Although there are only six games on tap Tuesday night, there's no shortage of news surrounding the slate. That's overwhelmingly due to injuries, as an inordinate number of elite names are either already ruled out or carry some sort of injury designation. That means there is going to be plenty of usage absorbed by players whose salaries won't reflect their expanded roles, setting up some likely heavy chalk situations. In terms of offensive expectations, the absence of multiple superstars naturally is a drag on projected totals, with only two games sporting figures above 220 points as of late Monday night.
Here's a closer look at the three games on Tuesday's slate with the highest projected totals on FanDuel Sportsbook:
Washington Wizards at New York Knicks (Projected total: 225.5 points)
The Wizards continue to allow the most points per game in the league (120.0) and the sixth-highest shooting percentage (47.6) while also playing at the league's fastest pace (107.8 possessions per game). The Knicks therefore make for an interesting adversary, as New York is scoring the third-fewest points per game (104.7) while playing at the league's slowest pace (99.1 possessions per contest). While Washington also brings plenty of offense (114.9 PPG) in addition to their suspect defense, the Knicks are giving up an NBA-low 104.8 points per game. Tom Thibodeau's team notched a 109-91 win over Washington the first time these two teams played back on Feb. 12, but Bradley Beal sat out that contest.
Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans (Projected total: 222.0 points) The Lakers scored just 94 points in their first game without LeBron James on Sunday, although they drew one of the toughest defensive matchups in the Western Conference in the Suns. Oddsmakers clearly expect a better performance Tuesday and with good reason, as New Orleans is allowing 115.2 points per game while also giving up the eighth-highest shooting percentage (47.3 percent). Los Angeles will also naturally suffer defensively without LeBron, so the Pels, which are already putting up 117.7 points per home game, could be in for a successful night on that end of the floor. Phoenix Suns at Miami Heat (Projected total: 218.0 points) As just mentioned, the Suns are one of the best defensive teams in the league, surrendering the third-fewest points per game (107.5) and the ninth-lowest shooting percentage (45.8). The Heat are right behind them, giving up 107.6 points per contest (fourth fewest) and Miami is also yielding the second-lowest shooting percentage (44.3) overall. The two teams have yet to play this season and there is therefore a certain degree of unfamiliarity, and given each squad's defensive prowess and the fact each plays at one of the slowest paces in the NBA, the modest total here is certainly justifiable. Injury Situations to Monitor Joel Embiid, PHI (knee)/ Status: OUT Embiid's ongoing absence will continue to afford Tony Bradley and Dwight Howard playing time at center while keeping the usage rates of the remaining healthy members of the starting five elevated. LeBron James, LAL (ankle)/ Status: OUT James' absence will afford the likes of Dennis Schroder, Markieff Morris, Montrezl Harrell, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kyle Kuzma extra usage. James Harden, BKN (neck)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE If Harden were to sit out, Tyler Johnson and Bruce Brown could be big beneficiaries in terms of extra minutes in the backcourt, while the usage rates of all starting five members and some role players would be significantly elevated with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant also sidelined. Kyrie Irving, BKN (personal)/ Status: OUT Irving's absence should ensure another start for Bruce Brown. Kevin Durant, BKN (hamstring)/ Status: OUT Durant's ongoing absence Tuesday should lead to Jeff Green and Blake Griffin logging the majority of minutes at power forward. Stephen Curry, GS (back)/ Status: OUT Curry's third straight absence should continue to afford Jordan Poole, who's averaged 25.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds in the first two games Curry has missed, another run with the starting five. Meanwhile, the usage rates of Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre and Draymond Green should remain elevated. Lonzo Ball, NOP (hip)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE If Ball sits out a second straight game, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who scored 20 points over 31 minutes in a spot start Sunday versus the Nuggets, would be in for another start. Seth Curry, PHI (ankle)/ Status: OUT With Curry out for a third straight game, both Matisse Thybulle and Furkan Korkmaz should be in line for extra minutes. Other notable injuries: Anthony Davis, LAL (calf)/ Status: OUT James Wiseman, GS (COVID-19 protocols)/ Status: PROBABLE Derrick Rose, NYK (COVID-19 protocols)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE Goran Dragic, MIA (back)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE Immanuel Quickley NYK (ankle)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE Elfrid Payton, NYK (hamstring)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE Mitchell Robinson, NYK (ankle)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE Terrence Ross, ORL (knee)/ Status: QUESTIONABLE Cole Anthony, ORL (ribs)/ Status: OUT Davis Bertans, WAS (calf)/ Status: OUT Hamidou Diallo, DET (groin)/ Status: OUT Marc Gasol, LAL (conditioning)/ Status: GTD
Elite Players Even with all the aforementioned big-name injuries, of the six players with five-figure salaries on Tuesday's slate, only one, Joel Embiid ($10,700), is ruled out. The highest-salaried player on the slate, James Harden ($11,300), does carry a questionable tag. He's followed by Russell Westbrook ($11,100), Nikola Jokic ($11,000), Nikola Vucevic ($10,200) and Julius Randle($10,000). Harden naturally carries some risk for the moment, but if he were to receive clearance to play, he'll be an outstanding play with Irving and Durant both unavailable. The matchup against the fast-paced and defensively vulnerable Trail Blazers makes him even more appealing. Westbrook is an interesting case, considering how tough the Knicks have been defensively, but the perennial All-Star is on a tear right now with four triple-doubles in five games, and he compiled 46.8 FD points Feb. 12 against New York. Jokic has also been playing extremely well and has delivered over 5x his hefty salary in 28 of 42 games. Vucevic has been carrying the Magic on his shoulders most of the season and remains one of the safest plays regardless of matchup, while Randle, despite having ascended to the five-figure club, is still in a very appealing matchup versus a Wizards team he already touched up for 50.6 FD points once this season. There are also several players with salaries in the high four figures that have the ability to deliver elite scores, including Bradley Beal ($9,600), Jimmy Butler ($9,500), Damian Lillard ($9,400) andTobias Harris ($8,800). Beal is subject to the tough matchup versus the Knicks, but like Westbrook, he's often proven worthy of the investment required to roster him this season. Butler continues to sport career highs in rebounds, assists and steals, making him a Westbrook lite of sorts who's delivered at least 5x his current salary in 17 of 29 games. Lillard could actually have a bit of blowout risk attached if Harden joins Irving and Durant on the Nets' list of absentee starters, but outside of that, he comes with a nice salary reduction compared to recent games. Finally, Harris is averaging 47.5 FD points in the five games Embiid has missed thus far, making him a potentially strong value at his salary.
Expected Chalk Other likely chalk plays include Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole due to Curry's absence; any remaining healthy Nets if Harden sits out, especially Bruce Brown, Joe Harris and Jeff Green; Shake Milton and Dwight Howard for Philadelphia, with the latter averaging 28.9 FD points in Embiid's absence thus far; Nickeil Alexander-Walker if Ball is confirmed as out; and Dennis Schroder, Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris and Montrezl Harrell, along with other complementary Lakers to a lesser extent, in the absence of James and Davis.
Key Values RJ Barrett, NYK vs. WAS ($6,200) Barrett has gotten the second half of the season off to an impressive start, averaging 35.9 FD points on the strength of 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals across his first six games. The second-year wing is shooting a blistering 50.5 percent over that span, and given the Wizards' various defensive deficiencies detailed earlier in the Washington-New York game breakdown, he'll be poised to put together another strong return. The Wizards are also allowing 48.3 FD points per game to small forwards, and Barrett has encouragingly taken double-digit shots in seven straight games and nine of the last 10 overall. Enes Kanter, POR vs. BKN ($5,900) Kanter has sprinkled in a couple of duds recently, but he's scored 24.8 to 53.2 FD points in 11 of the last 14 games. The matchup Tuesday is what makes the big man particularly appealing, as the Nets come in allowing the fourth-highest offensive efficiency (34.4 percent) to centers, along with the seventh-most FD points per game (40.5) to the position on the campaign. Additionally, Brooklyn is allowing an Eastern Conference-high 53.1 points in the paint per road game, a part of the floor where just under 84.0 percent of Kanter's scoring emanates from. Jae Crowder, PHO at MIA ($3,900) On a night when there are so many value plays to consider due to key injuries, Crowder is likely to fly under the radar despite his very reasonable salary, probable starting role and tallies of 20.9 to 26.0 FD points in six of his last eight games. He may also have a bit of extra juice going up against his old Heat teammates, and Miami checks into the contest allowing 42.9 FD points per game to power forwards, while also ranking in the bottom half of the league in opponent rebounds (52.2), assists (25.5) and steals (8.1 steals) allowed per game. Other value plays to consider: Andrew Wiggins, GS vs. PHI ($6,800); Kyle Kuzma, LAL at NOP ($6,500); Michael Porter, DEN at ORL ($6,500); Jordan Poole, GS vs. PHI ($6,500); Aaron Gordon, ORL vs. DEN ($6,300); Alec Burks, NY vs. WAS ($5,600); Jeff Green, BKN at POR ($4,600); Bruce Brown, BKN at POR ($4,000)