If you enjoyed last night, buckle up for the “true” opening night of NBA basketball. With 14 games on tonight’s slate there is an overwhelming amount of lineup combinations.
Tonight, the choices will get more difficult. You probably won’t want to go “stars-and-scrubs” with the amount of games on Wednesday, a strategy that was fairly popular last night – and one that worked if you rostered Stephen Curry.
This is going to be a hefty column, so I won’t draw this intro out too long, but here are some quick thoughts on last night’s contests before we jump into the plays for tonight:
- Kevin Love is worth a look as a stud until Kyrie Irving returns. He shot poorly last night, but the workload should be there for him.
- Nikola Mirotic is exciting, but he only received 25 minutes last night. He will be a risk to justify his price until he can grab a few more.
- Marcus Morris is clearly the starter in Detroit right now. His versatility allowed him to play both forward spots, and he racked up 37 minutes on the way to a double-double.
- Andre Drummond looked like Orlando Magic Dwight Howard last night. Monitor him against the Jazz tonight, because he may have just made another leap.
- The Atlanta Hawks offense looked wonky, but I am not backing completely off of them yet. I just wouldn’t trust Kyle Korver until his shots start falling, as he is so dependent on nailing threes.
- Kent Bazemore was brutal, and he split time with Thabo Sefolosha and Lamar Patterson. Avoid this situation for now.
- Stephen Curry is really good.
- So is Anthony Davis. His poor performance last night was disappointing, but he should still be worth the money moving forward.
Today’s building blocks:
BUILDING BLOCKS – Studs and Must-Have Values to Build Your Core Lineup
Damian Lillard, PG, POR ($8,900): There are plenty of fine point guard options on this massive slate – Chris Paul and John Wall look tempting and Kyle Lowry is lurking – but Lillard will probably be in every lineup I make. You already know the narrative: LaMarcus Aldridge is gone, and Dame is going to be ’06 Kobe reincarnated. I think that storyline is overblown, but you have to love the potential usage here. Oh, and he gets a banged-up Pelicans team that just allowed Stephen Curry to drop 60+ DraftKings points, and they will be playing their second game of a back-to-back.
Joe Johnson, SF, BKN ($5,100): Jarett Jack (hamstring) is out tonight for the Nets, leaving Shane Larkin to start at point guard. My immediate thought was that it should lead to Joe Johnson having a ton of more ball-handling opportunities in addition to the nice volume of shots he was already going to get. There is a bit of concern with the fact that he may get a dose of Jimmy Butler’s defense, but the opportunity and volume outweighs that concern for me at his price tag. Johnson will be in the majority of my lineups.
Clint Capela, PF, HOU ($3,000): I normally don’t put minimum-priced guys in as a core play – Nate Robinson and Kent Bazemore are perfect examples from last night – but Capela’s situation is the exception. He should see a ton of run with Dwight Howard (suspension) out, and he will get a soft matchup against a rebuilding Nuggets squad. I expect a fast-paced game, and I think Capela could see run even if this turns ugly in Houston’s favor. If you’re unfamiliar with Capela, he should be a good source of rebounds and blocks with serious double-double potential. You have to love his minimum salary and the flexibility it provides to chase other elite players.
Julius Randle, PF, LAL ($4,800): Full disclosure: I am a Lakers fan. But, I wouldn’t recommend Randle if it didn’t make sense. His price is extremely favorable, his matchup is excellent, and it looks like he is going to be the focal point of the Lakers’ offense early on. He has a fantastic opportunity to post a double-double and will get more assists than most power forwards. I’m bullish on Randle – maybe more so than the rest of the industry – and he will be in my lineup in this spot.
Three more studs to consider: Chris Paul, PG, LAC ($9,400) – Eric Bledsoe, SG, PHX ($7,800) – DeMarcus Cousins, C, SAC ($10,300)
BARGAINS – Complementary Players Who Look To Have Favorable Pricing
Isaiah Canaan, PG, PHI ($4,200): With Tony Wroten (knee) and Kendall Marshall (knee) definitely out for this game, Canaan should get ample opportunity to run the show for Philly. He is more of a scorer than a point guard, but his price is very enticing, and a starting point guard is tough to come by at such a bargain. There are concerns, mostly that I am not sure the 76ers are all that thrilled with him and TJ McConnell has played well as his backup, but there is a ton of value here even if he doesn’t garner 32+ minutes.
Avery Bradley, SG, BOS ($4,900): If you want to go with a middle-of-the-road guy at shooting guard there are plenty to choose from, but don’t sleep on Bradley. He averaged over 26 DraftKings points against Philadelphia last year, which would be the perfect number for him to make value this time around.
Khris Middleton, SG, MIL ($5,400): Middleton has a few different things working for him in this game, none greater than potentially being guarded by Sasha Vujacic on the perimeter. With Jabari Parker (knee) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (suspension) out, touches should find their way to Middleton, who is easily the best perimeter shooter on this Bucks roster.
Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL ($6,400): If you want to play Kobe this season, now is the time. He should be good to go for the opener, he is fairly underpriced for his normal usage rate, and he averaged 43.6 DraftKings points in two games against the Timberwolves last season.
Paul George, SF, IND ($8,000): George said he expects to play 36 minutes versus the Raptors, and that could mean a monster day for the new Pacers power forward. If the Raptors counter with Luis Scola, George could absolutely go off, and he is criminally underpriced as it is.
Kris Humphries, PF, WAS ($3,900): Humphries is now the starter in Washington, and Nene (calf) is already dealing with injuries. Humphries provides real double-double potential and has now expanded his range to include three-pointers. He should be a nice play if you need the extra flexibility.
Markieff Morris, PF, PHX ($6,600): Who is going to defend Morris in this game? The Mavericks project to start Zaza Pachulia and Dirk Nowitzki in tandem, which bodes well for Morris’ ability to get off in this one. If the shot is falling, he could erupt much like his brother did in last night’s slate of games.
Joffery Lauvergne, C, DEN ($3,000): Jusuf Nurkic (knee) remains out, so it looks like Lauvergne will get a chance to show what he can do versus the Rockets. He has been a darling of the fantasy community since he joined the Nuggets, as he can provide points, rebounds, blocks, and three-pointers from the center position. There is still some risk here, but he looked terrific this preseason and should get enough run to make him worth rostering at the minimum.
Zaza Pachulia, C, DAL ($5,200): So, maybe I don’t feel great about his chances of defending Markieff Morris, but we could see a lot of Pachulia in this game. JaVale McGee (leg) has been ruled out, and there is nobody else worth worrying about eating into Pachulia’s potential minutes. The matchup with Tyson Chandler isn’t awesome, but this is a volume play.
LOTTERY TICKETS – High Risk, High Reward Plays
Shane Larkin/Donald Sloan, PG, BKN ($3,000): Larkin will start at point guard for the Nets, but I like Sloan a lot more for fantasy purposes. Both could carry value in this game, even though I see Joe Johnson handling more of the distributing duties.
Gary Harris/Will Barton SG, DEN ($3,000): Harris should be the starter over Randy Foye, and he had a sizzling preseason that makes him intriguing here. There is a chance he could split time evenly with Foye, which puts a damper on his upside, but he could be a fantastic play if he gets going early. Barton should see an increased role with Wilson Chandler (hip) out. He had some explosive fantasy performances off-the-bench for the Nuggets at the end of last year, and should be a pretty good bet to return solid value on his minimum price.
John Jenkins, SG, DAL ($3,000): Chandler Parsons (knee) is out, and Wesley Matthews (Achilles) and Deron Williams (calf) will be on minutes restrictions in the opener. That leaves a ton of open spots for Jenkins to find minutes, and he had a sizzling preseason in which he scored in double-digits in every contest.
Meyers Leonard, C, POR ($4,500): Leonard finds himself in this section because of the uncertain frontcourt situation in Portland. With Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, and potentially even Chris Kaman vying for minutes at the power forward and center positions, this unit is an unsorted mess right now. However, if Leonard starts, he provides a buffet of stats including points, rebounds, blocks, and three-pointers.
Jahlil Okafor, C, PHI ($5,800): I love Okafor this season, but his price is quite high to begin his rookie campaign. There is 20-point, 10-rebound upside here though, as he could easily make mincemeat out of a starting frontcourt of David Lee and Tyler Zeller. He should be a strong tournament play.
BUYER’S REMORSE – Reasons for Skepticism
Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC ($9,900): If you played Westbrook last season, he probably won you a “shipload” of money during his triple-double bonanza, and he didn’t slow down this preseason. Still, at nearly $10k, I am backing off of him against a traditionally tough Spurs squad.
Derrick Rose, PG, CHI ($6,500): I don’t know if anyone is itching to play Derrick Rose, but I would caution anyone who has the temptation. He is still feeling the effects of the broken orbital bone he suffered in preseason, and shot only 35.5-percent on back-to-backs last year. Stay far, far away.
Kevin Durant, SF, OKC ($9,800): You can’t blame someone for putting Durant in their lineups, but a showdown with Kawhi Leonard is enough for me to not do it myself.
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, SA ($8,100): Aldridge is the shiny new toy on the Spurs, but that probably means a dent for his fantasy value. Wait for his price to correct before you deploy him, as he is unlikely to see the same amount of shots he was afforded in Portland.
Andre Drummond, C, DET ($8,200): Drummond announced the beginning of a monster season with his performance last night. A matchup with Rudy Gobert on the second night of a back-to-back will put those performances on hold for one day.