The first full slate of the NBA season and something we will get used to seeing on Wednesday nights. There are a ton of players so I will cover the most interesting. Commentary based on DraftKings strategy and scoring.
The point guard position is deep as usual, but there are a few that stand out to me. The first being Damian Lillard ($8,900) who looks like he is in line for a massive season. The entire preseason was a Lillard showcase as he in embracing the role of being scoring option A for the Blazers. He is going to benefit greatly from the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge. Last season, Lillard’s usage rate ballooned to 31.1% in the 11 games he played without Aldridge. That was up from his usual 26.9% with Aldridge in the lineup. That 31.1% rate would have ranked him six in the statistic for the full season (same as James Harden). This game has one of the higher totals on the board and a mere 2.5 point spread should indicate plenty of scoring for both teams.
Do you believe in the Ty Lawson ($6,200) revenge game? I certainly do. Lawson was excellent in the preseason for the Rockets and should actually benefit from being a secondary option to James Harden. I expect defenses to expend a lot of energy in slowing down Harden which should leave plenty of room to work for secondary players. Lawson averaged 10.2 PPG, 3.0 APG and 2.8 RPG in just 22.6 MPG in the exhibition season. Both of these teams play at a breakneck speed which should benefit Lawson who is one of the fastest players in the league. Lawson is a volatile option, but I have high hopes tonight.
I am bullish on the Charlotte Hornets this year, which means I am buying Kemba Walker ($7,000). Walker has the same upside as many, more expensive Point Guards, but is priced at a very reasonable $7,000. Kemba scored 35 DraftKings points in 49% of his games last season, which would provide 5x value at his price tonight. He flashed some greater upside, including scoring 42+ DraftKings points in 25% of his games, which would be good enough for 6x value. The injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should open up some opportunities for other Hornets as well (more on them later).
If you are looking for value, Marcus Smart ($4,700) makes for an interesting option. The reports out of camp are all praising Smart and his pass-first mentality. His increased willingness to drive the lane should increase his FT attempts from last season, raising his floor. The matchup with Philadelphia is outstanding as few teams were worse against PGs last season. I think Smart is a sneaky double-double candidate and a 10 point, 10 assist line is certainly not out of the realm of possibilities.
Based on matchup, James Harden ($10,400) would make for the top play on the board. We already talked about the massive total and fast pace that we expect in this game. I shouldn’t have to sell you on Harden who scored 49.9 DraftKings points per game last season. He has a massive usage rate and gets to the free throw line more than anyone in league. I wonder how many will avoid Harden with the looming “blow-out factor”. Many DFS players won’t roster a star in a game with a 10+ point spread in fear that his team will be up so much that he will sit out the fourth quarter. It’s interesting to note that Harden is essentially “blowout proof”. He actually averaged 5 DraftKings points MORE (52 vs. 47) in games that his team was favored by 10+ last season.
Okay, call me a sucker but I like Kobe Bryant ($6,400) tonight. If you want to buy the narrative of him having all year to think about this game and how he’s going to come out and blah blah blah. Whatever narrative you need, you’ve got it. Let’s look at the numbers. Before going down with an injury last season, Kobe averaged 40.3 DraftKings points per game, which would have been good for the 13th highest scoring player on the year. I don’t believe Kobe is going to change his game and that game is to shoot, shoot, shoot. His 34.9% usage rate was second in the league last season, only behind Russell Westbrook. I fully believe that if Kobe’s usage rate continues at that clip, it will be terrible for the Lakers in real basketball, but awesome for his fantasy owners. You also can’t ignore a healthy 202.5 o/u which is on the higher end tonight.
I am vaguely interested to see if Gerald Green ($3,600) can continue his hot shooting. Green shot over 50% from the field in all but one preseason game, scoring 21, 19, 28 and 24 points in the process. I certainly don’t expect him to score at that rate in the regular season, but it looks like the Heat’s second unit offense will run through Green. He’s a deep threat who can take advantage of the 3PT bonus on DraftKings. I am hoping he sees upwards of 25 minutes which he should be able to pay for himself with an outside shot at blowing up.
Small Forward is the most intriguing position out there tonight. This is where GPPs will be won and lost. You know what you’re getting from Lebron James ($9,800). I don’t love the matchup versus Memphis on the second game of a back to back, but it’s the second day of the season. LeBron should be just fine, but I think his upside is capped a bit.
Kevin Durant ($9.800) will absolutely contend for the scoring title this year and that starts tonight. Remember that he averaged 43.5 DraftKings points per game last season before his injury, which would have made him the 8th highest scoring player of the season. I think he’s going to see plenty of minutes in a high total game and should contend for top scorer of the night.
I love Paul George ($8,000) as well. Tremendous upside from another guy who probably can’t wait to play this game. George is under no minutes restriction and should see full run tonight. George was incredibly impressive this preseason, averaging 18.7 points and tacking on 6.3 RPG in just 24.4 minutes per game. He’s priced in an area that could lead to him being under-owned with owners opting to pay up for LeBron/Durant or going cheaper at the position.
I don’t love the real-life game on Nic Batum ($7,000), but his fantasy game is really sexy in this scoring format. He can stuff the stat sheet in so many different ways. He’s an excellent rebounder, he can dish the ball and he can get hot from behind the arc on occasion. He tends to be a little volatile but his upside is tremendous. He should be the biggest beneficiary of the aforementioned injury to MKG.
Value at the position should come from Rod Hood ($3,900). I don’t love rostering a sixth man, but I expect Hood to see plenty of run for the Jazz. He’s a pure scorer and might be one of this team’s better options. Hood was a 0.74 DraftKings points per minute player last season. Even if he stays at that rate and sees 25 minutes in this game, he would reach 5x value. I think his upside is even higher, facing a Detroit team that played last night.
Anthony Davis ($10,400) burned us last night with only 32 DraftKings points and a terrible 4-20 shooting night from the field. Those nights won’t happen often and I would bet he comes out looking to make a statement tonight against Portland. This is one of the higher totals on the board and without LaMarcus Aldridge in the middle for POR, who’s going to stop AD? Seriously, who? Mason Plumlee? Meyers Leonard? I doubt it. Fire up AD and hope that the casual fans are feeling spiteful.
The Bulls have so many options that Pau Gasol ($8,000) doesn’t get enough touches to be relevant at the moment. 1-7 from the field and only two points in the opener is very concerning. I suspect he sees a small decrease in minutes tonight as there’s no reason to wear out the 35 year old this early in the season. He’s much too expensive for my tastes this evening.
We saw how Andre Drummond (18 points, 19 rebounds) benefitted from no longer playing beside Greg Monroe ($7,100), so let’s see if Monroe sees the same success. Monroe is a walking double-double and should be one of the main scoring options for the Bucks this season. I’d be interested to see if the Knicks try to use Kristaps Porzingis to guard Monroe. If so, Zinger could be in for a long day as he gives up at least 20 pounds to Monroe underneath the net.
A value flier could be Kris Humphries ($3,900). He has earned the starting role over Nene and has shown flashed of brilliance this preseason. Humphries is adjusting to an entirely different game, as he is stepping into more three point attempts. That’s a good sign that the Wizards are willing to let him work through any growing pains in a starter’s role. If they are that confident, so am I. Humphries is still an active rebounder and could have an outside chance at a double-double tonight.
Demarcus Cousins ($10,300) is the clear #1 option at Center. He’s an animal who finished last season on a tear. He was the 10th highest scoring DraftKings player last season and has all the upside in the world. Boogie was injured for all but one of the meetings with LAC last season, but in that one game, he dropped 68.25 DK points, one of his highest totals of the season. This game has a massive 210.5 O/U so expect a ton of points from Boogie if you can afford him.
I am really interested to see how Tyson Chandler ($5,900) adjusts to playing for the Suns. Chandler has always been one of the better rebounders in the league and any points he adds is icing on the cake. Chandler averaged a double-double last season and I expect him to be extra motivated facing his old team (Dallas) in the season opener.