NBA DFS picks 08/18/20

THE CORE

1) James Harden, Houston Rockets

FanDuel: $11,500, SG DraftKings: $11,700, PG/SG Yahoo: $55, SG

By now, we all know the story whenever Russell Westbrook is out. It is a one page book, with one paragraph, one sentence, and three words: Play James Harden.

I can simply list a few relevant statistics that will show why Harden, even at increased price tags from what we saw in the seeding games, is still too cheap.

1. In 1,055 minutes with Westbrook off the court this season, Harden has gotten 1.72 FD / 1.81 DK points per minute.

2. In 155 minutes with Westbrook off the court in the seeding games, Harden got 1.99 FD / 2.10 DK points per minute. (!!!)

3. In 55 games this season with Westbrook, Harden averaged 55.9 FD / 58.2 DK points per game. In the 13 games without Westbrook, he averaged 62.5 FD / 66.9 DK points per game.

And what is even better is that it is likely that Harden is going to be out there for around 40 minutes tonight. He averaged 36.5 minutes per game this season but was regularly up in the high 30’s in competitive games. He averaged 38.5 minutes per game during last year’s playoffs, but they had the luxury of giving him more of a breather with Chris Paul around. With Westbrook out for this game (and what sounds like at least a few more), I think D’Antoni has no choice but to roll Harden out there for 40ish minutes tonight.

All of that leads to Harden being an absolute must in cash games, even at the most expensive price tag on the slate. Remember, expensive players can still be good “values”. And Harden is arguably the best value on the slate.

(Tournament pivot: We should be able to count on Harden to play a ton of minutes. The same goes for the two studs on the Lakers. And everyone got so used to rostering Dame at the end of the seeding games since we could always count on him playing a ton of minutes. Sooooo is everyone just going to overlook Giannis Antetokounmpo on this slate then? The Bucks should have a cakewalk in the first round against Orlando, and they are double-digit favorites in Game 1. So it is quite possible that we see the same thing we saw so much during the regular season: Giannis crushing per-minute but not getting as much run as we would like. But remember, Giannis is easily the best per-minute player in the league, getting 1.86 FD / 1.95 DK points per minute this season. Can you imagine the ceiling if he plays mid 30’s minutes AND also performs a bit above expectation? It’s probably 75-80 fantasy points. Now I don’t know if he will actually go overlooked on this slate, but I feel confident in saying that he won’t have massive ownership or anything. Harden being without Westbrook will soak up so much ownership by himself, and there is only so much salary to go around. But the best time to play Giannis is whenever you think he might sniff normal minutes. And even though they are big favorites again, it’s also the playoffs. At some point, Bud is going to have to extend his leash a little bit.)

DRAFTKINGS-SPECIFIC PLAY

Goran Dragic, Miami Heat

FanDuel: $5,700, PG DraftKings: $4,400, PG Yahoo: $21, PG

Well, it sure seems safe to say that the hiatus did Dragic some good. Take a look at these rates pre and post hiatus.

Pre hiatus: 1,532 minutes, 25.6% usage rate, 29.4% assist rate, 1.01 DK points per minute

Post hiatus: 132 minutes, 27.3% usage rate, 33.7% assist rate, 1.32 DK points per minute

A combination of his stellar play (in addition to his experience, of course) and Kendrick Nunn having to leave the bubble for a bit (and his, shall we say, less than stellar play) has resulted in Spo already announcing that Dragic is going to start in Nunn’s place. On top of that, Spo has said he is going to want Dragic at 30+ minutes during the playoffs (averaged 28.2 this season).

So even though he will be out on the court more often with higher usage guys like Jimmy and Bam, $4,400 for 30 minutes of Dragic makes him very much underpriced. I think he is the best source of salary relief on the DK slate and is a must if you want to roster guys like Harden.

(Tournament pivot: My assumption is that guys like Dragic and Fultz will be popular cheap point guard plays today on DK, so I love pivoting to Eric Bledsoe($5,400) in tournaments. Just like I alluded to up above when discussing Giannis, these main Bucks guys are going to have to get playoff-ready sooner rather than later. They are lucky in that they basically get an extra series to do that since they are so much better than the Magic. And Bledsoe has been even more behind than others due to him getting COVID during the hiatus and arriving to the bubble late (and who knows the physical ramifications the virus might have caused). But what that has done, when combined with his mediocre fantasy performances in the seeding games, is keep the price tag down. Even in 28-30 minutes—and even sharing the court with Giannis—Bledsoe can get you 40+ DK points when he is going right. That would do great on its own, of course, but it would look even better if the cheaper, chalkier guys like Dragic and/or Fultz fail in a big way.)

FANDUEL/YAHOO-SPECIFIC PLAY

Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

FanDuel: $10,000, PF DraftKings: $10,400, PF/C Yahoo: $48, PF

The looser pricing on FD and Yahoo is going to result in you comfortably being able to get another stud in with Harden, and I have my sights set on AD being that guy.

As I have often said in this space, AD is a slightly better fantasy asset on FD compared to DK since you get +3 for steals/blocks (stonks?). His per-minute rate on FD this season is 1.48, while it is 1.46 on DK. Other secondary factors are in play too, such as the sites’ overall salary caps and their positional requirements.

With FD having a $60,000 salary cap (and DK being at $50,000), the $10,000 price tag on FD makes him a far better value there than on DK (where he is $10,400). And since FD forces you to roster two power forwards, AD is sticking out as clearly the best play.

And remember, you are likely to see the minutes on all of these studs tick up in the playoffs. AD was already landing around 35 minutes during the regular season in competitive games, so I am guessing we see that tick up into the upper 30’s with the playoffs upon us.

A roughly 1.48 FD-points-per-minute rate combined with upper 30’s minutes is already going to make him a great play, but you can make the argument that his efficiency should even tick up a bit against this Blazers team that has been hopeless defensively in the bubble. Their 120.4 defensive rating in the eight seeding games was 20th out of the 22 teams, and let’s not forget either that they let Memphis get 122 points on them in the play-in game.

Their solution? Start Wenyen Gabriel to guard AD! Best of luck fella…you are going to need it.

(Tournament pivot: If you want to build lineups on FD without AD at power forward, then you will be forced to go cheaper at this position and hope the salary savings can be put to better use at other positions. Guys like Adebayo and Covington (who are the next two most expensive power forwards on FD) will garner their fair share of ownership after AD, but I think you might want to give Aaron Gordon ($6,600) a shot in large-field GPP’s (assuming he plays of course) if you want to be unique. His Q tag and Clifford saying “he isn’t quite 100% yet” should lead to really low ownership even though he is playing the first game of the day. The profit potential is there if he can get out there for normal minutes, but that remains to be seen. If he is ultimately ruled out, I would lean towards whomever is the lower owned of that Adebayo/Covington duo. Ownership being equal, I’d very much prefer Adebayo of the two though.)



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