This article is part of our Yahoo DFS Basketball series.
The main slate consists of only three games beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST. A big reason for that is the NFL Conference Championships and it's going to make these prize pools a lot smaller than usual. That doesn't really matter for us because we're going to continue to grind out profits. The six teams in action will be the Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers. There are plenty of question marks with these teams because of injuries and COVID protocols, which should make things very interesting. So, let's get into it!
Damian Lillard, POR vs. NYK ($45)
Lillard is going to be impossible to fade on this slate. The reason we say that is because he's a usage monster with CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic both sidelined. That's two of the three best players on this team and it's likely going to force Lillard into 40 minutes and 25 shots. With those two off the floor, Dame carries a 32 percent usage rate while averaging 1.4 Yahoo points per minute. That's a scary rate from such a talented player. And while the Knicks have a good defense, they simply can't slow down a stud like this.
Elfrid Payton, NYK at POR ($18)
On the other side of the ball, we love Elf. This is expected to be the closest contest of the night and that should force Payton into some big minutes opposing Dame. That's certainly been the case so far this year, with Payton averaging 26.3 FD points per game across 31 minutes a night over his last 15 fixtures. That's really all you can hope for from a player south of $20 and Lillard is certainly not famous for what he does on the defensive end. In fact, Portland surrenders the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing point guards this year.
Guard to Avoid
Kevin Huerter, ATL at MIL ($19)
Huerter has been really popular in DFS circles over the last week, but he's definitely someone to fade here. We say that because everyone has returned for Atlanta. They just got back Danilo Gallinari, De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish from injury and that muddles up this wing rotation. All of those players steal minutes from Huerter and it's even more concerning when you see Trae Young takes all the ball-handling while Clint Capela swallows up all the rebounds. There's simply not enough usage out there for Huerter to be successful and that's particularly concerning with all these guys back and fully healthy. Not to mention, Milwaukee comes in with a Top-10 defense based on defensive efficiency ratings.
Julius Randle, NYK at POR ($42)
It's crazy just how good Randle has become this season. While many people might argue it's because of his Tom Thibodeau's role, that really doesn't matter for DFS. On the contrary, it makes Randle one of the most trustworthy options out there. We're talking about someone who will play close to 40 minutes and take 20 shots and lead the team in usage. That's allowed Randle to score at least 36 Yahoo points in 16 of his 17 games this season, en route to a 45-point average. The best part of this might be the matchup though, with Portland ranked 27th in total defense.
Robert Covington, POR vs. NYK ($15)
There aren't going to be many statistics that make this look like a good play right now, but things are eventually going to turn around. Covington was a $25 player throughout most of last season and it's only a matter of time before he returns to that level. His three-point shooting and rebounding have dropped off drastically this year, but should be forced into doing both of those a lot more with McCollum and Nurkic both out. Increasing those with Covington's elite defensive statistics is a recipe for success and it definitely makes him a great value at $15. He's still guaranteed for 30-35 minutes and double-digit shot attempts on a nightly basis. And as long as that keeps happening, Covington will eventually exceed $20 again.
Forward to Avoid
John Collins, ATL at MIL ($26)
Some of the issues we discussed for Huerter really scare us here with Collins. With Gallinari, Hunter and Reddish all back in action, Collins is losing minutes at the four. That's bad news with Capela swallowing up nearly all the center minutes, which is evident when you see Collins is playing fewer than 30 minutes a night. That was low before these guys returned and it's frightening to think what it will be at now. That low total has held JC to 27 Yahoo points or fewer in five of his last seven games while averaging a lackluster 30.6 fantasy points on the season. We already discussed how Milwaukee also boasts a scary defense and that doesn't even take into consideration the serious blowout potential Atlanta faces here.
Enes Kanter, POR vs. NYK ($21)
Let's finish off our Blazers' stack with Kanter. He's the direct beneficiary of Nurkic's absence, having started the last two at center. In those two starts, Kanter has produced over 80 combined fantasy points and played at least 27 minutes in both. Court time is the only thing that's slowed him down in the past, but represents a fantastic play at $21 if he'll play at least 25 minutes. This is a guy who averages about 1.4 Yahoo points per minute for his career, which would equate to 42 fantasy points if he plays 30 minutes here.
Robin Lopez, WAS at SAS ($10)
The Wizards haven't played in so long that people probably forget that Lopez is starting for them right now. Thomas Bryant went down with a torn ACL two weeks ago and Lopez dropped 27 fantasy points across 26 minutes of action in his first start for TB. That's an absurd total from a minimum-salary player and Robin should be playing at least 20 minutes for this shorthanded frontcourt. We're not necessarily worried about San Antonio's 17th-ranked defense either.
Center to Avoid
Bobby Portis, MIL vs. ATL ($15)
Portis is actually the seventh-highest center on this slate and we simply can't use him because of his minutes. In fact, he's played 17 minutes or fewer in three straight while averaging just six shots a night during that stretch. While Portis can produce big numbers in small minutes, we simply can't trust a guy who's unlikely to play 20 minutes. Atlanta's defense has been better than many expected by ranking seventh in defensive efficiency.