Editor’s Note: Damian Lillard (back) will not play tonight vs. the Pelicans. Brandon Ingram (knee) and Frank Jackson (knee) are expected to play.
UPDATE: Carmelo Anthony is reportedly starting in his Trail Blazers debut tonight vs. the Pelicans.
The biggest decision we’ll have to make on this slate is simple: Should you play or fade LeBron James?
The answer may seem simple, but it’s not as cut-and-dry as you might think. We’ve got just a four-game slate on DraftKings in the NBA and normally that means you’re going to need at least 2-3 players who pop in your lineup in order to succeed. All signs point to James being one of those players, but we can take a closer look at the player pool overall to make a more decision. Before that, let’s break down the injuries a bit.
Notable Injuries to Track
The New Orleans Pelicans are sort of in shambles. Here’s a quick overview:
Frank Jackson (neck; $3,800) — will play
Lonzo Ball (adductor; $5,400) — questionable
Brandon Ingram (knee; $7,200) — will play
Jahlil Okafor (ankle; $3,500) — doubtful
Josh Hart (ankle; $5,000) — out
Derrick Favors (back; $6,600) — out
First off, we’re lucky that the slate locks at 8:00 p.m. ET instead of 7:00 or 7:30, though we should get some word on most of these players in the early evening or afternoon. The two big names are obviously Ball and Ingram. If one or both of them are out, Jrue Holiday ($8,800) is your guy. He’d be the focal point of the offense, be tasked with player 30+ minutes and have high usage. I’d roll with him in both cash games and GPPs.
Okafor is doubtful, so assuming he’s out again, Kenrich Williams ($5,700), Jaxson Hayes ($4,900) and Nicolo Melli ($4,400) all become viable value options. I’d lean the last two over Williams, mostly because his price is getting up there and he really hasn’t been all that productive. His ceiling is pretty limited as well. I like Melli a lot in tournaments and Hayes has double-double upside.
If Ball remains out, I mentioned Holiday, but Jackson’s status may be key as well. Ball and Jackson being out clears the way for J.J. Redick ($5,100) and E’Twaun Moore ($4,600) to play a ton of minutes in a great matchup. Trail Blazers-Pelicans is far and away the highest implied total on the slate with an O/U of 233.5 on DraftKings Sportsbook. Because of that, these are the values you should be targeting primarily, using it to pay up for either LeBron ($11,100) or Anthony Davis ($9,800) or both.
LeBron James, LAL vs. OKC, $11,100
Well, there you have it. There’s your answer. I think given the nature of the pricing for this slate, you really can’t fade LeBron in GPPs. Maybe there’s a scenario where he doesn’t play much because of a blowout, but if that’s the case, we can at least project him for around 40-50 fantasy points, which is fine. I like AD for the discount in cash, and I think you can also fit LeBron into a cash lineup given the value.
Other than Davis and Devin Booker ($8,400), nobody has the ceiling of LeBron. Plus, each of those players have weaker floors. Damian Lillard (back) is out, so he’s a big name off the slate. Davis has the injury concerns. Booker hasn’t reached 30 points in five straight games and the Suns are on the second of a back-to-back. The core plays are LeBron and Jrue is Ingram/Ball are out.
CJ McCollum, POR at NOP, $7,800
With Dame out, McCollum becomes a lock and core play in all formats on DraftKings. CJ has played at least 36 minutes in every game since Nov. 4 and is entering tonight in good form with 57 points combined the past two games. He’s shooting well and the Pelicans allow 120 points per game. It’s not often, but McCollum does have ceiling games similar to Dame and Booker. Now with Dame out, that ceiling is all the more attainable.
Buddy Hield, SAC vs. PHX, $7,500
Speaking of ceiling games, we’ve got Buddy Hield coming off a gutsy 35-point effort in the Kings’ win over the Celtics on Sunday. That was good for nearly 60 fantasy points on DraftKings, and while the Suns are much better defensively, they’re on the second of a B2B. This is Hield’s highest price point all season and his usage is hovering around 30% with De’Aaron Fox still out. The mid-range may be the place to attack if you’re paying up for LeBron and down for the value in NOLA.
Jonas Valanciunas, MEM vs. GSW, $6,800
The Warriors still have Draymond Green ($6,200) defensively, but their overall team defense is the problem. Also they don’t have the size to match up with Valanciunas tonight. I mentioned Ja Morant ($6,700) in my cash game plays and I think both him and Jonas are viable in tournaments (obviously, since it’s a short slate). Valanciunas has a double-double in three of the past four games and I think that’ll give him a safe floor. But with the Dubs allowing 119 points per game, Jonas can probably get up in to 20-10 range.
Top Game Stack: POR-NOP (231 O/U)
I thought long and hard about getting cute and maybe going with GSW-MEM or PHX-SAC as the top game stack, but this total is just way too high. It’s almost 13 points higher than the next highest game (Warriors-Grizzlies at 221). We’ll have to wait on the injuries, and I’ve talked about most of these plays up top anyway, but ultimately I think we’ll be in a good position long before lock.
Because it’s a short slate, you can pretty easily fit in all the core plays: Jrue, CJ and even Hassan Whiteside ($6,300). I would look at guys who should play big minutes: Moore, Redick, Little, Hood all make sense if Ingram, Jackson and Ball are out. With Lillard out, the point total may not be as high, but we can still project a high-scoring game. Anfernee Simons ($4,400) becomes a very solid value operating either in the starting lineup or as the backup PG to CJ. The Blazers are still favored by 1.5 points despite Dame being out, so the game should be even tighter.