OK, OK, OK. You are probably thinking why am I playing DFS for a meaningless game. After all, there is no model I can use to provide any sense of accuracy given that the minutes and usage projections will be a total shot in the dark and that these are teams that were put together by LeBron James and Kevin Durant just a couple of weeks ago. And of course we don't know how these players will interact with each other without any historical team data to consider.
Still, I am really feeling the long slumber of the winter sports seasons. The Super Bowl is over, we haven't had NBA DFS since last Thursday (I know, I am a DFS addict), I don't follow NHL, and I am still not quite ready to dive right into PGA (even though I love playing PGA DFS). To make matters worse, it seems that the MLB season won't start on time and the Winter Games were a total bore (so glad they are over today). There is March Madness around the corner which will whet our appetite for the spring sports season which I would argue is just as much fun as the month of October when all sports converge.
Until then, we will just need to wait until the NBA regular season resumes next Thursday to get some meaningful sports action. In the meantime, we could have some fun today with the NBA All Star Game (ASG). What better way to boost your engagement in a game that will feature 300+ points than to have a little bit of money on some of the players and potentially win $100,000? Of course winning $100,000 in the flagship DraftKings (DK) and FanDuel (FD) tournaments today is a huge longshot but we might as well try!
Here are some things to keep in mind if will play NBA DFS today.
Play small. Remember, it's an exhibition game with so much variability. I highly doubt any player will reach 30 minutes of playing time so the reserves are in play. The outcomes for today will be wildly unpredictable so just throw a little bit of action and count your lucky stars if you make money.
Narratives could matter. The game is in Cleveland so perhaps LeBron James will be extra motivated to play well. James was in middle school the last time Cleveland hosted the NBA ASG in 1997 so this is James' first and only chance to shine in this event in his hometown. After all, James has earned ASG MVP honors three times and has a chance to tie Kobe Bryant's record of four. Given that Bryant died two years ago and the ASG MVP award is appropriately named after him, James might have some extra motivation to tie his long and well respected rival.
Another narrative to consider is Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen playing in front of their home crowd. Occasionally home town players shine in the ASG and you can get both players for super cheap. I wouldn't grab both of them but one of them will enable you to load up on the starters.
- When deciding who will be the ASG MVP (and ultimately should be the person you put in the Captain/MVP spot on DK/FD), don't get too cute here. Since the NBA ASG started in 1951, only 13 bench players have won it. That means that ASG MVP award has been bestowed upon a starter 81.7% of the time. That frequency has been higher lately with 21 of the last 24 ASG MVP awards going to a starter or 87.5% of the time.
We all know about James' ASG success and he could very well win it again. Last year's recipient is Giannis Antetokounmpo and how can you go wrong with him. After all, he has been on a tear lately and was LeBron's first selection this year (and last year as well). I will cross off Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins. They seem to have their sites set on winning an NBA title and I don't see them being terribly motivated for the ASG. Maybe Wiggins could do something since he was drafted 1st overall by Cleveland back in 2014 and it seems that LeBron forced the front office's hand to trade Wiggins for Kevin Love. Still, that was a long time ago so I highly doubt Wiggins harbors any ill feelings about that trade.
That leaves us with six options if we don't go with the other four starters I just discussed: Nikola Jokic, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid, Trae Young, Ja Morant, and DeMar DeRozan. All of them are great and any one of them could put on a show. However, there are two I am eyeing: Morant and DeRozan. Morant has experienced a meteoric rise during his young career. He is now in his 3rd season and has seen huge improvements in all statistical categories. Memphis also has the 3rd best record in the NBA and I bet a lot of people don't know that. He is a tremendous athlete and is making his first NBA ASG appearance. Today's ASG could be his coming out party. DeRozan is another one I like. He recently established an NBA record for consecutive games with 35 or more points while shooting at least 50% from the field. DeRozan's record is current at 7 games and it broke Wilt Chamberlain's long time record of 6. That is very impressive when you consider all of the great NBA scorers who have come after Chamberlain and DeRozan has done it kind of unnoticed. Keep in mind that Morant and DeRozan were selected 4th and 5th after perennial All Stars like Giannis, Embiid, and Curry. Say what you want about LeBron's and Durant's personalities but they can spot talent.
- Make sure your roster is filled with mostly starters but that there is value to be had with the bench. LaMelo Ball is a favorite given his penchant for doing pretty much everything on the court. Similar to Morant, he is a one-man highlight reel and could put on a show in Cleveland today. Again, I also like the hometown players (Garland and Allen). Maybe Devin Booker could do something since he was the first reserve selected and has a high usage percentage. In a game where no defense is played, Booker will let the ball fly.
Hopefully I have given you some things to consider when constructing your lineups for today. Remember, be smart about Captain/MVP. Maybe LeBron as Captain/MVP but Giannis is a safer bet. Morant and DeRozan as Captain/MVP could give you the unique roster builds you need to finish in the money today. For the rest of your roster spots, stick with the starters who have the best chance of earning the most minutes and finishing the game. However, one bench player won't hurt but be judicious about that bench player.
Sample lineups are below. Good luck and enjoy the long weekend!