We’ve had a few days of smaller, pretty ugly looking NBA slates and the scheduling Gods have revealed the reason today: An outrageous NINE game Easter slate. Between this and the Christmas scheduling, there’s a decent chance that someone in the league office isn’t a big fan of Christianity but is huge on giving you reasons to ignore your family to watch gigantic men battle over a bouncing orange sphere.
But all we can do is adapt and cast aside our oversized chocolate bunnies or Seder leftovers (do Seders have leftovers? They should, seder food is shockingly a delight if you’re a fellow Gentile who hasn’t experienced one) and move forward. So let’s dig into the slate that kicks off at 6PM Eastern as I break down all of the available opportunities and guys I’m personally thinking of rostering.
As always the Switch and Hedge are going to pair best with Awesemo’s rankings, ownership projections, and Slam Dunks so keep an eye on the site and the Awesemo.com Twitter to catch those when they’re live. And now onto the slate.
Dallas Mavericks (102 implied points, +0.4 on their last 10 games) at Cleveland Cavaliers (113 implied points, -1.9 on their last 10 games)
I mentioned the last time the Mavericks were on the slate that they’ve rolled out some wonky lineups seemingly designed to blow leads, namely sitting Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith in the fourth quarter of competitive games to either blow a lead or keep the game out of hand. Smith saw some fourth quarter minutes but still didn’t top 30 minutes for his third straight game. The usage is there but it’s an insanely narrow margin because of whatever Rick Carlisle and the Mavs’ front office is doing, even with JJ Barea out. Smith put up over 45 DK points in his last matchup with Cleveland in 30 minutes so there is still upside there. Harrison Barnes got 34 minutes last game since the Mavericks didn’t really have a great chance to win versus Minnesota. This matchup should fit him like a glove and, with the blowout risk, the same situation applies. Yogi Ferrell sucked up some of Dennis Smith’s vanishing minutes last game and capitalized on them but it’s hard to get too excited over him at this point. I’d also consider Nerlens Noel in the matchup but his price is at a point where there’s some risk attached to him being productive enough in under 25 minutes.
George Hill and Kyle Korver are out for the Cavs, which should mean Jose Calderon moves into the starting lineup but likely won’t do much with the opportunity. Jordan Clarkson may, though, since he soaked up some of Hill’s minutes and usage versus the Pelicans and this matchup with the Mavericks offers some similar defensive opportunities. There’s some risk with Clarkson given how the Cavs deploy him, or don’t, but he’s worth a look at his price. Kevin Love’s minutes seemed affected by his concussion/face injury last time out versus New Orleans. If he gets his full minutes load, he’s in a pretty great spot but there’s some risk attached. LeBron’s price is now over $12,000 on both sites and in a downpace game with some blowout risk, there are likely going to be better places to look, though it’s hard to dispute the safety of the play.
Oklahoma City Thunder (113.5 implied points, +2 on their last 10 games) at New Orleans Pelicans (112.5 implied points, +6.6 on their last 10 games)
The Pelicans represent a substantial pace-up opportunity for the Thunder with their #3 in the league pace and, historically, these have been situations where Russell Westbrook thrives. As I thought he would, Russ played angry versus Denver and put up 32 shots in their overtime loss. Despite missing TWENTY of those 32, Russ put up 72 DK points, his first such game in a few weeks. His other recent 70 DK point games? Versus Phoenix and Atlanta, two other teams in the top half of the league in pace. And he’s put up 70 DK points once this year versus New Orleans. You see where I’m going here? Increased total, great DVP spot, paced up, this is the type of game you want Westbrook in, though he’ll have a big jump in ownership after his monster last game. Steven Adams is a also a fine play here with the Pelicans particularly bad versus centers. Paul George is at a very playable price on both sites and, even though Carmelo Anthony’s first big game in a while versus Denver will drive up his ownership a bit, he looks playable too. Corey Brewer should even have some mild interest in this kind of game, the Thunder look solid all around.
The Pelicans will have a tougher defensive matchup versus the Thunder, although the increased team total implies that maybe that they won’t have as many issues as it seems. Either way, the Thunder haven’t stopped Anthony Davis yet this year with two 60-plus DK point games against them, one with DeMarcus Cousins and one without. Rajon Rondo and E’twaun Moore have also seen some success against the Thunder in their most recent matchup. Rondo’s wrist injury may limit him some but the increased point total has to have someone initiating all that offense. Jrue Holiday has struggled against Oklahoma City and, when considering that he really hasn’t shown as much upside in games with Rondo suited up lately, I’d look elsewhere on a slate this big at his price. Nikola Mirotic showed signs of life last game versus Cleveland, though he also came in early due to foul trouble for Holiday, but I’m not ready to trust him yet. The price is tempting but it feels like chasing points to me.
Orlando Magic (103.25 implied points, +8.3 on their last 10 games) at Atlanta Hawks (105.25 implied points, +0.3 on their last 10 games)
Orlando gets a gigantic boost on their total once again and, with the Hawks bad defensively across the board, that means everyone gets a look tonight. Nikola Vucevic had a weird game last time out versus Chicago at pretty high ownership. With his price on the rise, I’d actually go back to him tonight even more than usual. Vuc has scored 60 and 70 DK points versus Atlanta this year, is getting the same amount of usage, and frankly I both love and respect him. Aaron Gordon is expensive for what he’s done lately but I think today is more likely to be a time where he flashes 5x+ upside. DJ Augustin has played well versus Atlanta this year and Shelvin Mack has also been getting some great run lately. Mario Hezonja saw a minutes squeeze with Jonathan Isaac’s return so, at his price, he’s the only one I’m not looking at today. But give me all the Vuc, a fair amount of Gordon, some Augustin, and a sprinkling of Mack and Isaac. The recipe for a perfect Orlando Magic soufflé.
Isaiah Taylor has been one of the most popular players in DFS lately but it’s actually his teammate Dewayne Dedmon who has been one of the steadiest values around. He’s hit or greatly exceeded value in six out of seven games with solid minutes in blowouts or close games and his price has barely risen to show for it. Taylor came back down to Earth a little bit in a tougher matchup versus Philadelphia than this one versus Orlando would be. I see no issue going back to him tonight, even at the biiig price increase on both sites. I’m a little more willing to trust Damian Lee with his usage rate on the rise, though his price is a bit uncomfortable for his limited track record. Taurean Prince I have no such reservations with. The guy guns it as long as the game stays close and Orlando is pretty brutal on the wing. This feels like a reeeeeeally tempting game stack all around, you could even talk me into perpetually disappointing John Collins with where his price is and the matchup. A fun bad game, that’s what I think you’re going to get here.
Detroit Pistons (106.25 implied points, +2 on their last 10 games) at Brooklyn Nets (105.25 implied points, -4.7 on their last 10 games)
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. I PRESENT TO YOU. ANDRE DRUMMOND, MINUS BLAKE GRIFFIN, VERSUS THE NETS.
This is the platonic ideal for a center matchup and his sky high price on DraftKings shows it. That said, this is 60+ fantasy point upside and a certain degree of safety that are really hard to ignore. I love Andre Drummond tonight. Reggie Jackson also seems fine to me but maybe not terribly exciting. Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Bullock are okay mid-priced filler and the number of shots Bullock in particular is getting since Griffin went out is noteworthy. Stanley Johnson would be a bit interesting to me but Drummond is clearly the one to target on this side.
Detroit’s defense has slipped as the year has gone on and the Nets have been competent against much tougher teams, including last night’s overtime win in Miami. There may be some letdown for this matchup after that one but I’d look extra hard at the guys who stunk yesterday, D’Angelo Russell (at very high ownership) and DeMarre Carroll. Detroit plays more into what DeMarre does best, threes and boards, and Russell getting so few minutes yesterday might mean full run tonight after a lot of people got burned by him. His price sucks out loud but he’s shown he can still have 6-7x upside at it. Jarrett Allen will be needed more than he was versus the currently mediocre and minutes-deprived Hassan Whiteside and he’s priced to move. Allen Crabbe should get some looks at threes too and you know how he can fill it up. I’d likely play less Caris LeVert after his explosion last night but both he and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, currently questionable with a facial laceration, both look capable of having solid (but likely less spectacular) follow-ups to their most recent games. I’d target Russell the most but there are a ton of viable options here.
Utah Jazz (104.5 implied points, -4.4 on their last 10 games) at Minnesota Timberwolves (103 implied points, -6.7 on their last 10 games)
Ricky Rubio is currently questionable with hamstring issues but you have to believe he’s going to suit it up going back to his old stomping grounds in a game with some key playoff implications given that the Jazz are a game back of the Wolves. He’s shown huge upside in competitive games, something the Jazz have lacked a lot this year, and should be a good matchup for Jeff Teague. Donovan Mitchell’s still gunning as much as ever and, although Andrew Wiggins will be a tough matchup lengthwise, he’s shot well against far better defenders. Joe Ingles will likely draw Nemanca Bjelica or Jamal Crawford on the wing and that could mean bombs away from my personal favorite mildly athletic Aussie. Rudy Gobert also seems like he’s in a boom or bust spot versus Karl-Anthony Towns and his performance this year versus Minnesota backs that up; one dud, one 58 DK point game. His price is way better on DraftKings but he’s playable on both sites. If Rubio ends up a late scratch, hopefully before lock this time, Dante Exum becomes a super interesting punt with some risk.
Jeff Teague is a game-time call with an undisclosed injury and Tyus Jones becomes mildly interesting if he were ruled out. There isn’t much to love here, though. Even if Karl-Anthony Towns plays well, he’s not likely to eat the Jazz alive enough to justify a +$10,000 price point when you’ve got Andre Drummond versus the Nets with trumpets heralding his arrival. Jamal Crawford is somewhere to look if Teague is ruled out, posting an outrageous 30% usage rate in the last game where Teague ended up playing just 20 minutes. There are so many games, I’m not going to die on this hill versus the defensively very competent Utah.
Milwaukee Bucks (109.75 implied points, -6.2 on their last 10 games) at Denver Nuggets (113.75 implied points, -3.3 on their last 10 games)
Eric Bledsoe had the game of his life versus the very generous Lakers last time out and Denver should offer him similar opportunities. That said, there’s a case to always fade a guy like that coming off a game that big, especially with this many options, so I’m likely to not have a ton of him tonight. Giannis, who owns one 77 DK point game versus Denver this year, and Khris Middleton both look like equally good plays at prices I don’t really want to pay for them. In some respects, Bledsoe is the more attractive option. Jabari Parker got a little extra run last game and his price is getting closer to playable but we’ve seen the lack of upside already. I’d look Tyler Zeller’s way if John Henson were ruled out again but, otherwise, I’m not sold on much here other than maybe Giannis as a way to fade the other studs.
Milwaukee plays at a slower pace but still has allowed increased performances at a bunch of spots. Jamal Murray and Will Barton saw some decreased usage in the Nuggets’ last matchup versus Oklahoma City with a lot of offense going through Paul Millsap. One would assume it’ll level back out this game and, again, there’s a lot of lineup construction logic in looking to guys like Murray and Barton who have a track record of success but are coming off of a road bump versus a guy like Millsap who just went big. Speaking of guys who went big, Nikola Jokic had his biggest game of the year, an 82.5 DK pointer, versus Milwaukee a month and a half ago. Past performance is not an indicator of future success but Jokic is priced too low, particularly on DraftKings, for the kind of upside he has. He is a viable pivot to Drummond and I think a way better play than Towns tonight. Wilson Chandler is currently questionable with a nose injury; if he’s ruled out, it means a slight boost in usage for Millsap and Barton and not as much as you might think for the bench.
Phoenix Suns (100.75 implied points, +1.1 on their last 10 games) at Golden State Warriors (114.25 implied points, +13.4 on their last 10 games)
The Marquese Chriss show has continued to roll on for the Suns with so many of their stars (“stars”?) hurt. The price is up but with Alex Len still out, he’s still worth a play. Josh Jackson has continued to be steady and, although he owns his best game of the year versus Golden State with a 36 real-life point game, I don’t see much more than 5x returns for him tonight. Troy Daniels remains at a playable price with Devin Booker out and Golden State has been weaker against shooting guards than normal with their injuries throwing the defense out of whack. Tyler Ulis has been a shockingly competent fill-in at point guard lately and, whether Elfrid Payton suits up or not, he seems like he’ll be a viable but very popular play on tonight’s slate. It’s hard to put the memories of some of Ulis’s early season impotence out of your mind fully given his increased usage with Booker and TJ Warren out but he has been a drastically different player who’s excelled even in touch matchups versus Houston and Boston lately.
On the Warriors’ side there’s a very big total and not a lot of value to speak of. Draymond Green gets one of the biggest DVP boosts on the slate but with Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant back, I don’t see how he gets anywhere near enough usage to pay off his big price. Kevin Durant’s a fine play today but with his price up, would you rather play him in a possible blowout or any of these other high priced guys? Besides maybe Towns, I don’t see as much upside. Klay looks sort of playable though and you know he can put up a ton of points fast with either Jackson or Daniels on him, though him barely hitting 5x and calling it a day is also a high probability outcome. Quinn Cook is hilariously overpriced on DraftKings and reasonably overpriced on FanDuel with both Klay and Durant back. Unless you think this blows out in the third and Quinn Cook is driving the offense from there — not an impossibility mind you — then cool, play Quinn Cook. But besides that I don’t see how he’s even remotely worth his fare.
Memphis Grizzlies (95.25 implied points, -6 on their last 10 games) at Portland Trail Blazers (110.75 implied points, +2.3 on their last 10 games)
America’s new favorite player MarShon Brooks is currently questionable with an ankle injury, as is Marc Gasol with a groin one, joining Andrew Harrison and Tyreke Evans on the injured list. If Brooks plays, he’s viable since even with getting just 18 minutes last game, he put up a 45% usage rate and 30+ DK points for the second straight time in a row. The margins are getting slimmer without him getting a look as a starter but it’s hard to ignore that upside. I can see looking Dillon Brooks’ way given how many shots he’s put up lately (which led to a decent performance versus Portland just two games ago), and maybe JaMychal Green’s if Gasol is ruled out, but nothing here is terribly appealing. Marquis Teague got 25 minutes and did nothing with them, albeit at a minimum price, we’ve seen what Kobi Simmons can do/mostly not do, and Ben McLemore isn’t going to get enough looks with all of these guys in the mix so it’s all pretty uninteresting.
Jusuf Nurkic has been on a tear for the Blazers lately and, if Gasol sits, he looks like a stellar play again tonight. But given the matchup, specifically the Grizzlies’ lax approach to defense on threes, and the increased total despite the Grizzlies’ bottom of the league pace, it seems like this might be a Damian Lillard game. Maybe one of those ones where he bombs a bunch of threes and the game is out of reach by halftime? Failing that, Lillard and CJ McCollum both look like good plays. Evan Turner disappointed versus Memphis last time out and I don’t like him enough to go back there tonight, no matter how tempting his price is. Ditto Al-Farouq Aminu, whom I do like but his price is high for this matchup. The only other place I’d look is Zach Collins, who stands to pick up a few extra minutes with Ed Davis out for a few weeks and would likely get up a bunch of extra shots if the game gets out of hand.
Sacramento Kings (102.5 implied points, +2.2 on their last 10 games) at Los Angeles Lakers (110 implied points, +0.8 on their last 10 games)
Last but not least, we’ve got NorCal versus SoCal in a game where, unbelievably, DeAaron Fox looks like one of the best plays on the board. Point guards have been killing the Lakers lately and Fox’s usage has been steady, finally paying off in their matchup versus Golden State last night. That big game means he may be overowned for his downsides but the opportunity is too real to ignore. Bogdan Bogdanovic has been a good play lately and only suffered in minutes due to Golden State running away with the game yesterday. Ditto Buddy Hield, who weirdly didn’t got no usage at all up until the second half. It’s the Kings, wacky lineup things happen. Willie Cauley-Stein has feasted on the Lakers twice this year and, while Zach Randolph’s return seems potentially a little trickier to navigate, he looks like a good play who can get you away from those extremely expensive studs on the top of the center position. I’m less interested in Skal Labissiere given the spectre of Randolph’s return and all of these other guys sitting higher on the pecking order of usage.
The Lakers’ total isn’t suffering much from the huge drop in pace and, with Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram out, there should be some key plays to uncover here. Josh Hart played well in his return from injury but didn’t take over any point guard duties with the injuries to Ball and Ingram, instead playing a role more in line with what Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who was ejected after 16 minutes) and Ingram do. The playmaking duties fell primarily to Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso, who notched a season high 30 minutes in their overtime loss to Milwaukee. Kuzma and Caruso both look like solid plays while Hart looks decent, but at a price that’s kind of high. All of these guys are likely to get over 30 minutes though so it’s more about the opportunity and their individual production rather than the price. The group most likely to get the run of minutes is Caruso, KCP, Hart, Kuzma, Julius Randle, and Brook Lopez (I think Hart off the bench but it could be Caruso or Kuzma, it shouldn’t matter much though) and, versus Sacramento, they’re all incredibly viable. Tyler Ennis can also be worth a look and there’s always a chance he outplays Caruso and steals some minutes but it seems like they really want to give Caruso a look down the stretch.
And there we have it, an ungodly (literally and figuratively) nine-game slate in the books. Follow me on Twitter @ChrisSpags, tweet me or comment with any questions you may have, check back later for more NBA content as we get closer to lock, and have a happy Easter if that’s a thing you celebrate or a totally acceptable Sunday if not!