WATCH: Levitan’s Fadeaway — Top NBA players to avoid Tuesday
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. Both sports revolve around the value created by injuries — the biggest difference is we typically know NFL injuries ahead of time while NBA ones often break close to lock.
I’ll write this article on Tuesdays and Fridays for the rest of the NBA season. My priority will be to get you set for the 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.
Tuesday’s massive 11-game slate features three elite-game environments in Hornets-Pelicans, Cavaliers-Suns and Nuggets-Lakers. While the best plays in those games certainly are expensive on DraftKings, the size of the slate, coupled with the time of year, makes it very likely we’ll find some injury-induced value later in the day. The goal will be to find the cheap plays in the weaker game environments and gain access to players such as Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, Julius Randle etc.
Devin Booker, Suns: PROBABLEBooker (triceps), T.J. Warren (back) and Josh Jackson (knee) all sat out Saturday, and after having two full days off to rest, all three are expected back for a home game against the Cavs. Although the Suns are in tank mode, we’ve seen them massively extend Booker’s minutes over the last month. He has played at least 34 minutes in eight of his last nine games, averaging an absurd 39 per game during that span.
Booker is underpriced even at $8,600, given the matchup against a woeful Cavs defense ranked 28th in overall defensive efficiency.
Enes Kanter, Knicks: QUESTIONABLEKanter is battling back spasms ahead of the game against the Mavs. If he does suit up, he’ll be impossible to trust at less than 100 percent with a volatile role on a tanking team and a $6,900 salary. But if Kanter ends up sitting again, we have to look at Luke Kornet.
The undrafted rookie 7-footer logged 34 minutes against the Raptors on Sunday and got 22 the last time Kanter sat (Feb. 8). At just $3,300, Kornet would give us a path to Anthony Davis ($11,200). The pivot off Kornet would be veteran Kyle O’Quinn ($4,700), who nets a strong 1.14 DKFP per minute but has a very shaky minutes floor even when Kanter sits.
Aaron Gordon, Magic: OUTInjuries to Gordon (out; concussion) and Evan Fournier (out; knee) have thinned out Orlando’s offensive firepower. The biggest beneficiary has been Jonathan Simmons, who has averaged 36.8 DKFP in 35 minutes per night over the last two games. However, he’s now up to $6,000, and the matchup in San Antonio is one of the worst possible.
Simmons is a fade even with Gordon sitting, but Nikola Vucevic ($8,300) will have GPP appeal. The big man has averaged a massive 1.36 DKFP per minute with Gordon off the floor this season.
MATCHUP TO CAPITALIZE ON
Jonas Valanciunas Against The NetsBrooklyn is nothing short of dreadful against opposing centers. The Nets have allowed a league-high 3.9 more DKFP per game than salary-based expectation to the position, and they also give up the second-most blocks per game (5.8) and the most opponent rebounds per game (46.3). So the spot is right for Valanciunas, who quietly has seen a more stable minutes floor lately.
Valanciunas has played at least 26 minutes in his last four non-blowouts, and is averaging a reasonable 25.6 across his last 11 overall. If he can get to 27 minutes in this matchup at just $5,900, he’s very likely to find the flames emoji. He already posts 1.20 DKFP per minute overall, a better rate than the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Kyle Lowry, Lou Williams, DeAndre Jordan and other big names.
SITUATION TO CAPITALIZE ON
Lakers Thinned Out And Playing To WinIf you think the Lakers are tanking, you’re wrong. They’ve won seven of their last nine games and continue to play a very tight rotation. Injuries have made that rotation even tighter, as Brandon Ingram (groin) and Josh Hart (hand) remain sidelined. Luke Walton essentially is employing a six-man rotation, with Julius Randle, Kentavius Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma logging massive minutes. Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez and Isaiah Thomas also are threatening the 30-to-33 range nightly.
Kuzma ($6,400) and Lopez ($5,800) are the most underpriced of the group, but all are firmly in play given the spot. The Lakers will be at home against a Nuggets team ranked 26th in defensive efficiency. The one I’d avoid is Ball, as he’s being outplayed by Thomas and therefore losing both minutes/usage.
Kemba Walker Against The PelicansWe often can find tournament options by seeking out shooting slumps. Walker certainly is in one now, as he has gone 20 of 57 (35 percent) from the field and 8 of 28 (28.5 percent) from 3-point range over his last four games. So he’ll likely come in low-owned despite a price slash to $8,000 and a tremendous matchup against a Pelicans team playing at the NBA’s fastest pace since the DeMarcus Cousins injury.
The Pels have allowed at least 116 raw points in eight of their last 10 games, and that leaky run has yielded ceiling performances from Ricky Rubio (54 DKFP), Lou Williams (47.25), Dennis Smith Jr. (41.25), Dejounte Murray (40.25) and Goran Dragic (55.75).
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.