The Los Angeles Lakers began their title defense with an underwhelming performance against the rival Los Angeles Clippers. Things did not go well for LeBron James and Anthony Davis is a loss that was never really much of a game. Still, the Lakers have 71 more games to right the ship before beginning their inevitable run through the playoffs.
The Dallas Mavericks have an MVP candidate in Luka Doncic and not much else. Well, not until Kristaps Porzingis returns. The Mavs fought tooth-and-nail with the Phoenix Suns in their opener on Wednesday night and fell short. Doncic couldn’t carry the team to victory, though he did come close in the end. So the Lakers and Mavs will both be seeking their first win of the season when they face off on Christmas Day at Staples Center.
LeBron James ($16,200) — This feels like a LeBron Night. It’s Christmas. The NBA is probably pissed off about James only playing 28 minutes in the opener. There was some chatter he may sit out this game — which seems insane to me. So I expect James to play 30+ minutes and look more like himself against a weaker Mavericks squad. Nobody on Dallas can guard LeBron (nobody in the world can guard LeBron really). His price is below both Luka Doncic ($17,100) and Anthony Davis ($16,500), who is dealing with a calf issue. I’m loaded up on LeBron in the Captain’s spot. I think he’s a lock for X-Mas.
Montrezl Harrell ($10,800) — Harrell did exactly what he does best in the opener: Bring a ton of energy. He finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes and we saw a lot of lineups featuring LeBron, Harrell and AD. My expectation is for the Lakers to win, though Doncic should keep it somewhat close. If that’s the case (and even if it is a blowout), Harrell should get a ton of run. Davis being slightly banged up could even mean more minutes for Harrell.
Dennis Schroder ($8,800) — Schroder was the other free agent acquisition making his Lakers debut in the opener. LeBron and AD may have busted, but Harrell and Schroder showed up. The veteran guard finished two assists shy of a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 8 dimes. The crunchtime lineup is going to be Schroder, AD, LeBron, Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, so I expect plenty of run for Schroder. His price is a bit up there, but this is a winnable matchup against the Mavs, who had trouble containing Chris Paul and Devin Booker on Wednesday.
Dorian Finney-Smith ($5,000) — You’re going to have to play someone on the Mavericks. That someone should be Finney-Smith, who has double-double upside at a good price. He came close to a double-double in the opener with 11 points and 8 boards. He also chipped in 3 assists and 2 steals. DFS can sort of do it all and looked to be one of the few Mavs players engaged in the opener. I think DFS has a pretty safe floor and he’ll be a key salary-saver in order to fit in the studs.
Tim Hardaway Jr. ($6,800) — Most of the Mavericks offense is going to run through Doncic, especially in this game. If you took anything away from Dallas in the opener, this is it. Hardaway just isn’t going to see enough shots to return value unless he’s lights out. That’s going to be tough if KCP is on him most of this game. THJ can heat up, but I don’t think this is the type of “Heat Check” type of spot for him against one of the better defenses last season.
The Lakers looked bad in the opener. That isn’t to suggest we’ll see that again, though I could see if taking a bit before they pull away. If that’s the case, we should get some competitive basketball with a Lakers W at the end. The other way this plays out is the Lakers stomp a weak Mavs team lacking depth. If L.A. tightens things up on defense and LeBron looks like himself, I can see this game being over quickly.
Final score: Los Angeles 118, Dallas 108