We get a short slate tonight after a large one last night and boy was last night weird. Nikola Jokic was poised to be the top scorer of the slate until it was announced 10 minutes after the 4 PM PT lock that he was feeling ill (non-COVID) and could be rested. Ultimately he was ruled out about an hour later. DeMarcus Cousins became the most logical substitution for Jokic as he was facing a weak Houston defense but the problem is that it was very difficult to upgrade the other positions with several other games having already started. That severely limited your upgrade options with the salary savings Cousins gave you. I sometimes wish teams would be more transparent about players who might miss a game and try to announce any inactives at least 30 minutes before lock.
Also, some of the players you think would do well last night did not. For example, Donovan Mitchell, Gary Trent Jr., and Will Barton all had soft matchups but combined for 11 for 40 from the field and 5 for 26 from 3 point range. Ouch! We should have just stuck with Cameron Payne and one of his teammates and then upgraded to SGA. Oh well!
The best we can do is to just move on and accept the fickle nature of NBA DFS. Tonight's slate is nearly half the size as last night's with just one early game between Sacramento and Dallas and five others games ranging from 4 PM PT to 5:30 PM PT lock times. Two of them have blow outs written all over them: ORL@MEM and POR@MIN. The Grizzlies should have no problem disposing of the Magic who are on the 2nd half of a BTB set and have to travel from Toronto to Memphis. Portland has been getting destroyed lately thanks to the G League squad they have decided to put on the court. Seriously, they should not be allowed to compete in the NBA with their current roster. They have lost by at least 30 points in their last 3 games albeit to Western Conference playoff contenders. The Blazers get another playoff contender in Minnesota who should be well rested after beating OKC by 37 points last night. Plus Minnesota plays at home.
Miami - Philadelphia could be an interesting matchup with the top two teams in Eastern Conference squaring off in what could be a potential Eastern Conference Finals. Also, if you have read my earlier articles this week, I am in love with the Embiid-Harden duo. However, both teams play at ridiculously slow paces with Philadelphia ranked 27th in pace and Miami 29th. Both teams also boast top 10 defenses and should have full health for most of the typical starters with several of them priced very high on both DK and FD. This screams "stay away game" for me.
That leaves us with two games where we should build some stacks: SAS@CHA and GSW@LAL. Both point totals are high with close spreads. Sure, players from those games will be popular but if you pick the right pieces, you could see yourself at the top of the leader board once the final second ticks off in the final game of the slate.
Let's start with the table that shows my model's outputs as well as the top 5 optimal lineups for DK and FD. Click on the link below for the model's outputs and of course the images below show the best possible lineups using my model.
Now, let's provide narratives for each position. As usual, the focus will be for FD but you can apply any of this analysis to DK as well.
PG: Stephen Curry and LaMelo Ball
The model loves both Curry and LeBron James and it should. Whenever the Warriors and Lakers square off, both Curry and LeBron put on a show. In fact, this rivalry dates back to 2015 when the Warriors and Cavs faced each other in the first of their four consecutive NBA Finals. We have seen some subpar games lately from both Curry and LeBron but they seem to find another gear when they play each other. With the GSW@LAL matchup being the last game of the slate, Curry could be the late night hammer you need to move all the way to 1st place in your GPP. The Lakers defense has not been great lately dropping from 10th in defensive efficiency at the start of Janaury to 16th right now. They also play at the 4th fastest pace in the NBA. With no concerns about Anthony Davis being a fierce defender in the paint and perimeter, Curry and company should do well offensively.
Ball is another guard who has not produced lately so he is due. Like the Lakers, the Spurs defense has recently sputtered dropping to the bottom 10 and they play at the next fastest pace at 5th. Just look at what DeAaron Fox did to San Antonio two nights ago: 26 points on 10 for 20 shooting from the field, 6 boards, 9 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. That was good for a 58.7 fantasy point night. Ball can do the same and a 60+ fantasy point night means we are getting 7-8x value. There are other Hornets who could shine such as Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges but I would rather take Ball on his best day than those two other guys at their peak performance.
SG: Anfernee Simons and Klay Thompson
Thompson is more of a correlation play with Curry (0.24 correlation coefficient which is decent for DFS purposes). You could roster Cole Anthony for the same price but I am concerned about the blow out potential in Memphis and I think Anthony will have weak legs having traveled internationally last night from Toronto after a hard fought victory there. Going back to Thompson, I think the Splash Brothers will be in full effect tonight against a suspect Lakers defense and a fast paced game environment. They could easily combine for 75-80 fantasy points tonight and in fact they have done so 9 times out of the 18 games Thompson has played this season. Their combined salaries on FD is $15.4K so we are looking at a minimum of 5x value if you stack them both. Anything more will be gravy so ride the gravy train!
As for Simons, this is more due to the huge usage boost he gets with Josh Hart and Jusuf Nurkic out tonight. Since Hart joined the Blazers on Feb. 9, Simons has had a usage percentage of 30%. His usage jumps to 38% when both Hart and Nurkic are off the court since Feb. 9. Of course that is a small sample size but with Minnesota playing on consecutive nights and ranking in the middle with defensive efficiency while ranking very high with pace (3rd), Simons could easily reach 6x or 7x value at a salary of just $6.7K on FD.
SF: CJ Elleby and Taurean Prince
These two players are mainly for cost saving purposes. Elleby should get good run tonight. Since joining the Blazers starting rotation on Feb. 4, he has averaged about 30 minutes per game with a usage percentage close to 15%. He gets a 3% usage boost with Hart and Nurkic off the court. True, Elleby has had some clunkers lately but he has also had some decent games flirting with double digits in points and rebounds. Throw in a few assists and 0 or 1 turnovers and we should get a 25-30 fantasy point night out of him. At a salary of $3.9K, that works for me.
I like Prince (as well as the deceased musician who was also from Minnesota!) given his recent success off the Timberwolves bench. He is playing about 20 minutes per game and averaging about 25 fantasy points per game. That is awesome value given that he is at the minimum salary for FD. As I already mentioned, Portland looks like a JV squad right now so if the Blazers starters are truly bench players, then the Blazers bench players are truly G League or amateur level athletes. Just look at how the top bench players have done for Portland's opponents in the last three games. You could also go with Naz Reid but I have someone else in mind for center (keep reading). Elijah Hughes is another option at the FD minimum salary but I don't feel comfortable rostering three Blazers player. Two is enough!
PF: LeBron James and Jarred Vanderbilt
I have already begun singing LeBron's praises during my analysis of Curry. Bottom line is that we need an anchor for our DFS lineups and with so few stars and the super slow pace expected between Miami and Philadelphia as well as blow out potential for Memphis and Minnesota, LeBron is your guy. Plus he is getting a ton of usage and FG attempts with Anthony Davis out. Finally, LeBron just plays at a whole other level when he is motivated by the opponent. The Warriors have given him fits for most of the 2nd half of his career so you can bet that LeBron will have a very strong game in front of the LA home crowd tonight.
Vanderbilt is another salary savings play here. While I don't feel terribly comfortable rostering starters who might see the court for just 20 - 25 minutes should the game get out of hand by the 3rd quarter, we are getting Vanderbilt at just $4.2 K and he only needs to get us some boards and defensive stats to hit value. Given how inferior and undersized the Portland frontcourt has become, I am sure he will get about 10 boards and 4-5 combined blocks/steals. With FD's generous scoring for blocks/steals that is already 25 fantasy points and that is not including any real points and assists he can muster for us. D'Russ and KAT won't hit value in limited time but Vanderbilt can.
C: Jakob Poeltl
This article would not be complete if we did not talk about the other star player who can shine for us in what should be a high scoring affair between Charlotte and San Antonio. While you could take Dejounte Murray, his price is quite high and he has not quite hit 6x value lately. Plus Charlotte's interior defense is awful so we will want the starting big man for San Antonio. For a while I was claiming that Sacramento had the worst interior defense in the NBA but that dubious distinction now belongs to Charlotte. Of course Murray needs to do well for Poeltl to have a good game and I think that should happen. As long as Murray is flirting with a triple double (but not scoring too much since we are fading him), Poeltl should be on the receiving end of many of Murray's assists. Plus Charlotte shoots a lot and misses a lot which means plenty of defensive rebounds for Poeltl. I firmly believe Poeltl could break the slate tonight with a 60 fantasy point outing.
There you have it! Warriors-Lakers stack with name recognition and the right pieces in the Hornets-Spurs matchup. Throw in some value plays in the POR-MIN game and we have what could be a very profitable DFS roster. Enjoy your Saturday and good luck!