NBA basketball is back. The first two games since All-Star Weekend took place on Wednesday and the Charlotte Hornets will host the Detroit Pistons on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. ET as the first matchup in the nine-game main slate on DraftKings. We have some thoughts on the best lineup strategy for fantasy contests centered around the matchup.
LaMelo Ball ($14,700) will be in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future, and that should get fantasy basketball players excited about his upside. The rookie tallied at least 41 DKFP in seven of the 10 games that preceded All-Star weekend. He’s scoring, rebounding, and assisting at an incredible rate with exceptional efficiency. While Devonte’ Graham ($9,300/$6,200) is probable for Thursday after missing time with a knee injury, Ball should continue to dominate the ball as Charlotte’s primary playmaker. His recent success makes helped him earn a more significant role.
The other Hornet you should have your eye on in this game is Gordon Hayward ($12,300). LaMelo hype has made people forget that Hayward is Charlotte’s leading scorer, and he has a very desirable matchup to look forward to against rookie wing Saddiq Bey. While Bey was heralded as a promising 3-and-D prospect ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft, he’s given up more than 20 points to the opposing team’s starting small forward in four of his last five games. Hayward’s DKFP average ($37.6) is almost identical to Ball’s (36.8), so getting the cheaper option could give you a major edge here. Detroit has defended point guards well this year, but its defense ranks 29th against small forwards on DraftKings.
Wayne Ellington’s ($4,200) choice to have a resurgent year at age 33 is beyond me. The sharpshooter has scored at least 15 points in three straight games. While he doesn't offer much aside from scoring, the Hornets are a middle of the pack against shooting guards and give up the second-most threes per game in the NBA. Ellington is converting his threes at a 43.3% clip. It’ll be hard to pass him up when he’s this cheap.
There’s no leaving Jerami Grant ($8,200) out of this contest. Detroit’s leading scorer is amid the best campaign of his career and has taken at least 15 shots in 13 straight games. There’s no guarantee that he’ll have a hot shooting night, but his rebounding will become increasingly important now that Blake Griffin isn’t an option in the frontcourt. Charlotte is also undersized at small forward, so Grant shouldn’t be at much of a disadvantage in the post.
Dennis Smith Jr.’s ($5,400) time atop the Pistons’ point guard depth chart is nearing an end. Delon Wright ($6,800) practiced on Thursday, so DSJ and Saben Lee ($4,400) could have to split minutes off the pine. There’s no reason Smith should be priced similarly to Malik Monk ($5,800), who has consistently been one of the NBA’s best scorers off the pine as of late if Wright is active.
The Pistons are in the running to secure the top pick in next year’s NBA Draft, but the Hornets are vying for a playoff spot. Detroit is banged up, while Charlotte is nearing 100 percent health and boasts a 9-8 record at the Spectrum Center. Detroit is just 4-16 on the road, so I’m rolling with the home team.
Final score: Hornets win 120-110