This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
Hold on to your hats, folks, because you're going to be pivoting like crazy on this 11-game-slate tonight.
While we've got a lot of stars on the list tonight, it looks like a grand majority of them are going to be out entirely, or game-time calls. Their availability is going to be pivotal in how we construct our lineups, so it's best to start with those injuries and move on from there.
James Harden (NECK) PROBABLE: Chris Paul's slow return is evidence that the Rockets are prone to play it safe with their stars, and when you consider how they handled the Warriors on Saturday without him, you can see how sitting Harden against Atlanta is a reasonable proposition. This game is smack dab in the middle of the slate, and we'd be forced to switch out for a shooting guard due to FanDuel's single eligibility rules. I'm inclined to sit Harden and roll the dice with Chris Paul ($8,400), who's played well recently with and without Harden.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) DOUBTFUL: While I think you're likely to see Milwaukee's regulars play extended roles, It will be interesting to see who they decide to start in place of Giannis tonight. My instincts tell me that they'll lift the minutes restriction on Nikola Mirotic ($5,600) and see what he can do, but he hasn't seen more than 18 minutes on the floor with his new team. I still think he's the best way to go, but Ersan Ilyasova ($3,800) is a cheap way to find value in this spot, as I'm reasonably confident that his minutes will increase.
Joel Embiid (knee) OUT: Go ahead and suit up Boban Marjanovic ($5,400), as he's the guy to replace Embiid tonight. I'd also give Ben Simmons ($9,000) a serious look because his usage always spikes in Embiid's absence.
Luka Doncic (ankle) QUESTIONABLE: This spot is hard to predict, as Doncic's missed two straight and typically a minor tweak like this would be ok after a few nights of rest. We may find out that's it's more severe than that if he misses today. Jalen Brunson ($3,800) is the guy to start in his place, but Trey Burke ($3,700) has stolen a bit of Brunson's thunder in this scenario, and is an excellent pivot off the pivot, so to speak. I'd also expect to see Tim Hardaway ($5,500) absorb a good bit of production if Doncic is sidelined.
Myles Turner (hip) QUESTIONABLE: Turner has also missed two straight games, and the Pacers may give him another night off as hip injuries can take more time than the more prevalent ankle issues that we see often. Domantas Sabonis ($6,600) would be in line to absorb a lot of output, but Kyle O'Quinn ($3,900) would start and is a cheap way to exploit this spot.
Justise Winslow (knee) DOUBTFUL, James Johnson (shoulder) DOUBTFUL, Rodney McGruder (knee) DOUBTFUL: Things look a bit dicey for Miami tonight. Expect Dwyane Wade ($6,000) and Kelly Olynyk ($4,600) to see a bump, and Derrick Jones ($3,500) becomes a great must-candidate on the slate if Johnson stays out.
Whew! Ok. Still with me? You could almost construct an entire lineup based on those pivots alone, but the whole point of pivoting is to give you room to buy spend-up guys – so we certainly aren't done yet.
On a big slate like this, I usually want to work on excluding some games at the outset by looking at the overall pace of the matches. I don't have complete information on all the games as yet, but the IND/DET game currently has the lowest Over/Under with 212, and it's a game that I'll likely stay away from. The Clippers and Spurs are on the tail-end of back-to-backs, so I will probably give a little bit more attention to Dallas and Brooklyn than I usually would and fade most of LA and San Antonio. I would also fade the PHO/MIA game, but due to the injury pivots available for the Heat and the obvious advantage for Phoenix, I will give this game some attention. Our centerpieces for the slate are GS/CHA, ATL/HOU and PHI/NO, as I expect these three games to have the highest totals tonight.
Trae Young, ATL at HOU ($8,200): My goal here should be to try and find Lillard/Curry-like production for less money. I slide down to Trae Young for several reasons. He's been rock-solid since the break, and the lack of history between Kemba and Curry makes me reticent to spend on them. Lillard would be my only higher play at this spot, but I think the outcomes for Young and Lillard will be very similar. Granted, Young hasn't played the Rockets yet either, but at this price, I can cut Young a little slack and ride his hot streak.
Tyler Johnson, PHO at MIA ($5,600): I always like revenge-game scenarios, and this should be a fun one to watch. This is a night where Johnson's presence would be a godsend for Miami with the litany of injuries they're dealing with. With Phoenix in lottery mode, Johnson should carve a decent niche in the second half as they try to figure out who to keep and who to send packing in the offseason. Their willingness to explore Johnson's potential was reinforced by giving him 35 minutes on Saturday, and he responded with 29 points.
D'Angelo Russell, BKN vs. SAC ($9,100): Some might find this price a bit too cost-prohibitive for Russell, but I like D'Lo's chances against the gassed Spurs tonight. He torched them for 29 points and eight assists when the two teams last met, and he's averaged an almost identical number since the All-Star break. While it's possible to find similar numbers for less, things are a little bit slimmer at shooting guard than we'd like, and with Harden a question mark, we've got one spend-up spot to fill at the position.
Khris Middleton, MIL at CHI ($7,000): Middleton impressed a lot of people in the All-Star game (I rostered him for a big cash), and of the Bucks starters I think he'll see the most significant bump in Giannis' absence. I have no doubt Mirotic and Ilyasova will be in play, but Middleton is the more seasoned player with this offense and can stretch the floor better than any other available option – in essence, he's the best Giannis-like guy they've got tonight. His history against Chicago is also favorable, averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and an impressive 1.7 steals over three games played.
LeBron James, LAL at MEM ($12,000): I do not doubt that Kevin Durant ($10,000) will have a great game and is a bargain compared to James, but you can't fade the King with the way that he's been driving this offense. He's averaging close to a triple-double since the break, and Memphis lacks the talent to contain him. The big question is whether or not he is a full $2,000 better value than Durant. If LeBron can get to 70 FDFP, Durant would need to have 50 FDFP to merit the spend-down. I'm going to go with LeBron.
Mo Harkless, POR at CLE ($4,500): What's up with Harkless since the break? All he's done is average 33 FDFP over the last two games, which is way above his normal average. It could be an anomaly, and he's a little too high-priced to be a must-drop, but is worth a GPP flier and could work as a good SF complement to an expensive James or Durant pick.
Lauri Markkanen, CHI vs. MIL ($8,900): The Bulls will need a massive game from Markkanen if they want to stay competitive in this game, and there's no metric to suggest that he isn't worth the price in this matchup. Without Giannis, the Bucks will probably fare worse than they already do against this position (24th in defense versus PF), and if you can afford him, I think he'll be well worth it. With 58 and 43 FDFP performances since the break, he seems poised for another explosive number.
Cheick Diallo, NO vs. PHI ($5,500): Diallo has emerged as the primary guy to absorb AD's minutes. My money would have been on Jalil Okafor, but Diallo looks about twice as athletic on the court and doesn't turn the ball over. He's averaging 14 rebounds per game since the break, and without Joel Embiid to contend with, Diallo should produce another good number in that category tonight.
DeMarcus Cousins, GS at CHA ($8,300): The Hornets don't have many weapons that can contend with Boogie, and I love his ability to keep defenders guessing with his excellent perimeter shooting. I'm less than thrilled about his usage, but he seems to be impacting a lot of damage if he can muster 28 minutes on the court. I'm inclined to spend less at center tonight, but I like Cousins as my high-priced primary option.
Dewayne Dedmon, ATL at HOU ($6,000): Dedmon's been rock-solid since the break (17.7 points and 7.3 rebounds over last three games), and although the Rockets are fully healthy up front, it seems sensible to ride the wave Dedmon is on despite the lack of history we have for him against Houston. Taurean Prince (personal) will remain out tonight, which should give Dedmon more opportunities to grab Houston's missed balls.
For a winning lineup, it's almost always necessary to punt a low-priced guy in FanDuel's format. There's little point in spending up for a guy that will be your low-priced drop, and sometimes you might just get lucky anyway. Here's my list for Monday –