Thursday was one of the highest-scoring slates seen all season long, as there were some massive ceiling performances absolutely needed to take down tournaments. There were also some major injury landmines out there to avoid, as the likes of Kristaps Porzingis, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Malcolm Brogdon all left their respective games in the first half never to return again. Hopefully you were on the right side of variance, but if not, there is a fantastic eight-gamer to finish out the work week. So let’s dive in and find some NBA DFS picks and strategies for DraftKings and FanDuel for Friday, and may the injury Gods be ever in your favor tonight.
Be sure to check out the Slate Starter podcast, featuring yours truly and Rynpak, to get the first look at the slate and make NBA DFS picks for DraftKings and FanDuel!
NBA DFS Slate Starter: Picks & Strategy | April 30
Of All Things, Let’s Talk the P.J. Tucker Effect
Friday’s slate has some curious things that stick out at first glance. For one, there’s no “ugly duckling” game, so to speak, as every single total on the board opened above 220. Secondly, the Trail Blazers – Nets game opened at a robust 240.5, which is a full 14 points more than the next listed matchup (Wizards – Cavaliers). And finally, there is already a pretty good idea of where most of the value will be coming from, as some major things went down yesterday for a few teams playing on the second halves of back-to-backs tonight.
The most notable is the injury to the aforementioned Antetokounmpo, who left after playing all of one minute due to a sprained ankle. Assuming the Bucks exercise caution and rule their two-time reigning MVP out well ahead of time today, there could be some serious Bucks chalk tonight. With that in mind, here’s what the rotations looked like in the aftermath of that injury (courtesy of PopcornMachine.net):
As you can see, some gigantic performances were had by Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, although it still wasn’t enough to overcome Kevin Porter Jr.’s insane ceiling game. With no chance for DraftKings and FanDuel to price these two up due to the back-to-back and salaries being released so early, they’re both substantially underpriced for what their new roles should be on Friday.
In 717 minutes without Antetokounmpo on the floor this season, Middleton has a 31.4% usage rate and puts up 1.32 DraftKings points per minute. At only $7,200 on FanDuel, expect him to be perhaps the highest-owned player on the entire slate. And Holiday actually performs slightly better in his 618 minute sample without Antetokounmpo, flashing 1.34 DraftKings points per minute due to his 26.7% usage rate and 34.1% assist rate. Definitely utilize the Awesemo Boom/Bust tool tomorrow to ensure they’re not going crazy over-owned in comparison to their optimal-lineup percentage. But they simply are too good of plays not to have a lot of should they be active.
The rest of the Bucks, however, are where this could get very interesting. That’s because one P.J. Tucker was the primary beneficiary of the minutes left by Antetokounmpo, getting all the way up to 30 on the night. While being a decent real-life NBA player, Tucker was notorious for being one of the worst per-minute fantasy producers on the planet in his time with the Rockets. And nothing has changed in his 209 minutes with the Bucks so far, as he comes in at an ungodly low 0.50 fantasy points per minute on both sites.
That trims a lot of the potential upside for plays like Bobby Portis or Donte DiVincenzo, who are simply appropriately priced as their projected amount of run shouldn’t change much. Plus, eight games is a large enough slate that their mid-$5,000 salaries on both sites will pale in comparison to some of the other value we’ll surely get for much cheaper. And sure, Bryn Forbes went completely bonkers for 30 real points on 11-for-17 shooting and sits at the minimum on both DraftKings and FanDuel. But he’s another poor fantasy producer at 0.73 DraftKings points per minute, making him the definition of shooting dependent. So as much as one would like to extract more value from this Bucks team, the addition of Tucker just over a month ago makes it extremely difficult to go anywhere besides Middleton and Holiday.
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Happy Alize Johnson Day!
There has been some seriously high-owned pieces of chalk during the course of this NBA season. There were the DeMarcus Cousins slates whenever he was inserted into the starting lineup for the Rockets. Porter was an insanely popular play once the public realized how much run he would receive on his new team. And who could forget the Bucks chalk day versus the Knicks when they rested their starters and there were multiple minimum-priced plays in the starting lineup?
But those situations pale in comparison to what Alize Johnson‘s ownership could be tonight. After being out of the rotation completely since Kevin Durant‘s return, Johnson was blessed with 32 minutes on Thursday, where he promptly put up a ridiculous 20 points and 21 rebounds. And while he may not have the Moses Malone-type numbers against the Trail Blazers tonight, there’s a good chance that outing was far from a fluke.
In his 158 total minutes of court time this season, Johnson posts a ridiculous 1.32 DraftKings points per minute. Considering he’s running alongside teammates such as Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, that’s an impressive feat to post that sort of production. Additionally, 25 to 30 minutes should be within the realm considering the 32 he just played Thursday, and there’s certainly potential for even more should Durant sit on the second half of the back-to-back. All of this combined makes him one of the more can’t-miss plays of the entire year. So regardless of what other value may emerge, Johnson at his price and in this matchup is as close to a lock as you will ever find in NBA DFS.
Final Thoughts for Your NBA DFS Lineups
- Considering the unbelievable value that Johnson brings, Russell Westbrook‘s ownership should automatically inflate. He continues to be “underpriced” at $11,000 on DraftKings and FanDuel, so don’t overthink this one.
- Expect Alex Len to be another source of salary savings the public turns to on this slate, but there’s reasons to be apprehensive. He is still being limited to low-20s minutes, plus Robin Lopez has returned for the Wizards to play even 10 minutes or so at center. That is enough to be worried, even at his $3,300 price tag on DraftKings.
- Just play Joel Embiid.
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