With the NFL sadly in the rearview mirror, we can put our full focus on the NBA. The two sports are wildly different from a DFS strategy perspective. In a tight-range-of-outcomes game like hoops, our top priorities are price sensitivity and minutes. In a big-event, wide-range-of-outcomes game like football, our priority is usage and volume. Both sports revolve around the value created by injuries — the biggest difference is we typically know NFL injuries well ahead of time while NBA ones often break close to lock.
I’ll write this article every Wednesday and Friday for the rest of the NBA season. My priority will be to get you a first look at the fantasy basketball slate with injuries to be aware of and other situations to exploit. Of course, you’ll have to track news closely right up until 7 p.m. ET in order to have a positive expectation.
As we’ve seen in just the past two nights, late injury news should be the expectation. On Monday the slate changed when Paul Millsap was scratched, and Tuesday, the Marc Gasol news forced us to change all lineups. Wednesday’s seven-game slate isn’t as likely to be impacted by injury as we already have the Spurs, Pelicans and Nuggets situations on our radar. Finding ways to fit at least one of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and James Harden onto our roster will be a priority.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-the-minute news, analysis and lineups, download the DK Live app, as news, injury reports and betting lines can change throughout the day. Value also unexpectedly can open up due to late lineup changes and late injury news, making it important to stay up to the minute with the DK Live app or DK Live desktop until lineups lock.
1. Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray, Nuggets: QUESTIONABLE
Gary Harris (groin) already has been ruled out. This recent spate of injuries have allowed the Nuggets to flash their formidable depth as Monte Morris, Trey Lyles, Mason Plumlee and Malik Beasley have proven to be very capable NBA players. However, we should note Morris’ price has gone from $4,500 to $6,100 in the past four games and Beasley’s from $4,200 to $5,700. The players to focus on if Millsap (ankle) sits again are Lyles ($3,700) and Plumlee ($4,400), whose prices barely moved out of the bargain basement even though they played 29 and 33 minutes, respectively, Monday.
Nikola Jokic ($10,600) is a strong play even if Millsap/Murray suit up, but he becomes elite if they sit. The Nets are allowing 4.7 more DK points per game than salary-based expectation to centers this season, second-most in the entire league. Only the Clippers have been worse against the position.
2. Anthony Davis, Pelicans: OUTThe Pelicans continue to operate as one of the league’s thinnest teams. Julius Randle (ankle) is a game-time decision while both E’Twaun Moore (quad) and Elfrid Payton (ankle) already have been ruled out. Nikola Mirotic (calf) is doubtful. Randle’s status is worth watching closely as he’d project as a usage monster in this depleted starting five — and his price has dropped from $8,400 to $7,700 while he’s been out the past six games. If Randle can’t go, the two-man show of Jrue Holiday ($9,000) and Jahlil Okafor ($7,300) will ride again. Note that the Bulls are 28th in defensive efficiency against centers this season.
MATCHUP TO CAPITALIZE ON
Lauri Markkanen against the Pelicans
It’s a rare situation for the 12-41 Bulls as they actually are favored and sporting a 114-team total. This is a team that averages just 101.8 points per game — 29th in the league. So it’s a big chance for 2017 No. 7 overall pick Lauri Markkanen to capitalize on the massive role he’s secured lately. Over the past five games, Markkanen has played 33.5 minutes per night, is getting to the free-throw line 6.2 times and is sporting a massive 20.6 percent rebound rate. He also is attempting 7.1 3-pointers per game over his past nine. So even though Markkanen is shooting just 39.4 percent over his past five games, he’s still at 41.3 DraftKings points per game.
There’s plenty of room for Markkanen to realistically 7x his $6,900 salary in this matchup against the undermanned and talent-deficient Pelicans. Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic and Elfrid Payton are not expected to play while Julius Randle is questionable.
SITUATION TO CAPITALIZE ON
Marvin Bagley earning a bigger role
The Kings made the mistake of passing on Luka Doncic at No. 2 overall, but that doesn’t mean they got a bad player in Marvin Bagley ($5,800). In fact, Bagley quietly has impressed at just 19 years old, and he quickly is earning a bigger role on a 28-25 Kings team with serious designs on the playoffs. Bagley averaged 23.3 minutes per game in October, 24.7 in November, 18.6 in an injury-plagued December and 22.7 through the first seven games of January. But over his past six games, Bagley is up to 29.6 minutes a night — and in his past five games flashed a serious 25.8 usage rate and an eye-opening 1.3 DraftKings points per minute. However, Bagley’s salary has not adjusted to this increased role/usage as he’s been in the $5,000-$5,800 range for nine straight outings. He also gives us access to the best game environment of the night as the Kings host the Rockets.
Spurs resting DeRozan and Aldridge
A few years ago, teams used to rest their stars against the tanking Sixers because they knew it would be an easy win. Now, teams are resting stars against the Warriors because they know they’re unlikely to win anyway. The Spurs will sit both DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, who have combined for a 55.1 percent usage rate this season. Derrick White (heel) is also out, and 38-year-old Pau Gasol has topped 20 minutes just four times all season. It leaves Davis Bertans ($4,100), Jakob Poeltl ($3,200), Marco Belinelli ($4,000) and Rudy Gay ($5,900) as underpriced. While Poeltl almost certainly will be the highest owned due to his salary, Gay (32.4 percent) and Belinelli (25.0 percent) lead the Spurs in usage rate with DeRozan/Aldridge/White off the floor this season.
Wizards/Bucks game stack
The Wizards at Bucks game features two of the NBA’s top-eight teams in pace and a Washington team ranked 25th in defensive efficiency. But it likely will go underowned because of blowout concerns and perceived better game environments. Note the Wizards are playing a tight eight- or nine-man rotation right now, pushing “starting” center Thomas Bryant into a bit role while running a ton of small ball. That’s allowed for huge minute projections for capable mid-range options Otto Porter, Trevor Ariza, Thomas Satoransky and Jeff Green.
Against a Bucks team with rebound-allergic Brook Lopez at center, the Wizards can again afford to go small. Bucks stacks need to include Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,400), who is third in DraftKings points per minute over the past 10 games. But there is upside in the Bucks’ mid-range options as well, particularly with reasonably priced Eric Bledsoe ($6,800) and Khris Middleton ($6,300).
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) 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.