With the 2017-18 NBA season entering its first weekend, it’s time to examine which players are expected to excel Friday for daily fantasy sports league purposes. A focal point with this series will be highlighting top plays and favorite Los Angeles Lakers (when applicable) on that day’s DraftKings slate.
A breakdown of two high-priced players, two players in the mid-range, and two value plays will be provided in order to help build your lineups.
High Priced Plays
DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans: ($10,400) – Many DFS players will be focusing on the duo of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis as they start to build their lineups tonight, as the New Orleans Pelicans will be playing in an extremely fast-paced matchup against the Golden State Warriors.
The decision between the two is a tough one but I will be landing on Cousins in this spot. As most DFS players know, and new ones will soon find out, rostering Davis can be an emotional roller coaster as he tends to get injured a lot, and I want to avoid that roller coaster tonight if at all possible (Davis still has immense upside in this matchup and does make a great GPP option).
Cousins averaged 24.4 points, 1.1 blocks, 12.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists for the Pelicans in 17 games last season, and he came out firing on opening night, pouring in 28 points to go along with seven blocks and 10 boards. Cousins notched a 32.8 percent usage rate on opening night and he will continue to be a high usage player this season. Getting exposure to one of the Pelicans’ big men will be a great idea and as I said above, Cousins is my guy tonight.
LeBron James, SF/PF, Cleveland Cavaliers- ($10,500): After being listed as questionable leading up to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ opening night game, James came out showed that he is still one of the most dominant players in the game by dropping 29 points to go along with 16 rebounds and nine assists against the Boston Celtics.
The loss of Kyrie Irving and additions of Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose has changed the face of the Cavaliers, James will be the one that has to carry the team through the regular season. He posted a usage rate of over 34 percent last season with Irving off the floor, to go along with 1.47 DraftKings points per minute, and he should come close to those numbers this season.
The Milwaukee Bucks are an exploitable matchup for wing players, as they surrendered 61.9 points, 25.5 rebounds, and 14.4 assists per game to opposing forwards, putting James in a prime position for a great game.
His price will limit his upside in GPPs so I will be looking to plug him into cash games where I know he will get me 48-50 fantasy points.
Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Hornets ($7,800): Anytime I look at a slate and see the Atlanta Hawks playing, I immediately look to see who the opposing point guard is.
Walker is one of my favorite point guards to roster on a nightly basis, as he tends to go overlooked and is underrated amongst DFS players, so the matchup is just icing on the cake for me.
Last season, the Hawks were one of the best matchups in the NBA for opposing point guards, allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to them (48.86) and all signs from opening night point to them being a sieve on defense again after Dennis Smith Jr. torched them for 16 points and 10 rebounds.
With the loss of Nicolas Batum, Walker will be relied upon heavily to carry the Hornets over the next few weeks. Walker posted a 31.6 percent usage rate on his way to a 24-point, four assists, and six rebound effort in their first game against Detroit and he is in line for a bigger performance tonight.
Elfrid Payton, PG, Orlando Magic ($7,300): Tonight’s matchup between the Orlando Magic and the Brooklyn Nets presents a lot of great fantasy options, and Elfrid Payton comes in as one of my favorites that should go overlooked.
Payton kicked the season off with a good performance against the Miami Heat, posting 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting to go along with nine assists, three boards, and three steals. Payton only had a 21.7 percent usage rate on opening night, which is a little concerning, but he has shown the ability to not only score with ease but rack up peripheral stats in the right matchup.
The Nets were the best matchup in the NBA for opposing point guards last season, allowing 51.43 fantasy points per game to them, and with no improvement in sight, they will be another juicy matchup this season.
Payton torched Brooklyn in two of their three contests last season, scoring 56.3 and 49.3 DraftKings points while notching one of his five triple-doubles last season against them. Payton’s price puts him in a crowded group of guards so this a spot where he could garner low ownership tonight.
Trevor Booker, PF/C, Brooklyn Nets ($4,700): I mentioned above that tonight’s matchup between Brooklyn and Orlando presents us with a lot of great fantasy options, and Trevor Booker is one of those that I am locking in as an excellent source of value.
Booker goes overlooked by most DFS players because he comes off the bench and that is something we can take advantage of, especially in tonight’s matchup against Orlando. Booker is the best rebounder on a young Nets team and he provides a spark on both offense and defense off the bench.
Booker posted a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in 28 minutes off the bench for Brooklyn in game one, and that type of production is what he puts out on a nightly basis. The Magic not only gave up a massive 51.18 fantasy points to opposing centers last season, but they also allowed opponents to pull down the third most rebounds in the NBA at 45.5 per game.
Booker’s $4,700 salary tonight will allow us to get exposure to a lot of great options, and I love him in both cash games and GPPs.
E’twaun Moore, SG/SF, New Orleans Pelicans ($3,700): With a lot of great high-priced and mid-range plays on tonight’s slate, we are going to need some value plays to round out our lineups.
While he isn’t the most appealing name, E’twaun Moore provides us with that value tonight. Coming off a slow-paced game against the Memphis Grizzlies, where he shot 5-of-11 from the field, Moore finds himself in a much faster-paced game against the Warriors this evening.
He scored 11 points, with four assists, two rebounds, and added a steal in that Memphis game, totaling 20.50 DraftKings points. A lack of depth in the Pelicans’ front court will ensure a significant role for Moore in this offense and I expect him to see 11-12 shots again in this spot.
Moore only needs to hit 25 DraftKings points to hit value in GPPs, which is where I will be targeting him. Moore has some risk associated with him so I will look towards Allen Crabbe and Caris LeVert and the Brooklyn value plays in cash games.
Laker of the Day
Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Los Angeles Lakers- ($4,400): The Lakers head to Phoenix tonight to take on a Suns team that got blown out on their opening night by the Portland Trail Blazers.
There are a lot of great options on this Lakers squad to look at but I am going to go with Jordan Clarkson due to his price. Coming in at only $4,400, Clarkson offers a great combination of salary relief and upside in a matchup against a Suns team that allowed 49.38 DraftKings points per game to opposing guards last season and 42.31 per game to opposing shooting guards.
Both of those marks were near the top of the NBA last year. Although head coach Luke Walton hasn’t announced who will start at shooting guard, I would expect that he keeps Clarkson in his valuable sixth-man role again in this game.
Clarkson averaged over 24 DraftKings points per game in that role last season and his performance in their matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers showed that he can provide solid fantasy production coming off the bench. Clarkson makes for an excellent cash game play tonight and has a decent amount of upside for GPPs.