Last night was one of the most exciting and bizarre NBA fantasy nights around. The key plays were all highly underpriced players on bad teams receiving gigantic opportunities while the stars in LeBron, Ben Simmons, Anthony Davis, and others, did what they needed to keep their playoff teams in the best position possible. There is a TON of opportunity for people who have paid attention to lineups all year and the people who can pan for gold amongst some of these cheap plays.
We’ve got a smaller slate tonight so there will be less egregious tanking and player substitution opportunities. But we’ve got a few really good ones available that I’m going to break down for you in this pre-brunch Switch and Hedge.
Make sure to go check Awesemo’s rankings as well as ownership projections and Slam Dunks closer to lock since that’s the best way to make use of my slate breakdowns. And now, let’s get to the games:
Milwaukee Bucks (112.5 implied points, -1.6 on their last 10 games) at New York Knicks (103 implied points, -4 on their last 10 games)
Giannis Antetokounmpo is out tonight, meaning Jabari Parker is teed up and ready to be one of the highest owned players on the slate. He was already like 50% owned the other night on both sites without getting a start so one would assume he’s going to be back near there tonight. He bombed badly his last chance at a start versus Chicago but it’s hard to see him underperforming significantly tonight. There are game theory reasons to fade him but he looks like a solid play. What I would be more interested in doing to differentiate a lineup is pairing him with either Khris Middleton, normally the biggest beneficiary with Giannis out, or Eric Bledsoe, who’s posted a 28% usage rate with Giannis off the floor this year. But there’s no Shabazz Muhammad today to siphon minutes off of Parker so he’s the big ticket here, by far.
The Knicks will be without Tim Hardaway and may be without Michael Beasley after he left a game within seconds yesterday due to a knee issue. Damyean Dotson will likely be very popular as a result after he just put up a 50 DK point game last night with those guys reeling. There is nothing in Dotson’s track record that would lead you to see that coming but there should be opportunity for him to get a lot of usage again tonight. Ditto Kyle O’Quinn and even Luke Kornet, both of whom were stellar as the Knicks bizarrely blew out Miami last night. Trey Burke should get a few more minutes with Emmanuel Mudiay out with a concussion and his price on FanDuel is pretty tempting, less so on DraftKings. I don’t trust Jarrett Jack or Frank Ntilikina despite all the injuries. O’Quinn is the most trustworthy on this side and I’m curious about Dotson if Beasley ends up ruled out. Despite the Vegas line, it feels like there’s a chance this is a sneakily competitive game based on how all of these usual bench guys looked.
Brooklyn Nets (112 implied points, +2.6 on their last 10 games) at Chicago Bulls (106 implied points, +6.1 on their last 10 games)
If D’Angelo Russell were going to have a monster game down the stretch run, this is the spot. The Bulls have given up threes all year and, even though their DVP numbers versus point guards don’t seem awful, Russell’s usage rate in his roughly 30 minutes per game can get so high that he should be able to get what he wants. Russell picks up a B in points and an A in value in Awesemo’s rankings. There are a lot of solid plays here though; DeMarre Carroll’s absence makes both Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Joe Harris look more appealing, and it seems like it’s resulted in Allen Crabbe getting unchained as a shooter. All three of those guys look solid. Caris LeVert has gotten the minutes to be productive despite a few down games. If he can put together a few boards, steals, and assists, he can have a monster game. Jarrett Allen has also been a good play lately and would be even better if Dante Cunningham is ruled out again with Allen seeing 30 minutes last game in his absence.
Jerian Grant was one of the key lower owned plays in last night’s stars and scrubs heavy night and his minutes have been super steady lately while the Bulls tank the season away. He looks like a strong play tonight. Sean Kilpatrick has been posting gigantic usage rates lately with consistent performances so I’m into him tonight as well. Keep an eye on injuries for the bigs; Lauri Markkanen is rumored by beat writers to be ruled out on the back-to-back while Noah Vonleh is reeling from a calf injury. There could be increased action for Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio as a result. David Nwaba and Justin Holiday are in a similar boat where they’re both getting shots and their ability to hit them is the difference between them hitting value or cratering. Use them sparingly but there’s some value there.
New Orleans Pelicans (109 implied points, -0.7 on their last 10 games) at Golden State Warriors (115.5 implied points, +12.5 on their last 10 games)
A game with all the meaning in the world for New Orleans and precious little for Golden State. And, depending upon how the stretch run shakes out, this could potentially be a playoff preview with the Warriors locked into the #2 seed in the West. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday should both bring it today and both of their prices are down despite the must-win game. Nikola Mirotic has been a different man since getting moved back into the starting lineup and shaving his beard; using him yesterday was the key to winning tournaments across the industry. He’s super cheap on both sites given his recent upside and he owns one big game versus Golden State this year and, to top it all off, he also is an A value in Awesemo’s rankings. E’twaun Moore regressed last game, as he does, but he too could benefit from the spacing created as well as the defensive attention needed for his teammates.
Kevin Durant’s price is pretty high but he’s posted two straight games with ungodly high 44% usage rates. I haven’t looked enough at lineup construction yet but a Durant-AD stars and scrubs lineup could fit the late-season theme of success of a super-competitive game featuring two elite players with some of the value out there. I’m a little interested in Klay Thompson with two 40-plus DK point games to his name versus New Orleans this year and even Quinn Cook looks a bit interesting on DraftKings with his price down to a more normal range. The game doesn’t matter but Steve Kerr did call out his Warriors for an “embarrassing” loss to the Pacers so I think there may be a little motivation to right the ship before the playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder (106 implied points, -6.1 on their last 10 games) at Houston Rockets (112 implied points, +2.3 on their last 10 games)
The Thunder are another squad fighting for their playoff lives and they own another stud worth a look in Russell Westbrook. Russ has been on fire lately from a fantasy scoring standpoint and in real life he’s hit over 50% of his shots for two straight games for the first time in a month. The down total and matchup worries me slightly but Russ’s upside is too high to ignore. Paul George has also been gunning lately and is a fine place to look either in addition to Russ or in lieu of him. You could even possibly talk me into Carmelo Anthony, although not all three of these guys at the same time given the team total. Steven Adams also has some upside at his price but I’m not going there on this slate given his recent track record, though he has been solid versus Houston this year. One sneaky place to look is Corey Brewer; he owns two way bigger than expected games at Houston from when he was hardly used on Los Angeles’s roster and is a player known to be a little spiteful towards the way he was forced off the Rockets. That’s all narrative so it’s not trustworthy, as much as admitting that pains me, but I have to point it out.
Chris Paul reasserted himself versus Portland but, with Eric Gordon questionable to return, his performance tonight heavily hinges on Gordon’s availability. Gordon out opens up a bunch of shots and usage for Paul while Gordon active means Paul doesn’t have to do a whole lot for a Rockets team with nothing to play for. That said, Paul picks up a B in both points and value in Awesemo’s rankings so there obviously is logic from someone much smarter than me in going there. The increased total is a little confusing here since the Rockets seem to want to downshift their guys to save up for their playoff run. James Harden, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, maybe even Trevor Ariza…one of them is going to have to do some things to hit this total, I’m just not confident enough in the Rockets bringing it in a game the Thunder need and they don’t, especially after watching the Rockets almost blow a game to a Lillard-less Portland last time out.
Portland Trailblazers (99 implied points, -8.2 on their last 10 games) at San Antonio Spurs (103.5 implied points, -2.7 on their last 10 games)
Portland versus the Spurs in a game the Blazers only marginally need for seeding reasons is another one where I’m not terribly interested. Damian Lillard claims he’s going to play despite his ankle issues and his price on DraftKings is tempting while being awful on FanDuel. I could see looking his way but it’s a tough matchup with a guy who seemed super injured and could easily leave the game early if the ankle doesn’t feel right yet. There’s risk which I think you can avoid here. CJ McCollum would be a little safer in terms of opportunity by that logic, but he’s going to be way overmatched with Danny Green and Kyle Anderson. Jusuf Nurkic can be effective versus the Spurs but his usage is down a bit and it’s obviously a tough matchup for him inside. Down total and tough matchups are not a recipe for my enthusiasm being stoked.
Portland has limited fantasy production as well as the Spurs have this year so it’s going to be tight on this side too. LaMarcus Aldridge has shown he can score against anyone so even though on-paper it should be tough, Aldridge is going to carry the offensive load to keep his team in the playoffs. He strikes me as a very solid play who may go underowned given his recent steady play. Dejounte Murray had a great game versus a Laker team who gives every point guard a great game. I’m not going back there today. I can see going Patty Mills given how many minutes he’s gotten lately or Rudy Gay with how much usage he received before cratering last time out but it feels like forcing it. LMA do or die.
And there we have it, some interesting choices to make when constructing lineups tonight. Go follow me on Twitter @ChrisSpags and let me know how your lineups are doing, check back for Awesemo’s rankings, ownership projections, and Slam Dunks, and have a great Saturday!