What a time of the sports calendar! We’re in the heart of NFL season, and the World Series gets underway on Tuesday night, but we also get to sink our teeth into a two-game NBA slate before things really get going on Wednesday.
The Zion-less Pelicans will travel to Toronto to watch the Kawhi-less Raptors raise their first championship banner. But don’t worry, we’ll still get to see Kawhi make his Clippers debut afterwards, as he faces off against LeBron and Anthony Davis, as AD makes his Lakers debut. So yeah, this should be a fun night.
Speaking of fun things, we changed up the format of the cheat sheet this year. Rather than just focusing in on matchups, we’ll breakdown more spots to target, and try and give you the lay of the land at each position to best help you craft your lineup. Hopefully by the end of the article, you should have all the info you need to craft your NBA lineup for that evening’s slate, as long as you follow along with lineup news @DKLive
Here’s what you need to know about the two-game opening night slate (parenthesis still highlight that team’s defensive ranking versus position, and on these early slates will use numbers from last season):
Target worth paying up for:
Jrue Holiday ($7,900) vs. Toronto Raptors (9th)
Holiday finished up his regular season on a dominant stretch before shutting it down in early March. With Anthony Davis ($10,200) sporting purple and gold on this slate, Holiday will now be the man on this young and re-tooling Pelicans squad. Holiday was underpriced to begin with now that AD’s gone, averaging 43.6 DKFP last season. Now, factor in Zion’s absence, and Holiday should be one of the top plays on this slate, regardless of the tough matchup.
Best value:Fred VanVleet ($4,800) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (28th) Kawhi Leonard ($9,200) will also watch his former team play in the early game before he debuts for his third team in three seasons. The void he leaves opens up a lot of opportunities for pretty much every position on the Raptors. FVV played both guard positions during the championship run, and proved himself as a key cog on the Raptors. After playing 26.4 minutes per game last season (including the postseason), we could easily see FVV in the 32-35 minute range this season. His salary should rise over the next couple weeks if that’s the case, especially if he takes advantage of this cushy matchup to begin the season.
Positional StrategyPG doesn’t have much depth on this slate (although some SG/SF plays with PG eligibility help give some extra options), and with only two games, that means potentially playing two PGs from the same team — preferably that share the backcourt together at times. Holiday can be stacked with Lonzo Ball ($5,400), who gets a little boost just like the rest of the Pelicans without Zion. Ball gets a fresh start here, and has a revamped jump shot that could potentially help out his numbers from distance this year.
You can also consider stacking Raptors’ PGs by playing Kyle Lowry ($6,800) with VanVleet. Lowry averaged 38 DKFP in two meetings against New Orleans last season, and should see a noticeable uptick in opportunities with Leonard gone. While lacking size, these two logged plenty of minutes together during the postseason.
I’d consider stacking PGs from the same team more for GPPs, with Holiday and VanVleet being the only real cash options. You may only being playing two PGs on this slate, which is unusual given the value we generally see here.
Target worth paying up for:Lou Williams ($6,500) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (28th) Lou Will’s the SG to pay up for by default — outside of Holiday, he’s the most expensive option you can roster at SG. It’s going to be interesting to see how Williams’ scoring is effected by the addition of Kawhi (and eventually Paul George), but George’s absence does keep Williams as the clear-cut second scorer for now. This could be a position you just pay down at, but the upside on Lou Will is that he did average over 40 DKFP in four games against the Lakers last season.
Best value:Norman Powell ($4,000) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (29th) Powell should be one of the Raptors that benefits most from Kawhi’s exit. Guy’s like VanVleet will see a few extra minutes, but Powell was completely out of the rotation at times, and now has a legitimate role. When Powell’s forced into action, he generally produces — he played 30-plus minutes in two games in the series against the Bucks, scoring over 30 DKFP in each outing. If he plugs in for 30 minutes this season, he’s well over $1,000 underpriced to begin the season.
Positional StrategySG is probably the weakest position on the slate, and I anticipate many people will play just one (along with two PG). It’s pretty easy to construct your roster without a punt play here, though. Williams and Powell are both legit options, and Holiday and VanVleet can both be slotted in at SG as well.
If you need more value at this position with the lack of star power, I’d look anywhere but the Lakers. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($4,300), Avery Bradley ($4,100) and Danny Green ($5,300) all feel like part of a log jam of mediocre plays, none of which are safe in cash, since we just don’t know what this Lakers rotation will look like. J.J. Reddick ($4,900) and Landry Shamet ($4,200) are much more secure plays with roles we can trust, but you likely won’t want to work many SGs into your lineups.
Target worth paying up for:LeBron James ($9,900) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (27th) I think a lot of eyes are going to go to Kawhi since he’s facing the Lakers without George, but I actually prefer LeBron in this spot. I expect AD to be the more popular play on the Lakers, but that’s just over the hype of playing someone in a highly anticipated team debut. Let’s not forget LBJ is playing without Kyle Kuzma (foot), who’s the obvious third option on this team, and overlaps at the same position as James at times. Rajon Rondo’s ($5,100) questionable status also plays a factor. If Rondo is out or limited at all, LeBron could see even more time on the ball in this game.
Best value:JaMychal Green ($3,800) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (7th) It’s easy to forget that Green was playing a solid role for the Clippers down the stretch last season, and into that six-game series against the Warriors. He played 22 or more minutes in five of those six playoff games, and scored 23 or more DKFP in three of them. His role will diminish this season, especially in games both Kawhi and PG play, but for now, there’s not anybody on this roster that should steal his minutes when George is out. With sub-$4,000 value tough to find on a two-game opening night slate, Green should be very valuable.
Positional StrategyOG Anunoby ($3,900) is going to be the other value, and likely more chalky. OG figures to be in the mix more as a prototypical SF that can fill in some of the Kawhi minutes that have been lost. While I probably prefer Anunoby to Powell as a raw play, the SG eligibility for Powell could make him more valuable on this slate.
I expect SF to be mostly a pay all the way up or pay all the way down position. LeBron and Kawhi are the expensive options and Anunoby and Green the discounts. If you want to differentiate yourself and pay for an options in the middle, Brandon Ingram ($5,800) is the play. Ingram will likely see the majority of his minutes with the first unit, and had an efficient preseason with his new team.
Target worth paying up for:Pascal Siakam ($7,600) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (24th) It’s pretty obvious that Siakam, who really broke out already last season, is one of the top breakout players this season. As amazing as he way, he’ll be playing at that level more consistently now as Toronto’s best player. This feels like a very modest opening night salary for a guy that should easily average over 40 DKFP this season, and potentially closer to 50. The matchup against the Pelicans soft frontcourt without Zion is pretty much perfect for Siakam to get off to a hot start this season.
Best value:Derrick Favors ($5,600) vs. Toronto Raptors (11th) I’ve mentioned a million times that Zion is out. The question I haven’t answered is who that benefits most — and that’s Favors. He rarely saw more that 24 minutes in a game with Utah last season, and that could be right around what he plays when Williamson is healthy. But for now, New Orleans really needs Favors’ size up front, especially against all the bigs that Toronto will throw out there. Favors is in a prime spot to play over 30 minutes, which generally means 30-plus DKFP.
Positional StrategyPF is a super deep position on this slate. Favors should be a really chalky value play because of what we expect to be an expanded role, and guys like Anunoby, Green and Ingram all have PF eligibility if you want to play multiple values from the SF position. And that doesn’t include Serge Ibaka ($5,200), who I expect to see high ownership on this slate. While the price tag is right on Ibaka, Toronto didn’t play him more than 22 minutes in any game in the NBA Finals. I think if there’s any chalk to fade on this slate, it’s Ibaka.
Target worth paying up for:Anthony Davis ($10,200) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (14th) AD will be playing PF for the Lakers this season, but he’s by far the most expensive center option. I won’t argue with you if you want to roster AD, but I mentioned earlier that LeBron is my preference. Davis is going to be playing around some legit rebounders, which could impact his numbers slightly, and we also have to continue to be worried about the injury narrative — he did it again in preseason with his thumb injury. I’d prefer the savings on Siakam here, but there is intriguing upside here, since it feels like the Lakers will do everything they can to feature AD as the prime option.
Best value:Marc Gasol ($5,500) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (23rd) Give me Gasol over Ibaka, and I don’t even think it’s close. Gasol played at least 26 minutes in each NBA Finals game, and even though this is a new season, I think it speaks to which veteran big the Raptors want to feature. Gasol’s the more well-rounded player, and as the better fantasy player, the extra minutes give him much more upside than Ibaka. As is the case for all of Toronto’s bigs, the matchup is ideal against New Orleans.
Positional StrategyThere are plenty of ways you can go at center, and the price points really allow you to play the guys you like at other positions, and then fill in what works here. Gasol, Ibaka and Favors give us mid-priced value, and that doesn’t include JaVale McGee ($4,800) and Ivica Subac ($4,700), who are viable GPP plays. AD give us a spot to pay all the way up, while Siakam’s the more affordable stud. And if you need extreme value, Jahlil Okafor ($3,200) is at least going to see minutes, and is a capable scorer and rebounded in the paint.
Key news to monitor on DK Live:Paul George (shoulders) OUT
Zion Williamson (knee) OUT
Kyle Kuzma (foot) OUT
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (groin) OUT
Patrick McCaw (knee) OUT
Rajon Rondo (calf) QUESTIONABLE
Quinn Cook (calf) PROBABLE
Alex Caruso (pelvis) PROBABLE
Get all the latest news and analysis up until lock @DKLive
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.