For me, the discussion pretty clearly starts with Russell Westbrook being questionable. For those that might be new to the NBA DFS game, Westbrook being out would mean James Harden is the biggest automatic play possible. He gets 1.81 DK points per minute if you take both Russ and Eric Gordon OFF in CourtIQ. If you just look at his nine games without Russ this season, he has averaged 66.2 DK points per game (58.2 in 55 games with him).
The thing that makes this particular situation even more complex is the fact that this HOU/LAL game is the last one of the night. It starts at 9:00 PM EST, which is five hours after the slate locks and one hour after the next closest game. The good news here is that Harden is a sufficient cash game play even if Russ does play, so you can wait as long as possible to get the Russ news. If Russ is out, you keep Harden locked in. If Russ plays, you are still fine with Harden in cash games if it comes to it, but you can also do a 2v2 swap to take Harden (plus Player Y) out and put Russ in (plus a more expensive Player X). We might even get this Russ news before the the POR/DEN starts (8:00 PM EST), so you’d have an extra game to help with your late swap decisions.
Sticking with that HOU/LAL game, it is at least worth noting that the Lakers are on the second night of a back-to-back and already have the first seed in the West wrapped up. Considering that Frank Vogel already said that “the plan for now is to play his starters in the back-to-back”—and their offense needs some major work (96.6 offensive rating in the bubble is BY FAR the worst of any team)—I am building my lineup under the assumption that both AD and LeBron play. Vogel hasn’t exactly been truthful with his comments in the bubble though (shocking for a coach to lie in the media, I know), and I can’t help but notice that he said “the plan for now.”
The next situation to discuss is with Miami, as Jimmy Butler has already been ruled out and Goran Dragic is questionable after rolling his ankle in Tuesday’s game. This is the first game of the slate, so we should have plenty of time to digest the news here. We saw them keep a tight nine-man rotation on Tuesday without Butler, with Bam and Dragic leading the way in usage.
Kelly Olynyk was right behind them and was obviously the big winner on that slate since he also contributed eight assists, six rebounds, two steals, and a block (oh, and he was $3,800 on DK). He figures to get the start again today since Milwaukee starts Giannis and BroLo in the frontcourt. He is a terrific play once again since the price didn’t rise too much.
Things could get even more tasty here if Dragic is ruled out as well, with Kendrick Nunn ($4,500 FD; $4,100 DK) and Tyler Herro ($3,900 FD; $3,600 DK) getting boosts in minutes and opportunity. And as you can see, they are extremely cheap on both sites. Depending on how/when that Dragic news shakes out, I will go over any potential fallout either in an update to the article or on Crunch Time.
Malcolm Brogdon is back on the injury report as questionable. Aaron Holiday and Victor Oladipo would see a nice boost if Brogdon sits out this game. Oladipo has nice price tags on both sites, and Holiday is only $4,800 on DK and $4,200 on FD. This is the first game of the day too, so we should have time to act on that news as well and see how it fits in with the Miami situation.
The decision to fade all of them.
I think there are viable reasons why it's feasible to go just below the elite level and get everything you need there, and lower. I am nixing Giannis Antetokounmpo right off the bat. I don't trust his usage moving forward. I would think about James Harden ($10,700) if Westbrook sits, but otherwise, I don't think he'll get the 53.5 DKFP I need to hit 5x value, especially when you consider the previous lackluster performances (by his standards) he's had against the Lakers? Luka Doncic($11,300) could probably get you the 56.5 DKFP you need to get 5x value, but rostering him gives you only $5500 per player for your remaining seven slots. In my opinion, that leaves a ton of value lying on the table. I've also made my thoughts about LeBron James and Anthony Davis clear in my previous articles. I think the game against Houston could be the last time we see the duo logging their usual minutes, but I think the variance is too broad in relation to their cost. Additionally, with all of the elites I just mentioned, there isn't much incentive to win. That's why I'd much rather spend up on Damian Lillard ($9,700) who will force his team into the playoffs, even if he has to carry them on his shoulders. You could say the same about Jusuf Nurkic ($8,900), who's enjoying a huge renaissance and is one of my favorite big men on the slate tonight. I can't fault Lillard or Nurkic at this price, but my exposure will probably be very low. Follow me down the chalky path, and I'll show you where we can make up for all this elite exclusion.
EXPECTED CHALK AND OTHER TARGETS
T.J. Warren, IND ($8,400) @ PHO
For Warren, it isn't about riding the hot hand anymore. Simply put, he is the offensive engine for the Pacers going forward, and despite a matchup against a surprisingly tough Suns squad, I don't see the needle moving much for this guy. You only need 42 DKFP to make him worth the cost, and he's beaten that number by a country mile every time he's played. This game will be a fierce battle as both teams are jockeying for playoff position, which makes Warren a lock for as many minutes as he can handle.
Paul George, LAC ($7,700) @ DAL
George can often start slow, so if you're one of those habitual score refreshers, he can give you heart palpitations. He's come through brilliantly in the bubble, however. He'll be forced to play maximum minutes in a game that will be a little too close for comfort for the Clippers. They have Denver breathing down their neck in the West, so the motivation is there to retain their #2 seed, and Dallas, while safe, could catch up to Houston if the Rockets collapse. While the first part of the season is way in the rear-view mirror, George racked up a sizeable 47 DKFP in only 29 minutes when he last faced the Mavs.
Bam Adebayo, MIA ($7,800) @ MIL
Adebayo will be called upon to pick up some slack with Jimmy Butler out, and I'm a big fan of his potential relative to his price. He can also claim a positive rate of return against the Bucks - he double-doubled twice against them earlier in the season. Bam found his way into about half of my preliminary builds, especially in cash.
Robert Covington, HOU ($6,500) vs. LAL
I think his roster percentage will be a little low after his performance against Portland, but a 2-of-11 shooting day simply isn't sustainable for Covington, and I think he's primed for a rebound. In another spot, I would say that his price is a little bit high, and I still believe there is some risk for him to fall short of the 32 DKFP we need to make him worth the cost. The upside is there, however, and that's why he's someone I'll look to as I fill out GPP builds on Thursday.
As we move down, see above about Michael Porter Jr. ($6,400).
Also consider: CJ McCollum, POR ($7,900) @ DEN