COVID-19 continues to make its impact within the NBA, as Saturday’s DFS slate will be without the Pacers/Suns game, making Saturday the fifth day of the week with at least one game postponed. With that being the case, we have a four-game main slate on both FanDuel and DraftKings, with the two earlier games being left off. Because of this, the breakdown will encompass the four main-slate games.
Vegas odds are derived from DraftKings SportsBook. All totals from the time of writing are posted. With that said, some games will not have totals posted if there is outstanding injury news.
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Charlotte Hornets @ Toronto Raptors (-8)
Pace: CHA (21st), TOR (13th)
Defensive rating: CHA (8th), TOR (22nd)
While a four-game slate makes it hard to cross games off as ones to avoid targeting, this is one that is potentially as close as it gets. The difference maker for the Charlotte side of the ball will be the status of Gordon Hayward, who was a late scratch Thursday. In his absence, Caleb Martin drew the start and saw 24 minutes. At $3,500, he makes for a reasonable value option if Hayward sits again.
In that same game, we saw Miles Bridges (28 minutes), P.J. Washington (33) and LaMelo Terry Rozier (37) step up and fill the void. In the case that Hayward is out again, I would prioritize them by going Washington, Rozier, followed by Bridges. LaMelo Ball’s minutes were rather unaffected (26), but his production remains elite and he saw a bump up to a 27.5% usage rate in that game sans Hayward. Paying $8,000 for a bench player is a risky investment, but when they have triple-double upside, it’s a price worth paying in tournaments. Devonte’ Graham was also a beneficiary in terms of volume and minutes (15 shots, 37 minutes), but wasn’t able to capitalize on the expanded opportunity. If Hayward sits again, I’m willing to take another shot here given his reasonable price.
The Hornets have typically been a team to target in DFS, but it’s been a bit different this season, as they rank bottom-10 in pace and top-10 in defensive rating. To make matters more complicated, the Raptors are also a team that spread the ball around a ton. The Hornets rank sixth in the league against scorers this season, per advanced DvP, making it harder to trust in Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry, especially with the entire team healthy and rounding into form. If choosing one, Lowry is my preference at a $300 discount.
The one Raptors player I have a ton of interest in is Chris Boucher. He’s seen a bump up to 28.5 minutes per game over his last three as Aron Baynes takes a backseat. Over that span, he’s averaged 20 points, eight rebounds and 3.7 blocks with three three-pointers per game. For $6,900, that per-minute production (1.40 FPPM this season) is hard to match on a four-game slate.
OG Anunoby is worth consideration on a four-game slate, especially considering the fact that he’s averaging over 34 minutes per game this season and we know he carries a significant ceiling.
Philadelphia 76ers (-3) @ Memphis Grizzlies
Pace: PHI (4th), MEM (20th)
Defensive rating: PHI (4th), MEM (6th)
The biggest injury news on the slate comes from this game, as Joel Embiid has already been ruled out. The obvious beneficiaries here are Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, the former of whom is ridiculously underpriced for a game without Embiid. Last season without Embiid, Simmons posted 1.21 fantasy points per minute while sporting a 21.2% usage rate, 35.3% assist rate and 11.9% rebounding rate. Harris, on the other hand, generated the highest usage rate in this scenario (26.7%) and still posted 1.16 FPPM. On a slate with no high-priced studs to force in, these two are an easy pairing to stack.
With a different supporting cast this season, we should expect more opportunities on offense for Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey without Embiid, plus the absence of Seth Curry only helps these two. Both sport usage rates over 23% in this scenario, while Maxey is averaging over a fantasy point per minute. The direct positional beneficiary to Embiid’s absence is Dwight Howard and while he’s averaged 1.11 fantasy points per minute without him this season, there are better spots to attack at the center position, even if looking for a value option.
The absence of Embiid should clear up room in the paint for Jonas Valanciunas, who finally had his ceiling game Thursday against the Wolves. He saw just over 30 minutes in that game, seeing 19 shot attempts and grabbing 16 boards. While the Sixers are a much better defensive team than Minnesota even without Embiid, Valanciunas makes for an elite tournament target given the ceiling that he just flashed.
Outside of Valanciunas, it’s hard to have interest in the Grizzlies in this matchup, even if Ja Morant makes his return. In that case, Morant himself would be a great play (pending news on playing time), as $7,600 is a significant discount compared to what we’ve become accustomed to paying for him. Brandon Clarke is another strong play from this team, especially for $5,900 on FanDuel where you’re forced to play two power forwards. He’s seen 30-plus minutes in three of his last four games, topping 43 FanDuel points in two of those.
Detroit Pistons @ Miami Heat
Pace: DET (22nd), MIA (6th)
Defensive rating: DET (23rd), MIA (17th)
As things stand at the time of writing this article Saturday morning, Bam Adebayo (COVID-19), Tyler Herro (neck), Goran Dragic (COVID-19), Moe Harkless (COVID-19), Kendrick Nunn (COVID-19) and Gabe Vincent are all questionable for the Heat. On top of this, Jimmy Butler, Avery Bradley and Meyers Leonard have already been ruled out. Because of the questionable tags, there are two hypotheticals to address.
If all of the players going through the health and safety protocols end up being ruled out, just about anyone on the Heat immediately becomes viable, as they’d be down to eight players at most (and this includes Udonis Haslem). Both Kelly Olynyk and Precious Achiuwa would be some of the best per-dollar options on the entire slate and would likely also be two of the most popular. If this becomes the case, this is chalk that’s worth eating.
The other hypothetical is that some of these players listed as questionable play, while others sit. Or, all of them suit up. In that case, Bam Adebayo (29.1% usage rate, 1.41 FPPM), Goran Dragic (29.9% usage rate) and Tyler Herro (28.4% usage rate) would become the biggest beneficiaries of Butler’s absence. Given the strength of this matchup, this is a key team to monitor and target, something we will be doing throughout the day in the FTN Discord channel.
The Pistons, unlike the Heat, don’t have a ton of potential to present us with production and value that we want, even on a four-game slate. Because their game on Friday got postponed, we don’t need to worry about Blake Griffin and/or Derrick Rose sitting on the second leg of a back-to-back, giving them a full rotation sans Killian Hayes.
Because of Hayes’ absence, there’s merit to playing Rose as the key cog off of the bench given his elite usage rate, but he’s not someone to go out of your way to target. Delon Wright should continue to start for Hayes and makes for a fine option at $4,900 on DraftKings as long as you’re comfortable stomaching a lot of offensive volatility.
Jerami Grant is the only other Detroit piece worth considering, even at $7,400. He’s come alive as the primary option in this offense, averaging 24.8 points and six boards per game on the back of a 26.6% usage rate and 1.08 FPPM. For what it’s worth, the Heat rank 25th against scorers and 26th against crafty finishers this season per advanced DvP, two of Grant’s four archetypes this season.
Atlanta Hawks @ Portland Trail Blazers (-4.5, 234.5 total)
Pace: ATL (11th), POR (12th)
Defensive rating: ATL (11th), POR (26th)
The ownership on Saturday’s slate is likely to flock to the late game and rightfully so, as the 234.5-point total on this game presents an elite fantasy environment.
Trae Young ($8,900) remains too cheap on DraftKings, regardless of the increase in volatility this season. He had a brutal game on Friday against the Jazz, scoring only four points in 24 minutes, but that actually bodes well for Saturday, as he only saw 24 minutes on the first leg of a back-to-back. This is a situation where you scrap that game from your short-term memory and move forward, as Damian Lillard’s defensive rating (113.4) is the second worst among point guards playing at least 30 minutes per game this season.
Both John Collins ($7,100) and Clint Capela ($6,700) are viable at their prices, especially with Jusuf Nurkic out for Portland. They should be able to grab any rebound that they want Saturday, and their prices are not indicative of the ceiling that accompanies them.
On the wing, both Cam Reddish ($4,600) and De'Andre Hunter ($6,200) are viable in this matchup. Hunter provides more stable production, but the $1,600 price difference should make Reddish a popular value option.
For Portland, the story remains the same as it has all season long, as both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are viable any time they touch the floor. Both are sporting usage rates over 28% and over 1.28 FPPM this season, making them elite options on a four-game slate. If you play a lineup with one of them, it’s wise to hedge by playing a second lineup with the other.
Enes Kanter, however, will likely be the most popular player from Portland Saturday. With Jusuf Nurkic slated to missed at least the next handful of weeks, Kanter should step into the starting center role after already seeing more than 18 minutes per game this season. While his price rose to $5,600, his per-minute production justifies the increase. Even with Nurkic this season, Kanter has posted 1.26 FPPM and given the matchup, he makes for an easy plug-and-play with the safe expectation that we get 25-plus minutes out of him.
There may be more frontcourt minutes for Robert Covington and Derrick Jones if Portland decides to play small-ball, but both have been putrid per-minute producers this season and are players I refuse to force into my lineups.