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)!
The 10-game slate has turned into a seven-game slate, with the possibility we see even fewer games tonight due to the COVID outbreak currently happening across the NBA; UTA/WAS, ORL/BOS and ATL/PHO have all been postponed. We also have two teams on the second half of a back-to-back (LAL and BKN) and one game with heavy blowout potential (MIL/DET). Kevin Durant played 36 minutes last night while LeBron James played 29, which is likely the ceiling from a minutes perspective for each tonight. (UPDATE: Brooklyn just blew up their roster in a deal for James Harden, so the Nets will be down to nine active players for tonight. Expect starters, outside of DeAndre Jordan, to log heavy minutes).
Zion was ruled out as part of the NBA COVID protocols late Wednesday, joining Lonzo Ball as OUT for tonight. Guard Eric Bledsoe is also listed as questionable with right eye irritation, opening up a lot of usage and minutes for the remaining Pelicans players. The biggest usage bump should be expected to fall on Brandon Ingram (not a big enough sample size with both Zion and Ball out). At $8,500, the biggest concern is the potential for a blowout.
Davis is currently listed as questionable with back and toe injuries. On the second half of a back-to-back, I’d expect him to sit. Furthermore, LeBron James played 29 minutes last night and the Lakers have been taking it easy with him on back-to-backs this season, so expect 29 minutes to be his ceiling here. All of this comes together to open up additional playing time for Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris off the bench.
Nurkic is currently listed as questionable after picking up a quad contusion on Monday after nine minutes. In his absence, the Trail Blazers elected to go small, playing backup center Enes Kanter only 16 minutes. That said, Enes Kanter is a 1.30 PPM player and the minutes upside is there should Nurkic miss.
Brooklyn just blew up their roster, dealing away center Jarrett Allen and guard Caris Levert (and four first round picks!) to land James Harden, who will reunite with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. On the second half of a back-to-back, the Nets are down to only nine active players for tonight. Expect heavy minutes for Kevin Durant, Joe Harris, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green.
When so much value opens up in one or two specific spots, it is often highest EV to simply jam in the remaining players from the teams in question; for tonight, that is most definitely Brooklyn and New Orleans. We should expect heavy minutes for all of Kevin Durant, Joe Harris, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green for the Nets and heavy minutes for Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker for the Pelicans. With all the available value, we need to be extremely careful with the “stars” we elect to place in our “stars and scrubs” lineups. For example, Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing in a likely blowout and LeBron James is on the second half of a back-to-back, where we know the Lakers are limiting his time on the court in these instances this season. A such, tonight is more about avoiding the landmines.
With Brooklyn down to nine active players for tonight, the Knicks appear to be going under the radar. Brooklyn is still favored by four points in a game with a healthy 217.5 total and will be without their best defender and rebounder in Jarrett Allen. As we’ll cover below, I expect the Nets to be forced into a small lineup for a good chunk of this game, making Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson of particular intrigue.
Roby is a 0.96 PPM player, with the projections calling for 24-26 minutes. I think that’s fairly accurate here, with both Mike Muscala and Aleksej Pokusevski on hand for center minutes. I don’t expect his ownership to land at current projections (which have not accounted for the BKN news; he is currently projected for 50% ownership), but he is still likely to go over-owned here relative to his chances of reaching my “value points threshold.”
Another value center projected to carry 50%+ ownership. Jordan has played more than just 19 minutes only once all season and is of limited utility outside of rebounds at this point in his career. I expect Jeff Green to see additional minutes at the 5 tonight as Brooklyn goes small.
Ball hasn’t played over 31 minutes in a single game this season coming off the bench. I have him projected for 29 minutes tonight, and his price has ballooned to the point where he needs to hit 1.45 PPM in order to even hit 6x value multiplier (season average of 1.38; only five players in the NBA average more than 1.45 PPM: Giannis, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Karl Anthony-Towns and Kevin Durant). Clear leverage fade tonight at high expected ownership (34%).