While things are far from “normal” right now in the NBA, it does appear that we might’ve made it through the worst of this past wave of COVID-19. Well, most teams have made it through, anyway. While tonight’s five-game slate does feature a couple teams in the middle of an outbreak in the Pacers and the Spurs, it also is headlined by many more with rosters actually looking sort of like they’re supposed to again, as the Cavaliers, the Raptors, the Kings and the Pelicans are basically back at full-strength.
Knowing all that, let’s break down this evening’s DraftKings slate.
Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans, $7,400 - It just feels like Paul is a little too cheap on this slate. While the presence of Devin Booker ($8,800) obviously limits the veteran’s upside, the Pelicans are possibly the best matchup that Paul could draw. New Orleans has surrendered the most DKFP per game to opposing point guards, and Phoenix is one of three teams on tonight’s slate with an implied total above 115 points. If this contest can stay even somewhat competitive, Paul should have no issue bringing back value.
Keifer Sykes, Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks, $3,500 - There’s two salary-saving options currently starting for the Pacers: Sykes and Duane Washington ($4,000). Both are viable after logging more than 34 minutes in Indiana’s loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday, but here’s why I side with Sykes if you’re only looking to roster one of the duo. Not only is Sykes slightly cheaper, but it was he, not Washington, that ranked second on the team — behind Domantas Sabonis ($9,900) — in both touches (63) and potential assists (12). He just has the ball more. That matters.
Derrick White, San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors, $7,200 - This is simply a matter of volume. While the Spurs usually run their offense in a pretty balanced fashion, White is the main facilitator with Dejounte Murray (health protocols) off the floor, as illustrated by the Colorado product’s 14 assists and 24 potential assists in the team’s Jan. 1 loss to Detroit. White also logged an impressive 42.1 minutes in that contest with Lonnie Walker and Doug McDermott also in protocols. That’s notable, because White’s averaged 1.07 DKFP per minute with Murray unavailable this season.
Bryn Forbes, San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors, $3,900 - I wouldn’t expect Forbes to recreate his 27-point performance from Saturday in tonight’s game versus Toronto, but let’s not treat the fact the guard led the Spurs in usage rate (27.3%) and field goal attempts (22) as coincidence. At 23.6%, it’s Forbes who leads San Antonio in usage rate with the aforementioned Murray off the court in 2021-22 as a whole. Forbes is also shooting an eye-popping 42.0% from three-point range. They’ll need him to fire away if the Spurs hope to pick up a win on Tuesday.
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LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings, $11,400 - James has been playing like a man possessed since the Lakers lost Anthony Davis (knee). In fact, since Dec. 19, James is averaging a bonkers 1.74 DKFP per minute. That’s also an eight-game span where the All-Star has exceeded 60.0 DKFP six times. With the Kings owning a bottom-five defensive rating this season (112.9), I’d expect James to put on another show this evening.
Editor’s Note: Knicks PF/C Julius Randle (conditioning) is questionable to play tonight vs. the Pacers.
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers, $5,600 - With Julius Randle (health protocols), Derrick Rose (ankle) and Kemba Walker (knee) all sidelined on Tuesday, someone has to be the focal point of the Knicks’ offense. That person is likely Barrett. The former lottery pick has a 30.0% usage rate in the 185 possessions he’s played with all three off the floor in 2021-22, and Barrett’s posted usage rates of 36.7% and 32.3%, respectively, in New York’s past two losses. In what should be a competitive script between two unhealthy teams, I like Barrett to post a huge performance.
Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks, $9,900 - Rick Carlisle has seemed reluctant to give Sabonis the reigns to the offense all season long, but with Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon both in the protocols, he hasn’t recently had a choice. Sabonis has been doing his best Nikola Jokic impression the past three games, averaging 6.7 assists to go with his huge point and rebound totals. It’s no surprise then that Sabonis is also producing 57.4 DKFP per contest within this stretch. The Knicks might be getting Mitchell Robinson ($4,900; conditioning) back this evening, but Sabonis should dominate the paint and glass against New York’s depleted frontcourt.
Jalen Smith, Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans, $5,500 - Smith’s in an interesting spot. His salary has jumped over $2,000 in the past week, yet he’s still logging fewer than 30 minutes a night in his expanded role. Despite that, I’m willing to go back to the well one more time. With Deandre Ayton, JaVale McGee and Jae Crowder all in health and safety protocols, the Suns will need someone to stand in the paint and be physical with Jonas Valanciunas ($9,300) — one of the few remaining big men getting serious minutes in the league. It helps Smith’s averaging 1.14 DKFP per minute this season, as well.
Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors vs. San Antonio Spurs, $8,700 - Is it time to trust Siakam again? The former All-Star has recently been playing the best basketball of his season, averaging 24.3 points, 13.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists over his past three starts. It’s also reasonable to think the improved rebounding numbers could sustain, as Siakam is the most traditional “big man” in the Raptors’ new starting lineup, flanked by OG Anunoby ($7,000) and Scottie Barnes ($8,000). I’d certainly rather roll with Sabonis on this particular slate, but Siakam is a nice option priced below $9K.
Damian Jones, Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Lakers, $4,000 - We all know the drill at this point. When looking for a value play at center, find the team with their start currently in the league’s health protocols. Tonight, that means exploiting the Kings. With Richaun Holmes unavailable on Sunday, Jones logged 29.1 minutes, posting a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. There’s no guarantees he’ll do that again, but either way, he’s far too cheap for his expected role.
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