For as much as I’d like to consider myself an expert, there’s no choice but to take a wait-and-see approach to tonight’s four-game featured NBA slate on DraftKings. While we do already know that LeBron James has been suspended for this evening’s festivities, both Luka Doncic ($11,700; ankle) and Nikola Jokic ($11,400; wrist) are questionable to suit up. Hate to be Captain Obvious here, but, well, the eventual status of those two players is sort of important.
Still, let’s go position-by-position and break down what we can.
Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers at New York Knicks, $10,500 - As you would expect, Westbrook has been at his best without the aforementioned James on the court so far in 2021-22, averaging 1.37 DKFP per minute with a 31.9% usage rate. In fact, Westbrook has only managed to exceed 55.0 DKFP five times this season and all five have come with James ruled out or his minutes limited — he registered 56.75 DKFP on Sunday with LeBron ejected in the third quarter. Few assets have a floor and ceiling combination as high as the former MVP does on Tuesday.
Cory Joseph, Detroit Pistons vs. Miami Heat, $3,900 - This is an interesting spot. While it was Joseph who drew the start and logged a team-high 38.6 minutes in Sunday’s loss to the Lakers, Frank Jackson ($4,000) was the better DFS play with 24.5 DKFP off the bench. Jackson’s now scored 42 points in Detroit’s past two games, but I’ll still lean with the overall volume of his teammate. With Killian Hayes (thumb) sidelined, it’s no shock that Dwane Casey turned to Joseph, a veteran and a guard he coached for a few seasons in Toronto. Considering Joseph and Jackson have similar usage rates and production in 2021-22 as a whole, give me the guy in the starting five.
Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons vs. Miami Heat, $7,400 - Hayes’ absence also means a greater opportunity for Cunningham to facilitate the offense, which manifested as 10 assists and the rookie’s first-career triple-double in Sunday’s loss. Cunningham remains an asset that completely lacks any sort of efficiency shooting the ball; however, in his past four starts, he’s averaging 47.3 DKFP with a 25.1% usage rate. Cunningham’s also made just five of his last 25 attempts from three-point range, so imagine what his DFS ceiling could be if he ever found his stroke.
Austin Rivers, Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers, $3,400 - I’d suggest that Rivers is only a viable option if Jokic is eventually ruled out. While the two are far from the same player, it really just comes down to a level of desperation for Mike Malone. With no Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. (back) and Jamal Murray (knee), the Nuggets would be forced to turn to a veteran like Rivers to help run the offense. Heck, the guard has already been logging a ton of on-court action as of late, with his 110 minutes since Nov. 15 ranking fourth on the team. Against a Portland roster that’s surrendered 110.4 points per 100 possessions, that type of volume is worth noting.
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Will Barton, Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers, $7,400 - Take everything I just wrote about Rivers and amplify it when it comes to Barton’s viability. So far this season with Jokic and Porter Jr. off the court, Barton has posted 1.10 DKFP per minute played with a 25.3% usage rate. Essentially, if Jokic is ruled out, it’s going to be up to Barton and Aaron Gordon ($6,700) to keep things close. However, where Gordon’s value would crater with Jokic back on the court, Barton should remain a high-usage option in the void of Porter. Someone has to score for this team, right?
Talen Horton-Tucker, Los Angeles Lakers at New York Knicks, $5,900 - It’s not the largest sample in the world, but in the 32 minutes Horton-Tucker has played alongside James in 2021-22, his usage rate is 11.2%. When James hasn’t been on the court? THT’s usage rate has jumped to 24.6% and he’s produced 1.04 DKFP per minute. I assume he’ll be looking at over 30 minutes of action this evening with LeBron watching from the sideline in a suit.
Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers, $8,500 - Again, we sort of have to just wait this one out. If Doncic is unable to go for the fourth straight game, the viability of Porzingis and Jalen Brunson ($7,300) would skyrocket. In the case of the big man, Porzingis has averaged an eye-popping 1.47 DKFP per minute in Dallas’ past three contests, leaning heavily on a 29.8% usage rate that simply would not be available with Doncic on the court. Only time will tell.
Larry Nance Jr., Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets, $3,600 - After a very quiet start to the season, the forward has performed much better that past two weeks. In fact, going back to Nov. 10, Nance is averaging 22.4 DKFP per game while posting a 74.4% effective field goal rate. It’s also a span of time where Nance has logged more minutes than Jusuf Nurkic ($6,300). You’re probably not going to get 30.0 DKFP from Nance on a given night, but he should be able to hit 5x or 6x value on Tuesday.
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers at New York Knicks, $10,900 - You almost have to play Davis with James unavailable this evening. I’m not quite sure how sustainable this is in the long run, but over the Lakers’ past eight games, Davis is averaging 37.5 minutes — the only man logging more minutes in the whole Western Conference is Damian Lillard ($9,600). These aren’t empty minutes, either, as Davis is producing more than 1.4 DKFP per 60 seconds of playing time with LeBron off the court in 2021-22. That’s insane volume and efficiency all in one unibrowed package.
Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks, $5,100 - In this house, we play big men against the Mavericks. Dallas is surrendering the most DKFP per game to opposing centers, the result of conceding the eight-most paint points per game (46.9) and the fourth-most rebounds per 100 possessions (47.8). Zubac started versus the Mavericks on Sunday and cruised to a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double. Coincidence? I think not.
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