At the exact halfway point of each of their regular seasons, the Pistons and the Kings are on the outside looking in. For the latter, being even a game below .500 with a shot at making the playoffs feels like a massive win. However, for the former, a 17-22 record looks especially bleak after a massive trade to end 2017-18 and a hot start to begin this current campaign. It’s interesting how perspective can turn a seemingly similar set of situations into polar opposites, right? I mean, not nearly as interesting as the fact that this Detroit-Sacramento matchup is tonight’s Showdown slate, but, you know, it’s something.
Here’s a preview of this evening’s tilt and some insight who you should be constructing your lineups around.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Kings have won each of their last eight games as favorites against Eastern Conference opponents.
— The Pistons have lost seven of their last eight Thursday road games.
— De’Aaron Fox has scored the first basket in three of the Kings’ last four games as favorites after not playing the previous day.
— The Pistons have lost the first half in each of their last 10 road games.
— Nine of the last 10 Thursday games for the Kings at Golden 1 Center have gone over the points line.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
Note: Pistons PF/C Blake Griffin (rest) has been ruled out for tonight’s game. SG/SF Luke Kennard will start.
PistonsThe first place we have to look when it comes to Detroit is the interior. The Kings own the Western Conference’s worst rebounding rate across their past 15 games at a lowly 46.9 percent. That fact, in combination with the league’s second-fastest pace in that same span, has led to Sacramento surrendering an NBA-high 50.9 opponent rebounds a night. Needless to say: that’s a heck of a lot of rebounds. So, do the Pistons have a player set to exploit such a weakness? Well, Andre Drummond ($11,400) has only led basketball in rebounds per game for two consecutive seasons. He’ll likely do quite nicely. Drummond actually has double-digit boards in 15 of his past 16 contests, registering a more than respectable 14 double-doubles in that time frame.
Also working in Drummond’s favor is the Kings’ inability to defend near the basket. Sacramento is one of just six teams allowing it’s opposition to shoot above 66.0 percent in the restricted area so far this season, while simultaneously being one of only seven teams giving up more than 20 made field goals per game in that same zone. Considering Drummond has taken 91.3 percent of his attempts in 2018-19 within 10 ft. of the bucket, this matchup should suit him perfectly. It should bode well for Blake Griffin ($11,600), too. Though Griffin’s rebounding numbers have fluctuated throughout the year and his shot chart is slightly more diverse than Drummond’s; he still leads Detroit in points per game (25.1), field goal attempts per 36 minutes (18.0), and usage rate (29.5 percent). Plus, he’s the squad’s main ball distributor – especially in the continued absence of Ish Smith ($2,600). Griffin, who produces a team-high 11.8 potential assists per night, owns a 26.9 percent assist rate when Smith has been off the floor. That number craters to 21.1 percent when the duo is on the court together.
One would assume that a missing Smith would also correlate with Reggie Jackson’s ($6,800) success, yet that hasn’t proven to be the case. In the 17 games that Smith has been injured, Jackson has only reached 5x value in a Classic slate setting on seven occasions. Part of this is Griffin’s expansion into Jackson’s facilitation role, but mostly it’s simply a matter of minutes. When Jackson’s played 30-plus in that 17 contest span, he’s hitting value at an 80 percent clip. Unfortunately, he’s only made that threshold five times. His ceiling remains high — he’s second to Griffin in FGAs per 36 on the Detroit’s roster – however, Reggie Bullock ($5,600) appears to be a safer mid-tier play. Bullock is averaging 14 attempts across Detroit’s last three matchups while logging at least 33 minutes in each.
In terms of possible value plays, Luke Kennard ($3,000) – hampered by a shoulder issue to begin the season – has been a consistent source of offense for Dwane Casey in recent games. Though the sophomore has not shot the ball particularly efficiently so far in January, Kennard does possess a massive 22.4 percent usage rate within the month. Not surprisingly, he’s taken 15.8 field goal attempts per 36 minutes in that five contest span, as well. Jon Leuer ($1,800) has also found a steady workload in January, though his minutes have been necessitated by a Zaza Pachulia injury. With Pachulia already ruled out for this evening, Leuer will benefit from the same positional advantages as the Pistons’ other big men; in addition to serving as a bit of a handcuff to the sometimes foul-prone Drummond.
KingsDetroit mirrors Sacramento’s struggles in defending near the basket. In fact, so much so, that the Pistons allow opponents to shoot a league-high 68.7 percent from the restricted area and 44.6 percent on non-restricted area attempts in the paint — the second-highest figure in the NBA. Unfortunately, this is where the similarities end, as Detroit carries one of basketball’s top rebounding rates. Also, there’s the matter of the Kings not rostering anyone truly able to take advantage of this Piston flaw. Willie Cauley-Stein’s ($8,600) numbers have fallen off considerably since a red-hot October and, in January specifically, he owns a horrendous .428 true shooting percentage. Equally concerning are his usage rates; which, on a game-to-game basis, have sat at or below 20 percent in 16 of Sacramento’s last 20 games. Marvin Bagley ($6,600) is the only other Kings player to be taking more than 40 percent of his field goal attempts at the rim so far this season; however, having just returned from a nagging knee injury, the rookie’s minutes appear to be capped around 20 per night. Now, this doesn’t make him an all-out avoid, yet it certainly doesn’t assist his viability, either.
No, Sacramento’s offense is centered around guard play. In particular, the play of De’Aaron Fox ($9,800), Buddy Hield ($8,800), and Bogdan Bogdanovic ($8,200). All three shouldn’t have a difficult time exploiting a Detroit defense that has allowed a whopping 112.1 points per 100 possessions across its past 10 games – the sixth-worst mark in the league during that span. Still, it’s undeniable that Fox and Bogdanovic bring higher floors to the slate than Hield with their ability to rack up secondary statistics. Bogdanovic’s recent insertion into the starting lineup hasn’t necessarily helped that thought process, though. Not only have Bogdanovic’s numbers been worse in general during the seven contests he’s played as a member of the Kings’ starting five, but he and Fox seem to detract from each other’s overall ceiling. Bogdanovic’s usage rate falls from 24.1 percent as a reserve to 21.5 as a starter, where Fox’s assist rate drops from 33.2 percent without the Serbian in the game to 30.1 percent while they’re sharing the court. These decreases are marginal, and both are still adept scorers and passers, but I’d actually prefer the duo if Iman Shumpert ($3,800) were officially active tonight, likely pushing Bogdanovic back into a reserve role.
However, that’s not to say no one gains from Shumpert’s absence. Justin Jackson ($4,400) has seen his role expand in huge ways over Sacramento’s past three contests; averaging 31.7 minutes, 17.3 points, and 28.6 DKFP. In fact, going to back to the last five games Shumpert’s missed for the season as a whole, Jackson’s logged in excess of 30 minutes of action on four of those occasions. He makes for a much less risky value play than teammate Ben McLemore ($2,400), despite the former lottery pick coming off a season-high 20-point performance on Tuesday versus the Suns. McLemore’s been inactive more often than not in 2018-19 and his showing against Phoenix represented the first time this year that the guard had managed double-digit shot attempts. That’s something that will happen when you’ve yet to register 20 minutes in a game.
THE OUTCOMEThis should be a high scoring matchup. Both teams have struggled at various aspects of defense in recent weeks, while the Kings’ uptempo pace has often pushed their contests to go over the implied game total. In fact, the over has hit in 20 of Sacramento’s last 27 games. This high-scoring environment means good things for value options like Kennard, Leuer, and Jackson; but none of those players can hold a candle to my adoration for Drummond ($17,100 CP) this evening. As many have done before him, the Connecticut product should be able to have his way both in the paint and on the glass against the Kings’ soft interior. He’s expensive at a 1.5x price point, but he’ll be worth it.
Final Score: Sacramento 118, Detroit 110
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