I'm excited to be back this season, and I'm even more excited to be writing on Wednesdays. We should have some really good slates throughout the season on Wednesdays, and we get started with the first big slate on the year. I'll be writing this column early in the day, so make sure to pay attention to news as tip-offs approach.
D'Angelo Russell @ Detroit Pistons
Russell is one of the top plays on the slate for me tonight. With Carroll, Crabbe, and Napier already ruled out tonight, Russell is in line for great usage, and should play 32-37 minutes if this game stays close. With Carroll, Crabbe, and Lin off the floor last season, Russell had a 31.2% usage rate and averaged .96 fantasy points per minute. It sounds like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will play tonight, but even if he plays, I highly doubt he plays 30+ minutes, which gives Russell even more of a usage bump. Considering his price, I think he's a top point per dollar play on FanDuel and DraftKings.
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Luka Doncic @ Phoenix Suns
It might be overpaying for Doncic in his first NBA game, but with Barnes and Dirk ruled out, I see plenty of opportunity for Luka Doncic in this matchup tonight. Dallas is in a rebuild and the third overall pick should get plenty of run in this game and the entire season. Doncic averaged 29 minutes per game in the four preseason games, finishing with 15 PPG, 3.5 APG, 4.8 RPG, and 1.5 SPG. He attempted 40 shots in the preseason, and 23 of those shots were three pointers. I expect Doncic to be low owned at his price point, and I'm willing to roll the dice in tournaments.
Giannis Antetokounmpo @ Charlotte Hornets
I've debated which stud I want to pay up for, but I can't get off of paying up for Giannis in this matchup. I think this is a sneaky game to stack, and it's really hard to argue with the production we got from Antetokounmpo last season. He had a 28% true usage rate and averaged 1.41 fantasy points per minute. Giannis is a matchup nightmare, and I just don't see how Marvin Williams is going to be able to guard him in this matchup. I expect the usage to be there, and I think he's a great pivot off of James Harden and Anthony Davis on this slate.
Tobias Harris vs. Denver Nuggets
This is my favorite game pivot off of the Houston/New Orleans game. The implied total in this game is 226, which is only 2.5 points lower than the game in Houston. We don't have a large sample size, but Harris averaged 1.3 fantasy points per minute with Jordan, Rivers, and Johnson off the floor last season. With this new-look Clippers team, I expect Harris to have a big role, and he's likely to see around 35 minutes per game. Paul Millsap was banged up a lot last season, so it's hard to justify looking at how Denver did defensively against power forwards, but I will note that they allowed the fifth most fantasy points to opposing PFs. I'm guessing we see a 3-5% usage bump from Harris this season, and I'd be shocked if he doesn't average over a fantasy point per minute this season.
Hassan Whiteside @ Orlando Magic
If you're playing NBA DFS for the first time, it's extremely hard to trust Whiteside and his role with this team. With that said, it's hard not to like him in this matchup. There is a new coach in Orlando and that might help them a little defensively, but this young team really struggled with defense and rebounding last season. In 15 career games against the Orlando Magic, Whiteside has 11 double-doubles and in 11 of those 13 games he's played over 20 minutes. I'm hoping we see him play 27-32 minutes tonight, and if he gets the minutes, I have a hard time not seeing him having a 15-15 game tonight.