Easy Breezy: Chalk Stack
The Philadelphia 76ers were one of the fastest paced teams in the NBA last season, ranking fourth in the league in pace in 2017. They also ranked as an above average offense, and their rotation has remained similar this season. They get a matchup against the Chicago Bulls, who ranked in the top-10 of the NBA in pace and the bottom-three of the league in defensive rating last season. It’s somewhat of a perfect storm for the Sixers, who are -11 point favorites in a game set at 220 points (and increasing). They feature an implied total of 115.5 points tonight.
The Sixers team starts with Joel Embiid, who posted a ridiculous 33.4% usage rating last season. His usage increased to 38.5% during the preseason, but it will likely drop closer to his 33.4% during the regular season. In the preseason, Embiid needed only 24.5 minutes per game to average 23.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.0 steal per game. Ben Simmons is the other focal point of the offense, although his usage rating was significantly lower at only 22.3% in 2017. It dropped to 19.3% during the preseason, but Simmons was still able to average 9.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks in 26.7 minutes per game. His versatility was on full display in the Sixers opener, as well, posting a 19/15/8/2/4 line in 41 minutes. There are multiple other stackable pieces to the Philly offense – J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric – but I’m going to save money with Markelle Fultz. Fultz only played 24 minutes in the Sixers opener, but he started the game, and it’s clear the team is trying to build his confidence. He displayed tremendous versatility at times last season, averaging 14.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 1.7 steals on a per-36 minute basis. While he comes with a low usage rating, Fultz has multiple ways to contribute while on the court, and he’s a cheap way to get a part of this offense.
Wildcard GPP: Low Owned Stack
For the most part, this game has been outlined above. The Sixers showed holes in their defense against the Boston Celtics, and even a young Bulls team will be able to take advantage of that. Overall, the Bulls feature an implied total of 104.5 points tonight.
Zach LaVine only played in limited games last season due to injury, but he featured a 29.5% usage rating while on the court. That usage increased to 32.4% during the preseason, and it’s expected to sit around 30% in 2018. He averaged 1.04 DK points per minute last season, and he’s expected to play minutes in the mid-30s tonight, making him an easy option to use from Chicago. Bobby Portis was unleashed at times at the end of last season, and he has been named the starter with Lauri Markkanen injured to start the season. Portis boasted a 28% usage rating during the preseason, averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals in only 22.4 minutes per game. He should see minutes in the mid- to high-20s tonight, and he will be able to hit value if he can match his 1.18 DK points per minute from last season. Wendell Carter is another player that was named a starter, although he may start with a healthy Markkanen. He flashed what he could do in the Summer League, posting 14.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 2.6 blocks in 28.8 minutes per game. His usage rating and production dropped in the preseason, though, and he only averaged 7.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 21.1 minutes per game. He won’t see a ton of usage on the court, but Carter can contribute in multiple categories, and he should play more than enough minutes to hit value tonight. Jabari Parker also can be considered for Chicago, as he should come with extremely low ownership, but he should lead the second unit off the bench. His minutes should remain in the mid-20s, while also seeing a usage rating in that range, as well.
Hidden Gem: Value Guard
Markelle Fultz only played in 17 games last season, but he flashed tremendous potential while on the court. He averaged 14.2 pints, 6.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 1.7 steals on a per-36 minute basis. Fultz also averaged 1.03 DK points per minute, while playing significantly better in front of his home crowd in 2017.
Fultz struggled in his first game this season, totaling only five points, three rebounds, two assists, and one steal in 24 minutes. Still, he drew the start, and it’s clear the Sixers want to boost his confidence. He’s expected to start once again tonight, while playing minutes in the mid-20s. This game has a Vegas total that is on the rise, and Philadelphia should feature one of the top offenses on the slate. As mentioned above, Fultz is a cheap way to get a part of that offense.
Hidden Gem: Value Big
As mentioned above, Carter nearly averaged a double double in the Summer League before struggling a bit more in the preseason. He was a focal point of the offense, sporting a a 19.6% usage rating during the Summer League, but that dropped to only 16.1% during the preseason. Even with limited usage, Carter has proven that he can contribute fantasy points when given the minutes, though.
He has been named the starter for the Chicago Bulls, nearly guaranteeing him minutes in the mid- to high-20s. While the matchup against Joel Embiid is a concern, Carter is a relatively NBA ready player, who possesses double double potential. He could find himself in foul trouble early on, which is always a major concern for rookies, but Carter should easily hit value if he plays his full minutes tonight.