What’s going on everybody. Alex here, and I am back with my DraftKings NBA sleeper picks for December 22nd, 2016. Thursday’s slate is a smaller slate with only five games to attack. Be sure to follow all the injury news up until the 7:00 PM EST lock tonight, 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 or on Twitter. Hunta512.
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PG: Austin Rivers: (3,900) In The Clippers first game without Blake Griffin (knee) on Tuesday, Rivers had a solid night scoring 22.5 DK points in 22 minutes off the bench vs The Nuggets. He was expected to play higher minutes with Griffin out, but wasn’t really needed with The Clippers running away at the end and winning by 17 points. Before Tuesday night, Head Coach Doc Rivers was giving his son some extra run and he was averaging 31.25 minutes in his last four games. Tonight I think he plays closer to 30 minutes vs The Spurs with Vegas giving this Western Conference matchup a tight spread of 1.5 points.
This season Rivers has seen the biggest bump in usage of all The Clippers with Griffin off the floor, posting a 22% usage rate which is a 4.1% increase. This is also a very nice matchup for him with The Spurs giving up the 7th most DK points to SGs in 2016. Even though he had a solid night on Tuesday his price has dropped $500 to a cheap $3,900 salary. At this salary he only needs 19.5 DK points to hit value, which is something he has accomplished in five out of his last six games. As of right now, he looks like a forgotten man with Fantasy Labs projecting him with low a 2-4% ownership. With the expected low ownership at a new cheap price, Rivers is one of my favorite values of this five game slate.
SF: Luol Deng: (4,700) The veteran has been the most consistent Laker for the past few weeks averaging 29.7 DK points in 31.6 minutes over his last six games. This is only a slight bump, but he has also been more involved in the offense with his usage increasing 1.2% to a decent 16.4%. But this is more about the minutes he has been playing and if he continues to see over 30 minutes he should return at least 25 DK points, with him averaging 0.9 DK points per minute in this span.
This is a neutral matchup for him tonight vs The Heat who rank 11th vs SFs this season. But this is one of the better game environments of this small slate tonight with an O/U game total of 211.5 points and a close spread of five points in favor of The Heat. Deng isn’t the most exciting play, but is one of the safer values of nights at $4,700.
PF: James Johnson: (4,200) Johnson is back to being one of The Heats main bench players after missing four games with a shoulder injury. He has played in five games since returning and has topped 25 DK points in four of those five games in an average of 24.8 minutes a night. Tonight he will likely see close to 25 minutes again with The Heat’s rotation becoming tighter with SG Rodney McGruder missing his second straight game with a sprained ankle.
Even though by the numbers The Lakers are an average matchup for him, ranking 12th vs PFs, he should be able to produce by playing at a faster pace with LA ranking 4th in pace this year. Johnson can really fill up a stat sheet and will most likely see some more playing time at PF with The Lakers mostly playing smaller lineups. At $4,200 he has upside playing up in pace is one of my favorite GPP plays of Thursday night.
Also Consider: Marresse Speights (love him in GPPs at $4,000), Thomas Robinson (nice value with Randle out, only $3,000), Tyler Johnson, Jae Crowder, Al Jefferson, Kelly Olynyk, J.J. Redick, Nick Young, Dangelo Russell, Marcus Smart, Evan Fournier, Justice Winslow, C.J. Miles, Thaddeus Young, Joahkim Noah (played 30 minutes last game), Guillermo Hernangomez (risky only played two minutes last game, but saw 20+ in the three prior games), and Jeremy Lin.