This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
Not only is tanking/resting season is in full swing, but the NBA has also seen a recent rash of legitimate injuries, leading to some nights with so many cheap options that it can seem difficult to use the entire $50,000 budget on DraftKings.
That's obviously a good problem to have, and with two full slates (Fri. and Sun) and a five-gamer (Sat.) coming up this weekend, it shouldn't be too hard to strike a balance.
Before we get on to any injury situations, make sure you keep an eye on the Nuggets for Friday's game in Miami. It'll be the second game of a road back-to-back, and Denver rested some key starters in the same situation earlier this week. The team may be hesitant to repeat the strategy because of the criticism it's received, but all five starters reached 30 minutes in Thursday's loss to the Rockets, with Ty Lawson logging a team-high 39.
This isn't really relevant for our purposes, but I have a hard time understanding the outrage over what Denver is doing, as the team is merely following the obvious incentives. A torn ACL or Achilles at this point in the season would likely ruin most of a player's 2015-16 campaign, while wear-and-tear from playing in the NBA should always be considered with potential long-term building blocks such as Lawson and um…Danilo Gallinari? Kenneth Faried?
But in all seriousness, the guys that Denver puts on the court are still playing hard every night, and the rest of the world loses very little by watching Nelson-Harris-Barton-Hickson instead of Lawson-Foye-Gallinari-Faried a few more times this season. Before buying an NBA ticket, it's probably best to understand that the team cares more about its own interests than yours. The same goes for buying a burrito, hat, or pretty much anything else.
Anyway, the potential Denver beneficiaries for Friday are Jameer Nelson ($4500) and Will Barton ($4500). While it might be worth taking a look at the other guys, I'll probably just stick with those two, if Lawson and Randy Foye sit out.
Over in the world of actual injuries, the three teams fighting for the Western Conference's No. 8 seed are all working with thin frontcourts.
OKC faces the Hawks on Friday, and not only is Serge Ibaka (knee) out, but now Enes Kanter (ankle) may be sidelined for a few games. Steven Adams ($4500) was already a strong option in Ibaka's absence, and the Big Kiwi could reach 40 minutes, if Kanter is unable to play. Nick Collison ($3000) and Mitch McGary ($3800) would also be intriguing in such a scenario, especially when you consider Adams' propensity for foul trouble.
And, Russell Westbrook ($12,500) is officially the team's only healthy player with even a shred of offensive ability, so he'll have a massive game in any scenario that isn't a Hawks blowout. Given OKC's ridiculous pace over the last few weeks, I like the idea of stacking Westbrook and Adams/Collison/McGary with one or two Hawks; preferably Paul Millsap ($7700), Al Horford ($6600) or Jeff Teague ($6500).
As for our next injury-ravaged eighth-seed contender, the Pelicans will also be shorthanded for a Friday matchup with an elite team. Monty Williams' squad draws a road date against the Warriors, possibly without the services of Anthony Davis (ankle) and Omer Asik (calf). One of those guys sitting out would make Alexis Ajinca ($3900) an excellent option. If both sit, Ajinca should be in every lineup, with Dante Cunningham also ($3200) worthy of strong consideration due to the lack of options at small forward. Cunningham doesn't do much while on the court, but he's a threat to top 40 minutes in the event both Davis and Asik are unable to play.
As if the issues in the frontcourt weren't enough, Tyreke Evans tweaked his ankle during Thursday's loss to the Suns. Evans will need to take on a big scoring load if Davis cannot play, but between the minor injury and blowout potential, I'm hesitant to target Tyreke. Honestly, if I were Williams, I might just punt this game and let Evans rest, assuming Davis is unable to play. In such a scenario, Norris Cole ($4000) could be in for a huge game. I'm also keeping an eye on Eric Gordon ($5800), despite the tricky matchup.
Elsewhere, the Suns won't play until Saturday in Houston, and they actually have things pretty good compared to the teams they're trying to chase. Sure, the direction of the organization has shifted from extremely promising to rudderless and widely mocked, but at least the Suns' injuries are spread out among multiple positions. Assuming Alex Len (ankle) sits again, Brandan Wright ($5000) will be an excellent option for Saturday, coming off a showing of 40 DK points in Thursday's hideous win over the Pelicans. Marcus Morris ($5300) is also an excellent option while forced into huge minutes, and I even like Eric Bledsoe ($8100) and P.J. Tucker ($5500). I can pretty much promise you that the Suns-Rockets game won't lack for fantasy production.
Getting back to Friday, there may be some nice value in the Toronto and New York backcourts, with Tim Hardaway (wrist) uncertain for a game against the 76ers, while Kyle Lowry (back) is uncertain for a contest in Chicago. If Hardaway sits, Alexey Shved ($6600) and Langston Galloway ($4800) are excellent choices, though Hardaway's presence wouldn't necessarily change that. A Lowry absence, meanwhile, would make Grievis Vasquez ($3100) and Lou Williams ($4300) two of Friday's top low-price options.
Some other injuries to keep an eye on Friday night, with the top potential DraftKings beneficiaries in parentheses…
Anyway, here are some of the top choices for the upcoming weekend (Fri.-Sun.) on DraftKings…
Goran Dragic, MIA (Fri. vs. DEN, Sun. at OKC) $6600 – Dragic will be a popular selection Friday night, and while there's obviously something to be said for going against the grain, this isn't the best place to differentiate your lineup. The Slovenian combo guard logged 39 or 40 minutes in each of his last three games, putting up 32.25, 42.75 and 45.75 fantasy points. He now gets to face a fast-paced Denver team that isn't exactly known for playing strong defense, and the Nuggets may even rest some starters. While that would create some potential for a blowout, Dragic probably won't lose out as much as Dwyane Wade in such a scenario. I love targeting the key guys on teams like Miami, as the Heat are making an all-out push for the playoffs while so many other squads are more focused on either April-June or next season. Also, I've surely mentioned this before, but the Heat's season-long pace statistics are misleading. Miami has been middle-of-the-pack in that regard since the All-Star break, with multiple reports indicating that the increased tempo is intentional. What's more, Dragic will again be a fantastic option Sunday afternoon.
Other options:Russell Westbrook, OKC (Fri. vs. ATL, Sun. vs. MIA), $12,500; Damian Lillard, POR (Fri. at ORL, Sat. at MEM), $7600; Alexey Shved, NY (Fri. at PHI, Sun. at TOR), $6600; Jeff Teague, ATL (Fri. at OKC, Sun. vs. SA) $6600; Langston Galloway, NY (Fri. at PHI, Sun. at TOR), $4800; Reggie Jackson, DET (Sat. vs. CHI, Sun. at BOS)
Monta Ellis, DAL (Fri. vs. MEM, Sun. at PHO), $6700 – The shooting guard position looks painfully thin for Friday, especially given my preference for Dragic over Dwyane Wade. Really, I'm hoping that either the Nuggets rest some starters or Kyle Lowry (back) sits out, in which case Will Barton and/or Lou Williams would come into play. But, since we can't yet make those assumptions, Ellis is my favorite option among a limited bunch. While the Grizzlies are a tough matchup for any position, shooting guards and small forwards haven't had it quite as tough as point guards and big men this season. Mostly, I'm a fan of Ellis' depressed price, as he was playing through an injury for much of February and early March. The huge performance has yet to come, but he did mention a week or two back that he's finally feeling good
Other options:Dwyane Wade, MIA (Fri. vs. DEN, Sun. at OKC), $7900; Eric Gordon, NO (Fri. at GS, Sun. at LAC), $5800; Will Barton, DEN (Fri. at MIA, Sun. at ORL), $4500 Randy Foye, DEN (Fri. at MIA, Sun. at ORL), $4300; Lou Williams, TOR (Fri. at CHI, Sun. vs. NY), $4300; James Harden HOU (Sat. vs. PHO), $11,200;Eric Bledsoe, PHO (Sat. at HOU, Sun. vs. DAL), $8100
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL (Fri. at BKN, Sun. vs. CLE), $6900 – Small forward doesn't look much better than shooting guard for Friday night, as all the best value plays seem to be concentrated at the other three positions. Again, injuries and other late news will likely change things by 7 PM ET, but as of Friday morning there just aren't any standout options. I thus find myself steering toward a guy like the Greek Freak, who has logged 34 or more minutes in nine of his last 10 games. He also had 25 or more DK points in nine of those 10 games, including 39.25 and 40.25 points in his last two contests. Given the high ceiling and decent matchup, Giannis makes for a nice placeholder, at the very least. I'm actually starting to talk myself into this one, even though I think he's been slightly overpriced the past few weeks.
Other options:Rudy Gay, SAC (Fri. vs. CHA, Sun. vs. WAS), $7700; Nicolas Batum, POR (Fri. at ORL, Sat. at MEM) $6900; Luol Deng, MIA (Fri. vs. DEN, Sun. at OKC), $5400; Paul Pierce, WAS (Fri. at LAC, Sun. at SAC), $5900; Tony Allen, MEM (Fri. at DAL, Sat. vs. POR), $4500; Maurice Harkless, ORL (Fri. vs. POR, Sun. vs. DEN), $4000; Dante Cunningham, NO (Fri. at GS, Sun. at LAC), $3200; P.J. Tucker, PHO (Sat. at HOU, Sun. vs. DAL), $5500
Paul Millsap, ATL (Fri. at OKC, Sun. vs. SA), $7700 – I've been hesitant to use Atlanta starters over the last couple of months, as the team hasn't been a good source of big individual performances. However, Friday's game is a perfect spot to target any and all of the key Hawks, with OKC playing at the league's fastest pace (101.6) since the All-Star break. What's more, OKC is 24th in defensive rating (104.2) since the break, as they've largely been reliant on Russell Westbrook's offense to make up for all other shortcomings. It's always fun to target fast-paced, defensively challenged teams, with the Thunder, Kings and Nuggets being the most obvious current examples. Millsap may not carry the most favorable price tag among his teammates, but I expect he'll draw the best matchup. OKC's Enes Kanter (ankle) appears no better than questionable, which likely leaves Mitch McGary and Nick Collison to deal with Millsap.
Other options:LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (Fri. at ORL, Sat. at MEM), $8900; Zach Randolph, MEM (Fri. at DAL, Sat. vs. POR), $7300; Tim Duncan, SA (Fri. vs. BOS, Sun. at ATL), $6800; Ersan Ilyasova, MIL (Fri. at BKN, Sun. vs. CLE), $5200; Nene Hilario, WAS (Fri. at LAC, Sun. at SAC), $4400; Mitch McGary, OKC (Fri. vs. ATL, Sun. vs. MIA), $3800; Boris Diaw, SA (Fri. vs. BOS, Sun. at ATL), $3700; Marcus Morris, PHO (Sat. at HOU, Sun. vs. DAL), $5300
Steven Adams, OKC (Fri. vs. ATL, Sun. vs. MIA), $4500 – I realize I already discussed Adams, but it's still worth taking a deeper look. I will admit that he's one of my favorite NBA players, and that's largely because of his physical style that often includes committing stupid fouls. He also puts a hilarious amount of effort into bothering Blake Griffin, typically in the most childish way possible. In any case, what I find so interesting about Adams is that he can't currently deploy his usual style of play. The Thunder suddenly need 30-plus minutes from him, and they may even need 40 on Friday, if Enes Kanter (ankle) is unable to play. With Adams averaging 20.9 DK points over 24.3 minutes this season, it's fair to expect 25-to-30 points Friday night, despite the difficult matchup. He even has 23-plus points in each of his last four games, so it's not as if the production would be coming out of nowhere. Also, Al Horford's price is down to $6600, and he's likely licking his chops at the prospect of facing a foul-averse Adams. Not that you need any more incentive to target this game, but the over/under is listed around 212.5, which should be the highest of the night.
Other options:Hassan Whiteside, MIA (Fri. vs. DEN, Sun. at OKC), $7600; Al Jefferson, CHA (Fri. at SAC, Sun. at MIN), $6900; Al Horford, ATL (Fri. at OKC, Sun. vs. SA), $6600; Jonas Valanciunas, TOR (Fri. at CHI, Sun. vs. NY), $5300; Alexis Ajinca, NO (Fri. at GS, Sun. at LAC), $3900