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Fantasy Basketball Picks: Jazz vs. Pelicans DraftKings NBA DFS Showdown Strategy

Garion Thorne preps you for Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. ET Showdown between the Jazz and Pelicans with betting trends, game-script analysis and Captain’s Picks.

Utah Jazz v Boston Celtics Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but there is actual basketball - games that affect the standings - happening in Orlando on Thursday night. Nearly four-and-a-half months after having to shut down the league, the NBA returns to action with a double-header of Western Conference goodness. The first matchup finds the Jazz taking on the Pelicans, beginning the latter team’s quest to track down the eight-seed in this truncated schedule. It should be a fantastic contest and, even if it isn’t, we’ll still have DFS to fall back on.

Speaking of, let’s break down everything you need to know for DraftKings’ first non-simulated NBA Showdown in quite some time.

Set your DraftKings lineups here: NBA Showdown $50K Return Tip-Off [$10K to 1st] (UTA vs NOP)

For up-to-the-minute news, analysis and lineups, download the DK Live app. You also can follow DK Live on Twitter @dklive.

Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.


— Eighteen of the last 24 games between the Jazz and Pelicans have gone OVER the total points line.

— The Jazz have lost eight of their last 11 games against Western Conference opponents.

— The Pelicans have covered the spread in eight of their last 11 games against Northwest Division opponents.

Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook

With the NBA returning, DraftKings is hosting a Millionaire contest that pays out $3 million in total prizes, including $1 million to first place. Set your DraftKings Millionaire lineups here: NBA $3M Return Millionaire [$1M to 1st! + ToC Entry].


Utah Jazz

It seems immediately clear after looking at the pricing list that the “value” on this slate is going to be supplied by Utah. First and foremost, none of the four most expensive assets in this contest even play for the Jazz. Secondly, with New Orleans healthier than it has been all year, it’s Utah that has to fill the void of losing a key rotation piece. Bojan Bogdanovic (wrist), who currently sits second on the team in points per game (20.2) and usage rate (25.6%), underwent season-ending surgery back in mid-May. He’s not with the Jazz in Florida and it’ll be up to a few tertiary pieces to pick up the slack. Namely, the likes of Mike Conley ($7,000), Joe Ingles ($7,600) and Jordan Clarkson ($4,200).

Let’s start with Conley. I think the initial thing we have to remember about the veteran guard is that he was getting significantly more comfortable playing alongside Donovan Mitchell ($8,200) as the season progressed. Where Conley struggled to find his role with a new organization back in October and November, he was thriving in his final 13 games before the lockdown. In that span, the 32-year-old was averaging 16.5 points and 4.9 assists per night, all while maintaining an impressive 59.4% true shooting rate. Considering his pedigree and experience in clutch scenarios, I’d expect Quin Snyder to turn to Conley to be that secondary scoring presence beside Mitchell. He’s a more enticing play than paying extra for Ingles on Thursday, even if the sweet-shooting wing does indeed draw the start. Clarkson is also more appealing than Ingles and his usage rate has jumped from 22.9% to 26.3% without the aforementioned Bogdanovic on the floor in 2019-20. In fact, that 26.3% mark is second to only Mitchell on the roster as a whole.

Georges Niang ($1,400) is another name to keep an eye on - especially early - in these seeding games. The Iowa State product averaged around 20 minutes per contest in Utah’s three exhibition matchups, essentially taking on the role of a poor man’s Ingles in the Jazz’s second unit. Niang doesn’t do much in terms of rebounding or assists, but he can space the floor, having posted a 41.6% field goal rate from 3-point range so far this season. Obviously, he lacks the stability of assets like Rudy Gobert ($8,600), Mitchell or Conley; yet, in what should be an uptempo affair with New Orleans possessing the West’s fastest pace (104.0), logging anywhere close to 20 minutes makes you viable. It’s not like he has to do too much to bring back 5x value, right?

Curious about when major leagues and events will return? Check out our DraftKings Sports Calendar for the latest updates.

New Orleans Pelicans

Update: Zion Williamson will start and play in “short bursts” on Thursday.

Alright. We’ve waited long enough. Let’s get into the million-dollar question - technically $10K question - on this Showdown slate: What do we do with Zion Williamson ($9,400)? Obviously, the scenario that makes lineups the easiest to construct is if we get news that the rookie forward won’t be active on Thursday. Williamson left the bubble for personal reasons and was only cleared from his quarantine to practice with the Pelicans on Tuesday. However, Williamson wasn’t able to run five-on-five drills and, when you combine that with the fact that he missed all three of New Orleans’ exhibition matchups, you can understand why he’s been ruled a game-time decision. Honestly, I’d be a little shocked if we weren’t at least active, though I’d anticipate a pretty tight minutes restriction in such a scenario. We are discussing a man who’s yet to exceed 35 minutes in an NBA appearance, anyway.

So, with an absent or limited Zion, who stands to gain on the Pelicans’ roster? Well, pretty much everybody. It’s just a standard trickle-down effect. In the 1,262 offensive possessions Williamson has been on the floor for in 2019-20, he leads all New Orleans players with a massive 30.2% usage rate. When you take that away, it makes perfect sense that pieces like Jrue Holiday ($10,200) and Lonzo Ball ($8,800) would see a sizeable uptick in utilization. Still, one name that I wouldn’t worry about too much is Brandon Ingram ($9,800). The former lottery pick has been pretty much the exact same fantasy asset regardless of who’s been playing next to him. To wit, Ingram’s averaged 1.23 DKFP per minute of action without Williamson on the court this season and 1.22 DKFP per minute with the duo in the same five-man lineup. Again, the Pelicans run at a high enough pace where they can create an ample amount of shots for multiple “star” players. It’s the secondary and tertiary figures that tend to be most impacted by Williamson’s presence. Ingram’s also averaged an insane 39.0 points per contest against the Jazz in their three prior meetings, so I’d say he’s probably pretty happy to see them on the schedule.

Additionally, Williamson’s status directly affects the viability of both Derrick Favors ($6,600) and Nicolo Melli ($4,400), as available minutes in the frontcourt can vanish quickly on a roster this deep. The latter could be of particular interest on this slate in New Orleans’ decides to play it safe with its young phenom. Melli started with Williamson sitting back on Feb. 8 - the lone regular season contest Zion has missed since debuting on Jan. 22. Melli’s also started the Pelicans’ past two exhibition games and was averaging an intriguing 21.8 DKFP in his final 14 appearances prior to the shutdown. Josh Hart ($5,200) and JJ Redick ($3,400) are tantalizing bench options, as well; but it’s Melli that’s really grabbing my attention.


To me, it seems like there are three stand-out choices in the Captain’s spot. You could pay up for the safety and consistency of Brandon Ingram ($14,700 CP) or you can go more towards the mid-tier and invest in Utah’s starting backcourt of Donovan Mitchell ($12,300 CP) and Mike Conley ($10,500 CP). Things will obviously change if Zion Williamson is ruled out prior to opening tip, but that will have a greater impact on the remaining FLEX spots in your build.

Final Score: New Orleans 118, Utah 112

Set your DraftKings lineups here: NBA Showdown $50K Return Tip-Off [$10K to 1st] (UTA vs NOP)

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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.

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