Basketball Picks Daily Fantasy Expert Advice

Austyn Varney

Daily Fantasy NBA Basketball Picks for FanDuel and DraftKings - 12/18/17

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Point guard

Russell WestbrookRussell Westbrook FD - $11300 DK - $11200
Opponent - DEN
Proj Pts FD - 56.07 DK - 59.17

It's good to be back after a fun Sunday NBA slate and a whole lot of important football. We now jump into a 10-game Monday slate that is packed full of action. We kick it off with the guy in this spot most often, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has been showing flashes of his 2016-self and even hit 71 fantasy points 2 games ago. His usage is only down 2% and he's shooting as much as ever. He now gets a match-up with a Denver Nuggets squad that doesn't play any defense. The Nuggets currently rank dead last in basketball against PG's, allowing 49.7  FPPG. Jamal Murray is a slightly bad defender,  but the real issues come in him having no help at the rim. Westbrook is going to get past any PG in the league, so it really matters about who he sees at the rim and how well the opposing team can cover passing lanes. Denver is atrocious against both and has no chance to stop Westbrook. The Thunder will also be without Steven Adams, so Westbrook should be stepping up his scoring numbers here. Vegas hasn't dropped a line yet, but I'd the total to come in around 225 with a spread bigger than 4 or 5. Westbrook is still cheaper than he ever was last year and has the same upside. His floor is 50 here and is a guy I'll have spread across all formats.

Kris DunnKris Dunn FD - $7500 DK - $6800
Opponent - PHI
Proj Pts FD - 33.78 DK - 33.04

Let's move down from the obvious spendy option in Russ to a mid-priced Kris Dunn at home in Chicago. The Bulls will host the 76ers in what will end up as one of the more popular DFS games on the slate. A lot of the action is going to come with the injured big men, but let's get some exposure on the perimeter. Kris Dunn has been one of the more impressive players on the entire season and is solidifying himself as a guy who has all-star ability. Remember, he was drafted 4th overall and was the main piece in exchange for Jimmy Butler. This is no fluke and simply a guy being able to reach his potential before necessary. If he was on a normal team with guys that demanded the ball, he wouldn't see this development for another 2 or 3 years. His minutes have been a bit up and down, but he is at over 1.3 FP/min when in there and is seeing 35+ minutes in a lot of the fast-paced games. He stuffs the stat sheet as much as any PG around and is facing a 76ers squad that gives up a ton of peripherals. They'll also be missing Joel Embiid, who is a glue piece on offense and one of the only good rebounders on the squad. With Embiid out, I'd expect Ben Simmons to move over to Mirotic or Portis. He will be needed a ton of offense and I don't see a reason to have him exert energy on a guard like Dunn or Holiday. That leaves Jerryd Bayless and T.J. McConnell. With a floor of 30 and a ceiling +50, Dunn makes for a good play in all formats. I prefer him where I have exposure to the 76ers bigs.

Kemba WalkerKemba Walker FD - $8000 DK - $7100
Opponent - NY
Proj Pts FD - 38.6 DK - 39.86

This is a spot I absolutely love for Kemba Walker. For one, the New York Knicks are not a good defense. Against point guards in particular, they rank 3rd worst in all of basketball, allowing 48.4 FPPG. Jarrett Jack and Frank Ntilikina are both putrid defenders and have no shot of stopping a hot Kemba Walker. Kemba is also much better at home and when facing a faster-paced team. All things line up for a big Kemba Walker night against a Knicks squad that should be short-handed. They could try to move Courtney Lee over to Kemba as he is a good defender, but it would just cause a huge size mismatch for MKG or Batum, who a PG would in turn have to cover. That just won't work unless Courtney Lee plays PG. His price is fair on both sites and he'll need to get between 35-40 in cash games. If it stays close, I think he gets there rather easily. He has an upside well over 50 FP and has no problem shooting over 25 times in this type of game. Vegas is extremely lazy tonight and hasn't dropped a line yet on this game either, but it should be around a 215 total and 2 or 3 line. I don't see any reason to fade Kemba if he fits. He's safe in all formats and is a guy you can pair with some Knicks in a game stack if you'd like.

Shooting Guard

Klay ThompsonKlay Thompson FD - $7200 DK - $7000
Opponent - LAL
Proj Pts FD - 35.92 DK - 37.64
Patrick McCawPatrick McCaw FD - $3500 DK - $3400
Opponent - LAL
Proj Pts FD - 19.25 DK - 18.98

We start at shooting guard with a duo that directly benefits from all of these Warriors injuries. We all know Klay is an obvious choice without Curry and Draymond, but McCaw actually sees a bigger bump with Shaun Livingston out. He saw 29 minutes last game against the Mavericks and that was with Livingston in. He will now get some PG minutes as well and could go over 30 minutes. He's definitely more of a tournament play than Thompson. Klay has been sitting around 30 FP just about every night, but hasn't flashed the upside we all expected. The Lakers are a team that will always give you a chance to go off. Especially if you're a 3-point shooter. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has the reputation of an elite defender, but Klay has done him dirty in the past and I personally think he's a very overrated defender. Thompson is safe in all formats at $7k, but may not have the upside like one of the guys we'll touch on next in the same price range. Shooting guard really is kind of deep, which is rare,  but a solid surprise. All in all, Thompson is an elite cash gameplay that can be played in all formats. McCaw is a punt that should see 25+ minutes against the Lakers and would be a phenomenal play if he does. We'll get to this Warriors offense plenty more against a Lakers team that doesn't play defense.

James HardenJames Harden FD - $11000 DK - $10500
Opponent - UTA
Proj Pts FD - 50.1 DK - 52.1
Donovan MitchellDonovan Mitchell FD - $7400 DK - $6700
Opponent - HOU
Proj Pts FD - 35.68 DK - 35.62

Let's look at these 2 guys playing against each other in James Harden and Donovan Mitchell. Both teams are without their center for this game, which is humongous. For the Jazz, Gobert slows down the game and takes production away from a lot of guys that were playing well when he was out. With that being said, he's the only real defender they have on this defense. With him out, the Jazz plays somewhat fast and don't have much interior defense. James Harden will have no problem getting inside and dominating when he gets there. The same goes for Donovan Mitchell, who'll be running into an interior that's missing Clint Capela. This game is going to be a lot faster than expected with the big men out and I wouldn't be surprised to see the total end up around 225-230. These teams each have 1 extremely effective interior defender and mightily struggle after that 1 guy. These 2 will cover each other and inevitably put up good games. We know Harden needs to get you a million at his price and he can do it whenever, but Mitchell is just around $7k and needing you 35 in cash games. His minutes are as safe as can be at 35 and I like him in all formats. This is a game I'm willing to target a lot more without the big men and I'm hoping people avoid this game because of the Utah slow reputation. They are simply not a slow, defensive team without Gobert and we have to take advantage.

Small forward

Kevin DurantKevin Durant FD - $12000 DK - $11600
Opponent - LAL
Proj Pts FD - 56.17 DK - 56.34
Andre IguodalaAndre Iguodala FD - $4400 DK - $4200
Opponent - LAL
Proj Pts FD - 24.55 DK - 24.24
Omri CasspiOmri Casspi FD - $4500 DK - $4100
Opponent - LAL
Proj Pts FD - 30.79 DK - 31.43

I could have picked 2 of these guys and took a stand, but I'll have exposure to all 3, so let's just dive into it. Even though we're looking at just small forward, these 3 guys are playing 4 different positions throughout the game. Starting with KF, he sees a clear usage bump with Steph Curry and Draymond Green out. He's been over 60 fantasy points in 3 of the last 4 games and now sees his best match-up yet against the Lakers. He's in line for another 35 minutes and a floor of 55. The ceiling is legitimately well over 80 if the Lakers find a way to keep it close. As for Iguodala and Casspi, they will both see 28+ minutes. With Livingston joining Curry and Dray, Iggy will see at least 20 minutes at PG against an over-sized Lonzo Ball.Casspi and Iguodala will see time at the 3 and, as it's inevitable that Jordan Bell/David West end up at the 5 with Durant or Casspi at the 4. If the Warriors can keep this one relatively close, I think all 3 of these guys get to value and have a shot at obliterating it. It's weird to look at 3 guys from the same position, but these guys are all seeing a lot of action on the court while this team is short-handed. We also know the Lakers won't stop anyone.

Kawhi LeonardKawhi Leonard FD - $6000 DK - $7300
Opponent - LAC
Proj Pts FD - 36.94 DK - 35.34

This is a safe and affordable option in this middle of a small forward position that doesn't offer all that much. Kawhi Leonard saw his scheduled rest last game and will return tonight as expected. He should see at least 20 minutes, but could see 25-30 easily. I definitely like him more on FD and will go elsewhere on DK, but he's safe for 1 FP per minute, at a minimum. The Clippers are an injury-riddled mess that don't have any solidified perimeter defense. Kawhi is still getting involved like he always has and should be treated like the superstar he is. He doesn't have any upside in tournaments, but that's where I'll be going with one of the Warriors. In cash games, Leonard is elite where he fits. Don't ignore him because you're scared he won't see 30+ minutes. His 25 minutes are worth more than most guys 35.


Power forward

Jordan BellJordan Bell FD - $4700 DK - $4500
Opponent - LAL
Proj Pts FD - 34.97 DK - 32.46

With Draymond Green already ruled out, everyone should be on Jordan Bell. When a guy is 90% owned the $5k contest, it's probably a good indicator that he should be played. He's been there in each of the last 2 games and now sees the best match-up yet with the L.A. Lakers. We know Bell isn't going to see a monster 35+ minutes, but we also know he's going to get 25 at a minimum. He fits the match-up well against guys like Kuzma and Nance, so should very well be in there down the stretch, if there ends up being one. His price has slightly risen, but isn't at a point where we need to worry yet. The Warriors do utilize him when on the court, so there's no need to worry about a punt who stands in the corner and does nothing for 30 minutes. He still needs you 20-25 in cash games and it can be done with ease if given the minutes. He's an easy punt play and will be one of the more popular on the night. He's a viable play in all formats that I'll have close to 100% exposure to.

Kelly OlynykKelly Olynyk FD - $6200 DK - $5000
Opponent - ATL
Proj Pts FD - 34.35 DK - 35.04

The Heat have already ruled James Johnson for the next 7-10 days, so it'll be Kelly Olynyk who jumps into the spotlight as the main benefactor. Olynyk has his minutes jumping around constantly, but that won't be the case tonight. You can go ahead and lock him in for 30 minutes with the upside for 38 if the game goes small.He always produces when on the court and isn't afraid to shoot on  Heat team with a bunch of guys who don't need a lot of shots. The Hawks allow the 3rd most 3-point shots to the PF position and John Collins will struggle on the perimeter. Kelly Olynyk is a pretty annoying NBA player to have on your favorite team, but he's extremely active when on the floor and is a lock for close to 1 FP/min. His price is down on both sites and he makes for a viable play in all formats. There's a lot of different ways to go at PF and I'm not sure anyone gets over 30% outside of Bell. There are a lot of injuries to take advantage of here and it'll likely dictate where your lineups finish.

Nikola MiroticNikola Mirotic FD - $7000 DK - $5900
Opponent - PHI
Proj Pts FD - 33.78 DK - 34.28
Bobby PortisBobby Portis FD - $5000 DK - $4700
Opponent - PHI
Proj Pts FD - 24.39 DK - 24.86

Lauri Markkanen is once again questionable and it's tough to just assume he's going to play at this point. He's missed the last 3 games and it's obvious the Bulls coaching staff is being careful. If he misses once again, you have to like Mirotic and Portis. Mirotic has been seeing 30-35 minutes, with Portis at 24-29. They both played 30 minutes last game and demolished value. Both of these players are high draft picks with high expectations and a ton of talent. They're both hitting their stride and getting the opportunity for extended court time. The match-up with the 76'ers is a great one for a Bulls team that typically plays slow. The 76'ers play at a 103.1 PACE, which is the 4th fastest in the league. Both Mirotic and Portis are comfortable playing at a faster pace and Mirotic especially sees a higher upside with the 3-point potential. The price difference is fair, but both of these guys are firmly in play if Markkanen is ruled out. Power forward provides you with a lot of options, but you won't regret going with either of these guys in the right circumstance. If you want to narrow it down to just 1, give me Portis on FD and Mirotic on DK.


Richaun HolmesRichaun Holmes FD - $4500 DK - $4100
Opponent - CHI
Proj Pts FD - 26.76 DK - 26.33

Joel Embiid has already been ruled out for rest purposes, so we can slot RIchaun Holmes in there for 23-33 minutes. It's a huge range, but just the facts. Against a Bulls squad that has a lot of size, I'm tempted to say he gets closer to 30, but I wouldn't be surprised if something goes wrong and he gets 20. This is the 76ers and they still have other warm bodies to choose from. However, even if Holmes gets just the 20-25 minutes, he will hit value. He gets the ball into his hands a lot when on the floor and has averaged over 1 FP/min over the last 2 seasons. He's had some huge games over 40 FP and I wouldn't be surprised to see it go down here. His price is extremely low on both sites and he'll only need you 25 in cash games to hit value. The Bulls rank 24th in the league against centers and Holmes will look to do damage to the weak interior. It's tough to trust any 76'er big man, but this is as good of a spot as you'll get.

Ekpe UdohEkpe Udoh FD - $4700 DK - $3700
Opponent - HOU
Proj Pts FD - 21.75 DK - 20.46

With Rudy Gobert out and Derrick Favors questionable, Epke Udoh should be forced into a healthy load of minutes. He saw 32 and 28 minutes in the last 2 games and went off for an insane 50 fantasy points against the Cavs. We shouldn't expect that out of him ever again, but 25-35 FP is certainly in the mix if he's given the minutes. The Rockets will have a weakened interior on their own front with Clint Capela out, so he'll need to get past guys like Ryan Anderson and Nene. Much, much easier. His price is extremely low on both sites and he makes for a solid play in tournaments. If Favors is out as well, he can be played in all formats and locked into the minutes. On DraftKings, he'll be very tough to ignore at $3.7k. I don't want to roster Epke Udoh any more than you do, but it may very well be the move in a fast-paced affair with Houston.

Nikola JokicNikola Jokic FD - $8900 DK - $8100
Opponent - OKC
Proj Pts FD - 35.73 DK - 36.1

Full disclosure, Jokic was on a minutes limit last game and may get capped around 25-28 tonight. Steven Adams has been ruled out for this game, so he should be able to dominate while he's in there. He'll be facing the likes of Dakari Johnson, Carmelo, Anthony???, and Patrick Patterson. 3 guys that you just can't imagine stopping Nikola Jokic. At least I can't. This game is one we like a lot even though Vegas hasn't dropped a line, I'd say it's safe to assume it'll be around 215. I might be off by 2 or 3 points, but this is a game that will be up and down all night. Jokic is the clear number 1 option when on the floor and touches the ball on just about every possession. His minutes restriction is undefined, so maybe he does see a full allotment and just obliterates. HIs price is high, but the upside is there and the match-up is extremely tough to ignore.


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