We have finally made it to opening night in the NBA. The off-season leading up to it has been a tumultuous four months filled with free agency signings (#sources), trades, and a shirtless JR Smith but here we are ready to do it all again. Both NBA Championship participants will be in action on a short, three game slate that is full of narratives. The Daily Picks article will highlight players that are in action by match-up and position.
(Editor’s Note: These write ups are not edited. All prices listed are for FanDuel, NOT DraftKings. We strictly do 80’s Joel music. -JB)
Damian Lillard ($8,900) – After a strong finish to the preseason (27 and 20 points in his last two), Lillard opens up the season against a Utah Jazz team that will be without Gordon Hayward and possibly Derrick Favors. The Jazz have added George Hill to bolster their back court (Indiana ranked 10th vs PG position last year defensively) but I am still not concerned about the head to head match-up here. The All-Star will be the focal point of an offense that is projected to score 99.5 points on their home floor. With Rudy Gobert likely to shut down the Blazers on the interior, look for Lillard to carry the Blazers offense.
Projection: 23 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers (40.3 FanDuel points)
Kyrie Irving ($7,100) – The Cavaliers will begin the 2016-2017 season against an improved Knicks squad but I am not concerned about Kyrie’s match-up against Derrick Rose who is a minus defender (Chicago 27th against PGs last year). Add in the fact that Matthew Dellavedova is now in Milwaukee and you have a very strong play. Irving is one of the best at beating defenders off the dribble and creating his own shot and he should have no problem doing this on Tuesday night. As long as the game stays competitive (Cleveland -9.5), there’s no reason to believe that Irving won’t exceed his value.
Projection: 21 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnovers (33.8 FanDuel points)
Steph Curry ($9,300) – The reigning MVP will get a difficult match-up against the San Antonio Spurs to begin the new campaign. After going 23-40 from the field in the preseason (14-25 3PT), he clearly has shown no signs of slowing down but I have two major concerns about the Warriors team to start the season. 1 – They are playing one of the toughest team defenses in the NBA and 2 – I have no idea who is going to be a 25-30 point scorer on a nightly basis. Steph is not a bad play and he will have his nights but I am going to take a wait and see approach on him until we can get some clarity on how much Kevin Durant will eat into his league leading 30.1 PPG from last season.
Projection: 19 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 4 turnovers (33.1 FanDuel points)
George Hill ($5,600) – The aforementioned George Hill will start his age 30 season on a new team (Utah Jazz) squaring off against the Portland Trailblazers. At this point in his career, we clearly know what we are getting when we roster Hill. 12-15 points, a couple of rebounds, a moderate assist total, and a steal or two. Since he lands on a new team for the first time since 2011, many DFSers will take a chance on an old dog in the hopes he can perform some new tricks. Overall, I’m thinking he is more likely to roll over but the opening night match-up against the Blazers (25th against PGs last season) in a pace-up game can’t be ignored. Expect George Hill to pick up an unexciting 22-27 fantasy points in this game and flirt with his value threshold.
Projection: 13 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers (24.1 FanDuel points)
Derrick Rose ($6,000) – After missing more than two weeks of the preseason due to legal issues, Derrick Rose returned to practice in advance of a match-up with the Cavaliers. He has shown glimpses of his past MVP form in preseason action but Rose has clearly lost a few steps due to injuries (hot take). This isn’t a terrible match-up for him to exploit but after missing a few weeks it may take a little while for him to get in sync with the Knicks offense. I’m not taking my chances but the match-up is “gettable”.
Projection: 13 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 0 steals, 4 turnovers (21.3 FanDuel points)
Brandon Jennings ($4,500) – On the other end of the Knicks PG spectrum, Brandon Jennings certainly made the most of his opportunity to start in Rose’s absence during the preseason, providing a much needed boost of energy. Jennings will look to play the role of a spark plug off the bench for a Knicks squad that has desperately lacked one for the past few seasons. Due to a lack of depth, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jennings dominated the Cavaliers second unit in this game. Also with a 9.5 point spread, Jennings could see extended run if the game gets out of hand or he outplays Rose.
Projection: 15 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover (27.4 FanDuel points)
CJ McCollum ($6,900) – Entering his fourth season in the NBA, McCollum continues to take giant leaps forward. The Jazz are without Gordon Hayward and this greatly benefits anybody who is opposing them on the wing. McCollum is a hybrid shooting guard who can rack up points in a hurry but also contribute in other stat categories unlike others at his position. On a short slate, we have to take our chances on him doing this. McCollum is arguably the best SG on the board and has a strong chance to outscore the field at the position.
Projection: 24 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers (32.9 FanDuel points)
Klay Thompson ($6,500) – Similar to Steph Curry’s situation, I am hesitant to roster Warriors scorers until their is some clarity to their roles in this offense with Kevin Durant. However, when there is only six teams in action and an extremely weak field at SG – Klay still rises to the top of the board. Although McCollum is a safer play at a slightly higher price, Klay Thompson has the highest upside of anyone at the position. Curry and Durant likely to receive a majority of the attention from the Spurs defense. With backup Kyle Anderson defending him, Klay Thompson could be a sneaky pick to lead the Warriors in scoring to begin the season.
Projection: 22 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover (29.3 FanDuel points)
Rodney Hood ($5,400) – At first glance, the Utah Jazz appear to have deficiencies on offense. With Gordon Hayward expected to miss a month, Alec Burks out, and Derrick Favors questionable for opening night, there are not many options in the Jazz offense. Rudy Gobert is a talented defender, George Hill is average at best, and newly signed Joe Johnson is 35 years old. We don’t have many places to turn and someone is going to have to pick up the slack. At this point, the best option on this team is Rodney Hood. In his second NBA season out of Duke, Hood averaged 14.5 points and had dominant stretches where he was scoring 40+ FanDuel points. Despite his struggles in the preseason, I believe that Hood is a strong bet for a solid outing against the Blazers. With such a weak SG field, you are not taking a big risk in rostering him.
Projection: 22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 3 turnovers (33.8 FanDuel points)
Iman Shumpert ($4,000) – The Cavaliers bench is bad. Like, really bad. After spending $100 million on their starting five, ownership scrapped together an island of misfit toys to round out the roster. Only a few players remain from their bench that contributed to last year’s championship team and Shumpert is one of them. At this point in his career, he is clearly the most talented option in this bunch (apologies to Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, James Jones, Chris Anderson, Mike Dunleavy, and Jordan McRae).Shumpert is not going to score a ton of actual points but against a group of Knicks guards who are turnover-prone, he has a strong chance to rack up some steals. If he is able to sneak in 8-10 points, a couple of rebounds, and a couple of assists – Shumpert could become a strong value play. The field that will gravitate towards Courtney Lee and JR Smith (mentioned below). If Shump can outscore these two, you will have a leg up on a large portion of the field.
Projection: 6 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover (22.2 FanDuel points)
Courtney Lee ($3,900) – Lee is one of the least exciting players in the NBA. His offensive role is usually standing in the corner and spotting up for the occasional three-pointer. He plays in the NBA because he is a solid defender. With the Knicks, Lee will not be relied on the offensive end and will earn his points by recording peripheral stats. If he plays 30 minutes and reaches 20 FanDuel points, you squeezed every ounce out of Courtney Lee. He can be used as a way to squeeze an extra star into your lineup on this short slate but prepared to be weary of what you’re getting.
Projection: 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 turnover (14.1 FanDuel points)
JR Smith ($4,500) – After spending a majority of his off-season unsure of where he would be playing next, JR Smith returned to Cleveland after Lebron James urged management to resign him. The fifth member of the Cavs $100 million dollar starting five may be slowly eased into the swing of things but it is clear he will be starting on opening night and is a safe bet for 30 minutes of playing time. I’m not sold on JR Smith laying pipe in a match-up with the improved Knicks but he should have a moderate stat line that could pay off his cheap salary.
Projection: 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 turnover (18.9 FanDuel points)
Note: Small Forward is clearly a strong suit on this slate. With 3.5 superstars at the position being featured across three games (Melo = 0.5 superstars), a GPP could be won or lost by choosing the wrong one. I will write up all four of them as they are all clearly worthy of rostering.
Lebron James ($9,600) – The NBA Finals MVP begins his title defense against one of the two “super teams”* in the league. Vegas clearly does not see eye to eye with Derrick Rose’s assumption as the Cavaliers enter this game as 9.5 point favorites. By rostering Lebron, we are hoping this game stays within reach throughout all four quarters. He is going to get his points and stuff the stat sheet like he has done his entire career. The Knicks don’t have anyone on the defensive end to slow him down and Joakim Noah can’t protect the rim like he was once able to. Lebron will get to the basket as much as wants in this game. He is the most expensive player on opening night for a reason.
Projection: 24 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers (51.7 FanDuel points)
Kevin Durant ($9,300) – In one of the most shocking free agency moves of all time, Kevin Durant stunningly left OKC and headed to the Bay Area to join the Warriors. Now here we are on opening night and he finally gets to suit up for his new team. I expect him to be mercilessly booed in road games but luckily the Warriors open the season at home in what is sure to be a raucous environment. They start the season with a tough test against a new look Spurs team that features Pau Gasol and is without Tim Duncan for the first time since 1997. However, they still have Kawhi Leonard who is THE premier wing defender in the NBA and who will be tasked with slowing down KD. FWIW, let’s see how this looked in last year’s Conference Semi-Finals:
Kevin Durant vs Spurs (6 games, Thunder won series 4-2): 28.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.7 steals, 3.8 turnovers.
Yeah, he’s pretty good. A few things we can take away from this –
- No one can slow down Kevin Durant. Not even Kawhi Leonard. He’s match-up proof.
- KD was playing with Russell Westbrook in this series, and for the past eight seasons, who consistently has one of the highest usage rates in the NBA. We shouldn’t be worried about him playing alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on offense.
With all of this being said, KD is sure to get his points but I believe he can suffer in secondary categories to start the season. He will be a premier play but could be outscored by someone like Lebron or Kawhi on Tuesday night.
Projection: 26 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 1 block, 5 turnovers (38.6 FanDuel points)
Kawhi Leonard ($7,900) – See above. Kawhi is tasked with matching up with one of the best players in the NBA. However, Leonard is also one of the best two-way players in his own-right. As strong offensively as he is defensively, we can expect him to fill up the stat sheet in what should be the highest scoring contest of the night (211 over/under). Leonard’s style of play isn’t as in your face as some of the other superstars in the league but don’t let this fool you in to not rostering him in DFS. Especially in this game.
Projection: 21 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers (41.7 FanDuel points)
Carmelo Anthony ($8,000) – We have finally made it to the superstar of the newest and most heavily respected super team in the league (9.5 point underdogs to start the year). In all seriousness, the Knicks are a decent team and one that is capable of winning 45-48 games in the East, making a run at a 6-8 seed. This game falls into the 34-37 games they should lose. By rostering Carmelo Anthony at $8k, we want him to play a full compliment of minutes in a competitive game. If he gets this, he will mostly be squaring up against his good friend Lebron James. The good news is that Melo seems to rise to the occasion when he is on the floor with Lebron and constantly looks to make a statement against him. I expect that he will be shooting early and often and the Knicks will live and die with his performance on Tuesday night. He has the lowest floor out of the 4 premier SFs in this slate, This is a perfect scenario for large GPPs that will see the masses gravitate towards the three SFs mentioned above.
Projection: 22 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 blocks, 1 steal, 3 turnovers (37.2 FanDuel points)
Joe Johnson ($5,400) – See Rodney Hood. In this case, a 35 year old man gets an opportunity to be featured in a bad offense that is without Gordon Hayward and possibly Derrick Favors. Joe Johnson is washed up at this point in his career but without having to face the total grind of the NBA season yet, he is fresh and has the pedigree to potentially put up a strong point total. If he could fall in to a few secondary stats, hitting value is possible. On a three game slate, we leave no stone un-turned.
Projection: 13 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers (22.6 FanDuel points)
Evan Turner/Mo Harkless ($5,600) – I am grouping these two players together simply because they play the same position, are on the same team, will play about the same compliment of minutes, and are priced exactly the same. It is projected that Mo Harkless will open up the season against the Jazz but ET is expected to play his share of minutes off the bench. To me, it is a situation to avoid unless you feel like taking a stab on one of them with the hopes that they go off for 30-35 FanDuel points with a sub-10% ownership. On night one of the NBA season and such a strong SF field, I’ll look elsewhere.
Mo Harkless Projection: 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 turnovers (14.3 FanDuel points)
Evan Turner Projection: 10 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers (16.9 FanDuel points)
Kyle Anderson ($3,500) – Danny Green is expected to miss the first 3 weeks of the season with a quad injury. Kyle Anderson has filled in for the last few games of the preseason and played relatively well with Green on the shelf. We can assume this will continue on opening night. While we can’t ever be sure of Gregg Popovich’s rotations, we can still feel comfortable taking a chance on a player at minimum price in a game that features the highest over/under.
Projection: 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover (18.6 FanDuel points)
Draymond Green ($8,200) – Draymond is sure to take a big hit in scoring with Kevin Durant in the picture but with his ability to fill up the stat sheet, he is always in play. I expect his actual point total to be down in this game but he is capable of nearing a triple double against a Spurs team that was 4th best in fantasy points allowed to PFs last season. With only three games on the schedule, he is in play.
Projection: 8 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 3 turnovers (38.3 FanDuel points)
LaMarcus Aldridge ($7,400) – With Tim Duncan no longer in the picture we would expect LA to be the primary source of points in the Spurs offense. However, the additions of Pau Gasol and David Lee down low will take away a bit of this opportunity. It will be interesting to see how Pau and Aldridge mesh together on offense but for now, we can expect both of them to slightly eat in to each other’s point output. With a tough date against the Warriors’ Draymond Green, LA would be a contrarian play at best on a full slate. He is in play if you believe Pau Gasol won’t dominate the touches on offense in a slightly better individual match-up with Zaza Pachulia.
Projection: 14 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, 1 turnover (30.8 FanDuel points)
Kristaps Porzingis ($6,900) – After a surprisingly strong rookie campaign, Kristaps looks to start his sophomore year with a bang in Cleveland. He showed high upside during his first season, even if he was slightly volatile at times due to foul trouble. With a stronger team overall, I expect KP to continue his strong play. The Cavaliers offense ranked first against PFs last season but Kevin Love is not as good as these numbers suggest. KP’s shooting prowess should be able to pull Love away from the basket enough to make him uncomfortable on defense. He should be able to near his value threshold if he remains out of foul trouble.
Projection: 18 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks, 1 steal, 3 turnovers (32.9 FanDuel points)
Kevin Love ($6,800) – Despite disappearing for large stretches during the NBA finals, Kevin Love played a large part in helping the Cavaliers win their first ever championship. Kristaps Porzingis is a work-in-progress on defense and Noah will mainly be focused on guarding Tristan Thompson, although the two could alternate. In the case that KP ends up on Love for the majority of the game, I expect that Love should have no problem recording a double-double and scoring some points from the free throw line. He is a fine play for under $7k.
Projection: 15 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers (31.2 FanDuel points)
Trey Lyles ($4,000) – With the injury to Derrick Favors possibly sidelining him for opening night, it is expected that Trey Lyles will become the largest beneficiary in his absence. In 20.3 minutes/game during the preason, Lyles averaged 10.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. These are fairly strong numbers for someone at this price. Factor in a match-up with a team that ranked 18th against the PF position last season, opportunity due to injury, and a decent 192 point total. He is a solid option.
Projection: 14 points, 7 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover (23.4 FanDuel points)
Ed Davis ($3,900) – He will certainly fly under the radar but Ed Davis posted an insanely efficient PER 36 numbers last season (11.2 points, 12.8 rebounds).With the Jazz missing Gordon Hayward and maybe Derrick Favors, Ed Davis could be a sneaky value play on a short slate. If he is in the game for anywhere between 20-25 minutes he could do some damage down low and be a strong pivot off of Trey Lyles. Look for him to near a double-double for under $4k.
Projection: 7 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 turnover (20.3 FanDuel points)
Rudy Gobert ($6,200) – After an injury plagued 2015-2016 season, Rudy Gobert steps in to the new season with more responsibility than he’s ever had in his three year career. Injuries will surely thrust him into a larger offensive role over the first few weeks of the seasons. Coupled with the fact that he is one of the best defensive Centers in the NBA, we might have a legitimate two-way threat. Portland’s defense against the Center position was notoriously bad last year (2nd to last) and they have not done anything to improve on this in the off-season. He is priced mid-range but can product at an elite level. Expect Gobert to have a nice opening night.
Projection: 18 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 steal, 2 turnovers (38.4 FanDuel points)
Pau Gasol ($7,600) – Pau joins a Spurs team that is faced with an unbelievably tough matchup on opening. The new-look Golden State Warriors brought in Zaza Pachulia to bolster the center position after the loss of Andrew Bogut to free agency. It is tough to predict how Gasol and LaMarcus Alridge will mesh in the Spurs front court but we do know that they both are very talented players. In this matchup, I am giving the edge to Pau Gasol simply based on the fact that Alridge is sure to be busy against Draymond Green most of the night. Look for him to have a solid outing.
Projection: 19 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 3 turnovers (37.2 FanDuel points)
Tristan Thompson ($4,800) – After spending a fortune on their starting five, the Cavs are set to defend their title. Tristan Thompson will look to set the tone down low for a team that has a little less depth than it did last year. Thompson performed fairly well as a starter last season but lacks upside. His rebounding numbers will always be their but he is capable of throwing up extremely low point totals. The Knicks now feature Joakim Noah at the Center position but this no longer scares me like it has in years past. He is definitely capable of hitting value but I don’t expect much more than that.
Projection: 7 points, 13 rebounds, 1 block (24.6 FanDuel points)
Joakim Noah ($5,000) – The Knicks defense is going to be determined by the tone Noah sets on a nightly basis. He is a once elite defender who is still capable of performing at a high level on most nights. With players like Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Lebron James set to be around the basket all night, we should expect a heavy dosage of Joakim Noah down low for the Knicks. If he is able to play around 30 minutes in this game, he is capable of reaching his value.
Projection: 4 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers (26.9 FanDuel points)