At long last, the NBA has finally returned. Sure, we had a few weeks of meaningless preseason action, but on Tuesday night the games finally start counting again.
That means the daily fantasy basketball season is back, too, and we’ll get plenty of chances to win big by piecing together fun FanDuel NBA DFS lineups. We get our first crack at doing just that on an admittedly lame two-game slate.
The NBA did not miss the mark in terms of the game quality, of course. The Cleveland Cavaliers welcome back Kyrie Irving as they host the Boston Celtics, while the Golden State Warriors will be at home against the Houston Rockets.
It should be a really fun first night of 2017-18 NBA action, but it could be tough to take down a GPP with everyone having similar lineups. Also, any day where there are fewer than four games isn’t really a suggested slate to target for cash games.
It will be very interesting to see how ownership plays out here, but for us, this is a total GPP slate. We only get four teams and we’re going to want our hands on the top studs. Due to the way some of the players operate, we shouldn’t have much trouble with a few fades, while positional strength should be key here, as well.
Wednesday will be the big draw and the first true NBA DFS slate of the year, but we can’t ignore meaningful daily fantasy basketball when it’s staring us in the face. With that, it’s onto our favorite FanDuel NBA DFS picks for October 17th:
PG: Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics ($5.3k)
I see the allure of the top point guards. Stephen Curry is a threat to drop 50 every time out, Chris Paul could crush in Houston’s system and Kyrie Irving gets a shot at immediate revenge. However, there is downside across the board here.
Irving and CP3’s teams could get demolished on the road, while Kyrie specifically is either going to go nuts or get stifled. Curry should be fine, but there is that blowout risk, as well as a lack of elite stats outside of scoring.
If we’re spending at the point on this small slate, we probably have to sacrifice elsewhere. I’m not really willing to do that, especially since I feel we can get by with two value plays at PG.
Smart kicks that narrative off at $5.3k, as he’s bound to have a pretty big role for a team that traded away the likes of Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder in the offseason. It’s all about run here, as Smart looks like a lock for solid minutes and he can quickly rack up defensive stats. I’m not hoping for 50 here. If he can get over 30, he’s a huge win.
PG: Derrick Rose – Cleveland Cavaliers ($5.5k)
I think we can get away with using Rose on this slate, too. Rose isn’t the MVP player he used to be, but he put up over 18 points per game in a bad system a year ago. The guy isn’t efficient and he doesn’t defend, but he can still score the rock. His game could also be elevated by playing with LeBron James, so with Isaiah Thomas (hip) on the shelf, he looks like a free square.
If things go well for the Cavs, Rose is going to get some easy buckets and fall into some dimes. Much like Smart, I like his chances to top 30 fantasy points in the opener and if he can do that it’s a win for this roster.
SG: James Harden – Houston Rockets ($11k)
I’m not sure I can stomach fading Harden on this slate. He got some help via CP3 but he lost a lot of scoring depth to get him. Harden is still going to have the ball in his hands a ton and he’s also going to continue shouldering a massive scoring load.
Harden has had some duds against the Dubs in the past and there is blowout risk here, but I’m not shying away from him. We are going to need the top studs to place on this slate and with the high price, there’s a reasonable chance we get Harden at fairly low ownership.
That could be a big deal with pretty weak shooting guard options behind him. Klay Thompson can go nuts, but he doesn’t do a whole lot other than score. I’m not sure I’m willing to trust a 35-year old Dwyane Wade in his Cleveland debut, either. It gets bad pretty quickly after that, as Eric Gordon and Jaylen Brown are your next best bets.
Maybe Harden doesn’t light it up and we only get 40-45 out of him. That’s still a win compared to what the other SG options will likely get on this slate. And if he hits 55+, we’re certainly going to be glad we didn’t fade him.
SG: Terry Rozier – Boston Celtics ($3.1k)
To land the top studs, we need to take some calculated punts. Rozier is one of them and he actually makes a ton of sense. We like Smart and we wouldn’t mind using Jaylen Brown, but Rozier should be far less owned.
Boston handed Rozier solid run during the preseason and he actually responded with some strong production. It’s anyone’s guess if that sticks for the opener, but if he can hit the floor for 20+ minutes, I think he’s a valid punt at SG.
Rozier knows how to score and set his teammates up, so we’re hoping for 20-25 productive minutes, while also assuming the other SG options behind Harden aren’t going to go crazy. Even better would be a Cavs blowout win, as Rozier would then see added work in garbage time. We don’t need that for him to pay off, though.
The Celtics lost depth in their trades and are going to call on Rozier and other guys early to see who they can trust for the long haul. Don’t be shocked if he answers the call immediately with a solid outing.
Update: Helping us out is the fact that Marcus Morris will miss Boston’s first three games. That slides rookie forward Jayson Tatum into the starting five and should make for a little extra run for Rozier on the wing.
SF: LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers ($10.4k)
I’m not a fan of paying down at small forward on this slate. There’s a chance King James could be rusty after not playing much in the preseason, but you better believe he’s going to get up to battle Kyrie Irving and the Celtics.
I can’t fade James on this slate, but I also don’t want to. This position just isn’t enticing elsewhere, as Gordon Hayward could easily flop in his Celtics debut on the road in a tough matchup. It’s not like Trevor Ariza, Iggy, Jayson Tatum or P.J. Tucker are realistic threats to come close to what James and Kevin Durant are going to put up, either.
James feels like a pretty safe bet to hit 50+ fantasy points in the opener, so fading him on this small slate doesn’t feel like an option.
There is some mild concern that James won’t play due to an ankle injury, but I’m not buying it. He wants to show Kyrie Irving up in his return to Quicken Loans Arena. Obviously in the event King James does sit, we need to scrap this team in some regards. The most obvious change would be dropping from James to Gordon Hayward or Trevor Ariza and then trying to pay up at center.
SF: Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors ($9.8k)
Ditto for KD. He’s the better value of these two studs if we need to fade one, but I don’t see a way around using them together on Tuesday night. Durant is a lock for 45-50 fantasy points pretty much every time he hits the court and he loved facing Houston last year (35.5 points per game in two regular season meetings).
There just isn’t much argument needed here, as the studs will in some fashion be fairly highly owned. Of the three, Durant offers the most value and honestly possibly even the more upside. He’s a locked in play for me on this slate, regardless of your daily fantasy basketball strategy.
PF: Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers ($7k)
Love is even more crucial to NBA DFS teams if James is randomly out, but it sounds like he’s going to have a huge role, regardless. Moving to the center spot, Love should get access to some easier buckets, some more post scoring opportunity and extra chances at rebounds and blocks.
It’s fair to say we don’t know yet how this move will work out, but Love will initially test the waters against Al Horford, who is no defensive ace at this point in his career. He’s also a perimeter-based scorer, so Love isn’t even really at risk as a defensive liability in this spot.
Power forward is not good on this slate, so unless you’re finding yourself to be enamored with Draymond Green, this is the spot to start at PF.
PF: Jae Crowder – Cleveland Cavaliers ($4.5k)
I’m probably fading Green on this slate and I’m not yet ready to dance with the DFS devil that is Marcus Morris. Instead, we can go cheap with Crowder, who is set to start for the Cavs at power forward. Not only will he get a lot of open looks on this team, but I think we could see his play elevate due to his surroundings.
That, plus the obvious revenge narrative makes Crowder a fun try for open three’s and some defensive stats. He doesn’t need to rock our world at $4.5k, but I think something close to 30 fantasy points is plausible. James sitting out would make Crowder an absolute must.
C: JaVale McGee – Golden State Warriors ($3.3k)
Finally we come to center, where short slates can often deliver to us a slow death. We surely could get that with McGee, but we don’t have a plethora of fun center options to choose from. Our realistic options are Al Horford, Clint Capela and – nope, that’s it.
Horford is obviously a guy to consider now that he has upgraded star talent taking defensive attention off of him, but if the Celtics get housed on the road we’re going to quickly feel like his $7.2k price tag was far too rich. Capela should be totally fine at $6k (I expect something around 26-30 fantasy points), but a housing could easily be in order here, too.
The reality is for this GPP lineup, we want all three studs and the best way to get there is to punt center. This is a big risk, but McGee is an energy guy in a game that is big on pace and energy.
The perfect way to illustrate this is to look back at a game against these very Rockets last year. He played just 11 minutes, yet turned in a disgusting 13-4-5 line (that’s 5 blocks). That line isn’t something we can demand or expect here, but if he can deliver anything close to that it could be of the GPP-winning variety.
Wednesday brings us our first full slate of daily fantasy basketball action. That 11-game slate is going to be insane and while it will have it’s own studs we’re going to want to covet, it also will call for for more value and balance. Tuesday is all about upside and the GPP scene. Hopefully dives like Rozier and McGee will pay off and we’ll catch you tomorrow in the green. Good luck!