Monday’s fantasy basketball Tiers slate has nine games. For up-to-the-minute news, analysis and lineups, download the DK Live app, as NBA news, injury reports and betting lines on DraftKings Sportsbook can change throughout the day. There also can be unexpected late lineup changes and late injury news, making it important to stay up to the minute with the DK Live app until lineups lock.
Here are some rankings and thoughts on three different tiers today in Tiers contests on DraftKings:
James Harden, HOU vs. DAL
Russell Westbrook, OKC vs. POR
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL at CHI
Harden is the most obvious choice in the group, although there are some red flags fantasy owners should take note of.
First, Harden banged up his shoulder in Saturday’s game. Harden was visibly bothered by the shoulder injury throughout the second half and had his shoulder wrapped while on the bench. His shooting efficiency wasn’t quite the same in the second half, shooting 4-of-12 from the field and 2-of-8 from 3. The Rockets expect Harden to play on Monday despite the injury, but Harden’s minutes could be monitored. Download the DK Live app for up-to-the-minute news on Harden’s status.
Harden’s usage rate is sliding back down closer to where it was prior to Chris Paul’s hamstring injury. Over his past five games, four of which included Paul in the lineup, Harden’s usage rate is 38 percent, down from 45 percent during games that Paul missed, and not far off from the 37 percent it was prior to Paul’s injury.
Harden has been less of a creator over his past five, creating 10 potential assists per game, down from 16 per game during Paul’s absence. Paul is creating 15 potential assists over that timeframe, taking away some of the passing and assist volume from Harden.
All that said, Harden is still the best play in the tier, barring he is not limited due to the shoulder issue, but fantasy owners should take note of the recent trend down in his volume with Paul returning.
Despite having one of the worst shooting seasons of his career, Westbrook is having the best facilitating season of his career, creating a league-best 20.5 potential assists per game, five more per game than anybody else. Westbrook is creating 27 points per game off assists this year, his best since the league began tracking that statistic in 2013. It’s translated into 11 assists per game, about an assist more per game than his previous season best.
Part of the reason for Westbrook’s bump in assist volume is due to the fast play of the Thunder, as they’re playing about 104 possessions per 48 minutes this year, seven more possessions than they averaged last season and six more than the 98 possessions per 48 minutes the Thunder averaged in Westbrook’s MVP season. The increase in possessions gives Westbrook more opportunities to create points.
Westbrook faces a Portland team that has mediocre pace-adjusted defensive numbers but has been excellent on the glass, ranking as the second best rebounding team by the percentage of missed shots it rebounds. In two previous games against Portland this year, Westbrook is averaging 60 DKFP.
Antetokounmpo rested his sore knee Saturday, giving him the weekend off. Of note, the Bucks added Nikola Mirotic at the trade deadline, an excellent move that will help Antetokounmpo whenever Mirotic is ready to return from a calf injury. Mirotic’s outside shooting presence gives the Bucks another big to space the floor, pulling bigger defenders out of the paint and creating less traffic and more basket clearance for Antetokounmpo, who is one of the league’s most vicious threats at the rim due to his length and athleticism. Fantasy owners can monitor Mirotic’s status on Monday with up-to-the-minute news from the DK Live app.
Antetokounmpo has a matchup against the Bulls, who have a worse-than-average team defense and rank as the fourth worst rebounding team by the percentage of missed shots they rebound. The issue with the matchup is it has blowout risk, which could cut into Antetokounmpo’s volume.
Paul George, OKC vs. POR
Nikola Jokic, DEN vs. MIA
Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN vs. LAC
Kemba Walker, CHA at IND
George has been on fire lately, averaging 60 DKFP over his past nine in part due to an uptick in usage, sitting at a 32 percent usage rate over those games, up from 29 percent previously. In two games against Portland this year, George is averaging 58.5 DKFP.
Towns has a matchup against the Clippers, who have allowed the seventh most points to opponents and gave up 52.5 DKFP to Towns in their only meeting this season, but the Clippers made a series of trades prior to the trade deadline that has shifted their starting lineup. In particular, Ivica Zubac, who the Clippers acquired from the Lakers, started at center in the Clippers’ most recent game. Zubac grades as a better-than-average defensive center by defensive real plus-minus. Zubac has held opponents to just 55 percent shooting on shots within five feet of the basket, which ranks as one of the best among centers.
The only other starting center with a better field goal percentage against shooters within five feet of the basket is Hassan Whiteside, who has held opponents to 54 percent shooting in that zone. That’s who Jokic faces off against as the Nuggets take on a Heat team that has limited opponents to the third fewest points per game this season on the back of the sixth best pace-adjusted team defense combined with a slow pace.
Both Denver and Miami like to play slow, with each team ranking in the bottom seven in pace. The most recent time these two teams played, the Nuggets played just 93 possessions, five less than the Nuggets’ season average of about 98 possessions per 48 minutes.
Despite that, Jokic had strong success in this matchup, scoring 63 DKFP after recording a 29-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double. Jokic didn’t have issues issues in the paint, shooting 3-of-4 on shots within five feet of the basket while doing most of his scoring damage in the 5-to-9 foot range, knocking down 6-of-9 shots in that zone. Jokic made 10-of-14 shots in the paint against the Heat in that matchup.
Walker is easily the least appealing play in the tier and is distantly behind the other three, as he draws a tough matchup against a Pacers team that has allowed the fewest points to opponents. The Pacers have held Walker to 40 DKFP per game in two games this year, three less than his season average of 43 DKFP per game.
Chris Paul, HOU vs. DAL
Zach LaVine, CHI vs. MIL
Kyle Lowry, TOR vs. BKN
Marc Gasol, TOR vs. BKN
Kenneth Faried, HOU vs. DAL
Eric Bledsoe, MIL at CHI
Lou Williams, LAC at MIN
Montrezl Harrell, LAC at MIN
James Harden (shoulder) is expected to play Monday, but if the Rockets do hold him out, Paul would be in line for a substantial boost in volume. Paul’s usage rate rises from 18 percent in minutes with Harden on the court to 28 percent in minutes with Harden off the court this year, which would give Paul more clearance for shot and assist volume. Download the DK Live app for up-to-the-minute news on Harden’s status.
Gasol, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Grizzlies, should give the Raptors a new element to their offense with his presence at the elbows. Gasol led the league in elbow touches per game and passes from the elbow per game prior to his trade to the Raptors, where he can facilitate with his passing, especially to cutters to the basket.
However, Gasol came off the bench in his Raptors’ debut, scoring 21 DKFP in only 19 minutes. All 19 minutes Gasol played were staggered from starting center Serge Ibaka, as Gasol played zero minutes on the court with Ibaka. It’s not clear what type of role Gasol will play Monday, which makes him risky. Fantasy owners can get up-to-the-minute news from the DK Live app regarding the Raptors’ starting five.
If Gasol comes off the bench again, his fantasy production will be a candidate to suffer due to the reduced role. If he starts and plays a normal minute load, he has a good matchup against a Nets team that has struggled against centers this year. Gasol averaged 44 DKFP in two games against the Nets while he was in Memphis.
LaVine draws a difficult matchup against a lengthy Bucks defense that ranks as the best defense in the league on a possession-adjusted basis. LaVine has faced the Bucks twice previously and has shot inefficiently, shooting just 37 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3, but has found fantasy success regardless with 39 DKFP per game.
Bledsoe’s matchup with the Bulls has substantial blowout risk, as the Bucks lead the league in possession-adjusted point differential, outscoring opponents by 9.5 points per 100 possessions, while the Bulls rank third worst, being outscored by 8.7 points per 100 possessions by opponents.
Faried has been a steady, solid fantasy contributor since being moved into the Rockets’ starting lineup nine games ago, averaging 37 DKFP per game while scoring no less than 31.5 DKFP in any start. Faried has recorded a double-double in four straight games and seven of his nine starts with the Rockets. Faried faces the Mavericks, who have blown up their starting five, trading away four of their five primary starters recently, which makes using their season statistics more cloudy.
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