 minutes per game. He’s getting it done offensively with scoring and offensive rebounds, but he’s also been active defensively, crashing the defensive glass and averaging over a block and a steal per game. At $5500, he’s a steal.
Kyle Kuzma will shift into the starting lineup to replace the suspended Ingram, so he should have some additional opportunities and minutes. He was the steal of last year’s draft and has been producing at just under a fantasy point-per-minute so far this year. I don’t love him tonight, but the opportunity is there for him to have a big game.
I personally will not be using LaMarcus Aldridge, Draymond Green, or Aaron Gordon. There’s too much value at this position and too much upside with other positions to spend precious salary dollars on these guys tonight, in my opinion.
Other guys I will be looking at include:
- Josh Jackson
- Bobby Portis
DeAndre Jordan is looking like a pretty sweet option tonight, but I don’t think I’m gonna get there salary-wise. He’s coming off a big performance against the Timberwolves in which he had 22 points, 10 boards, an assist, 5 blocks, and 2 steals in 31 minutes. I don’t think 5 blocks and 2 steals is something we can reasonably expect from him night in and night out, but I do think he has the potential to push closer to 30 points and 15 rebounds some nights.
I got burned Saturday night by Deandre Ayton, who was questionable coming into the game but ended up playing. He got into foul trouble pretty early on, which caused him to lose minutes and he never seemed to get into the flow of the game. He finished with only 22 minutes, 5 points, 8 boards, and an assist. Tonight he gets to face the Warriors, who, despite their eliteness, have been giving up big production to the Center position. They are rotating guys down low until Boogie is able to play, and I like Ayton’s opportunity to post a good line here.
Enes Kanter has been one of my favorite guys to play to start the season, and while I like him again tonight, I think if I were going to go to that price range I’d spend the extra $200 to get to Ayton.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, and Nikola Vucevic are all playable tonight, but I don’t think any of them are likely to go off.
I do like two guys at $5500 tonight, in JaVale McGee and Jonas Valanciunas. Neither plays huge minutes, but both are about ~1.3 fantasy-point-per-minute type players. McGee has actually really killed it so far this year. In the opener against the Blazers, he played 21 minutes and contributed 13 points, 8 rebounds, an assist, 3 blocks, and a steal. In the second game, he played 19 minutes and scored 16 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 5 blocks. I don’t think his minutes are likely to go up much with the suspensions, but Rondo and Ingram combined for about 57-1/2 minutes per game to start the season, so it is definitely conceivable that McGee has to pick up an extra 4-5 minutes tonight. If that happens, and he continues to produce like he has in the first two games… look out!
That’s it for today. Good luck out there, take down a big one!