1) LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
FanDuel: $11,400, SF DraftKings: $9,900, PG/SF Yahoo: $49, PF FantasyDraft: $18,200, F/C
LeBron is the stud that I want to start cash game lineups with on our first NBAslate of the season.
To start things out, let’s look at some of his key numbers with the Lakers last season (a season without Anthony Davis, obviously). Per NBA Stats, he posted a 31.1% usage rate, 37.6% assist rate, and 11.4% rebound rate. That led to him posting 1.55 DK (1.48 FD) points per minute. The never-aging King also averaged a whopping 35 minutes per game last season.
Now obviously there has been a ton of roster turnover this season, so what we should expect out of him this season is going to require a little bit of guesswork (breaking news: it is going to look similar to what he has done his entire career). Luckily, we have four preseason games LeBron played in to help us figure things out. In those four games, LeBron posted a 28.4% usage rate (led the team), 44.6% assist rate (led the team), and 9% rebound rate. So ultimately, very similar numbers (albeit in a small sample) to what he put up last season.
There has been a lot of chatter this offseason that LeBron is “passing the torch to AD”. To me, that is honestly just a bunch of people trying to find something to talk about. The fact of the matter is that these two guys are going to overwhelmingly shoulder the offensive responsibility for this team.
With him expected to continue to do plenty of facilitating this season, I could easily see him posting an assist rate north of 40% for the year (it was 39.4% last season; 44.4% with the Cavs the year before). As for his usage, the last time it was below 30% was the ’04-’05 season. So to summarize, I think LeBron will continue to be the same ol’ LeBron this season that we are accustomed to.
As for his minutes, I think we can look to their preseason game on October 16th (the last preseason game he appeared in) as a sort of dress rehearsal for the regular season. In his first quarter stint, he played the first 10 minutes. In the second quarter, they brought him back in at the 7:40 mark before he was pulled with a minute to go before the half ended. He played the first eight minutes of the third quarter, and that would be his final action of the night.
So all in all, I think 32 minutes is the low end of the range of outcomes for Tuesday night, with 36+ being the high end. The high end seems much more likely on opening night and with them not playing again until Friday night at home.
As for the matchup against the Clippers, they played at the seventh fastest pace in the league last season and were bottom 10 in overall team defensive efficiency. Yes, Kawhi Leonard is on the team now, but it might surprise you to find out that he only ranked 36th out of 76 small forwards last season in defensive real plus-minus. As his offensive responsibilities have increased, his defensive prowess has declined a bit. Paul George (who won’t play on Tuesday), for comparison, ranked second in defensive real plus-minus at the small forward position.
On FD, where we are forced to roster two small forwards, LeBron looks like an easy choice despite an aggressive price tag. On DK (a site whose scoring system benefits star players even more so due to their bonuses and smaller deductions for turnovers), he is below $10,000. That is just too cheap for The King, and I think he is an easy fit on opening night across the industry.