Baseball is kicking off today and, if you haven’t yet, you should be checking out all of Awesemo.com’s rankings, articles, and strategy videos for that. And it seems like even the NBA is celebrating baseball’s opening day since every game on tonight’s slate looks like the basketball equivalent of a pitcher’s duel. Ugly and low totals, down-pace games, not a ton of easy spots to pick out. This is going to be a tough night of basketball.
The good news? The best tournament performance that I’ve had this NBA season on DraftKings was a 3rd place finish on a crummy slate like this (shout out 5% owned Bradley Beal going for 60 DK points). Whereas many out there may wilt before a lack of options, I thrive in the mud. Pair that with some distracted focus for folks rolling out both NBA and MLB lineups and you’ll see that, much like a bar at last call, we’ve got ourselves some opportunity amidst the hideousness.
So let’s get to the slate. Five games, many words, pair them with Awesemo’s rankings and ownership projections for the best possible results for your lineups. Now let’s go.
Washington Wizards (105.75 implied points, -2.6 on their last 10 games) at Detroit Pistons (104.25 implied points, flat with their last 10 games)
The Wizards may have the return of their star John Wall tonight but there are real questions to ask on if it will make the Wizards a better team. The ball has flowed a little more freely between the cogs for Washington, especially as Bradley Beal’s role has receded over recent weeks. But this is a star-driven league, particularly as we march toward the playoffs, and the Wizards will have to do everything they can to get Wall re-integrated before the postseason begins to have any shot at beating the East’s juggernauts. If he plays, he’ll be on a minutes limit (meaning he’s only in play at his dirt cheap FanDuel price) but he will greatly impact Tomas Satoransky. But Wall has played well with Beal this year and, surprisingly after his initial torrid run, Beal has played roughly the same on a fantasy points per minute basis with Wall on the court as he does with him off. The decreased defensive focus can help him out the most if Wall is back and not dressed like he’s attending one of the parties in Boogie Nights:
John Wall inside with those gold sunglasses on looking like Black Panther from the 70's pic.twitter.com/JBvFNFQtHf
— DeadPOOLParty (@flyflashy54) February 26, 2018
If Wall remains out for this game (he was downgraded to unlikely after I wrote the above), Beal is still in a decent spot, Tomas Satoransky is as well, but Otto Porter would be where I’d look. Detroit has limited some of the usage in the back court lately and, when that happens, Otto tends to be the biggest beneficiary. Porter hasn’t had a game under 38 DK points in three tries versus Detroit this year and even went over 50 DK points in one matchup. Markieff Morris looks comparable to me with a slightly lower floor. Marcin Gortat’s minutes have been a bit less onerous lately but I’d only have a mild interest even in this slate from hell. Kelly Oubre would be a bit more playable as he’s been a steady source of affordable usage lately.
Andre Drummond has had two 50-plus DK point games in a row versus Washington and nothing has changed that makes me think he’d be capable of anything less tonight. Blake Griffin is at a better price but the Wizards have a decent shot at being able to contain what he does best. Reggie Jackson has been a usage monster since his return from injury and, although the Wizards are solid versus point guards, he’s priced low enough that he can have some upside on a slate like this. There’s nothing else I’d look at here unless you’ve got a sneaky suspicion or family connection with Reggie Bullock or Stanley Johnson.
Chicago Bulls (98.25 implied points, -3.6 on their last 10 games) at Miami Heat (110.75 implied points, -1.2 on their last 10 games)
The Bulls are slated to be without Lauri Markkannen and Cristiano Felicio, which means Noah Vonleh, Awesemo’s lone A value in his rankings today, and Bobby Portis pretty much have to get some minutes. Unfortunately, they’re getting minutes in a game versus a tough team with fine big defenders to throw at them. The rest of the Bulls look similarly mediocre and will have tough matchups across the board with no one really being productive enough or playing enough minutes to justify rostering. Maybe Denzel Valentine who owns one competent performance versus Miami earlier this year? I love the guy but I don’t really see it, especially with his price as high as it is on DraftKings.
Miami is facing a blowout risk and the risk is very real given how awful and undermanned the Bulls are. The Bulls play at a notably higher pace and that means some additional opportunity at possessions for the Heat. If Hassan Whiteside plays, he may be a place to look for low-owned upside and he’s shown that he can be hyper productive in limited minutes. His return would harm Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson’s opportunities and, with their prices as elevated as they are, that may be reason to fade them. Josh Richardson has been a steady source of value lately and he should get some open looks as well as shots at defensive stats versus a poor Bulls team. His price is better on DraftKings but he’s playable on both. Justise Winslow is the other place I’d look, particularly since he’d likely soak up a lot of usage if the game does get out of hand.
Oklahoma City (105.25 implied points, -6.6 on their last 10 games) at San Antonio Spurs (102.25 implied points, -0.8 on their last 10 games)
This may shock you given the theme of the column thus far: There’s not a lot to love on Oklahoma City. The only player who’s had any success for the Thunder lately versus San Antonio is Corey Brewer and, even then, that was only because his price was so painfully cheap. He’s got similar 20 DK point “upside” tonight but bleh. Russell Westbrook has a little more interest than usual to me given the healthy rest he got with the Thunder not having played since March 25th. If he’s ever going to overcome the Spurs, today is the day. The same logic could apply to Paul George and Carmelo (lol jk on the latter) with the extra days rest providing a little more leverage on the Spurs’ elite defense. Steven Adams’ price is a little high and he’s capable of playing well versus San Antonio, especially with some spacing created by LaMarcus Aldridge sitting if he ends up out.
The Spurs’ value largely depend on if Aldridge will be able to go tonight or not. If he sits, Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, Dejounte Murray, and even Davis Bertans could have some appeal, in that order. This won’t be a high scoring game regardless so you’ll need to choose your piece of this game wisely. Gasol would be the highest owned and best play if Aldridge sits but Rudy Gay could be a sneaky play. A few extra minutes at Rudy Gay’s current usage levels could pay dividends, especially if he draws a matchup with Carmelo Anthony at points. Patty Mills has had some decent performances lately, right alongside the usual completely dud, and this game should play more on the positive side than negative for him. I wouldn’t trust it fully though.
Indiana Pacers (105.75 implied points, +3.7 on their last 10 games) at Sacramento Kings (97.25 implied points, -3 on their last 10 games)
Both teams play at bottom of the league paces so the Pacers getting a boost on their recent scoring is an encouraging sign. And given the Kings’ DVP performances and how they funnel usage, maybe this could be a breakout Victor Oladipo performance. His usage has been up and down but if it’s closer to up, combined with the Kings’ sloppy play which will lend itself to some turnovers and breakaways, Oladipo could be a difference maker on the slate. Bojan Bogdanovic has been a steadier and far more affordable option lately though. Assuming his brain doesn’t explode because he’s playing against Bogdan Bogdanovic, he looks like a solid play with no more risk than he usually carries. Myles Turner is also at a good price after taking a usage hit in two expected tough matchups in a row and a dud versus the Clippers. He’s tough to trust but he’s shown he can have slate winning upside. Darren Collison looks a little better despite a down game versus Golden State. He can be inconsistent but the matchup fits what he does well at a price to match. Thaddeus Young seems like the safest of the above given his run of performances lately and a Kings defense with no one who’ll match up well with him.
Skal Labissiere looked like the Kings’ best player last game versus Dallas and even though it’s not as good of a matchup, he looks like a fine play if Zach Randolph sits again. Willie Cauley-Stein has mostly been a disappointment lately but he gets the best defensive matchup of the group; if that results in him getting a little more usage, he might be one of the better center values on the board. He’s currently a B for value in Awesemo’s rankings. Buddy Hield can shoot himself into any game and his recent inconsistency has made his price a bit more palatable. Sadly, I wouldn’t trust Bogdan Bogdanovic in the great Bogdanovic Bowl since his usage has fallen off a cliff lately while guys like Skal, Buddy, and that young upstart Kosta Koufos have taken most of the focus.
Milwaukee Bucks (105 implied points, -8.8 on their last 10 games) at Golden State Warriors (110.5 implied points, +9.7 on their last 10 games)
The Bucks are facing a big decrease on their recent scoring with the Warriors suiting up the most stars in a lineup that they’ve had in weeks. Giannis Antetokounmpo will find some ownership despite a matchup that’s tough on paper since, in theory, he should be in a better spot versus Golden State than the other non-Kevin Durant stud on the slate Russell Westbrook versus San Antonio. But I’d be more interested in Khris Middleton here for the lone reason of the Warriors’ lack of bodies. Either Draymond Green or Durant will need to be summoned to guard Giannis, maybe Kevin Looney off the bench, but there’s going to be a lot of focus there. And that’s where Middleton should be able to thrive, ideally playing off of a Nick Young caliber defender with a little less congestion. Eric Bledsoe would be a similar logic, but Quinn Cook has done a strong job limiting point guard performance since he started filling in for Steph Curry. Jason Terry seems like a sucker’s bet after a big game starting last time out but he too could be a beneficiary of the Giannis defense trickle down effect.
Kevin Durant is theoretically in one of the best spots of the day with the Bucks giving up a ton of production and usage to small forwards lately. Draymond Green will take some playmaking onus off of Durant, something that can hurt his value with rebounds and defensive stats but will allow him to focus on scoring and playmaking. Quinn Cook will take the biggest usage hit with Durant’s return but it’s hard to fully project how he’ll perform with Durant back since he’s been a different player since KD went out. Cook isn’t a lock or anything but he may get more overlooked than he should tonight. Green also deserves more of a look on this particular slate. He’s coming off an injury and this isn’t a perfect matchup for him. But he’s going to be needed defensively and on the boards, as well as for playmaking, and Draymond has proven time and again that’s all he needs to have a good fantasy day.
Thanks for sticking with me as those other traitors go chase MLB lineups (jk read all the MLB content on Awesemo.com, including something I’m working on that’ll be out in the coming weeks). The glory goes to the true NBA believers, we all know that. Follow me @ChrisSpags to let me know how your lineups are doing and I’ll see you guys tomorrow with hopefully less pitcher’s duel-looking NBA action.