Welcome to a rare addition of NBA Afternoon Thoughts. First off, I’m not a huge fan of tonight’s slate. We have Doncic, T-Wolves, and Lakers uncertainty with the Thunder, Jazz, and Magic all on the second of a back to back. If you need a night off from NBA DFS I’d consider taking tonight off or playing at a lower volume than usual. With that, here are my top targets for tonight’s slate.
Kyrie Irving (FD $9900, DK $8900) vs SAC
On DK, Kyrie is a super elite target priced under $9k with an elite matchup. On FD, Kyrie isn’t cheap and poses some risk but ultimately the Kings matchup and how this slate shapes up outweighs the price. The Kings rank 13th against scorers, 15th against primary ball-handlers, 30th against pass first PGs, and 29th against opposing superstars. Their pace is something we covet to attack particularly with PGs.
Darren Collison (DK Only $6000) vs OKC
Collison is a bit pricey for me on FD at $7100 and I’d ultimately prefer to move down to Tyus Jones or DJ Augustin. On DK however, Collison is priced fairly at $6k and while the Thunder are a stout defense their pace leads to fantasy production as shown by them ranking 29th in Advanced DvP vs primary ball-handlers. Collison has been fairly consistent as he’s been over 30 fantasy points in seven of his last ten games. He’s not a must but with not much I love at PG in his price range, he’s a solid target. In GPPs, I’d slightly prefer to target Jamal Murray at $6300 as he has the higher ceiling. Collison overall is safer and the Thunder could provide some upside.
Tyus Jones (FD $4400, DK $4200) vs UTA
Tyus Jones is strictly dependent on the status’ of both Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose. I only want Tyus if BOTH Teague and Rose are OUT. If one of them plays, I’d rather target DJ Augustin vs CLE at a similar price point. With that being said, if both Rose and Teague sit Tyus is a lock in my lines. Not much needs to be said, he will play 30+ minutes at under $4500 as a 0.91 FD and 0.88 DK fantasy point per minute producer. I don’t care how good of a defensive team Utah is, it’s tough to beat that value.
Bonus: Why No Westbrook?
Russell Westbrook (FD $11300, DK $10900) vs IND
First things first, I’m by no means saying don’t play Westbrook. He’s a superstar who’s matchup proof and capable of exploding for 70+ fantasy points on any given night. As he is any slate he’s featured on, he’s a top target. With that being said, Westbrook is not a priority for me tonight as the Pacers are an elite team defense that has held opposing PGs in check all year long. The Pacers aren’t the matchup the Nets are and I’ve been prioritizing Paul George over Westbrook. This isn’t the matchup where I’d want to stack both. I’ll get to more on Paul George later. If for some reason the Thunder scratch Paul George because of his shoulder on the second of a back to back then Westbrook becomes close to a must even with his lackluster production in his stint with PG13 out earlier.
SG, particularly on FD, is abysmal. There isn’t a single target I’m excited to play. On DK, mixing in some of the traditional PGs who have SG eligibility or SFs who are SG eligible is something I am very much a fan of (Jamal Murray, Brandon Knight, Bojan, etc). Some traditional SGs to monitor are both Orlando guys in Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier. The Cavs are the worst defensive team in the NBA and while their slow pace paired with Orlando’s slow pace isn’t ideal, both should be able to get a ton of open looks. I’d prefer Ross over Fournier. We also must monitor the Celtics as Marcus Smart is considered questionable tonight vs the Kings. If Smart can’t go, Jaylen Brown would be my favorite SG to target. He’s cheap, would see added minutes, and the Kings pace provides an ideal game environment for him to produce. No Marcus Smart would make SG a bit easier tonight. Unless some news opens up I’m off on both the pricey targets in Luka Doncic and Donovan Mitchell. Luka has stated he’s not healthy and, quite frankly, he didn’t look healthy last game. It wouldn’t shock me to see Luka scratched and if that happens Tim Hardaway Jr. would join the list of as an appealing cheap SG. Mitchell is priced as if Rubio was still out, he’s not worth that price tag with Rubio in. Buddy Hield isn’t cheap, but he’s probably the safest SG on the slate at the moment even with a tough matchup vs Boston. The Celtics surprisingly rank 20th in Advanced DvP against scorers so this matchup isn’t AS brutal as it may appear. If Josh Hart is ruled out, I don’t mind taking a shot on a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope dart, but the Lakers overall are a frustrating rotation to predict. A safer punt on DK would be Gary Harris at $3900.
Paul George (FD $10000, DK $9700) vs IND
Last year vs the Pacers, Paul George was absolutely abysmal averaging 20.05 FD and 19.88 DK points in two matchups. That is devastating production at his price point. While I don’t actually view this as a revenge game narrative, why the Paul George intrigue on the second of a back to back vs an elite defense? It’s his price. George remains priced down after struggling to produce right off the bat returning from his shoulder injury. In his first four games back PG was 22-72 from the field, last night he shot a respectable 9-18. That tells me that his shoulder could be feeling a bit better and at low ownership because of the matchup and a down price that is something I want to target. He’s a risk, and there is an element to this being a bit of a gut call, but I think we see PG have his first “moment’ against his former team. His down price and high floor minimize some of the risk.
Kawhi Leonard (FD $9700, DK $8700) vs LAL
I don’t like listing both Kawhi and Paul George as it’s not exactly realistic to target both but on a slate like tonight, I’m not opposed to it. Kawhi is priced way down on DK and has failed to reach 40 fantasy points in three straight games. The Lakers elite matchup provides a perfect ceiling spot at a down price for Kawhi. The Lakers rank 25th vs opposing scorers and 30th vs superstars, tough to beat this matchup. Over the last 30 days with Serge Ibaka OFF the court Kawhi has seen a 0.27 FD and 0.23 DK fantasy point per minute increase with a minimal 0.17% usage bump. It’s a small sample size skewed a touch by steals but what that tells me is that Kawhi is more active in his peripherals with Ibaka OFF the court and Gasol ON. I’d expect Kawhi to be slightly higher owned than Paul George unless people chase the Pacers/revenge narrative.
Bojan Bogdanovic (FD $6700, DK $6200) vs OKC
With Marvin Bagley back and Kevin Love playing – SF is a bit tricky with Osman and Bjelica no longer core targets. Bjelica still carries some GPP intrigue as I’d expect Bagley to be limited, but still at his increased price he’s a bit of a risk. That leaves us with Bojan Bogdanovic, and I’m not a huge fan of it as I feel like I’ve been playing him too much. As mentioned previously, the Thunder, while a good defensive team, play at such a high pace that it is conducive to opponents fantasy production. The Thunder rank 24th vs scorers and 20th vs shooters in Advanced DvP, this is a good matchup for Bojan. Bojan will also remain low owned as most will run for their lives when thinking that Paul George will be guarding him. Remember, today’s NBA is less about individual one on one defensive matchups and that is particularly true at the Thunder’s pace which leads to a ton of cross matchups. Don’t fear PG on Bojan as it will only be relevant late in the 4th quarter if the game stays close.
Pascal Siakam (FD $7800, DK $6900) vs LAL
No Ibaka locks in Siakam’s minutes and potentially sees him get some minutes as the unofficial “back-up” center. Surprisingly, Siakam has seen a dip in production from a YTD standpoint AND a 30 day period with Ibaka OFF the floor, but that has a lot to do with Gasol in my eyes. In a small sample size, Siakam improves his per minute metrics with both Gasol and Ibaka OFF the floor but is still down compared to his season averages. Those season averages are also slightly skewed because Siakam’s production increases in games Kawhi rests. What that means is we have a whole lot of data that doesn’t mean a whole lot. From my perspective, the Lakers provide an elite pace-up spot for Pascal where he should see added minutes at a super productive center position. I don’t LOVE his FD price, he’s rock solid on DK. One risk for Pascal, the Raptors have stated that Gasol is going to see “heavy” minutes which could have an effect on his usage. I expect the Lakers pace to provide typical Pascal numbers in his peripherals.
Aaron Gordon (FD $7300, DK $6500) vs CLE
In two games vs the Cavs this year, Gordon is averaging 33.7 FD and 35.38 DK points. That’s not remarkable production and well below what we’re looking for on FD. Gordon is strictly a GPP play as his athleticism should pose a problem to the Cavs and their terrible defense. Typically Gordon smashes vs bad teams and the Cavs are as bad as they come. His risk is the Cavs pace as we’ve seen it hamper opposing players ceilings. He’s not a priority in my lines but Gordon is a GPP target I’m a fan of.
Kyle Kuzma (FD $6500, DK $6300) vs TOR
Kuzma is, dollar for dollar, my favorite PF on the slate and it’s not really close. The Lakers rotation is a bit of a mess and we still don’t exactly know if they’re actually going to limit LeBron’s minutes. What we do know is Kuzma is a lock to play 33+ minutes in an elite matchup. As good as a defense as the Raptors are their weakness is against stretch 4’s as they rank 21st in advanced DvP. Kuzma is a .92 FD and .95 DK fantasy point per minute producer likely to play close to 36 minutes in a good matchup priced around $6k, that equals safe and strong upside. Where Kuzma’s ceiling can really take off is if the Lakers limit LeBron James as Kuzma is a 1.07 FD and 1.1 DK fantasy point per minute producer with an elite 31.53 usage rating with LeBron (and Ingram) OFF the court. I’d expect Kuz to be on the higher owned side as he’s just quite frankly a bit too cheap.
Maxi Kleber (FD $3900, DK $3700) vs DEN
Kleber’s production is inconsistent but he’s played 30+ minutes in back to back games and is under $4k. Kleber isn’t a big rebounder but he can score and block shots and it doesn’t take a whole lot of production for him to exceed value. He’s a somewhat safe-ish punt that provides cap relief and potentially elite upside. Denver isn’t the ideal team to attack with bigs but his minutes and price outweigh the matchup.
Karl-Anthony Towns (FD $11700, DK $10300) vs UTA
I’m not interested in Towns on FD if Teague and Rose play however KAT is in play on DK regardless of the T-Wolves injury news. While Utah held DeAndre Ayton in check last night they are not the terrifying matchup against centers as they are against everyone else as they rank 13th against skilled centers and 18th vs centers in standard DvP. The proof to that is Towns is averaging 56.3 FD and 57 DK points in his three matchups vs Utah. Everyone is going to target Gasol, and for good reason, but that will keep KAT’s ownership down a touch in a semi-decent matchup. He’s an elite GPP target who’s too cheap on DK where he’s exceeded 5x his price in seven of his last eight games. On DK a KAT-Gasol stack is something I’m a fan of.
Marc Gasol (FD $6500, DK $5900) vs LAL
Marc Gasol will likely be the highest owned player on the slate after the Raptors stated Gasol would play “heavy” minutes during Serge Ibaka’s suspension. The Lakers rank 24th vs skilled centers and Gasol is a 1.18 FD and 1.15 DK fantasy point per minute producer with Ibaka OFF the floor. I consider “heavy” minutes 36+ so per 36 minutes that equates to 42.63 FD and 41.57 DK points and that doesn’t factor in the elite nature of the Lakers matchup. Gasol should smash his price if he’s anywhere over the 30-minute range, he’s an elite target.
Stefano Vaccarino is the NBA Product Manager for The Quant Edge. Formerly known as Rotodamus NBA on Twitter, Stefano provides consistently accurate NBA insights and predictions. His perception of the game and understanding of analytics allows him to identify profitable NBA situations.