1) Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks
FanDuel: $3,600, PG DraftKings: $3,800, PG/SG Yahoo: $10, PG FantasyDraft: $7,000, G
It is always nice to start with some extreme salary relief, and folks, this one is about as easy as they come since Luka Doncic has already been ruled out. I am briefly going to rattle off a few different sets of numbers here to show why Brunson is the best play on the slate, but I won’t waste too much time here.
1. Started all four games that Luka missed in December, averaging 30.7 minutes per game and 34.15 FD / 35.88 DK points per game.
2. Posted a 19.4% usage rate and 49.4% assist rate in those four games; his rates on the season are 20.1% (usage) and 27.1% (assist).
If he was in the $5ks, it’d be worth talking about him a little more. But since he is just $3,600 on FD and $3,800 on DK, what do you say we just move on?
(Tournament pivot: I really like pivoting to one of Brunson’s teammates, Seth Curry or J.J. Barea, as a tournament pivot. They are decent cheap values in their own right, but they also offer some leverage off of Brunson. If he fails for whatever reason, it is likely that at least one of these guys crushes their price tag. Curry is definitely my favorite of the two, but keep an eye on Projected Ownership to make sure his number isn’t too inflated. As for someone on the high-end, I would just keep going back to Damian Lillard until he slows down. Even with McCollum back the past two games, Dame’s usage and assist rates have still been sky high. And he has been out there 38+ minutes every game too due to how well he has been playing; Stotts just can’t afford to take him off of the floor. Since projection models take a longer look at things (besides just the last four games) and factor in matchups (Lakers are a top defensive team), Dame might not be as highly owned as you think he will be.)
2) Jonas Valanciunas, Memphis Grizzlies
FanDuel: $7,000, C DraftKings: $6,300, C Yahoo: $28, C FantasyDraft: $12,700, F/C
So let’s see here. We have the best game environment on the slate with a 241 total and New Orleans at -5.5. We have the Grizzlies missing two rotation players. For one, De’Anthony Melton is doubtful with a hand injury. But the one we really care about is in the frontcourt, as Jaren Jackson has been suspended for this game. For a team that is rather thin in the frontcourt, yeah, I’d say we are going to have some Valanciunas interest tonight.
JoVal has always been great on a per-minute basis, and this year is certainly no different. In his 45 games this season with the Grizzlies, he is at 1.27 FD / 1.31 DK points per minute thanks to a 22.3% usage rate, 21.1% rebound rate, and 12.1% assist rate. The FPPM rate ticks up slightly to 1.31 FD / 1.33 DK in 574 minutes without JJJ on the floor thanks to a marginal usage rate bump.
But let’s be real here: this is all about the increase in minutes he should see. On the season, he only averages 25.7 minutes per game. We have him projected for 31 minutes at the time I am writing this, and that automatically makes him a great cash game play, especially when you factor in this elite matchup. And honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the minutes get up to that 33-34 range due to their lack of bigs outside of him and Clarke.
So after locking in Brunson, I think we come next right to JoVal. And the best part is, we still have plenty of salary to spend for the rest of our roster.
(Tournament pivot: I think we should continue to target the ceiling of Andre Drummond in tournaments, as the price tag is below $10,000 now on both FD and DK. Nikola Jokic is priced right there with him too. The larger the field, the more I’d want to be on whichever of these two is projecting to be lower owned. These guys have ceilings in the 65-70 fantasy point range, and it is likely we see some depressed ownership on them (especially on a site like FD that only allows you to roster one center). They are two of my favorite tournament plays on the entire slate.)