This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
Your approach to Friday's nine-game slate will revolve around the usual set of questions – the value of a curtained bearded All-Star will once again be the focus of our initial build. However, one injury situation in particular might send us in an entirely different direction.
Before we delve into the Harden question, let's take a look at the significant injuries, starting with the situation mentioned above. We're talking about the Utah backcourt.
It looked like the Jazz were safe with Raul Neto, but he's now out with a groin injury. With Ricky Rubio (hamstring), Dante Exum (ankle) and Neto all out, who's going to run the point? The obvious answer is Donovan Mitchell ($7,900), and he will likely have one of the highest ownerships on the slate. Either way, I think you have to lock him into your cash lineups because you might not be able to find better value at this price point. Do we have a pivot for this mess? Probably not. You could do a GPP flier on Kyle Korver ($3,500) or even this kid Naz Mitrou-Long ($3,000) who they just brought in from the G-League, but I wouldn't hold my breath for a big night from either of them. The safe bet is to stick with the remaining starters. This could be Joe Ingles' ($5,700) chance to get back into the swing, and an opportunity for Jae Crowder ($4,400) to post a big score in an oversized lineup scenario.
Damian Lillard (elbow) is listed as questionable tonight, so stay tuned with RotoWire to see what happened with him later today. I see real potential for a scratch here, mostly because Lillard is in the midst of a nasty cold streak and throwing him out there with an injury might only exacerbate the issue. This is a favorable matchup against the Hornets, and Seth Curry ($3,600) should get the first crack at things, with Evan Turner ($4,000) and Nik Stauskas ($3,300) also pitching in if Dame sits out. You also have to give some thought to C.J. McCollum ($6,300) in this scenario.
Enes Kanter (illness), Myles Turner (shoulder), Derrick Rose (ankle), and J.J. Redick (back) are all listed as questionable tonight. We won't know about the status of any of them until late in the day, but the pivots are Luke Kornet ($4,400) for the Knicks, Domantas Sabonis ($7,500) for the Pacers, and Furkan Korkmaz ($3,900) for Redick, although Landry Shamet ($3,100) would be a sneaky GPP play if Redick sits.
OK, so Harden. Let's face it, $12,500 is a lot of money – fact. This game against Cleveland could be a blowout – fact. He put up 66 DKFP in 43 minutes against them in their last meeting – all facts. If you go this way, you've got roughly $5,400 left per player. You've got guys like Embiid, Towns, Curry, all with explosive potential in the 10K range. But if you go this high, you might as well spend the extra on Harden. Until Chris Paul returns, I can never tell you to fade the Beard. What I CAN tell you is that Harden has been a part of a DraftKings perfect lineup only four times in the past month, so buying him is anything but foolproof.
With ALL of the above in mind, let's move on to the rest of my selections. I'll try my best to offer a variety of price points for each position.
I told you about a whole host of guards above: Mitchell, McCollum, Seth Curry. They should all be in the forefront when considering your builds, but some other guys are in favorable spots that we can't ignore.
Bradley Beal, WAS vs. MIL ($8,600): OK, playing the Bucks isn't exactly favorable. But if I'm looking for a dependable floor, I think Beal is a better option than Simmons directly above him. Simmons disappears in blowouts, and with the Sixers facing Atlanta, I can't afford for such an expensive guy to break my slate. Beal is almost a lock for 40 DKFP in his current position and he's shown that he can pop against even the best of defenses, so I'm much more inclined to take Beal's floor and run with it.
Klay Thompson, GS vs. CHI ($7,200): The Warriors leaned on Thompson in their last tangle with the Bulls in a history-making effort where he went 14-of-24 from beyond the arc, on the way to a 67-DKFP score. Do you think Klay will remember that? You also have to account for a recent run of games where's he's putting up high DKFP numbers. It's a tall order for Klay to repeat his historic night, but I think he'll still be motivated to post a high number.
Jordan Clarkson, CLE at HOU ($5,700): I slid past a lot of guys I liked to give you some salary diversity. There are a host of players at this price point that can deliver solid DKFP numbers in the 30s, and Clarkson is no exception. If he sees 30 minutes or more, he could muster an even higher number – and it's his propensity to pop into the 40s that makes him worth considering at this level. He's successfully wrested time away from Collin Sexton and practically everyone else on this roster, so I expect the ex-Laker to fare well against Houston's defense.
Kawhi Leonard, TOR vs. BKN ($9,700): Both Kawhi and Durant are playing against weak teams, but I think Kawhi has less of a chance to disappear against the Nets if history is any guide. Durant only played 28 minutes against the Bulls, but Leonard played a full complement of minutes against an improved Brooklyn squad and exploded for 52 DKFP. Granted, Kawhi has been a bit finicky as to when he wants to deliver a score like that. But Kyle Lowry's return seems to have evened out his stat line over the past two games, a fact that might be overlooked by many.
Andrew Wiggins, MIN vs. DAL ($6,800): Once again we are in a range where any number of guys could go off, and I debated the idea of spending up a bit on Kyle Kuzma ($7,200) before settling on a Wiggins endorsement. After putting up 40 points and 10 rebounds against the Thunder, you have to assume the Timberwolves will look for the hot hand. And Wiggins is that guy, at least over the past two games. It's all about volume for Wiggins, and he needs about 20 looks to get the kind of production we want. But considering his recent streak, I think it's totally doable.
Thaddeus Young, IND at NY ($5,600): I often forget about Young – and I imagine that's the case for most people – but he's been sitting at this price point chugging away for quite some time. With Enes Kanter's status in doubt tonight, the Knicks may look even softer than usual, and Young posted a respectable 34 DKFP total against them over two games. This is almost a guarantee for 30 DKFP, and he could conceivably do more against the struggling Knicks.
Jusuf Nurkic, POR vs. CHA ($8,100): Sliding past Embiid and Towns leaves a little sting, but I think Nurkic – who's been playing out of his mind of late – is a perfectly respectable play at center on Friday as they face a Charlotte squad that has yet to find a suitable replacement for Cody Zeller. I think Nurkic will stack up well against whomever they opt to go with, and this is a night where the output may flow through the frontcourt if Damian Lillard sits.
Clint Capela, HOU vs. CLE ($7,600): Capela sits at the bottom of a tier of centers that can give you an explosive number in the right scenario. Although Tristan Thompson is back for the Cavs, I have confidence in Capela's ability to provide me with a substantial number without spending an excessive amount of cash. He' averaged 47.8 DKFP over his past five games, and that's a number I'd be thrilled with at this price.
Wendell Carter, CHI at GS ($5,600): The rookie had some success against the Warriors in their last meeting, going for almost 35 DKFP. The days of exploiting the Warriors' interior are numbered with the impending arrival of DeMarcus Cousins. But for now, I think Carter is a relatively safe play and he possesses the capability to give you 30-35 DKFP if he sees enough minutes.
So, to conclude the article, I'll let you know how I fared in today's build. I found some suitable options with Harden, but I found myself gravitating toward a trio of guys to build around, and I liked the usage of Leonard, Beal and Mitchell as a strong anchor. I could get a little more when I shed one of the three (Beal most often) but overall, I left the build thinking that Harden – while prolific – is ultimately fadeable tonight.