BKN Kyrie Irving (COVID-19) - QUESTIONABLE
All signs point toward Irving playing in this game, but he needs to jump through some protocol hoops to get to the court, so we can't say for sure. Bruce Brown ($4,100) gets a moderate boost if Irving is out.
HOU John Wall (knee) - OUT
HOU Eric Gordon (COVID-19) - QUESTIONABLE
HOU Danuel House (COVID-19) - OUT
HOU Sterling Brown (leg) - QUESTIONABLE
Houston will be cautious with Wall, but his absence opens the door for the potential premiere of Victor Oladipo ($7,500) in a Houston uniform. I think it'll be a variance-filled call, but Oladipo is accustomed to creating shots out in space, and he doesn't need much of a primer to make that happen. Jae'Sean Tate ($5,000) has officially arrived. He has the skills to play at four positions, so you have to expect him to play a pivotal role with or without Gordon. We'll have to wait and see how things shake out, but if Brown and Gordon are both out, David Nwaba ($4,300) and Mason Jones ($4,400) will also be involved. This all comes down to the starting lineup before lock, where you'd immediately go to someone like Tate if he starts.
DAL Kristaps Porzingis (possible rest)
DAL Tim Hardaway (groin) - QUESTIONABLE
DAL Dorian Finney-Smith (COVID-19) - OUT
DAL Josh Richardson (COVID-19) - OUT
There's no designation on the site yet, but there's a well-founded rumor that Dallas may rest KP on the back-to-back. There's not a lot to like for pivots here, but if I had to choose, I'd go with Willie Cauley-Stein ($5,100). Keep an eye on who starts at the five, as we could see a Boban Marjanovic($3,500) sighting and a potential start for James Johnson ($4,700). Hardaway would radically change things for Dallas if he plays, but I'd still expect some run from Trey Burke ($4,300).
The abundance of elite talent on such a small slate is truly remarkable. Before we dive in, let's talk a bit of game theory with all of these studs. The spotlight is on James Harden ($10,300), Kevin Durant ($10,500), and potentially Kyrie Irving ($9,500). If Irving plays, he's the cheapest of the elite guys and may be hard to pass up. Explosive totals from these guys are a given. They are all excellent plays. Are they going to be popular? Absolutely. The high roster rates of these guys persuades me to look instead at Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,300), Luka Doncic ($11,200) andStephen Curry ($9,800) on the hunch that they'll be less popular. I even want to look at Anthony Davis ($9,500) and LeBron James ($9,500) as their prices continue to sink. Now, here's the dose of realism. You're going to get away with picking a maximum of two of these players, and possibly three if you reach down to the Laker boys or Curry. For the money, I think the most sensible strategy is to grab a 10k-plus guy and pair him with one of the options in the 9k range. Possible combos would be Giannis/Durant or Davis for a frontcourt-heavy stack, and Harden/Curry for a guard-heavy board. MME players are going to find all sorts of combos and will fit more than a few three-headed monsters in there as well. What you really want to know is how I'd rank them right now. Taking salary value and popularity into account, I would go with Giannis, Doncic, Davis, Durant, Curry, Harden and LeBron, in that order. If Irving plays, he would jump ahead of everyone and result in a downgrade for Harden. My justification for Giannis at the top is simple. To offset Brooklyn's many weapons, it will be even more necessary than usual for him to take over and carry his team.
While Christian Wood ($9,800) and Zach LaVine ($9,300) are also hanging around at this salary level, they're too expensive relative to their production. Uniqueness would be the only reason to reach for them.
Outside of the elites, a lot of our chalk options will also be budget plays. I will keep the mid-range options above the $6,667 FanDuel median in this section, but lineup construction will make $5k and lower plays necessary. Several of these players come into focus if you opt for a single-elite strategy.
Pascal Siakam, TOR ($8,200) vs. DAL
Siakam's experienced some rough games here and there, but he's one of many Raptors who will slide under the radar. That's one reason why I think the sharps may flock to someone like Siakam, especially if Porzingis takes a night off. He struggled mightily over a two-game set against Charlotte, but he enjoyed a spectacular triple-double against Portland just before that. His upside would crush value at this salary, and he's a great way to spend down.
Jrue Holiday, MIL ($7,600) @ BKN
I think Holiday is the most likely guy to beat 5x value in this elite-heavy contest. He'll be called upon to get the ball in Khris Middleton and Giannis' hands, and if Harden ends up defending him, Holiday's stock goes up. He's shown the ability to go upwards of 40 FDFP in any given game, and on a night where the focus will be on the new-look Nets, I like taking the opposing team for more uniqueness.
Kyle Lowry, TOR ($7,400) vs. DAL
Many of these 7k guys will be the focus of a more balanced lineup structure that will carry a max of one elite target. I think Lowry is one of a small assortment of players who can get similar production to the guys at the top of the salary scale. After an absence against Sacramento, he's rattled off a consistent run of four games that's been driven by great assist numbers and a hot three-point shot. If you're in the market for a good guard pivot on a night that's very guard-heavy, Lowry is in an excellent spot against a shaky Dallas backcourt.
Andrew Wiggins, GSW ($6,700) @ LAL
Both Curry and Wiggins should be the better plays for the Warriors, and Wiggins is at a very favorable salary. He needs to put together a good shooting night from long range to be worthwhile. I fear that Anthony Davis could dominate the rebounding game on both sides of the ball, so it's more likely Wiggins will realize his value as a scorer. His floor is dependable enough to consider him as a decent cash-game option.
Lauri Markkanen, CHI ($6,100) vs. HOU
Markannen is at a super-low salary, and I favor him despite the back-to-back. After a seven-game absence, he's had two excellent stat lines, and he scored 29 points yesterday in a convincing game against the Mavericks. The Rockets are decimated by injuries, but they do have a healthy Christian Wood. I don't think he will be of much concern because Lauri plays the perimeter more frequently than most power forwards, and he'll present a size mismatch at almost every position.
Garrett Temple, CHI ($3,800) vs. HOU
I'm jumping around a bit in an effort to give you a wide array of salary points for value, and I think Temple is about as good as you'll get below $4k in terms of potential output. Otto Porter is still getting up to speed, and while I think he'll ultimately be the more productive player by year's end, Temple is logging a significant allotment of minutes in the short term. Last night's 21-point showing is a good example of what he's capable of with the team's second unit. We need guys in this range if we want to get multiple elites onto our rosters, and Temple has a lot of potential to beat value at this salary. Thaddeus Young ($3,800) is another value-beating Bull worth considering.
Draymond Green, GSW ($5,400) @ LAL
Green tends to be chalky in marquee games, and even though this battle for supremacy in Cali should be a notch in the win column for the Lakers, Green's defensive skills will be on display. His defensive prowess doesn't always translate into DFS productivity, but he's easily the most capable defender on the roster, and he's had a lot of experience in defending LeBron James. He needs good rebound and assist numbers to be worthwhile. Without them, he may have a hard time reaching value.
Montrezl Harrell, LAL ($5,400) vs. GSW
Despite Anthony Davis's presence, Harrell has logged significant minutes as a Laker, and he remains one of the league's most aggressive players in the paint. I like him even better with the potential for a lopsided result, and Harrell could end up cleaning things up on the way to a cheap double-double for those who activate him. Although the center position is of paramount value on FanDuel compared to other sites, the more expensive center options don't offer much today. He's totally reasonable as an option outside of the potential Dallas targets at the position