Mark “Hilow” Garcia
Again, if you’re new to the NBA and haven’t yet checked out the free portion of my course in the Marketplace, I highly recommend you do so first. There I break down the game of NBA, how to think of its players from a DFS perspective, and how those players compare to the NFL. With that understanding, you should have a better time sticking with me here as we discuss Game Theory in the NBA (and I cover Game Theory in the NBA in-depth in a later lesson of my course)!
We’ve got a solid 10-game slate on tap for this evening with a bunch of news to watch leading up to, and through, lock. One game screams blowout (HOU @ BKN (-12.0) with Victor Oladipo now gone and John Wall questionable), while a massive five games fall in the questionable nebulous that is a spread between six to nine points. This leaves only four games with tight spreads and a whole lot of variance introduced. Five of the 10 games carry moderate game totals (220-225) while three carry low totals (below 220) and two carry high totals (above 225; HOU@BKN and SAC@SA). Basically, it’s shaping up as a night to embrace a little additional variance in them NBA streets. One note of particular intrigue: there I the possibility that we have an insane amount of value at the guard positions in Tomas Satoransky, Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, Tyler Herro, and Kevin Porter, Jr.
Nunn missed Monday’s contest after sustaining an ankle injury on Friday and is currently listed as questionable for tonight. In his absence, Goran Dragic got the start but didn’t see a meaningful bump in minutes. Instead, it was Tyler Herro off the bench that saw increased run, a trend I expect will remain constant should Nunn miss tonight, particularly considering Victor Oladipo has yet to make his team debut and is away from the team while dealing with a cold.
Both are listed as questionable, which could significantly affect bench minutes. Not necessarily a concern for us for pure usage/minutes, more so how their absence will affect the Pacers’ rotation.
After missing Monday’s game with a hip ailment, Brown is once again listed as questionable. Immediate beneficiaries of a potential absence would be Jayson Tatum (un unreal 36.4% usage rate and 1.43 PPM this season with Brown and Tristan Thompson off the court) and Kemba Walker (31.4% usage and 1.22 PPM). Newcomer Evan Fournier should see a spike in shot attempts as well.
Wall is dealing with excess fluid in his knee and is listed as questionable tonight. His absence would open up increased minutes and usage for two-weeks-ago breakout Kevin Porter, Jr. Priced at only $6,000, he would be yet another guard value on the slate.
Rotational bench minutes would be up for grabs should Rose miss. Look for those minutes to be absorbed by the starters in coach Thibs’ tight rotation and rookie guard Immanuel Quickley.
Although not normally a fantasy presence in his own right, the absence of Grayson Allen would mean additional spot-up shooting opportunities for Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant.
Chicago is looking at being extremely thin in the backcourt if Zach Lavine (questionable) and Coby White (questionable) join Garrett Temple (doubtful) as OUT tonight. Follow this one closely because Tomas Satoransky would become yet another top value at guard tonight should those two miss.
The big injury news already out for tonight is the absence of Donavan Mitchell, who is away from the team due to personal issues. In his absence, starters Mike Conley and Joe Ingles will be joined by sixth-man Jordan Clarkson to soak up majority of the minutes at the two guard positions. With pricing released prior to the Mitchell news, all three are extreme values and should carry some of the highest ownership on the slate. What might go overlooked is the fact that Rudy Gobert’s PPM jumps from 1.29 with Mitchell on the court to 1.38 with him off the court. Add in the fact that Gobert’s minutes should land in the 32-36 minutes range in a matchup with a big frontcourt (Jonas Valanciunas) and we have an opportunity to capitalize on the focus on the backcourt. Gobert can be played alone to increase leverage or paired with one or two members of the Jazz backcourt to take advantage of the value. We know from the mid-season primer that Utah’s offense is built around the pick and roll inside, meaning highest EV resides in pairing Gobert with a guard. The highest usage and PPM production from the backcourt with Mitchell out falls on Jordan Clarkson (31.6% usage, 1.18 PPM) and Mike Conley (23.2% usage, 1.09 PPM), and each should see plenty of time running the offense alone in addition to time spent on the court together. Keep in mind the defensive prowess of each of these teams in addition to the high marks on the boards when building for tonight.
Keep an eye on the statuses of Zach LaVine and Coby White. Should each miss tonight and join guard Garrett Temple as OUT, Satoransky would likely be required to play heavy minutes regardless of game flow against Phoenix. He could go relatively under-owned due to the value of Utah’s backcourt. Definitely a situation to monitor considering Sato is priced at only $4,500.
Roby seems to be the forgotten big man in OKC after the post-all-star break explosion from youngster Moses Brown, whose salary skyrocketed from bare minimum to over 7k in the span of eight games. Toronto’s main struggle on the season has been rebounding, ranking 28th in overall rebound rate and 27th in defensive rebound rate, providing ample upside for Roby to log his first double-double since the middle of February. Roby has multiple stocks (steals plus blocks) in seven of his last 10 games. Priced at only $5,400, opportunity is there for an 8-9x day at likely low ownership.
Along the same line of thinking, Moses Brown is likely to see lower-than-should-be ownership here after his salary took off. The same rebounding statistics present for Roby can be applied to Brown, who has averaged 15.2 rebounds per game over the last five contests. Pricing psychology in full effect here, and the truth is, he still might be underpriced.
(UPDATE: Aleksej Pokusevski has been ruled out for health protocols and will join frontcourt-mates Darius Bazley, done-for-the-season Al Horford, and Mike Muscala as OUT for tonight. Additionally, Luguentz Dort and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander remain out. There is a massive usage and playing time void to fill for the Thunder tonight, particularly in the frontcourt.)
I’m not sure where his ownership will ultimately end up, but the matchup inside could not be juicier for Siakam. Expect Aron Baynes to slide into the starting five (because Nick Nurse hates Chris Boucher – kidding, he prefers Boucher off the bench), shifting Siakam to the four for good chunks of his run. The 24.8% usage and 1.15 PPM Siakam puts up this season with Lowry off the floor brings valuable floor and ceiling in a soft matchup.
As alluded to in the macro slate view, it’s looking like we’re going to have a lot of value at the guard position tonight, which by default gives us a situation where not many will be paying up at the position(s). This also makes spending up at either (or both) of the guard positions a highly leveraged angle for tonight.
In the spirit of embracing additional variance tonight, I present to thee RJ Barrett. We know Tom Thibodeau utilizes insanely condensed rotations and the Knicks play a Minnesota team that struggles on the boards. Barrett’s ten-game spread in fantasy point production spans from a low of 18.0 points (last time out) to two of the last ten games over 49.75 fantasy points, exactly the player to embrace a little additional variance with. The Knicks/T-Wolves game is one of the close spread games on the evening and we should expect Barrett to play 38-40 minutes in close games.