Merry Christmas everybody! And if you aren’t celebrating Christmas today, we’ll still get you ready for the five-game NBA slate on DraftKings. It’s the most wonderful slate of the year! But honestly, while there are a few marquee matchups, we kind of got gipped a bit, didn’t we? No Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson makes Rockets-Warriors less than appealing, plus no Zion Williamson for the Pelicans should make things less exciting in Denver vs. New Orleans.
But I mean, while those two matchups don’t offer much in terms of competitiveness, we do have four of the top Eastern Conference teams in action, plus The Battle for Los Angeles when the Lakers and Clippers meet for the first time since the season opener. We already have prices up for the slate on DraftKings, so let’s go over some options at each position.
UPDATE: LeBron James and Anthony Davis are expected to play. Gordon Hayward will also play and start vs. the Raptors.
Jamal Murray, DEN vs. NOP, $7,100 — I think a lot of lineups (at least for casual players) will include guys like James Harden ($11,600) and Russell Westbrook ($8,900). The late game may go a bit overlooked and the Nuggets are in arguably the best spot of any team Christmas Day going up against the Pelicans. New Orleans ranks 27th in defensive rating and 23rd in 3PT% allowed to opponents. Murray isn’t going to break the bank and while he’s streaky, we know he can fill it up against the Pelicans. I like Murray a lot in GPPs as a late ace in the hole type of play.
Other Options: Russell Westbrook, HOU at GSW, $8,900; Lou Williams, LAC at LAL, $5,800
James Harden, HOU at GSW, $11,600 — So really your only concern rostering Harden is that this game gets out of hand by halftime and the Rockets pull starters. Still, Harden should play around 30 minutes in that scenario anyway and if it is a blowout, you can guess as to why. Harden dropped 74.5 DKFP earlier in the season vs. the Dubs and he’s the type of player that’ll want to show up on Christmas Day with the whole world watching. I’d lean Harden is more of a cash-game play, but the ceiling makes him always viable in GPPs.
Other Options: Jaylen Brown, BOS at TOR, $6,800; Damion Lee, GSW vs. HOU, $5,400
Paul George, LAC at LAL, $7,900 — PG-13 was still sidelined when the Lakers played the Clippers in the season opener. So this will be the first meeting between the two teams when both are at full strength (unless LeBron James can’t play). Kawhi Leonard is more expensive ($8,700) and he’s coming off resting his knee Sunday. While Leonard has rest on his side, his splits don’t help his case. Kawhi has much worse numbers on 3+ days rest this season — 21.2 points per game on 18.5 shooting from 3-point range in five contests. PG-13 should be motivated in this one and I think he’s due for a bounce-back performance after two quiet outings recently.
Other Options: Will Barton, DEN vs. NOP, $6,600; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, TOR vs. BOS, $5,300
Anthony Davis, LAL vs. LAC, $10,100 — So LeBron is dealing with a back injury and his status for this game is in question. I personally think LeBron will play. He’s not going to miss a Christmas Day game, there’s way too much pressure from the league I would imagine. But I could see a scenario where he’s limited a bit by his back. If that’s the case, I love AD in GPPs. He’ll likely be the focus of the offense considering Kawhi and Paul George will primarily be on James on the wing. The Clips don’t have much of an answer for Davis, and if LeBron is out, even better.
Other Options: Serge Ibaka, TOR vs. BOS, $7,300; Montrezl Harrell, LAC at LAL, $5,500
Enes Kanter, BOS at TOR, $5,200 — Both the Celtics and Raptors have frontcourt issues, whether it’s injuries or just depth. Kanter is the best all-around big man Boston has and he’s putting up really solid numbers given he doesn’t get much playing time. He’s on pace for his second-highest rebounding rate in the NBA and the Raptors struggle on the glass, allowing the most rebounds to opponents this season at 48.4. This game should be competitive and I think Brad Stevens has no choice but to play Kanter on X-Mas Day.
Other Options: Nikola Jokic, DEN vs. NOP, $9,200