This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
James Harden's ($13,000) price has now hit the 13K barrier and, as usual, the question you have to pose when approaching tonight's eight-game slate is a simple one: can you afford to fade him?
Slotting Harden in will give you $5,225 per player to work with, and when you consider that Harden still exceeds 5x value if he hits a 70DKFP number, the short answer is yes. One thing that gives me pause is the huge 240 O/U line in the Warriors-Pelicans game. If you go with Harden, Durant and Curry become unaffordable unless you feel like you can fill out your roster with $4,500 per player. That would be a stars-and-scrubs lineup of astronomical proportions. The other issue involves Eric Gordon, who is listed as questionable. I don't think this affects Harden too much, but it does open up more options in the backcourt. My strategy will likely be to get in on this GS/NO game on the cheap and find a nice mid-range guy to lean on alongside The Beard. First, let's look at some injury situations.
HOUSTON - No one stepped up to absorb Clint Capela's (thumb) production in his first game out, but Gerald Green ($4,300) did see a slight bump and might be worth a GPP flier as we look for a solid pivot there. Nene and Marquese Chriss failed to fill the hole, so I'd look for Green and P.J. Tucker to compete for the pivot role moving forward.
MEMPHIS - Marc Gasol (elbow) lost feeling in his hand at one point during Monday's game, and currently there's no news on his return. I'd expect Memphis to play it safe with Gasol if the injury lingers, but the situation is worth monitoring as a potential pivot opportunity for guys like Jaren Jackson Jr. ($5,500) and Joakim Noah ($3,800).
Here are a few questionable tags further down the slate that are worth monitoring:
Joe Ingles (Q) – Ingles' absence would ensure a strong night for Donovan Mitchell ($9,100) despite a sluggish night in his last game. The lack of depth in the backcourt is still in play, however. Mitchell might be too expensive to depend on despite the favorable spot.
Marcus Smart (Q) – There's no news on Smart's condition yet, but Kyrie Irving will return to the floor tonight, so things should revert to normal for the Celtics. Smart's absence would leave the door open for someone to absorb production, and my pick would be Jaylen Brown ($4,600) as the cheapest option.
Aside from Gordon's updated status, all ongoing injury situations remain static.
D'Angelo Russell, BKN at HOU ($7,300): While Jrue Holiday is extremely tempting as I try to find my way into that game, pairing Russell with Harden looks like a sensible play, as your per-player average drops only about $200. I'm assuming that we will find a few guys below the median, so that average is bound to jump a little. With Russell in my core lineup, we've got an opportunity for 40-45 DKFP, which would likely be Holiday's floor anyway. Why not get that for $900 less?
Klay Thompson, GS vs. NO ($6,500): This is my first attempt to get into this game. I said I'd try to make an inexpensive play rather than reaching for the elites in this one, and we all know that Thompson can pop on any given night, Your only worry here is an off night of shooting in three-point land, which would severely limit Thompson's ceiling. Either way, his floor has been generally reliable in the 30 DKFP range, so he's worth the investment in this high-paced environment as someone who won't hurt your bottom line.
Alec Burks, CLE at POR ($5,200): It's hard to argue with Burks' production of late, as it appears he's outdoing both Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson consistently enough to be the best backcourt option for the Cavs. Cleveland is coming off of multiple days of rest, and even though Vegas has Portland as a 13.5-point favorite, this is a spot where I'm inclined to take the Cavs and the points. The 217 O/U leaves a bit to be desired, but I need to fill my lineup with guys in this range, and Burks has shown recent ability to produce a 40 DKFP night.
DeMar DeRozan, SA at DAL ($8,100): DeRozan is priced just low enough to warrant serious consideration as a complement to Harden, and his recent 60 DKFP beat-down of Dallas only emboldens the viability of this pick. Although this was one of DeRozan's highest point totals (34), he's scored 30 or more points nine times this season, so the performance against Dallas isn't an outlier. He may cost you a mid-range opportunity or two, but if he can get into the 50DKFP range, he'd be well worth the add.
Draymond Green, GS vs. NO ($6,400): I'm ok with a couple of moderately-priced centers, so I decided to slot Green here as the second low-cost opportunity versus the Pels. He put up 49 DKFP against the Brow and Randle in their last meeting, and there's no doubt Draymond can achieve a high number. The Pels put up a lot of shots and miss their fair share – if Draymond can replicate or come near his 14-rebound game versus the Pels, we could easily see a 40 DKFP performance here. He's toiled in the 30 DKFP recently, so he is due to pop.
Evan Fournier, ORL at DET ($5,100): I had to get low here at some point, and some details about Fournier stood out for me. He gets 30 minutes or more every night, and he's enjoying a nice run against the Pistons, averaging 35 DKFP per game over two contests. It's unlikely that you'll see much more than that from him, but things look bleak below 5K on this slate, and we should take the value where we can get it.
A special note about Jaren Jackson and JaMychal Green – even If Gasol suits up I think both guys have an excellent opportunity at this price range. I mentioned Jackson above, but Green is below 5K and should put up a decent number, especially if Gasol is gone.
Julius Randle, NO at GS ($7,500): I'm going cheap with the other two centers, but I have to give Randle some exposure in this high-paced affair. Mirotic's return has had minimal impact on Randle's production, at least in the short term. While a lot of people will look at Mirotic's low price and make a play there, his 3.5 DKFP performance the other day tells me that he's not quite ready for prime-time. Randle knows how to step up in the big games, and he'll play a key role in keeping Draymond Green off of AD, who will likely carry a hefty score as well.
Jarrett Allen, BKN at HOU ($5,600): Here's how confident I am about Allen tonight – I like him so much, I'm not even going to detail another guy. Without Clint Capela, the Rockets are scrambling for answers in the paint, and Allen should be ready to take advantage. His recent double-double against the Celtics was impressive, and he should carry that momentum into this game, where the frontcourt situation is even softer. I think 30 DKFP is almost a guarantee, and I am hoping he'll pop for even more, especially in the rebound category.
I think getting the cheap guys for the NO/GS game along with Harden is the best way to go here, but I'm probably going to throw in one or two Harden-less lineups in my GPPs which will make a Durant/Curry and a DeRozan/Kawhi scenario more manageable. I think the production is there off of Harden, so throw that additional lineup in there if you want to take advantage.