WATCH: CAVS v. WARRIORS
As the NBA does each Christmas, they have scheduled a five-game slate full of primetime matchups to unwrap. Be sure to note games start at noon! Happy Holidays everyone, and enjoy the Christmas hoops. Even though it’s the holidays, you can still bother me on Twitter with any questions: @julianedlow.
Defense vs. Position
Point Guard Matchups
BEST – Stephen Curry ($8,500) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers –The Lakers represent the best PG matchup of the slate (but with some question marks for the Clippers, we’ll discuss that situation later), but the Cavs actually rank just 24th in the NBA against opposing PGs. Curry’s quietly been doing a good job exceeding value, and you know the Warriors will have revenge on their minds in this one.
WORST – D’Angelo Russell ($5,600) vs. Los Angeles Clippers – On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Clippers are the best team on the slate against PGs (ranking fourth overall in the NBA). Russell seems to have worked himself all the way back from his knee injury and is playing well in regular minutes, though. Derrick Rose/Brandon Jennings also have a difficult matchup against a Celtics’ defense that ranks in the top-10 vs. PG, making them hard to trust in a time share situation.
Shooting Guard Matchups
BEST – Avery Bradley ($6,000) vs. New York Knicks – The Knicks represent by far the best SG matchup on the slate, ranking 29th overall. That leaves Bradley in a nice spot on paper, but with Isaiah Thomas red-hot, AB hasn’t hit value in his last five games. Bradley did have a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards in his only contest against the Knicks earlier this season, though. Marcus Smart provides a much cheaper option if you still want to try to take advantage of the matchup at a cheaper price.
WORST – Zach LaVine ($6,400) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – As long as LaVine is playing off the ball against OKC, he’s going to be in a very difficult matchup. He’s hot at the moment, averaging 40 DKFP over his last five games, including 55 DKFP against the Kings on Friday, but OKC ranks fourth in the league against SGs — holding them to 37.7 DKFP over the past five games.
Small Forward Matchups
BEST – Kawhi Leonard ($7,800) vs. Chicago Bulls – The Bulls rank in the bottom-5 in the NBA against SFs this season, and have allowed a league-worst 56.3 DKFP to the position over the last five games. Kawhi’s price remains low despite averaging about 47 DKFP in his last two games. He also provides a nice pivot play off of LeBron and KD who are sure to be popular plays squaring off against each other — not an easy matchup for either.
WORST – Jimmy Butler vs. San Antonio Spurs – And, of course, you never want to be on the opposite side of a matchup with Leonard. The Spurs are constantly ranked as the league’s top team against SFs because of what Kawhi brings defensively. In their matchup earlier this season, Butler failed to reach value, scoring 35.25 DKFP, so we’ve already seen him struggle in this exact spot.
Power Forward Matchups
BEST – Karl-Anthony Towns ($8,300) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – I think injuries make OKC the PF matchup to exploit on this slate. Towns will obviously be playing both positions up front, but should particularly excel operating at the four, where the Thunder have allowed 52.1 DKFP over the past five games. As is the case with most positions, the Lakers represent the best matchup on the slate, and Kristaps Porzingis is in a great position against the Celtics if he plays.
WORST – Taj Gibson ($4,900) vs. San Antonio Spurs – For what it’s worth, the Cavs are actually the best team against PFs on the slate, ranking fifth in the NBA. I’m a little concerned that won’t matter against Draymond’s versatility … and pure anger towards the Cavs. So fade at your own risk. But the Spurs do rank just behind Cleveland at seventh in the NBA vs. PFs, leaving Gibson with a tall task after a poor 17.75-DKFP performance against Charlotte on Friday.
BEST – Al Horford ($6,500) vs. New York Knicks – I’m much more optimistic about Horford’s chances to provide you with a big game for the C’s than Bradley. The Knicks rank 27th against centers this season, allowing a whopping 58.7 DFKP over their last five games. Horford is seeing his salary drop after exceeding value in four of his last five games. DeAndre Jordan also provides equally as good a matchup against the Lakers who rank just 26th vs. centers. With his team banged up, DJ should be called upon to do a bit extra.
WORST – Tristan Thompson ($4,900) vs. Golden State Warriors – Thompson is coming off a pair of strong games, but GSW has never been the ideal matchup for Thompson. He played well in the Finals series that Love and Irving missed, but wasn’t nearly the same weapon the last time around. Aside from ranking seventh in the NBA vs. centers, the Warriors’ small-ball unit practically forces Thompson to the sidelines at times, with LeBron playing PF and Love at C. Both Steven Adams and Robin Lopez also find themselves in matchups against top-10 defenses vs. centers.
Lineup Quick Hits
Superstar Worth Paying For
Russell Westbrook ($12,500) – I stayed away from Westbrook in this section on Friday to try and give you a different name and the guy drops 82 DKFP. Lesson learned. Westbrook has scored 42+ actual points in each of his last three games (and dropped 22 dimes in the game prior). He’s absolutely on fire right now, averaging over 76 DKFP in his last four games (while playing 34.5 minutes which is even more insane). No reason not to love him with his salary coming down a touch in a matchup with a below average Minnesota defense.
Save Big Bucks by Drafting
Ricky Rubio ($5,900)/Rajon Rondo ($5,700) – With a lot of the top plays on this slate coming at PG, Rubio and Rondo could both be overlooked in great matchups. The Spurs have been slightly below average against PGs this season, and are allowing 61.6 DKFP over the past five games. Rondo loves the spotlight, and he has exceeded value in two of his past three games (including 47.5 DKFP against a tough Detroit D). OKC is only ranked 23rd vs. PGs this season with a sneaky-hot Rubio on deck — having exceeded value in five consecutive games.
Next Man Up
The Clippers vs. the Lakers – Vague enough for you? Look, the Lakers represent the best positional matchup at three of the five positions on this slate (and are second-worst out of the ten teams at the other two positions). You’ll probably want to consider some Clippers for your lineup, especially with all the value. Blake Griffin is out and Chris Paul is “optimistically questionable” as of Saturday morning. Any of the following could be fantastic values: Austin Rivers ($4,400), Jamal Crawford ($4,000), Marreese Speights ($4,000), Luke Richard Mbah A Moute ($3,600), Raymond Felton ($3,500).
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) 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.