This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
NOTE: Today's early game (DET/CLE) will not be considered for this article.
If you're thinking of going contrarian tonight, ignore the next paragraph. For the rest of you:
OK, pretty short paragraph, but there's little need to say more than that. There are a lot of interesting avenues to follow on this eight-game slate, but I don't see myself strolling down any of them without Westbrook in the front pocket. In two games versus the Spurs, the All-Star put up an average of 67.1 DKFP in a game script WITH PG13. Who should go in place of George? Markieff Morris will probably draw the start, but the likes of Dennis Schroder and Jerami Grant will see bumps in production, and if I had to pick a starter to step up, it would likely be Steven Adams ($6,300), who's provided a relatively stable floor since the break.
GAMES I LIKE: LAL/PHO, NOR/DEN, GS/PHI
GAMES I'LL FADE: ORL/IND
Here are the rest of the injury spots, and there are a few that could make or break your lineups tonight. All ongoing injuries won't receive a mention here.
Joel Embiid (knee) OUT, Boban Marjanovic (knee) OUT: These absences throw a wrench in what should have been a fun game to watch against the Warriors. I think you'll need to lean on your starters for Philly, but Jonah Bolden ($4,100) would be my primary pivot under center today. I wish they'd give Justin Patton a look, but it appears he won't take the court anytime soon. This situation becomes an exploitative opportunity for one guy in particular – we'll discuss him in a moment.
Anthony Davis (rest) OUT: I wince at even saying 'rest' and should come up with some other snarky word for Davis moving forward, but he has 'ruled himself' out today. Julius Randle ($8,000), as is customary when Davis sits, becomes a prime target against the Nuggets. Things have gotten a little murky beyond Randle in the frontcourt, and while Cheick Diallo ($4,100) is definitely in the mix, he's too volatile for me to consider.
Ricky Rubio (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE, Raul Neto (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE: This is a tough spot against the Bucks on the tail end of the slate. Conventional wisdom dictates running with Donovan Mitchell ($7,900) here to be safe. If you're hanging around long enough to hear anything about this game, I think you have to give Joe Ingles ($5,400) a bit of a bump, and Kyle Korver ($3,300) would become a suitable low-cost flier.
DAL/MEM injuries: Tim Hardaway (illness) QUESTIONABLE, Ivan Rabb (heel) PROBABLE, Avery Bradley (knee) PROBABLE: I felt that at least mentioning the probables was a worthwhile mention here. I think these situations put a little more pressure on Doncic and Conley, and under center, the excellent play of Jonas Valanciunas ($7,400), Joakim Noah ($5,000), and Dwight Powell ($5,200) on the other side should continue.
MIAMI: We already know about Whiteside, but just when Goran Dragic started seeing more minutes, he popped up with a calf injury. Justise Winslow ($5,000) and Dwyane Wade ($5,100) are sensible pivots if Dragic sits.
OK, Let's now go position-by-position, and I'll endeavor to include one elite target, a mid-range player and a low-cost value play at each spot.
Ben Simmons, PHI at GS ($8,500): As mentioned previously, you need to lean on the starters without Embiid, and Simmons tends to take over when the big man is out. He's also demonstrated some luck against the Warriors, as he put up 51 DKFP in his sole game against them this season. The Warriors will come into this game hopping mad after a disappointing loss to Miami, but Simmons will be ready.
Mike Conley, MEM at DAL ($7,500): I went a little bit above the median price for my second pick, but attention must be paid to Conley as a likely low-ownership target against Dallas. He's had 40-plus DKFP in three of his last four games, including a 50 DKFP beatdown of the Clippers. He also put up 50 DKFP against an old-look Dallas team earlier in the season, and I see little reason not to endorse him against the reformed Mavs.
Rajon Rondo, LAL at PHO ($5,300): There's a treasure trove of picks at this level, but a lot of them depend on injury situations. Despite the presence of Reggie Bullock, Rando is still the primary dime-dropper in LA, and that stat alone is enough to carry the guard on most nights. He'll need a standard shooting night to be truly valuable, but I expect Rondo to have a great night unless this game gets out of hand – which could go either way at this juncture.
I'll begin by saying that because of Westbrook's high price, I have to give LeBron the night off on this slate. I don't doubt a 50-60 DKFP total here, and he might make a lineup or two, but to play a James/Westbrook stack would compromise your build (but don't think I won't try one).
Tobias Harris, PHI vs. GS ($7,700): I see nothing wrong with giving Durant a roll at a higher price, but recent history has indicated that Harris can give you a similar total, especially in today's game script without Joel Embiid under center. Harris is adept at sliding into the five as needed, and his defensive prowess will be sorely needed against the Warriors. He's averaged well over 40 DKFP in his three games against the Warriors this season, and I expect him to carry a heavy load for Philly in the frontcourt.
Will Barton, DEN vs. NO ($5,700): Barton is swinging back into form and is receiving 30-plus minutes on the court at last. One side effect of Barton's return appears to be a significant downturn from Paul Millsap, who returned to earth in Denver's previous game while Barton played 37 minutes and logged a whopping 49 DKFP score. Nikola Jokic should be able to handle things up front, leaving Barton to attack at the wing, which is still in flux in New Orleans.
Joe Ingles, UTA vs. MIL ($5,400): Even if Rubio takes the floor, I think it's worth giving Ingles another mention here. There's no question that Ingles' totals would increase if the assist duties came his way, and without those numbers, he could be a disappointment. If he can get enough looks at the basket, I wouldn't be too concerned. That didn't happen for him in his last game against the Bucks, so approach this pick with a bit of caution. Give it serious thought if Rubio can't go.
DeMarcus Cousins, GS at PHI ($8,200): Remember the one guy I mentioned at the beginning of the article? It should be a field day for Cousins without Embiid on the floor. Tobias Harris should be able to provide some resistance, but few centers can stretch the floor like Cousins, as his perimeter game will keep defenders guessing. His price is hitting a borderline for me, but the plum matchup outweighs the cost here.
LaMarcus Aldridge, SA vs. OKC ($7,700): If you're looking for a sneaky, under-owned play, look no further than Aldridge. I think the Aldridge/DeRozan tandem will be largely overlooked on this slate, and while I am not as high on DeMar, I really like Aldridge in this scenario, as there will be no Paul George present to contain him. He's had two good games (56,8 DKFP over two contests) versus OKC WITH George – the sky's the limit without PG13 around tonight.
Jakob Poeltl, SA vs. OKC ($3,700): With Pau Gasol out of San Antonio, I expect the Spurs to employ Poeltl early and often under center. If you're a fan of the contrarian Spurs play, I think Poeltl is in an excellent position to crush value at his low price.