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DraftKings DFS NBA Strategy Advice: Thursday (12/31)

Dec 31, 2020

It’s New Year’s Eve! What better way to ring in the new year than with the last main slate of 2020. There are two early games on Thursday that are not a part of the main slate (Cavaliers vs. Pacers and Bulls vs. Wizards), so we’ll focus our attention on the other five games, starting at 6:30 PM EST with the Sixers and Magic. John Wall is set to make his regular season debut with the Rockets, but should you trust him in your DFS lineup? Below you’ll find some value plays at each position, as well as studs worth their salary, and notable players to fade. Let’s dive right in!

Point Guard:

Name (TEAM) OPPONENT PRICE MATCHUP RISK
Eric Bledsoe (NO) @ OKC $5,600 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ MEDIUM
Fred VanVleet (TOR) vs. NY $7,200 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ LOW

 

Bledsoe has been somewhat of a disappointment so far with the Pelicans, but he’s faced four tough backcourts to begin the season. He should have an easier time finding success against the Thunder, who rank 26th in fantasy points allowed to the point guard position. Outside of a blowout loss to the Suns in which he only played 24 minutes, Bledsoe has averaged 32 minutes per game as a starter. He’s taken 11 shots and has attempted six 3-pointers in the other three games, however, he’s shooting just 36.8% on the season. If he can start knocking down his shot, he should be well worth the $5,600 price tag against Oklahoma City.

VanVleet shot just 3-of-12 from the field and 2-of-8 from downtown in his last game against the Sixers. He still managed to put up 30 fantasy points in 37 minutes of action. FVV also struggled the first game of the season and managed to bounce back in a big way against the Spurs in his second game, posting 48.3 fantasy points. Expect VanVleet to bounce back once again vs. Elfrid Payton, RJ Barrett, and the Knicks. 

Shooting Guard:

Name (TEAM) OPPONENT PRICE MATCHUP RISK
George Hill (OKC) vs. NO $4,700 ⭐⭐⭐ MEDIUM
Tyrese Haliburton (SAC) @ HOU $4,900 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ MEDIUM

 

Hill missed the last game with neck spasms, but he’s off the injury report heading into Thursday night’s tilt with the Pelicans. He started the first two games for OKC and averaged 31.2 fantasy points in 25 minutes per contest. At just $4,700, Hill needs just 23.5 fantasy points to hit 5x value. His salary hasn’t yet caught up to the fact that he’s a starter for the Thunder. Take advantage before his salary jumps up above $5,000. 

The Iowa State rookie has produced in a big way for the Kings to start the season. Through four games, Haliburton is averaging 10.5 points (56% FG, 50% 3PT), two rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, and just 0.8 turnovers in 27 minutes per game. In his last two games, he’s averaging 29.6 fantasy points. That’s more than Buddy Hield is averaging in his last two games (26.7 fantasy points), yet Hield is priced at $6,800 while Haliburton is just $4,900. Both Sacramento and Houston want to push the pace, which bodes well for Haliburton in a game with the highest projected point total on the slate. 

Small Forward:

Name (TEAM) OPPONENT PRICE MATCHUP RISK
Royce O’Neale (UTA) vs. PHO $3,800 ⭐⭐⭐ MEDIUM
OG Anunoby (TOR) vs. NY $5,800 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ LOW

 

O’Neale has 20+ fantasy points in two of three games to start the season. He’s in the starting rotation and plays heavy minutes in games that are competitive. In two games decided by five or fewer points, O’Neale is averaging 21.4 fantasy points in 34 minutes per game. In the one game the Jazz beat the Trail Blazers by 20 points, he posted just 10.8 fantasy points in 28 minutes. Thursday’s game against the Suns is projected to be a tight one, which should give O’Neale a nice floor and keep him on the court to guard guys like Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, and Jae Crowder

It’s not always wise to chase the big performance, but I’m going to do just that with Anunoby on Thursday. His bread and butter is his defense, and OG had five steals on Tuesday against the Sixers. Now he’ll face off against a Knicks squad that turns the ball over at the 3rd-highest clip in the league (18 turnovers per game). After his 44-point performance against Philadelphia, Anunoby is now averaging 33 fantasy points in 36 minutes per game on the young season. Fire him up at home against the Knicks on New Year’s Eve.  

Power Forward:

Name (TEAM) OPPONENT PRICE MATCHUP RISK
Chris Boucher (TOR) vs. NY $5,200 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ HIGH
Harrison Barnes (SAC) @ HOU $5,400 ⭐⭐⭐ LOW

 

Boucher’s first three games have been a roller coaster ride. He opened the season playing 15 minutes off the bench against New Orleans and was able to compile 21.3 fantasy points. In his next game against the Spurs, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse found 28 minutes for Boucher, and he did not disappoint, posting 53 fantasy points. Between the first two games, he averaged an incredible 1.73 fantasy points per minute. But then in the Raptors’ last game, Boucher saw just five minutes off the bench, while Alex Len was used for the first time all season to match up with Sixers big man Joel Embiid. Because of his skinny frame, Boucher doesn’t match up well against the dominant bigs in the league. But against Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson on Thursday, Boucher should see a few more minutes. Even if he plays just 15 minutes, at 1.73 fantasy points per minute, he’d hit 5x value given his $5,200 price tag. He’s a high risk, high reward GPP play only. 

Barnes has been extremely consistent while looking for his shot early on this season. Through four games, he’s averaging 31.2 fantasy points per game. He’s posted 30+ fantasy points in the three games that were decided by 10 or fewer points. Thursday’s game against the Rockets is projected to be a close, high-scoring affair, which bodes well for Barnes’ chances at hitting that 30-point mark once again. He’s about as safe as they come in cash games while also providing that 40-point upside he showcased in the first game of the season against the Nuggets.

Center

Name (TEAM) OPPONENT PRICE MATCHUP RISK
Steven Adams (NO) @ OKC $5,700 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ LOW
Mitchell Robinson (NY) @ TOR $5,600 ⭐⭐⭐ MEDIUM

 

Adams gets a revenge game against his former team just five games into the 2020-21 season. Sign me up for a very favorable matchup against Al Horford, Mike Muscala, and a Thunder frontcourt giving up the 28th most points to the center position so far this season.

Robinson has averaged 33 minutes per game in his last two games, which is all anyone could ask for after he flashed so much potential a season ago in just 23 minutes per contest. He shouldn’t have to worry about foul trouble either, as he’ll likely be matched up with Aron Baynes, who would rather operate along the perimeter than down low in the paint. Pounce on Robinson at just $5,600 before he has one of his breakout 40+ point performances. 

4 Studs Worth Their Salary

  • Nikola Vucevic, ORL ($8,700): Vucevic always seems to fare well against Joel Embiid and the Sixers. In the last two seasons, Vucevic is averaging 22.7 points, 11.4 rebounds, and five assists against Philadelphia in seven games. He already has two games of 50+ fantasy points this season, a trend that could certainly continue on Thursday given his recent success against the Sixers.
  • Zion Williamson, NO ($7,900): Who’s going to guard Williamson for the Thunder? If it’s Darius Bazley, Williamson has 70 lbs on him. If it’s Al Horford, Williamson has the speed to get by him with ease. Oklahoma City has a few long, athletic forwards, but nobody that is going to stop Williamson from getting to the basket. He performed admirably against Miami on Christmas Day (53 fantasy points in 38 minutes) and I expect him to do the same on New Year’s Eve against OKC.
  • De’Aaron Fox, SAC ($7,800): The Kings will play in a pace-up game against the Rockets, who average almost 110 possessions per game (4th-most in NBA). John Wall will make his debut for the Rockets, but he and James Harden aren’t exactly lockdown defenders. Fox has gone for 40+ fantasy points in three of four games to start the season, and that trend should continue on Thursday in Houston. 
  • Tobias Harris, PHI ($7,100): After a slow start to the season, Harris has found his stroke and is heating up. He’s averaging 47.6 fantasy points in his last two games and now gets a nice matchup against the Magic. On paper, Aaron Gordon matches up well with Harris, but Gordon is still dealing with a hamstring injury and isn’t 100%. Because of that, the Sixers could decide to take advantage of Harris’ hot hand and attack a less-than 100% Gordon on Thursday. Harris’ safe floor and high ceiling make him an attractive forward to roster on New Year’s Eve.

4 Notable Players to Fade

  • James Harden, HOU ($11,000): The Rockets are getting their entire team back on Thursday. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Gordon are all set to make their season debuts. This has me steering clear of Harden against the Kings, as it’s completely unknown what impact these guys will have on Harden’s usage. 
  • Ben Simmons, PHI ($9,200): Simmons’ numbers are down a bit to begin the 2020-21 campaign. It could be totally random, or it could be a result of some of the new pieces the Sixers acquired in the offseason. With Shake Milton performing admirably off the bench for the Sixers, Simmons has averaged just 32 minutes per game so far this season compared to 35+ minutes a season ago. If this trend continues, the days of Simmons being over $9,000 will come to an end. His $9,200 price-tag is too steep for a guy averaging just 40.2 fantasy points per game to start the season.
  • Donovan Mitchell, UTA ($7,600): Mitchell has struggled to find his rhythm early on this season. He’s shooting just 32.3 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from deep through three games. While that likely won’t continue, he gets a very tough matchup against a Suns team that wants to slow down the pace of the game. Mix that with a potential matchup against one of the league’s best defenders in Mikal Bridges, and Mitchell is a fade for me.
  • Deandre Ayton, PHO ($7,400): Ayton is averaging just 31.6 fantasy points per game through four games this season and it won’t get any easier for him on Thursday. He’ll face off against one of the NBA’s best defensive centers in Rudy Gobert. Ayton will have his hands full on every possession on both ends of the floor in this one. I’ll look elsewhere for production on this five-game slate.

Bonus:

Q: Should you trust John Wall ($7,100) in your DFS lineup today against the Kings? 

A: I would not – he hasn’t played in a regular season basketball game in over two years and now he finds himself in a completely new situation. Wall figures to be on some sort of informal minutes restriction as well as he ramps back up into game condition. At the same price point, I’d rather go with the safe floor of Tobias Harris. 

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Adam Koffler is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Adam, check out his archive and follow him @AdamKoffler.

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