Injuries to star players are never a good thing, but, at the very least, we have some early clarity for tonight’s eight-game featured slate on DraftKings. There will be no sweating the late swap with Russell Westbrook ($10,800), Stephen Curry ($9,800) or Draymond Green ($7,800) as all three have already been ruled out of this evening’s proceedings. So, while that’s not ideal from a pure entertainment prospective, it’s much appreciated from a lineup construction point of view. Really, the latter’s more important anyway, right?
Jrue Holiday, NO vs. PHO ($8,500) — As the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Holiday has been phenomenal over his past six games, contests he’s been able to play as the lone ball-handler in the starting lineup. Elfrid Payton ($5,400) hasn’t played since Oct. 27 and, in that time, Holiday has seen his numbers jump across the board. The 28-year-old is seeing a massive 96.8 touches per game — a number that leads all Western Conference players in this specific span. Holiday is also putting up 18.3 potential assists a night, trailing only Chris Paul ($7,600) in that regard. This level of hyper-involvement has translated to Holiday averaging 46.0 DKFP in games that Payton is unavailable. The former Magic guard is again questionable tonight, so keep an eye.
Other Options — John Wall ($8,800), De’Aaron Fox ($7,100)
Quinn Cook, GS vs. BKN ($4,200) — Welcome to Chalksville. It’s a lovely rural town where the prices are cheap, but the ownership isn’t doing anyone any favors. Look, I’m not breaking any news by telling you that Cook is a good play Saturday night. It’s already been announced that he’ll be replacing Curry in the starting lineup and we saw this exact script play out 18 times just last season. In fact, not only did Cook put up acceptable surface numbers while filling in in 2017-18 — averaging 14.6 points and 3.9 assists per game — he did so at pretty amazing efficiency. In those 18 starts, Cook shot 47.1 percent from distance, equating out to a .602 true shooting rate. Really, the only downside here is the opposition. The Nets, who ran at the sixth-fastest pace a year ago, are now operating at the league’s sixth-slowest. It’s not enough to ignore Cook on “Free Space” night, though.
Other Options — Collin Sexton ($4,900)
Zach LaVine, CHI vs. CLE ($8,100) — There are only five players in the NBA with a usage rate above 33.0 percent: James Harden ($9,600), Giannis Antetokounmpo, Devin Booker ($8,300), Westbrook and the Bulls’ LaVine. That’s some pretty exclusive and ball-dominant company to be keeping. Who else is going to take shots on this injury-rattled iteration of Chicago, though? LaVine is averaging 27.4 field goal attempts per 100 possessions so far this season, with the score-first guard having taken at least 20 shots in four of his last five games. Now, the efficiency of those shots is not always great, but that’s where the Cavaliers come in to the conversation. Cleveland has the worst defensive rating the NBA, while also allowing opponents to shoot a league-high 50.3 percent against them. Seems like a good spot to attack in DFS.
Other Options — Dennis Schroder ($7,000), Klay Thompson ($6,800)
Jordan Clarkson, CLE at CHI ($5,100) — It’s difficult to make a clear case of causation from a one-game sample, but allow me to try. We all know Clarkson isn’t your prototypical point guard. In fact, at best, he’d be optimistically referred to as a “combo guard.” Anyway, with the services of George Hill on Wednesday, Clarkson was forced into that distributor role in Cleveland’s second-unit, with the rookie Sexton moving into the starting five — and he did it well. Despite averaging only 3.8 potential assists per game on the season as a whole, Clarkson racked up 16 against the Thunder. He was also second on the team in minutes and tied J.R. Smith ($4,200) for the team lead in field goal attempts (17). Hill’s out again tonight. Let’s hope it wasn’t a fluke.
Other Options — Iman Shumpert ($3,800)
Buddy Hield, SAC vs. LAL ($6,900) — Hield has been an instrumental piece of the Kings’ uptempo offensive all season, but he’s seemingly been unremovable from the court over their last eight games. In that stretch, the former lottery pick is averaging 34.7 minutes per contest, along with 22.3 points and 6.8 rebounds on 50.7 percent shooting. Even the return of Bogdan Bogdanovic ($4,200) couldn’t hinder Hield’s usage in any way, as the 24-year-old hoisted a season-high 22 field goal attempts in the lone game the pair have played together in 2018-19. That’s really the benefit of playing for the league’s fastest-paced offense — there are shots to go around. Hield should thrive in a contest that carries the slate’s highest projected total.
Other Options — LeBron James ($10,900), Kyle Kuzma ($6,000)
Wayne Ellington, MIA vs. WAS ($4,000) — This pick has the potential to blow up in your face — as Ellington really only possesses one NBA skill — but the Wizards have been laughably poor on defense to begin the season. Washington is allowing its opponents to score a league-high 120.2 points per game through 11 contests, a large part of its struggles coming, specifically, in guarding the three-point line. On an average of 32.2 attempts, teams playing the Wizards are shooting 39.3 percent from long distance, a figure that represents the best opponent shooting rate in the Eastern Conference. Now, if Goran Dragic ($6,500) is active, Ellington’s value obviously takes a hit, yet, the man can shoot threes. He’s worth at least a look this evening.
Other Options — Rodney Hood ($5,200)
Paul George, OKC at DAL ($9,200) — It’s a little worrisome that George’s salary has climbed to it’s highest point of the season for tonight’s matchup with the Mavericks, but the absence of Westbrook creates a situation that’s hard to not exploit. Yes, it’s undeniable that Oklahoma City suffers on offense without its All-Star guard on the floor — its net offensive rating has dropped almost 14 points in these circumstances so far in 2018-19 — but, George specifically, is asked to do so much more. The former Pacer has just five games this year with a usage rate above 30 percent. Not surprisingly, three of these instances have come with Westbrook unavailable. He also leads the NBA in steals per contest (2.8). That helps too.
Other Options — Anthony Davis ($11,800), Jabari Parker ($5,900)
Davis Bertans, SA vs. HOU ($3,900) — Bertans is coming off a season-high 19 points in the Spurs’ loss to the Heat on Wednesday, but the truly important aspect of his stat line was the time played. For the second-straight contest, the Latvian big man found himself seeing in excess of 25 minutes on the court, a run that has seen Bertans get up 20 field goal attempts in that span. The common denominator in Bertans’ sudden inclusion? The absence of Rudy Gay, who will sit once again Saturday night as he deals with a lingering heel injury. With the Rockets in the bottom-third of the league in both defensive rating and rebounding rate, Bertans could be in line for another big evening.
Other Options — Jordan Bell ($4,000)
Hassan Whiteside, MIA vs. WAS ($8,200) — Rebounds. This play is all about rebounds. The Wizards have been atrocious in every single defensive aspect of the game to start the 2018-19 season, and nowhere is that more apparent than in their inability to grab defensive rebounds. Washington ranks dead-last in the NBA in defensive rebounding rate (67.0 percent), a mirror image of its league-worst 44.2 percent overall rebounding rate. They simply don’t care. That will prove to be an issue going up against a man who has grabbed 20 boards in each of his past two games. Yes, Whiteside’s usage on offense can be annoyingly sporadic — despite the fact that he’s one of just six players seeing double-digit paint touches per game — but, between blocks and rebounds this evening, he’ll get his.
Other Options — Steven Adams ($6,400)
Jarrett Allen, BKN at GS ($5,300) — Minutes are always a concern when a big man is going up against the Warriors, but it’s possible that Allen has just proven himself to be too indispensable on the offensive side of the ball. The Nets are scoring 120.9 points per 100 possessions when the sophomore is on the court, compared to only 108.7 points when he’s on the bench. That’s a huge difference in potency. Plus, with these two teams meeting less than two weeks ago, we have a recent game-script to draw from. Allen played 29 minutes in that Oct. 28 contest. Considering he’s averaging 37.2 DKFP across his last three games and 1.1 DKFP per minute for the entire season; that’s good enough for me.
Other Options — Tristan Thompson ($5,300)
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) 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.