Established by the British back in 1793 as the town of “York”, Toronto was renamed as you know it today in 1834. It was designated the Capital of the province of Ontario in 1867; it is the most populous city in Canada with almost six million people living across the greater Toronto area; and the entirety of the city is made up by five districts: North York, East York, Etobicoke, Scarborough and Old Toronto. Still, when it comes to one iconic basketball player, none of this history matters. On Thursday night, LeBron James ($13,000) and his Lakers will make their lone trip of the season to “LeBronto” – a title created after James’ second-consecutive sweep of Dwane Casey and co. in last year’s NBA Playoffs. The cast of supporting characters has changed immensely since that semi-final series, with James now also sporting a minutes restriction. Can he keep his domination of the Raptors going for tonight’s Showdown slate on DraftKings?
Let’s get into it.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Raptors have won the last nine games against Pacific Division opponents
— The last 10 Thursday road games for the Lakers have gone OVER
— Raptors have failed to cover the last eight games as favorites following a road loss
— LeBron James has scored 31+ points in his last three games
— The Raptors are 12-19 ATS at home in night games
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
RaptorsKyle Lowry ($10,600) has had a bit of a rollercoaster season. Aside from all the off-court drama surrounding his relationship with team President Masai Ujiri; the veteran point guard came out of the gate playing the best basketball of his career, only to see a prolonged injury absence lead to a slump in production. In any case, he appears to be riding high once again. Since Feb. 5, Lowry is shooting 42.1 percent from three-point range (48-of-114) to go along with a 36.1 percent assist rate. He’s also scored at least 44.0 DKFP in eight of the 14 contests he’s played within that span of time. Great news for perspective owners, right? Well, as has been the case with most things for the Raptors in 2018-19, it’s not quite that simple. Lowry’s fellow All-Star Kawhi Leonard ($12,000) wasn’t available for five games within this stretch, with Lowry averaging 48.7 DKFP in those specific circumstances. The other nine performances weren’t nearly as potent from a fantasy perspective, either. In fact, while Lowry’s putting up 1.42 DKFP per minute without Leonard on the floor since early February; that number plummets to just 1.02 DKFP when he and the former Finals MVP share the court. That’ll happen when Leonard possesses a massive 34.1 percent usage rate during his most recent nine appearances. He’s the more expensive of the duo, but if we’re to trust the evidence, he’ll be significantly more valuable than Lowry this evening.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kyle Lowry (ankle) has been ruled out and Danny Green (ankle) is available for tonight’s game. Jeremy Lin will start in place of Lowry.
There’s also the matter of Serge Ibaka’s suspension. While Leonard is still averaging a career-high 7.3 rebounds per game, his numbers on the glass have been in a steady decline since the beginning of last month. The reason for that trend is easy enough to figure out. Prior to Marc Gasol ($8,200) making his debut with Toronto on Feb. 9, the Raptors had rolled for a large portion of the season with Jonas Valanciunas sidelined by a thumb ailment. That meant, in the 186 minutes Leonard played without either of Ibaka or Valanciunas on the floor before the arrival of Gasol, he had to be a primary rebounder – and it showed. Leonard’s total rebounding rate in that specific scenario was 12.5 percent. That figure has fallen to 9.0 percent with Gasol in town, as Leonard has played a mere four minutes without being flanked by one of Ibaka or the former Grizzly. With Ibaka unavailable against Los Angeles, expect Leonard to have to be more aggressive on the glass.
Ibaka’s suspension isn’t only going to create value with Leonard, though. The converted power forward missing from the rotation will surely mean augmented roles for both Gasol and Pascal Siakam ($9,600), as well. Despite the more clear blueprint for how this all will affect Gasol – the team’s lone remaining natural center – it would seem that Siakam is the easier of the pairing to trust. Not only is the third-year forward averaging 39.0 DKFP a night going back across his past 13 games, but Siakam has simply been the answer to any rotation issue the Raptors have had all season. Leonard’s sitting? Give Siakam more touches. Lowry’s hurt? Give Siakam more touches. It’s difficult to envision that system not playing out again in the wake of Ibaka throwing punches. The New Mexico State product’s usage rate has risen from 18.8 percent in the season’s first three months to 23.9 percent since Jan. 1. You’d assume a heavier burden would mean a less efficient version of Siakam; however, you’d be wrong in this particular case, as the 24-year-old’s maintained his rate of scoring 1.2 points per possession all campaign long. His propensity to leak out in transition does negatively impact his defensive rebounding numbers, yet, even still, Siakam’s floor is far more enticing than a struggling Gasol’s ceiling.
Finally, in terms of extreme value, there’s OG Anunoby ($2,800) and Patrick McCaw ($1,000). While Danny Green ($4,800) and Jeremy Lin ($4,200) each have larger offensive responsibilities than the two lengthy wing players, Anunoby and McCaw’s depressed price points make them candidates to exceed 8x value on this slate – something Green has done just three times in 2018-19. Honestly, Anunoby’s sort of cutting into Green’s minutes, anyway. With Nick Nurse obviously monitoring his veteran starters’ workloads down the stretch, Anunoby has been the clear beneficiary of late, playing at least 23 minutes off the bench in three straight contests. Both he and McCaw are hesitant shooters, but if either – or both – break the 20 minute plateau, they’ll have a hard time not succeeding against a Lakers’ team surrendering 116.6 points per 100 possessions over their last 15 games. Lin would immediately jump to the most desirable value play if Lowry is eventually ruled out due to an ankle injury suffered on Monday; but, barring that, Anunoby and McCaw are intriguing pieces.
LakersWhile Toronto’s roster includes two current All-Stars, four former All-Defensive team members, and the leading candidate for this year’s Most Improved Player Award; this whole slate still comes down to how you feel about James. Its extremely public knowledge at this point that the former MVP is on a minutes restriction, yet, you wouldn’t really know it from looking at his recent box scores. In fact, since the limitation kicked in on Mar. 6, James is averaging 32.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 58.6 DKFP across a trio of games – contests where LeBron is also putting up 1.84 DKFP per minute with the aid of a monstrous 43.0 percent usage rate. For most players, I’d suggest James’ current level of productivity isn’t sustainable at his current rate of efficiency, but, well, most players aren’t arguably the greatest of all time. I think the important thing to remember as it stands with James this evening is floor. While he’s unlikely to bring back 5x value with a $13K price tag, consider you’re other options above $10K. As mentioned above, Lowry (ankle) has been underwhelming from a fantasy perspective when forced to share the court this season with Leonard; and Leonard has only exceeded 32 minutes – LeBron’s apparent maximum – in five of his past 10 games. He’s far too expensive to set as your Captain’s Pick; however, I’m definitely not shying away from James on Thursday night.
The viability of the rest of Los Angeles’ roster is a tad more complex. As indicated by the pricing, the Lakers’ two most reliable non-James entities are Rajon Rondo ($9,200) and Kyle Kuzma ($8,600) – who returned from a two-game absence to help Los Angeles take down Chicago on Tuesday night. Rondo, in particular, has generally been DFS gold as a member of the Lakers’ starting lineup, averaging 37.7 DKFP when given that opportunity so far this season. Kuzma’s outputs, on the other hand, have tended to be more varied; though he did lead the squad in minutes played versus the Bulls to go along with 17 field goal attempts. The second-year pro’s production is simply tethered to his ability to score, as the Utah product’s secondary statistics have been inconsistent. The last five times Kuzma’s shot below 45.0 percent in a contest, he’s scoring just 22.8 DKFP per game.
After those three, its really anyone’s guess as to how Luke Walton doles out the remaining minutes. The biggest indication of how the rotation might look comes down to injuries. Josh Hart ($4,000) hasn’t really been a useful DFS contributor in recent months, but he has played significant minutes in the aftermath of Los Angeles’ decision to shut down Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball for the remainder of 2018-19. However, Hart is questionable to play in tonight’s tilt as he continues to deal with a lingering knee issue. If Hart is out, the always erratic Lance Stephenson ($2,000) would become a notable value possibility if he’s able to play through a toe ailment. If both are sidelined, Alex Caruso ($2,400) and Andre Ingram ($2,200) each vault into consideration, with the former clearly owning a higher ceiling than the latter. Caruso hasn’t logged many minutes, yet he’s sure to be given the chance to initiate a few possessions as the point guard; while Ingram’s role won’t deviate too far from the basic catch-and-shoot wing option. Reggie Bullock ($4,600) or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($3,600) would also see huge minutes in this scenario; though their own cavernous DFS floors would leave me inclined to take a shot with the cheaper options on the slate.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Hart (knee) is available to play, Tyson Chandler (neck) and Lance Stephenson (toe) have been ruled out.
As for the duo of JaVale McGee ($6,000) and Mortiz Wagner ($3,400), this might not be the ideal game-script for either big man to thrive. McGee is quite easily the safer of the two centers when it comes to this evening’s slate, as he 1.16 DKFP per minute average so far this season is second to only James among Lakers’ assets; however, its unclear how often Toronto will be willing to go and stay small without the presence of Ibaka.
THE OUTCOMEWith a very defined separation between the top-seven players on this slate and everyone else, lineup construction is difficult for this Lakers-Raptors matchup – especially if you want to find a way to shoehorn both James and Leonard onto your squad. Because of these distinct tiers, I’m a fan of finding my Captain’s Pick somewhere within the $9K range, whether that means Siakam ($14,400 CP) or Rondo ($13,800 CP). Still, if we do get definitive word that Hart will not suit up this evening, thus opening up some deep value with either Stephenson or Caruso, reaching up to give Leonard ($18,000 CP) the 1.5x boost isn’t the worst way to go, either.
Final Score: Toronto 118, Los Angeles 105
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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.