Here's a closer look at the three games with some of the highest projected totals on Saturday's slate:
Dallas Mavericks at Brooklyn Nets (Projected total: 238.5 points)
This is the de facto main event of the night and unsurprisingly carries the highest projected total as well. The Mavericks could well be missing Kristaps Porzingis (back) again, which does ding their overall scoring expectations, while the Nets will continue without Kevin Durant(hamstring). Nevertheless, with Luka Doncic, James Harden and Kyrie Irving all on the floor, points will be put up, and both Brooklyn's inconsistent defense and lightning pace should contribute to the cause. The Nets are allowing the third-most points per game (116.3) and are tied for the third-fastest pace (105.9 possessions per game) of any team on its home floor. Meanwhile, the Mavs are in the bottom 10 as well with 113.5 points per game surrendered, and despite Durant's extended absence, Brooklyn comes in scoring an NBA-high 121.4 points per contest.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Washington Wizards (Projected total: 236.0 points) This number is to be expected given this game marks a meeting between two of the most suspect defenses in the league and that features three very explosive offensive players. The Timberwolves are allowing the fourth-most points per game (116.1), including 125 per over the last three. In turn, the Wizards are surrendering the second-most points per game (119.5), including an NBA-high 122.2 per home game. Minnesota will be missing Malik Beasley due to a 12-game league suspension that takes effect beginning with tonight's contest, which does naturally hurt overall offensive prospects with D'Angelo Russell (quadriceps) also still out. However, Karl-Anthony Towns is still around to shoulder the load, while Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal bring plenty of firepower on the other side and are helping Washington to an average of 118.8 points per home contest. New Orleans Pelicans at San Antonio Spurs (Projected total: 226.5 points) The Pelicans still carry a losing record, but their average of 115.5 points per game ranks them fourth in the league. The Spurs aren't quite as prolific with 110.7 per game, but given New Orleans is giving up 116.5 points per road contest, San Antonio could be in position to overshoot its season average Saturday night, especially if DeMar DeRozan returns from taking a personal day in the Spurs' last game Wednesday and LaMarcus Aldridge overcomes his wrist soreness. San Antonio has also given up 113.1 points per home game and ranks in the top half of the league in pace with 103.7 possessions per game. Injury Situations to Monitor NOTE: Injury reporting is especially fluid in the NBA, where the status of multiple players can change during the course of a day.
Kevin Durant, BKN (hamstring)/ Status: OUT Durant's ongoing absence should continue to lead to starts for Bruce Brown and elevated usage for James Harden and Kyrie Irving in particular. Kristaps Porzingis, DAL (back)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE If Porzingis misses another contest Saturday, Boban Marjanovic could draw another start, while the usage rates of remaining members of the Mavericks starting five would climb. DeMar DeRozan (personal)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE If DeRozan sits out a second straight game, the remaining members of the Spurs' makeshift roster would see a bump in usage, even more so if LaMarcus Aldridge joins DeRozan on the absentee list. Tobias Harris, PHI (knee)/ Status: OUT With Harris out, Mike Scott could draw a spot start at power forward, while Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey could also benefit from the domino effect of his absence if coach Doc Rivers opts to move Ben Simmons over to the four instead. Malik Beasley, MIN (suspension)/ Status: OUT Beasley's absence should lead to Jaylen Nowell and Josh Okogie seeing the majority of shooting guard minutes, while the usage of Karl-Anthony Towns and Ricky Rubio could see notable boosts as well. LaMarcus Aldridge, SAN (wrist)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE If Aldridge were to sit out Saturday, Jakob Poeltl would likely be in for a spot start at center and plenty of usage, given the short-handed nature of the Spurs roster. Other notable injuries: Keldon Johnson, SAN (COVID-19 protocols)/ Status: OUT Cole Anthony, ORL (ribs)/ Status: OUT Derrick White, SAN (COVID-19 protocols)/ Status: OUT Rudy Gay, SAN (COVID-19 protocols)/ Status: OUT Devin Vassell, SAN (COVID-19 protocols)/ Status: OUT Davis Bertans, WAS (knee)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE Jeff Green, BKN (shoulder)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE Elfrid Payton, NYK (hamstring)/ Status: DOUBTFUL JaMychal Green, DEN (shoulder)/ Status: OUT Paul Millsap, DEN (knee)/ Status: OUT Hamidou Diallo, OKC (groin)/ Status: OUT James Ennis, ORL (calf)/ Status: OUT Taurean Prince, CLE (ankle)/ Status: OUT
kyrie Irvin , out
Elite Players There are as many players with five-figure salaries as there are games Saturday, as James Harden ($11,000), Nikola Jokic ($10,900), Luka Doncic ($10,800), Domantas Sabonis($10,600), Joel Embiid ($10,300), Karl-Anthony Towns ($10,100) and Nikola Vucevic($10,000) all fit the bill. From that group, Harden continues to carry even more ceiling than usual due to Durant's ongoing absence, while Jokic's remains through the roof as well, especially in a favorable matchup like Saturday's against the Thunder. Doncic could also be even more valuable than usual as part of the game with the highest projected total of the night and the possibility he once again plays without Porzingis. Towns should have even more of a load on his shoulders than usual as well with Beasley now joining Russell on the list of unavailable key players. There are a couple of caveats with Sabonis and Vucevic, neither having to do with their considerable talent. Sabonis is facing the elite Knicks defense and has also seen a $700 salary increase from Friday, while Vucevic could be on the wrong side of a blowout scenario versus the Jazz and will have to frequently contend with Rudy Gobert down low. Embiid is an interesting case in his own right, as he's in an excellent matchup down low and will be playing without Tobias Harris, but is also in a game that could get out of hand in favor of the 76ers. There are also several players with salaries in the high four figures that have the ability to deliver elite scores, including Russell Westbrook ($9,900), Julius Randle ($9,400), Kyrie Irving($9,300), Bradley Beal ($9,200), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($9,100), Zion Williamson ($8,900) and Jamal Murray ($8,800). From that group, Westbrook and Beal are in excellent matchups against the Timberwolves, while Randle also has a favorable positional battle versus Sabonis. Like Harden, Irving also continues to see elevated responsibility without Durant, making him a very appealing play at his salary. Expected Chalk All of the names mentioned in Elite Players section are naturally going to be very popular Saturday, and with a mid-sized slate, there could be some particularly elevated rostering rates on the likes of Harden, Doncic and Towns in particular because of the confirmed/potential absence of key teammates. In terms of other chalk, other members of the Timberwolves starting five besides Towns such as Ricky Rubio, Anthony Edwards and Jaylen Nowell could see extra clicks on their names because of Beasley's absence, while any healthy Spurs should be subject to the same treatment, especially DeRozan and Aldridge if they do suit up. Boban Marjanovic would also likely be very popular as a value center if Porzingis sits out, as would some of the other key Mavs including Josh Richardson and Tim Hardaway, given the expected pace and game environment of their matchup against the Nets. Key Values Rui Hachimura, WAS vs. MIN ($5,800) Hachimura is averaging an impressive 27.1 DK points over his last five games, a stretch during which he's shooting 52.7 percent and posting a well-rounded line of 15.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.0 steal across a healthy allotment of 35.4 minutes. The second-year big has scored 23.0 to 34.3 DK points in seven straight, and he's delivered over 5x his current salary in nine of 23 games, with seven of those instances having come within the last 14 games. Saturday brings a matchup against a vulnerable Timberwolves squad that's allowed the fifth-most DK points per game (67.9) to players with a power forward designation and that's allowed the second-highest offensive efficiency to the opposition on the season. Additionally, in the case of the floor-spacing Hachimura, it's also worth noting Minnesota checks in the bottom 10 with 37.9 percent three-point shooting surrendered, while the big man is shooting an improved 35.7 percent from distance over the last five contests. Seth Curry, PHI vs. CLE ($5,400) Curry should be in a solid position to continue his recent hot streak Saturday, as both the matchup and the fact the 76ers will be operating without Tobias Harris (knee) should work in his favor. The veteran is shooting an impressive 45.0 percent from three-point range over the last four games, a span during which he's scored 28.25 to 38.0 DK points in three contests. Curry has also thrived at Wells Fargo Center, shooting 52.7 percent, including 54.0 percent from three-point range, across 12 home games. The opposing Cavaliers make for an appealing target as well, as they rank in the bottom half of the league in DK points per game allowed to players with a shooting guard designation (71.2) and are giving up 48.5 percent shooting (44.0 percent from three-point range) and the third-highest offensive efficiency (26.2 percent) to the position on the season. Jaylen Nowell, MIN at WAS ($3,200) There are a number of Timberwolves that could deliver strong returns on investment Saturday given the team is now without its starting backcourt, but Nowell carries the lowest salary-based risk of any. The second-year guard has already shown some solid improvement of his rookie numbers this season and has seen 22 and 19 minutes off the bench in the last two games. He's now set for a potential start and a bump in minutes at minimum with Malik Beasley suspended, making his current salary one to certainly try and exploit. The matchup against the Wizards is also extremely appealing, as Washington has surrendered the fifth-highest offensive efficiency (53.0 percent) to backcourt players. Additionally, Nowell has already managed to deliver over 5x his current salary in nine of 19 games, making him even more of a solid proposition to do it with possible starter's minutes. Other value plays to consider: Michael Porter, DEN at OKC ($6,500); Mike Conley, UTA at ORL ($6,300); Anthony Edwards, MIN at WAS ($6,300): Ricky Rubio, MIN at WAS ($6,200); Derrick Rose, NY vs. IND ($5,300); Jalen Brunson, DAL at BKN ($5,000); Tim Hardaway, DAL at BKN ($4,900); Bruce Brown, BKN vs. DAL ($4,900); Shake Milton, PHI vs. CLE ($4,200); Naz Reid, MIN at WAS ($4,000)