It’s a big Monday in the NBA, and thanks to the league’s observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we actually have a full slate of basketball. Games start in the early afternoon and run all the way through the evening, a rarity for the sport. There are plenty of ways to take lineup construction on a day like Monday, but we have you covered with our NBA Lineup Optimizer. Let's break down a packed day of NBA action.
Chris Paul, vs. Clippers (FD: $10,800, DK: $10,300)
Projected Points: FD: 55.16, DK: 57.33
The Rockets brought in Paul in the offseason to spell James Harden with the second unit and add another primary ball handler to the first unit. But now he’s been thrust into his old Clippers role, running the whole team with Harden on the shelf. Few players see quite the on-court/off-court boost that Paul does without Harden. The former goes from a 25% usage to 32% with the Rockets’ superstar off the court. And the assists, oh the assists. Paul, on the season, has a 45% assist rate, but that leaps to 61% without Harden. He’s dominating the offensive flow, and the Rockets have won four of their last six games. He gets a solid matchup against his old team, which is running out a skeleton-crew rotation and ranks in the bottom-third of the league in defense.
Spencer Dinwiddie, vs. Knicks (FD: $6,400, DK: $6,600)
Projected Points: FD: 34.62, DK: 34.88
Dinwiddie and the Nets had the first half out of your nightmares on Saturday night, down 20 going into the locker room with their point guard registering a single assist and a turnover in nine minutes. But in scrappy Nets fashion, they clawed back and forced overtime, and Dinwiddie salvaged his line with 13 points, four assists and six rebounds, despite shooting 4-of-16 from the floor. He’ll get a prime matchup Monday against a Knicks team allowing 2% more scoring and 6% more assists to point guards thanks to its insistence on playing Jarrett Jack major minutes. Dinwiddie's price has stagnated some in the short term, and he is one of the safer Nets to play on a night-to-night basis.
DeMar DeRozan, vs. 76ers (FD: $9,000, DK: $9,100)
Projected Points: FD: 44.19, DK: 44.83
Kyle Lowry has missed the last three games after landing on his tailbone, and DeRozan has predictably taken over the load on offense. In two of the three games, he took 29 and 31 shots (only 13 in a complete blowout against the Bulls), and led a near-epic comeback against the Warriors on Saturday night. He was transcendent, going for 42 points and taking over down the stretch. Lowry is doubtful again Monday, and DeRozan should be in line for massive usage. He goes from a regular 30% usage to 45% with Lowry off the court this season. This is a plus-matchup, as well, against the Sixers.
Tyrone Wallace, vs. Rockets (FD: $4,200, DK: $4,400)
Projected Points: FD: 25.94, DK: 25.85
If you told me at the beginning of the season that in January I’d be writing up Tyrone Wallace in any shape or form I’d have bet I had finally landed that G-League writing gig of my dreams. Alas, here we are in the NBA where, when opportunity knocks, players can come out of the woodwork. The Clippers have been decimated by injuries with Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers and Danilo Gallinari all out right now. That has forced Wallace into major minutes with the first unit, and he has taken full advantage. He has averaged 31 minutes a game in January, with 13 points, three rebounds and two assists per contest. That kind of production is solid at these prices, and he represents a relatively safe cash-game option in the punt tier. The Clippers could come up on the wrong side of a blowout in this game, but that hasn’t affected Wallace’s minutes in the short term.
Kevin Durant, vs. Cavaliers (FD: $10,700, DK: $9,800)
Projected Points: FD: 53.3, DK: 53.52
The primetime game of the day is a rematch of the Christmas Day game (and last year’s finals) where the Warriors beat the Cavaliers 99-92. Durant was the story on both ends of the court that afternoon. He poured in 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting, and also dealt with Lebron for long stretches on the defensive end. Cleveland is really struggling right now and this game does carry some blowout risk, though Vegas has the Warriors at only five-point road favorites. Durant’s DraftKings’ price is especially attractive, though he’s cash-game viable on FanDuel, as well. There are quite a few superstars today, and finding the right big-money spend will be the key to many a winning lineup. I see Durant as the cash-game play in this tier.
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Trevor Ariza, vs. Clippers (FD: $5,500, DK: $5,000)
Projected Points: FD: 29.5, DK: 29.73
Among qualified starters, Ariza ranks in the top 10 in the league in minutes per game. He’s playing an average of 36 per contest, and even more in the short term with the Rockets playing without James Harden and Luc Mbah a Moute. Ariza’s fantasy profile is heavily dependent on scoring, and he needs to knock down threes in order to hit value. On Friday night against the Suns, he shot 50% from beyond the arc and was a fantastic play. We saw Ariza’s downside against the Blazers on Wednesday, when he went 0-for-6 from the field and did very little in his 39 minutes. But in the NBA minutes are king, and almost no other player in this price range plays as much as Ariza. The variance keeps his ownership lower than is typical for a player with his minutes load, but that isn't a reason to avoid him. There's major separation when the three is falling.
Kristaps Porzingis, vs. Nets (FD: $8,900, DK: $8,300)
Projected Points: FD: 46.82, DK: 46.21
As I write this, we need to be at least a little mindful of the way teams deal with minutes and back-to-backs, especially with guys like Porzingis. The Knicks are coming off a Sunday overtime loss to the Pelicans in which Porzingis tied a season-high with 44 minutes. He was solid all around with 25 points, six rebounds and five steals, but that could have him taking a bit of a rest on Monday, compared with his usual playing time. The Knicks have been more liberal with his minutes of late, and he did play 36 on the second half of a back-to-back two weeks ago. If he plays (and I think he will), the matchup against the Nets represents a pace-up game. They run at the fourth-fastest tempo in the league with below-average defensive efficiency. Middle-tier value is sometimes the most difficult to peg, but the combination of usage and matchup have me bullish on Porzingis's safety.
James Johnson, vs. Bulls (FD: $5,400, DK: $5,200)
Projected Points: FD: 29.32, DK: 29.34
Johnson drew the start over Kelly Olynyk on Sunday, though he finished with only four points in 25 minutes thanks, in some part, to foul trouble. I’m a little concerned with the minutes even with the starting gig, but if he’s out there with the first unit again on Monday, then I think we are moving toward safe territory. Johnson is incredibly versatile and can stay on the court for longer stretches against teams like the Bulls, who employ more wings and work less out of the post. Chicago is about league-average defending small forward/power forward types, and Johnson should push toward 30 minutes if he’s starting again. He has struggled with his shooting in the short term, and that, plus coming off the bench recently, has him at his lowest DraftKings price of the season.
Marcin Gortat, vs. Bucks (FD: $5,000, DK: $5,400)
Projected Points: FD: 26.45, DK: 26.29
The Wizards have waffled on how they want to use Gortat this season. At times they’ve been content to run him out there solid starter’s minutes and, in those instances, he has found a pick-and-roll flow with John Wall that has caused issues for opposing defenses. At other times, he has fallen out of favor and struggled to crack mid-30s minutes. The minutes have been there in the short term, and two weeks ago against these very Bucks he played 33 minutes and put up 17 points and seven rebounds. Milwaukee is still on the search for a solid defensive center in the trade market to shore up its greatest defensive weakness. The combination of John Henson and Thon Maker is allowing higher than league-average points and rebounds to opposing centers, helping make Gortat a strong play Monday. I think we see solid run for him in this type of matchup, and he’s a bargain on FanDuel at only $5,000.
Enes Kanter, vs. Nets (FD: $6,500, DK: $6,100)
Projected Points: FD: 30.76, DK: 32.59
On the one hand, when Kanter sees outsized minutes, few other players bring the same points-per-dollar upside to the table. On the other hand, his minutes are all over the place. He has the severe disadvantages of being a terrible defender, which often draws the ire of his head coach, Jeff Hornacek. The Nets aren’t a team that can punish his defensive weaknesses, though, and last time they played Kanter got 27 minutes of run, scoring 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds. He played 36 minutes on the front end of the back-to-back on Sunday, but that isn’t a major concern. I love his tournament upside at a weaker center position, though it will be a push to run him out there in cash games.