After a wild and wacky weekend, I’m looking forward to a fresh start to the week. If you got bit by the Stephen Curry late-scratch (me) or were led astray by the fabrications of Luke Walton (me again), you are certainly not alone. So let’s chalk that up to variance, hit the reset button and focus on what we can control. With that said, this is your Slate Starter article full of NBA DFS picks and strategy for Monday’s six-game slate on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Be sure to check out the Slate Starter podcast, featuring yours truly and Rynpak, to get the first look at NBA DFS lineups for today’s slate!
NBA DFS Slate Starter: Picks & Strategy | Feb. 22
All the King’s Men
No one’s going to say “those poor Los Angeles Lakers” coming off their 2020 NBA championship, but boy, are they in a world of hurt this week. As if it wasn’t bad enough to lose Anthony Davis‘ for a month-plus, their third-best player, Dennis Schroder, will also be on the shelf for at least Monday and Wednesday due to COVID protocols. And while the Wizards matchup might look enticing on paper, they’re winners of four straight and have Russell Westbrook up to some of his old tricks (see: triple-doubles).
That’s why I’m having a tough time pegging what we should do with our NBA DFS lineups in this 10 p.m. EST late-night hammer. If any other team lost a star center and an above-average point guard, there would obviously be a boatload of production that would have to head elsewhere. But LeBron James exists and tends to absorb most of it, so it’s not that easy. Even James isn’t a shoe-in for me, as $10,400 on both DraftKings and FanDuel requires significantly better play than we’ve seen in his past three sans Davis. So with the increased opportunity that naturally exists in an uptempo game environment with two starters missing, we should have interest in targeting some of these ancillary Lakers pieces.
Just one slight problem: Look at these box scores from their past two outings and let me know who that might be:
Sure, you can punt with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but his 0.6 fantasy points per minute on the year leaves a lot to be desired. Wesley Matthews will be on the court for 30-plus minutes too but somehow has an even worse rate of 0.52 on both sites. Kyle Kuzma sees the biggest bumps with Davis off the floor, but he was preeminently priced out of consideration by DraftKings four games ago with his drastic salary spike (he’s $6,700 Monday). Montrezl Harrell snuck in a double-double last time out, but actively targeting someone around $6,000 at the center position who only plays half the game is suboptimal to say the least.
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Which leads me to my ridiculous, can’t-believe-I’m-saying-this, preferred play from the Lakers on DraftKings, Talen Horton-Tucker. Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but he’s legitimately the only member of the non-LeBron bunch I could see spiking an upside. He is averaging 0.88 fantasy points per minute on DraftKings for the season, has several outings where he’s expressed a 25%-plus usage rate and only costs $3,700. At $3,900 on FanDuel, I’m less interested, but he still makes an intriguing pivot off of the Caldwell-Pope and Matthews punts I expect to be much higher-owned.
Of course, you can poke holes with this play due to the erratic minutes and him being apprehensive offensively of late. So if he’s semi-popular tomorrow, feel free to head elsewhere. But something tells me Horton-Tucker with a 19.9% usage rate this season has a huge game on the horizon. And I, for one, won’t be missing it.
And All That Jazz
One of the first things do in my NBA DFS and sports betting process is copy the totals and spreads for the slate into a spreadsheet. Since there are always a few lines that aren’t posted the night before, I usually upload about half of them while I’m writing this article and the other half in the morning. Those games tend to have less injury news waiting in the wings, making it a fun exercise to guess what the lines will before I open
Which brings me to the Jazz – Hornets matchup; I can’t tell you how strange it was just now uploading a 12-point spread and 228.5 total for this game. For one, the Jazz being double-digit favorites against an average NBA team is not something I anticipated coming into 2021. And secondly, I never imagined I’d be tempted to lay the points. The Jazz had their nine-game winning streak snapped by the Clippers Friday night, but they’ve still been playing some killer ball of late. During that win streak, they won each game by at least 8 en route to 120.1 points per game.
They’re also getting healthier as Mike Conley returned from a two-week hiatus due to a lingering hamstring injury. While his presence mucks up some of the value pieces for our purposes, I’m still on board with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in this spot. Mitchell sees a discounted $8,300 tag on FanDuel, while Gobert’s is a bargain at $7,400 on DraftKings, making it easy to know exactly where to deploy them. I’ll be very curious to see their ownership tomorrow morning, as six games should still be enough to spread things out at their respective positions.
The tough thing is knowing exactly how to treat these Hornets on the other side of the ball. Popular NBA DFS targets LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier have been priced up on DraftKings to reflect their current usage and production (both still feel doable on FanDuel). Gordon Hayward sticks out as the most mispriced at $7,100 on both sites facing his former team. He was immediately able to log mid-30s minutes in his first game back, so he sets up as someone you can certainly take some shots on.
But should he or any of these other Hornets be garnering ownership, do we really want to go there? A 12-point spread is no joke.
Final Thoughts for Your NBA DFS Lineups
- Is it just me, or has Luka Doncic been involved in some massive point guard duels this season, as in, he and the point guard across from him going for 120 combined fantasy points? It feels like it, so let’s just fire up Doncic and Ja Morant.
- I’m already dreading the DeMarcus Cousins “does-he-or-doesn’t-he” news tomorrow. He’s questionable with a heel injury, the Rockets are trying to trade him, and if he ends up being active, godspeed to those of us trying to projecting his minutes. Still, it’s a phenomenal spot against a weak defensive frontcourt for the Bulls. Follow @AwesemoNBA to stay up to date on this and all the other important news pertaining to this slate.
- Just play Chris Paul.
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