While four teams tipped off last night, 20 more make their debuts on Wednesday in addition to two squads playing the second half of their first back-to-backs. There’s action across the board, with some excellent match-ups, underpriced veterans and downright inexpensive rookies to look at. Let’s dig in.
Damian Lillard, POR at PHO ($8800): Lillard is one of the players who has no limit to his potential on a given night, and he also is one that pays attention to slights and sometimes plays for revenge. The Trail Blazers are not often mentioned among great teams out West, which could motivate Lillard since the team looked so good to end the season once they got Jusuf Nurkic. Plus, they’re playing a young Suns team that plays fast and doesn’t have an intimidating defense. Finally, running mate C.J. McCollum is suspended for this game, meaning that Lillard has a larger than normal responsibility to produce.
Devin Booker, PHO vs POR ($6800): Booker is in magical Year 3, and he’s the primary scoring option on a young team that would love to see him make the leap. He finished the preseason strong, scoring 31 points with five boards and six assists in the finale. And, he’ll be facing a Trail Blazers team without C.J. McCollum which should allow Booker to relax a bit on defense and put more energy into his offense.
Dennis Smith ($4300), De’Aaron Fox ($3800) & Jaylen Brown ($3700): For some reason, FanDuel really low-balled the rookies and young, new starters this season despite the fact that they were playing significant minutes in the preseason. On other platforms, Smith and Fox are priced like DFS starters but on FanDuel, they’re priced as punt plays. The only thing that doesn’t make them MUST starts is that there are only two point guard slots and there are some really good point guards playing on Wednesday, but these two could potentially be really good value. Meanwhile, Brown started on Tuesday and turned in 25 points, six boards and two steals in 39 minutes -- clearly, production WELL beyond his price tag.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL at BOS ($10,200): Antetokounmpo is my preseason pick for NBA MVP this season, and he kicks off his campaign against a Celtics team that is on the second half of a back-to-back and saw their best forward experience a devastating injury in Game 1. He should be all poised to have a monster game.
Ben Simmons, PHI at WAS ($5600): Shoutout to LaMarcus Aldridge ($7000), who I expect to go big on Wednesday with Kawhi Leonard out. But, Simmons looks like another case of FanDuel low-balling rookies, as he’s expected to essentially play point guard for the 76ers and projects to nightly triple-double potential.
Josh Jackson ($4800), Jayson Tatum ($3500): Two more underpriced rookies. Jackson had a big preseason, culminating with 22 points, seven boards, two assists, two steals and a block in his preseason finale and should get solid run early (even if off the bench) for a very young Suns team. Tatum, meanwhile, started at power forward for the Celtics on Tuesday, then saw his role expand after the horrific injury to Gordon Hayward. On the night he played 36 minutes and produced a 14-point/10-rebound double-double with three assists.
Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN at SA ($10,000): The center position is STACKED at the upper end on Wednesday. You almost can’t go wrong with any of the high-priced guys available, as all have the potential to explode on a given night. Towns gets the call here because he’s on a team with big expectations, and he’s facing a Spurs squad whose centers he should be able to handle.
Joel Embiid, PHI at WAS ($7500): Embiid is supposed to be on a minutes restriction to start the season, but it barely matters. His per-minute production was absurd last season, when he averaged 39 fantasy points despite his minutes limit, and in his one preseason game he turned in 22 points and seven boards in 14 minutes of action. If Embiid is on the court at all, he automatically becomes worthy of attention. That said, considering he’s only expected to play roughly 16 minutes, his ceiling is only so high.
Willie Cauley-Stein, SAC vs HOU ($4700): With all of the excellent value at the high end, it’s tough to recommend not using one of the elite centers on Wednesday. However, Cauley-Stein is on a volatile Kings frontline in which Zach Randolph is questionable after oral surgery, and the opportunity is there for Cauley-Stein to grab the reigns. Plus, he’s facing a Rockets squad that is on the second night of their first back-to-back, fresh off an emotionally draining, one-point win over the defending champion Warriors.