Sorry for no NBA DFS articles since last Saturday. My real job has kept me busy but there have also been so many last minute changes with the starting lineups and active status of key players that any early analysis becomes futile.
Today we have a much more manageable slate with just 4 games and there only three somewhat high end players with questionable tags: Malcolm Brogdon, Seth Curry, and Cade Cunningham. There is no Ja Morant so we will have plenty of value plays with the Memphis Grizzlies, especially against a weak team like Indiana. Kevin Durant is expected to be chalk and you would be foolish to fade him. The key for winning cash tonight is finding that one mid-priced player who pops off and is not heavily owned (under 30%). Seth Curry was that guy last Thursday when we had just a 2 game slate. Who will that guy be tonight?
As usual, here is the table that shows my model's outputs as well as the top 10 optimal lineups for DK and FD. Click on the link below for the model's predictions and of course the images below show the best possible lineups using my model.
Let's now break down this slate by position. The focus will be for FanDuel but this analysis can also be applied to DK.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Tyus Jones
We have major savings with Lowry. He is a player usually priced in the $7-8K range (currently $6.6K on DK and $6.2K on FD) and Lowry tends to remind all of us of his NBA All Star talent after a few mediocre games. Keep in mind that Lowry missed 4 games from 2/28 - 3/5 due to personal reasons and is just getting back into the swing of things with 4 games under his belt since 3/7. Prior to Lowry's most recent absence, he was playing well with 4 games of at least 32.6 FD fantasy points from 2/10 - 2/26. Prior to 2/10, Lowry was just returning from a recent injury and it took him 4-5 games to finally get back to his usual self. I believe tonight is that night that Lowry has a solid game against perennial doormat Detroit.
As for Jones, that one is easy. No Morant so take his understudy. Of course Jones will be highly owned but it's OK to eat some chalk, especially at Jones' super cheap price on both DK and FD. Will Jones light the world on fire? I doubt it. Will he take advantage of his opportunity to start and play nearly 30 minutes? You bet! I expect Jones to score about 15-16 points, get 7-8 assists, and 4-5 rebounds. That should get us to 30 fantasy points and a nice 7-8x value on both DK and FD.
SG: CJ McCollum, Bruce Brown
McCollum returns after a 2 game absence and his timing couldn't be better with the Pelicans hanging onto the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. What makes McCollum especially enticing and a better option than Kyrie Irving is the fact that Brandon Ingram is still out. That means a ton of usage for McCollum. When McCollum first joined New Orleans after the trade deadline, he was putting up solid numbers averaging 26 points per game while shooting 51.8% from the field and doing OK with the peripheral stats (5.7 rpg and 6.1 apg). McCollum has played even better in his last 2 games without Ingram: 32 ppg, 56.3% FG shooting, and 9.5 apg. His usage hovers around 35% with Ingram off the floor so expect more of the same tonight with Phoenix traveling to the Big Easy in what could be a potential first round match.
Brown is a no-brainer with Seth Curry officially ruled out. Clearly we are going to roster Kevin Durant given that his ownership will be above 90% tonight as the only stud on the slate. Batman needs Robin and similarly Durant needs a sidekick. True, Irving is eligible to play but I am not going to pay $10K on FD for Robin (those are Batman prices). Bruce Brown is a more reasonable option given that he should see 30+ minutes, attempt 10-12 FGs, and contribute in other ways such as assists and rebounds. In 4 of Brown's last 5 games (which has coincided with Durant's return), Brown has scored at 35.9 FD fantasy points. If Brown does the same tonight, we are looking at 6.3x value. The only game Brown did not come close to that value was against Philadelphia and that is when Seth Curry had a spectacular game against his former team. Again, no Curry so get Brown in there.
SF: Kevin Durant, Saddiq Bey
Play Durant. Period.
Bey, however, is not an obvious play and some people will be afraid to play him. After all, Detroit is the 3rd worst team in the NBA and Bey has been incredibly inconsistent, or so it seems. When Cade Cunningham doesn't play, Bey's numbers improve significantly. I bet you probably didn't know that. As of right now, Cunningham is questionable but I think he doesn't play since he suddenly felt ill this morning. Sounds like the same situation with Andrew Wiggins last night so I think Detroit will err on the side of caution. There have been 14 games where Cunningham was out and Bey played. Bey averaged 19 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1 spg, 0.4 spg, and shot better from the field. Bey also played an average 36 minutes per game. However, with Cunningham in the starting lineup, Bey's numbers go down. He plays 3 fewer minutes per game, shoots worse, and averages 15 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1 spg, 0.2 bpg. In terms of FD fantasy points, Bey is averaging 36.98 FD fantasy points when Cunningham is in street clothes. With Cunningham on the court, Bey's FD fantasy points per game drops to 27.62. At a salary of $5.7K on FD (similar salary on DK), the FD ratio is 4.9x and 6.5x between Cunningham on and off the court, respectively. How do we differentiate our lineups tonight and reach the cash line? With Bey!
PF: Jaren Jackson, Marvin Bagley III
Jackson is all about opportunity and matchup. Jackson tends to benefit greatly with Morant off the court with a usage % of 30.7% which represents a boost of 5.2% from his normal usage %. Also, Indiana does not have the size nor the speed to handle Jackson who should feast on the Pacers's inferior frontcourt defense. In case you don't know, Jackson is 6'11" and 242 lbs. Brissett is 6'7" and 210 lbs while Jackson is 6'10" and 205 lbs. And Goga Bitadze is out tonight. Jackson will have a huge game tonight and could break the slate.
Bagley is a bit of an enigma. Some games he looks incredible where he can put up 20 pts and 10 rebounds in under 25 minutes of playing time and other nights he just disappears with low usage. He has so much potential if he is used the right way. I think Detroit is correct with having Bagley come off the bench since he is not listed as the starter tonight. Bagley's best games in Sacramento were off the bench during his rookie year. With Bey leading the way with Detroit's first unit, expect Bagley to do the same with the bench. Bagley will get his minutes and production and you might get low ownership with him listed as a non-starter.
C: Wendell Carter Jr.
We end this article with another big man from Duke. Like Bagley, Carter has so much potential to dominate in the paint and lately Carter has been Orlando's main scoring threat. Brooklyn's interior defense is nothing special, especially with LaMarcus Aldridge out. Also, Orlando will be without Jalen Suggs which means more scoring opportunities for Carter. You may want to check out the month-by-month splits for Carter. He has been coming on strong with each passing month and his post All Star break numbers are way better than the pre-break stats. He is seeing more playing time, getting FG attempts, scoring more points, and pulling down more boards. Except for 1 game earlier this month against New Orleans, Carter has had a double-double in all other games since the All Star break. That frequency was near 50% before the break. Orlando is still trying to forge an identity and something tells me that the Magic front office is planning on having Carter become the centerpiece of their frontcourt offense. He should put on a good show tonight against Durant.
There you have it! Durant is an obvious play, especially against one of the worst teams in the NBA. Bey will make all the difference with low ownership and solid production. Pair Bey with Bagley, Durant with Brown, and Jones with Jackson. Lowry, McCollum, and Carter are your one-off pieces. Good luck!