- Breaking down a loaded Monday NBA DFS slate that features 11 games, with the Warriors, 76ers. Timberwolves and Wizards in action.
Welcome to the first edition of Sports Illustrated’s daily fantasy NBA series, powered by Lineup Lab. We'll be covering all the big slates finding the value, breaking down injury news and laying a groundwork for your FanDuel and DraftKings NBA lineups.
Our first installment is brought to you by Doug Norrie, a DFS professional with appearances at the DraftKings NBA Live Final, and a regular grinder in cash games on both sites. He’s also a lead provider of daily NBA fantasy projections for LineupLab.com and an owner/operator of DFSR.com.
It’s a big Monday in the NBA with 11 games on the docket. Five teams are playing the second half of a back-to-back, so we could see some lineup shuffling as teams decide whether to rest players. We also have some significant injury news already on the wire, opening up potential value across the board. Let’s take a look at a big Monday in the NBA for FanDuel and DraftKings.
Team Stack Alerts
Time to Boogie Down with the Pelicans?
DeMarcus Cousins (FD: $11,000, DK: $11,000)
Projected Points: FD: 61.49, DK: 64.07
Jrue Holiday (FD: $6,700, DK: $6,300)
Projected Points: FD: 30.71, DK: 31.43
Rajon Rondo (FD: $5,700 DK: $5,000)
Projected Points: FD: 26.86, DK: 27.47
Darius Miller (FD: $3,700 DK: $4,100)
Projected Points FD: 21.56, DK: 21.75
Anthony Davis will have to sit again on Monday after leaving Friday’s loss to Utah early with a non-contact groin injury. That leaves the Pelicans with a lot of minutes, scoring and rebounds to go around. Davis leaves a lot of games early (or sits them out), so we have a decent sample size of what the Pelicans look like with him off the court. From a usage perspective, the clear winner is Demarcus Cousins, who goes from a full squad 32.7% usage to 37% with Davis on the shelf. He also sees a rebounding bump (about 6%) when he’s asked to control more of the glass as the Pels get noticeably when Davis isn’t an option. Cousins’s numbers this season are bordering on MVP levels, with the big man carrying averages of 25.6 points, 12.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. The dip in fantasy scoring per minute he saw with Rondo back in the mix (to 1.35 FPPs per minute from 1.56) is mitigated by the loss of Davis. He’s the clear big-money option tonight with mismatches on Golden State defenders Draymond Green (much smaller) and Zaza Pachulia (much worse at everything).
Meanwhile, the rest of the Pelicans see bumps across the board, as well, when Davis sits. Holiday’s usage ticks up about 10%. He played outsized minutes against Portland on Saturday and put up 18 shots from the field. Holiday will be asked to shoulder more of the scoring load again on Monday as the Pelicans work to keep pace with the Warriors.
Rondo and Miller both come in at value, based on expected production per dollar, though for slightly different reasons. Rajon still isn’t working his on-court time into the mid-30s, but he’s spending time on the ball with per-minute assist numbers climbing back to vintage levels. While Dante Cunningham got the start against Portland on Saturday, Miller was the clear play at the three for the Pelicans. New Orleans was comfortable bringing him off the bench for a quality run even with Davis around, and now his length and versatility allow him to soak up plenty of minutes. He’s still coming at punt levels across the industry and was close to chalk ownership on Saturday. I suspect he’s an even more popular play tonight.
The biggest concern here is the potential blowout. Sure, the Pelicans beat the Blazers on Saturday, but the Warriors are a whole different beast. The biggest risk to a team stack like this is that the major players don’t see their allotted minutes in the fourth quarter because the blowout comes to fruition. Even if you don’t want to go with the stack, the expected increases in minutes and usage with Davis out are significant enough to roster at least a Pelican or two in your lineups tonight.
No Unicorn? No Problem
Enes Kanter (FD: $6,600 DK: $6,200)
Projected Points: FD: 41.6, DK: 43.72
Michael Beasley (FD: $5,000, DK: $3,500)
Projected Points: FD: 28.66, DK: 29.42
Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. have already been ruled out for Monday’s game with the Pacers, easing some potential lineup-lock strain surrounding the Knicks plans. Beasley’s drawn the start in all four games Porzingis has missed this season, averaged 27 minutes along with a 18 points and five rebounds in those contests. He should log upwards of 30 minutes again Monday against a Pacers team ranked 21st in defensive efficiency. They have particular issues with big wings, and SF/PF types are putting up better than league-average scoring against the Bojan Bogdanovic/Thad Young combo. Beasley can create his own shot and has a 26% usage with Porzingis off the court this season. His DraftKings price is very easy to fit into a roster, and will likely make him the chalk at the position. It’s a little closer on FanDuel, but with power forward one of the hardest positions to fill on this slate, he’ll still be plenty popular.
Kanter typically gets about a 10% bump in usage without the Knicks best player, which, on its own, makes him an attractive player on the Monday slate. His minutes floor increases, as well, because the Knicks can’t afford to let his defensive deficiencies drive him off the court as much. They can get away playing Porzingis at the five for stretches because of his length and the offensive mismatches, but without him they’ll need to live with Kanter’s defense because of what he brings in the scoring department. He went for 18 points and 16 rebounds in 31 minutes against the Magic on Sunday, and now faces a Pacers team allowing 17% more scoring and 13% more rebounding than league average to opposing centers. The Pacers struggles on the interior and specifically play to Kanter’s strengths. Stacking him with Beasley in cash games on both sites offers a high floor with significant upside.
Stephen Curry, at Pelicans (FD: $9,900, DK: $9,400)
Projected Points: FD: 47.86 DK: 49.98
The Warriors are always something of a risk on back-to-backs. They will occasionally sit players for rest as they spend the regular season mostly just prepping for the Finals. That being said, Curry sat two games ago with a right-hand contusion, and Shaun Livingston has already been ruled out for Monday. As such, rest doesn’t appear in the cards for Curry (famous last words and all). He’s in a prime matchup against a Pelicans team allowing around 7% more scoring to point guards, and adding Rondo to their mix doesn’t exactly help them on the defensive end. Part of New Orleans defensive issues have stemmed from an increase in pace. They play the league’s seventh-fastest brand of basketball, but also own a bottom-third defensive efficiency. That’s a brutal combo and opposing point guards are feasting on it. Damian Lillard ate them alive on Saturday with a 29/8/5 line to continue the trend, and Curry’s even more of a handful. Curry’s per-minute season numbers are up across the board, with particular strides in scoring and rebounding. As mentioned above, the issue here could be the potential blowout, but Curry’s rotations are such that he’d see at least part of the fourth so long as it’s not completely out of hand.
Kemba Walker, vs. Magic (FD: $7,800, DK: $7,500)
Projected Points: FD: 39.76 DK: 41.25
Taking a player coming back from a two-game injury absence is always a risk, but if a team feels comfortable playing one of their stars (without news of any restrictions) then it’s typically safe to project a full run of minutes. The Magic allow the most points in the league to opposing point guards (11% more than league average) and we are buying Walker at his fourth-lowest FanDuel price of the season. With the addition of Dwight Howard, Walker is taking fewer shots than last season (down to 16.5 shots per game from 18.3) but he’s getting to the line more on dribble-drive penetrations and has increased his assists by 13%. Coming off the injury, I suspect the industry consensus will be to avoid Walker even, with the plus matchup. This is a fantastic time to roster him in GPPs for differentiation.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Evan Fournier, at Hornets (FD: $6,300, DK: $5,500)
Projected Points: FD: 33.22 DK - 34.26
Jonathon Simmons, at Hornets (FD: $5,600, DK: $5,000)
Projected Points: FD: 32.84 DK: 33.22
With Terrence Ross out for the foreseeable future, the Magic have had to shorten their rotations around the two and three, leading to an extended run for both Fournier and Simmons. Their versatility allows them to stay on the court for long stretches because they don’t get caught in defensive mismatches on switches. It also only takes Frank Vogel one look down the bench to see Arron Afflalo and Mario Hezonja as potential subs to find the motivation to keep the starters in the game. They are on a back-to-back after barely beating the short-handed Knicks, but it’s hard to imagine the Magic thinking much in the way of minutes management. This is a team built on its starters, and it needs every minute out of the core five to stay in games. They enter a fantastic matchup against a Hornets team that is getting torched by opposing 2’s and 3’s to the tune of 12% more points and 14% more rebounds than league average. While much has been made of a lineup including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Nicolas Batum, they’ve both been hampered by injury, and haven’t lived up to the billing while sharing the court on the defensive end. Both Simmons and Fournier are willing defenders, chipping in defensive stats to keep their floors safe if the scoring isn’t there, though neither rebound the position particularly well. These mid-range prices are sometimes necessary to round out lineups even, on a night with a lot of available punt plays.
Nicolas Batum, vs. Magic (FD: $5,500, DK: $5,700)
Projected Points: FD: 29.26 DK: 29.87
To say Batum’s season isn’t going according to plan would be a massive understatement. He has been terrible, posting career lows in field goal and three point percentage, at 37% and 22%, respectively. His rebounding and assist numbers are down, as well. With all that said, why should you consider him for your Monday lineups? He’s seeing his minutes tick back up into the mid-30s after the Hornets handled him with kid gloves coming back from injury to start the season. Shooting percentages tend to regress to their historical mean over the long term, which means we can reasonably expect Batum to make possibly massive strides in his scoring. He’s coming at his second lowest price of the season on both sites, and we are buying him in a matchup against a defensively-challenged Magic team. I suspect we will get low ownership on Batum because of how bad the rate stats look, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we were getting him at his absolute low of the season.
Ben Simmons, vs. Suns (FD: $10,500, DK: $9,800)
Projected Points: FD: 55.34 DK: 55.28
You know you are a true hybrid player when you qualify as a power forward on one site, and a point guard and small forward on another. That’s basically the DFS operators (and the NBA, for that matter) throwing up their hands and admitting they don’t know what the guy really plays. Simmons is part of the next generation of talent (that started with Lebron and includes Giannis Antetokuonmpo) of elite ball-handlers who also happen to be huge and lightning quick with the ball, while possessing incredible floor vision. He’s averaging 17.9 points, 9.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game while ranking among the league leaders in minutes, too. He’s a mismatch for just about every team, and gets one of the best DFS matchups around on Monday with the Suns in Philadelphia. Phoenix runs the fastest pace in the league with the very worst defensive efficiency. It doesn’t get any better than that, and Simmons could find himself in the open court and pushing the pace as much as he has—or will—in any game this season. On a night with many punt plays, paying up for Simmons is an easy call. His DraftKings price is much too low for the matchup. On FanDuelm he makes for a star power forward play at a position that’s often difficult to fill with one player, much less two.
Mason Plumlee, at Mavericks (FD: $5,800, DK: $4,300)
Projected Points: FD: 28.59 DK: 27.92
Nothing ever feels safe when it comes to projecting Denver’s starting lineup and rotations, but Plumlee feels like a safe bet, given the circumstances. Nikola Jokic has already been ruled out, and Plumlee is coming off a spot start against the Lakers where he played 31 minutes and finished with a 12/6/6 line. Plumlee, like Jokic, is a willing passer, and though he can’t shoot the three, the Nuggets can still run some of the same sets with him passing out of the high post. There will likely be a downshift in pace compared with the game against the Lakers, as the Mavericks run the sixth-slowest offense in the league. The Mavs, however, have had major rebounding issues, with opposing centers pulling down 5% more boards than league average. I prefer Enes Kanter to Plumlee in the same price range on FanDuel, but you could be looking at playing both on DraftKings where a stars-and-scrubs approach is likely the way to go considering the wealth of value in the lower pricing tiers.