NBA Core plays 12/4/2019

THE CORE

1) Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

FanDuel: $8,000, SG DraftKings: $7,100, PG/SG Yahoo: $30, SG FantasyDraft: $13,200, G

2) Emmanuel Mudiay, Utah Jazz

FanDuel: $3,500, PG DraftKings: $3,200, PG Yahoo: $10, PG FantasyDraft: $6,300, G

It feels a little uncomfortable starting this article with two Utah players, particularly on a large slate when the team has a matchup against a Lakers squad that is much improved defensively from a year ago. There is a good chance that I would like to remove Mudiay if we get other slam dunk value on the slate, but right now we do not have that.

Let’s start there. Mudiay is nowhere near an elite fantasy player, but the circumstances dictate that he will be utilized more tonight. Mike Conley has already been ruled out, and the Jazz do not have another true point guard on the active roster outside of Mudiay. Donovan Mitchell will certainly handle the ball a ton, and it’s possible that we only see 24-26 minutes out of Mudiay tonight. Here is a look at a CourtIQ query with Conley off the floor this season.This shows us that Mudiay sees a respectable 24.5% usage rate, and he scores around 32 fantasy points per 36 minutes with Conley off the floor. Even if we scale back the minutes to 25, that puts us at a baseline projection of 22 or 23 fantasy points. While that is not lighting the world on fire, it is certainly a worthwhile output for a player who costs the stone minimum or close to it on every DFS site. Given the tighter pricing over the last few weeks, we simply don’t have a lot of that value available on most slates. For that reason, I am reluctantly including Mudiay in the core, as he really helps free up cap space for your other options — and he is unlikely to tank your lineup given the circumstances.

As for Mitchell, we always know that his prospects are better whenever he gets to handle the ball more often. His splits aren’t noticeably different with Conley off the floor this year, but we are still dealing with a very small sample size there. If we re-run a CourtIQ query based on last season’s data when Ricky Rubio was off the floor, we see that Mitchell’s usage climbed from around 31% to 34.8%, and he scored four additional fantasy points per 36 minutes with Rubio out. That’s a sizable difference in a 1,100 minute sample size. Mitchell hasn’t been an elite fantasy option this year, but that also gives us a chance to get him at a more reasonable price tag tonight.

Essentially, these two players will likely split 100% of the point guard duties tonight. Both become distributors more often than we are used to, and the Lakers — for all their success so far this year — still rank 30th in our defense vs. archetype tool against distributing guards. I like the outlook for these two Utah players tonight, especially relative to their salary tags, and I would expect both to be highly owned in cash games.

(Tournament pivot: The angle of hoping the Jazz get blown out is one you could possibly take in tournaments, though fading both Mitchell and Mudiay is risky. After all, the Jazz are still small favorites in this game. You could look to some other mid-to-high end guards as possible GPP pivots. Damian Lillard was not great last night as the Blazers got blown out by the Clippers, but this feels like a spot where we could see a nice bounce-back game. The price tag isn’t outrageous, and I actually gave some thought to using him as a core play. I am shying away from that since Sacramento ranks last in the NBA in tempo, though I still like the upside in tournament formats. There aren’t a lot of punt values on the slate as of the time I am writing this, so there is not a great direct pivot off Mudiay at minimum salary. A balanced build would be the swerve play.)

3) Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

FanDuel: $12,500, PG DraftKings: $11,600, PG/SF Yahoo: $55, PG FantasyDraft: $20,500, G

Take a look all the way back to yesterday, where in this very space I called Doncic a top five player in the NBA at age 20. I might have sold him short.

Doncic scored 33 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in last night’s dominating win over the Pelicans — and he did it in only 28 minutes. Dallas was able to rest him late in the game with the contest in hand, yet he still scored 58 fantasy points on FanDuel and Yahoo and well over 60 fantasy points on DraftKings and FantasyDraft. The kid continues to impress on a nightly basis, and his fantasy floor is amazing at this stage. He deservedly won the conference player of the month for November.

While it may seem like a bit of a man crush for me to list him here for the second straight day, circumstances warrant his inclusion again. Dallas draws another favorable matchup tonight against Minnesota, a team that ranks fourth in the NBA in pace and in the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency. His price has risen to Harden and Antetokounmpo levels, but he has earned it. It’s basically choosing between Doncic and Antetokounmpo at the top tonight, and I’ll give the edge to Doncic, as Antetokounmpo has to face a Detroit team that ranks near the bottom of the league in pace. Obviously, this is largely an exercise in splitting hairs, as both are elite options on any given night.

The premise is that the usage of Mudiay as a value will allow you to spend up on a star tonight, and my preference is Luka given the matchup. Dallas has an implied team total of a whopping 118 points tonight, which is a few points higher than Milwaukee. Assuming the game stays close, I’ll root for another massive triple-double tonight from the young star.

(Tournament pivot: Now that his price tag is rising, fewer people are going to play Trae Young on a large slate. The Hawks have been involved in a few blowouts of late, which has hindered Young’s performances to some degree. However, he’s still posting massive usage rates with a 30%+ usage in six straight games. This should be a competitive game with Brooklyn tonight, and Young is a player who could stand out as a GPP difference-maker at 8-12% ownership on a ten game slate.)

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