What’s going on guys. Alex here, and I am back with my DraftKings NBA picks for January 18th, 2018. Thursday night’s slate is another small slate of only four games. Be sure to follow all of the injury news tonight, all the way up until the 7:00PM EST lock, to see if any new injury news comes up. As always if any of these picks help you win or if you need any advice, let me know on Twitter. @Hunta512.
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SF/PF: LeBron James: (11,300) The Cavs are a mess right now and LeBron is going have to do everything he can to get this team back on track. They have lost five straight games and they must win tonight at home vs The Magic. Coming off a home loss to The Warriors, where The Cavs led for a good amount of the game, I expect James to come out on a mission tonight on his home floor. Even though they have lost each game, he has topped 60 DK points in his past two games. Even with PG Isaiah Thomas (hip) back and playing more, James has averaged a 35.6% usage in these two games, which is a decent jump from his 31.4% average for this season. This is a decent spot for him going against The Magic who are the 4th worst rated defense in efficiency this season. (2.95 opponent +/-) Some people may be scared that he won’t see a full workload tonight, with The Cavs favored by 10.5 points at home, but in the 19 home games that The Cavs were favored this year, James is averaging 60.4 DK PPG.
Also, The Cavs’ defensive struggles are very real and can’t be ignored. They are the 3rd worst defense this season and have been the 4th worst in The NBA over their last three games. Yes, they will probably win, but I think this game stays competitive enough that James and the most important Cavs’ players see their normal minutes. In today’s featured article in The Fantasy Labs’ NBA section, they talk about betting on tonight’s NBA games, and the author pointed out a very interesting stat that shows you that this game should stay closer than the line Vegas suggests. For the season, in all the games that The Cavs have been the favorite by double digits, they are 0-11 when covering the spread. In 35-40 minutes, I am expecting another 60+ DK point outing from LeBron and he is by far the top overall play of this small four game slate.
SF/PF: Luc Mbah a Moute: (3,200) SG James Harden (hamstring) will return tonight, but he will be on a 25 minute restriction, and The Rockets will also be without starting SF Trevor Ariza and back up SG Gerald Green due to suspensions. Mbah a Moute should be the player that starts in place of Ariza. He just returned from an injury himself this past game, but the shoulder injury seemed to be a thing of the past, with him logging 26 minutes in the loss to The Clippers on Monday night. He only scored 15 DK points, but the fact that he logged 26 minutes with Ariza and Green both playing in this game, shows us that he should see close to 35 minutes tonight. His 0.63 DK PPM average this year isn’t anything to brag about, but the opportunity for him to exceed value will be there just based on playing time alone.
In fact, in his last five games he has seen 30 or more minutes, he is scoring 22.3 DK PPG. Also, in the two games that he was active for without Ariza and Green, he is averaged 27 DK points in a 38.4 minutes per game. His individual matchup doesn’t grade well against The Wolves (0.47 opponent +/-), but this is still the 10th worst rated defense in The NBA this season. I also like P.J. Tucker in this situation, with him averaging 24 DK points and 35 minutes in the two games without Ariza and Green this season, and don’t mind using both in the same lineup if you need the salary cap relief. But, if choosing one, I would take the small discount on the starter in Mbah a Moute.
SG: Eric Gordon: (6,300) DraftKings has cut all of the Rockets’ key players salaries with Harden returning, but Gordon’s price drop is just too much when you factor in Harden’s 25 minute restriction, along with Ariza and Green not being with the team. He will shift back to the bench with Harden starting, but he should still play 35-40 minutes with this team thin on the wings. In the two games without Ariza and Green this season, which include a healthy Harden that logged almost 40 minutes in each game, Gordon scored 37 DK points in 39.4 minutes a game.
Chris Paul wasn’t healthy enough to play in either of these games, but I am still expecting high minutes and solid usage for Gordon tonight vs The Wolves. He averages 0.89 DK PPM with Ariza and Green off the floor this season and with a projection of 35 minutes, Gordon should put up 30+ DK points with nice upside. I really like Gordon at this price and he is a strong mid-tier target that will give you another share of this Rockets team that has a high implied team total of 114.75 points.
PG/SG: Terry Rozier: (4,700) Both PGs Kyrie Irving (shoulder) and Marcus Smart (illness) are listed as questionable to play tonight vs The Sixers. Nothing is confirmed, but it seems likely that one of them misses this game, which would instantly push Rozier into play. In the situation that Iriving was out and Smart in, Smart would slide to the starting five, while Rozier would take over as the main guard off the bench. In the two games Irving sat this season, Rozier was great off the bench, averaging 27 DK points in 28.2 minutes a game, with a 24.6% usage rate, which is a 5.3% increase from his season average. Furthermore, he also played well in the two games Smart sat with Irving in, scoring 27 DK PPG in 30.7 minutes off the bench.
There hasn’t been any games that both Celtic guards were out, but if they both somehow missed this game, Rozier would start at PG, and would become a must play. He would be forced to log heavy minutes and per 36 minutes of action, Rozier is averaging 35 DK points with both of them off the floor this season, in a sample size of 167 minutes. So all in all, if one of Irving or Smart is out, Rozier is a strong value that should score 25+ DK points, but if both are out, he would become a core play at his cheap price in this plus matchup vs The Sixers who have given up the 7th most DK points to PGs this season. Finally, if Smart is healthy enough to go and Irving sits, which seems like the most likely situation here, not only would Rozier be a nice value play, but Smart would also be a very strong target, with him averaging 28 DK points in the two previous games Irving was out this year. UPDATE: Irving has been ruled out, while Smart is good to go. Both Rozier and Smart are strong values at their prices. Al Horford also becomes a better play, with his usage going up 5.9% when Irving is off the court.
Also Consider: Al Horford (37.4 DK PPG against The Sixers this season and his usage would rise if either Irving or Smart sat. He would obviously see a bigger boost if it was Kyire that was out over the lower usage player in Smart. When both have been off the court, his usage has sky rocketed 14.3%), Jayson Tatum (his usage rises 8.3% with Irving and Smart off the court), Isaiah Thomas (saw a season high 32 minutes last game and scored 26.25 DK points in the loss to The Warriors. This is a tremendous spot vs The Magic who are a 7.25 point opponent +/- for starting PGs. He is definitely in play at his price, but it is worth noting PG Derick Rose is expected to return tonight and with a lot of reports about some Cavs’ players complaining about IT’s defense, it’s hard to say if his minutes will go over 30 once again), Jeff Teague, P.J. Tucker (above), Clint Capela (The Wolves have improved vs centers, but they still are a solid match up at a 4.49 point opponent +/- ), T.J. McConnell (been awesome off the bench averaging 37.5 DK points in these past two games. His minutes should be close to 30 with starting SG J.J. Redick out with a leg injury), Evan Fournier (41.5 DK points last game and this is a strong spot vs The Cavs who currently are a 6.86 opponent +/-), Domanatas Sabonis (Turner is still out), Khem Birch (if Speights is out again. 34 DK points in 18 minutes last game and Head Coach Frank Vogel indicated that Birch would stay in the rotation for tonight, but I would feel better about this pick if Speights misses another game), and Ryan Anderson.