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)!
It has seemed like forever since we’ve had a large slate that wasn’t turned into a small slate due to COVID, but that should (fingers crossed) be the case tonight with only one of eleven games currently postponed. Key injuries (or health protocols) include Karl Anthony-Towns, Jimmy Butler, John Wall, Jonas Valanciunas, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic, with only a handful of players currently listed as questionable. As of the time of this writing, there appears to be only one chalk value on the slate (Xavier Tillman), which is likely to lead to more balanced lineups as the norm (as always, that is one of the first things to change should value open up throughout the course of the day).
Wiggins is probably the highest profile player whose status is not yet known for tonight. Should he miss, expect a substantial bump to both the usage and shot ceilings of Stephen Curry and Kelly Oubre, Jr.
Both Darius Garland and Colin Sexton are currently listed as questionable for tonight, which comprises the entire starting back court for the Cavs. Currently instilled at 10.5-point underdogs, it is difficult to get excited about the remaining starters should they miss but could make some bench depth appealing considering Matthew Dellavedova will also miss this contest. Yogi Ferrell and Damyean Dotson would be the only remaining pure guards on the roster should both miss and could represent viable value at the position.
As long as Oubre remains this cheap, I’ll continue listing him at the top of the leverage plays. Oubre is still struggling from range (2-8, 3-8, 3-7, 1-6 over his last four games), but the point is he’s still taking shots from beyond the arc regularly and is a vital piece of this Golden State off-ball offense. I stand by my claim that his price will be hovering around $7,000 before long. Oubre is averaging 0.87 fantasy points per minute as he struggles through early season shot problems and I’d expect that number to move closer to 1.05-1.10 once his shot starts falling more regularly, particularly from range. At only $5,500, we’re looking at a 5x salary multiplier (0.87 times his projected minutes (30)) as his floor with legitimate 7.5x ceiling (1.10 times his minutes ceiling (38)). The kicker is his ownership is currently projected for 5-8%!
UPDATE :: MEM/POR postponed. Balanced lineups gain even more traction with the biggest value game on the slate now postponed.)
Both teams are fighting through key injuries, with Memphis without forwards Jaren Jackson, Jontay Porter and Justice Winslow in addition to center Jonas Valanciunas while Portland will be without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. Backup Memphis center Xavier Tillman is simply too cheap for his expected role (28-30 minutes) as one of the only remaining big men on the roster to toe it up with Enes Kanter (also expected to see 28-30 minutes, legitimate floor of 15 boards against a team that already struggles with rebounding and is now missing their starting center). Tillman is expected to carry heavy ownership (50%+), but I don’t expect many rosters to play both he and Kanter, let alone stack this game up. The game total of 223.0 points combined with the close spread (MEM -1.0) create an expected game environment where multiple players can exceed expectations due to the multitude of injuries on both sides. I prefer all of James Harden, Luka Doncic and Ja Morant to the overpriced Damien Lillard, so he would be the player left off game stacks for me.
Speaking of Harden, he is currently projected for sub 2% ownership as everyone plays the “wait and see” game with respect to what his usage and output will look like with both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on the floor with him (Kyrie is expected back tonight after missing the last two weeks). There are also legitimate concerns about a blowout with the Nets currently instilled as 10.5-point favorites. All things considered, the upside is tough to pass up at sub 2% ownership, but use him sparingly with all the unknowns. While we’re on the topic of blowouts, the NBA is a little more difficult to project blowouts compared to other sports, meaning when we can get high usage studs whose ownership is projected to be lower than it would be in a neutral matchup/game line, there is always high leverage in betting on the game environment playing differently than public perception. Typically the best way to do this is to bring back one or two players from the underdog side as the clear way for the game to stay close throughout!
With both Xavier Tillman and Enes Kanter expected to carry heavy ownership at center, paying up at the position times two will carry high leverage. Nikola Vucevic, Christian Wood, Joel Embiid and Bam Adebayo all carry significant upside relative to their price tonight.
This is one of the few large slates that a stars and scrubs approach carries increased EV as we don’t have a lot of value to work with as of this writing. Now, the only way we should be looking to this approach is if value opens up later in the day (or closer to first tip), making me far more likely to either all-out fade the early games or play only studs from the early games, in order to place ourselves in position to react to any news later in the evening.