This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
I'll start today's article by discussing what the Portland Trail Blazers will do tonight after the horrific injury suffered by Jusuf Nurkic on Monday night.
With C.J. McCollum (knee) out, Portland will now do the best it can to hobble its way into the playoffs, and I think Enes Kanter ($5,000) will be the big difference-maker in this quest for a replacement inside. While Zach Collins ($4,000) is a guy to keep track of in this new game script, I think that Kanter is the better offensive threat, from a DFS perspective.
Guys like Maurice Harkless ($4,300) and Al-Farouq Aminu ($4,600) will need to step up, as well, to help out Damian Lillard ($10,300). Since we're on the topic of Portland, I think they set up exceptionally well against the Bulls tonight, who could be playing without Zach LaVine (thigh), Lauri Markkanen (illness), Otto Porter (shoulder) and Kris Dunn (back). This game could very well get out of hand, but if anything, it will be a good night for Portland to figure things out in the interior. Due to the blowout potential, I'll be stacking Portland in a GPP or two, but will go the more reliable route in my cash builds.
Speaking of cash games, I typically start to increase my load in that department as we get to season's end. From experience, I've learned that as teams out of playoff contention begin to kick the tires deep into their roster, you're less apt to hit the top .05 percent of the field when you fail to see a guy like Christian Wood come out of the woodwork. To put it simply, variance gets higher as we move forward, so if you're diving into tournaments, you have to take more chances and hope to weather the variance in the process.
The O/U tallies for Wednesday are relatively low, with the exception of the WAS/PHO contest (231), which is a crazy-good matchup for the Suns. I think you know what that means! The DFS community will be flocking to Devin Booker ($9,200) after he produced – let me get out my calculator – 64.1 percent of Phoenix's total scoring output on Monday against the Jazz. The Wizards have a terrible track record defending the three, so it looks like another monster game for Booker. I have no problem targeting him for cash in what seems like a much better matchup to keep pace with the field, but I'll do my best to avoid him in tournament builds.
I'll now briefly run through the injury situations we should be targeting tonight.
First, let's look at the landscape In Chicago once again before moving on. Porter and Dunn seem likely to sit out, and we can also eliminate Zach LaVine from consideration with some level of certainty. The only wild card here is Markkanen, who was pulled from Tuesday's game with an illness. Granted, this back-to-back game and the 218 O/U should be cause to avoid the Bulls entirely, but Shaquille Harrison ($4,900), Ryan Arcidiacono ($4,100) and Antonio Blakeney ($3,600) will be the guys to target, with an additional emphasis on Blakeney in the event that both Markkanen and LaVine are out.
Mike Conley (thigh) QUESTIONABLE: Unless you've been living under a rock, or don't pay attention to anything the Grizzlies do (admittedly, a real possibility), Tyler Dorsey ($4,500) has been absolutely crushing it in Conley's absence. He's less expensive than Delon Wright ($5,600), who is the de facto starter in this scenario, and I think if Conley stays out we can slide to Dorsey for value. If Conley sees the court, pivoting over to Wright as his second-unit replacement is still a sound call.
Trevor Ariza (groin) QUESTIONABLE: Ariza was pulled from Tuesday night's game and will likely switch to an 'out' designation later in the day. If that comes to pass, it will probably lock Bobby Portis ($6,400) at the four, and we'll also see a mixture of Troy Brown ($4,800), Jabari Parker ($6,400) and Jeff Green ($4,400). I'm looking to Portis for cash, with Brown and Parker as GPP plays.
Russell Westbrook, OKC vs. IND ($10,500): Let's move past the Lillard/Booker hype for a moment and contemplate the potentially meager ownership for Westbrook here. With only nine games remaining, the Thunder will be doing their best to move up the playoff ladder, so Westbrook should be humming on all cylinders. While the Pacers have one of the toughest defenses around, the All-Star point guard has the history to warrant a start here, as he exploded for 68 DKFP in their last matchup. It's a big spend for a GPP lineup on a player who's struggled of late, but his ownership should pale in comparison to that of Lillard and Booker.
Justin Holiday, MEM vs. GS ($4,600): With all the love going to Wright and Dorsey, Holiday looks to be left out in the cold a bit, despite a respectable run of production recently. This is a guy I'll look to if Conley remains out, but his usage will slide if Conley takes the court as I think both Dorsey and Wright have earned the opportunity to see more time at the two. As a result, he carries a lot of risk but keep him in mind if Conley is a scratch tonight.
Seth Curry, POR at CHI ($4,200): If you have a gut feeling about a blowout here as I do, then you're probably giving Curry a serious look. He can play relief for Lillard and also be part of the platoon filling C.J. McCollum's spot, and he's averaged 36 minutes over the past two games - a reliable indicator that he'll see plenty of court time in this game script.
Paul George, OKC vs. IND ($9,900): With things a little slimmer at the forward position, you can expect George's ownership to blow out Westbrook's, so stacking them could be a bit counter-productive when you consider their value in different formats. I wouldn't rule out the play, as both guys posted stellar stat lines against Indy, but my preference to slot George in cash and Westbrook in a GPP, and not place them together in the same lineup. As you can see from the assortment of guards above, we could pair George with another productive guard and diversify our risk against a Pacers defense that could step up and neutralize one of them.
Domantas Sabonis, IND vs. OKC ($6,300): If you elect to stay above the fray in Chicago, Sabonis emerges as a good mid-range target tonight. He inflicted 42.8 DKFP of damage in only 27 minutes against the Thunder in their last meeting and has demonstrated a steady 30 DKFP floor over the past five games. A cursory look at Myles Turner's numbers shows that he had difficulty opposite Steven Adams, so I like the play-ability of Sabonis as a prime contributor at the four and five spots.
Maurice Harkless, POR at CHI ($4,300): Although he already garnered a mention earlier, I believe the Blazers will utilize Harkless extensively in Nurkic's absence along with Enes Kanter, and at least for tonight, his usage is a slightly better guarantee then Kanter's or even Jake Layman's at this point. As I mentioned above, there's the risk of a blowout and some uncertainty as to how a Nurkic-less lineup will operate, but I predict Harkless' contribution will stay constant.
Deandre Ayton, PHO vs. WAS ($6,800): If I want to afford elites at the other spots, we'll need to find a reasonably priced big man and, against the Wizards, I think Ayton is our guy. JaVale McGee is coming off a massive game in a back-to-back, but I wouldn't' want to bet on a repeat performance. And while I think the Cousins-Valanciunas matchup will yield some fireworks, they're both a tad too expensive. I know, this endorsement is sounding more like a reason to NOT play other people as opposed to favoring Ayton, but I think it's a genuine point to make when you're set on going lower here. Leaving Booker to score most of the points for Phoenix didn't exactly work out for the team at the end, and there's obvious value in attacking the Wizards inside – so go for Ayton.
Robin Lopez, CHI vs. POR ($4,900): The industry is going to flock to Enes Kanter tonight, so I feel an obligation to go for a low-ownership play and take the other end of this matchup. I can hear the naysayers now – what are you thinking? Kanter is only $100 more than Lopez, are you crazy? I hear you, I do. But the fact of the matter is that when it comes down to the numbers, Kanter's boost is just conjecture. Granted, it's a decent, informed guess, but if you look at how rock-solid Nurkic has been for Portland, you can't just plug-and-play the guy, and there's bound to be an adjustment period. With uncertainty in the backcourt, Chicago will look to the biggest target they have to keep things competitive, so I wouldn't sleep on Lopez as you look for ways to buy low.