It feels so refreshing to have the NBA back after a short hiatus. Even though the weather is not ideal right now on the East Coast, it’s nice to be able to wake up and realize basketball will be on later in the day again. It begins to get dark outside around 6 or 7 PM, so games begin at a perfect time during the winter. And until March Madness steals the show in the sports world, the NBA regular season will continue to trudge along until the playoffs begin.
Following a seven-game slate on Thursday, there will be nine games happening across the association on Friday. It all begins with what should be a high-scoring affair between the Toronto Raptors and the Charlotte Hornets. Ahead of what should be an exciting main slate on Friday night, here are my favorite pay-up and value options at each position on DraftKings.
Pay-up option: Luka Doncic ($11,800)
What needs to be said about Luka Doncic? Besides Nikola Jokic, Doncic likely possesses the highest ceiling of any player in NBA DFS, and regardless of his matchup, he tends to return plenty of value. On Friday night, Doncic faces a stingy defense in the Utah Jazz that has recently gotten Rudy Gobert back in the lineup. With the Dallas Mavericks having to face a tough defensive team on the road, there might be people who fade the triple-double machine. I wouldn't mind getting a lower-rostered Doncic on a slate that is littered with viable high-salary players. Doncic has the second-highest usage percentage in the NBA with a massive 37.1% usage rate, making him more than capable of paying off his $11,800 salary. I also don’t mind Tyrese Haliburton or CJ McCollum if you want to save some salary at the point guard position.
Value option: Luke Kennard ($4,000)
Luke Kennard showed out for the Los Angeles Clippers on All-Star weekend with his performance in the three-point contest. Kennard was able to advance to the championship round against Trae Young and Karl-Anthony Towns before Towns went nuclear with a score of 29 in the final round to win. After scoring 22+ DraftKings points in three of his last four outings before the All-Star break, Kennard has a premier matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. The Lakers have surrendered the second-most threes per game (3.98) to shooting guards in their last 30 games. All we need is for Kennard to receive at least 20 minutes for him to return value.
Pay-up option: Devin Booker ($9,200)
Devin Booker was my favorite high-salary shooting guard on Thursday night and he’ll be my favorite option on Friday as well. With Chris Paul sidelined, Booker is going to be forced to handle an even larger workload on the offensive end. Along with his scoring, Booker should be more involved in facilitating the basketball for the Phoenix Suns, giving him a higher ceiling in DFS. There’s a chance we see Booker’s price rise to the $10,000 range until Paul returns, so I’ll continue to play him until his price warrants me to question it. Buddy Hield and OG Anunoby are two mid-tier options I like at the shooting guard position.
Value option: Eric Gordon ($4,000)
The Houston Rockets don’t have Eric Gordon on their injury report for Friday’s matchup with the Orlando Magic, so he should rejoin the starting lineup. Many expected Gordon to be a trade candidate at the deadline, but he’s still a member of the Rockets. Even on a rebuilding team, Gordon is still capable of supplying efficient shooting from deep and he’s recording three assists per game, which is the highest mark of his career since the 2014-2015 season. Seeing that the Magic allow the ninth-most threes per game (13) to opposing teams, Gordon is in a prime position to smash at his current salary.
Pay-up option: LeBron James ($10,600)
“Hello darkness my old friend,” is likely what LeBron James is thinking to himself as he’ll have to put another team on his back in the final stretch of the regular season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Anthony Davis is sidelined with a mid-foot sprain and he will be re-evaluated in four weeks. Russell Westbrook has yet to prove he fits around the current roster, so that leaves James to continue his impressive campaign at 37 years old. When James is asked to carry the load, he has one of the highest ceilings in DFS. After having a weekend to clear his mind at All-Star weekend in Cleveland, I expect James to be extra-motivated to keep Los Angeles’ playoff hopes alive.
Value option: Jae Crowder ($4,600)
I elected to go with Cameron Johnson over Jae Crowder on Thursday night with Crowder having the higher salary of the two. However, DraftKings decided to price up Johnson while moving Crowder down for Friday night’s showdown with the New Orleans Pelicans. Despite both of them being fine options, I’ll go with the cheaper option in Crowder, especially since he’s a part of the starting lineup. Aside from Booker, the other members of the Suns are going to have to step up amid the absence of Paul. Crowder gives Phoenix three-point shooting and he should see an uptick in rebounds until the veteran point guard returns. Dorian Finney-Smith is also worth consideration at the same salary as Crowder.
Pay-up option: Pascal Siakam ($9,300)
One of the most popular games on Friday night is likely going to be between the Raptors and the Hornets. The two previous meetings between these squads this season ended with 238 total points and a modest 217 total points respectively. In those two games, Pascal Siakam was a player that gave Charlotte’s defense fits, notching 54 DraftKings points per game. The versatile forward was one rebound short of a triple-double in the first contest and two assists short of a triple-double in the second meeting against the Hornets. With the Raptors surging since getting healthy, Siakam is attempting to continue leading Toronto to a higher seed in the Eastern Conference. After not being selected as an All-Star, I expect Siakam to come out firing on Friday night. Wendell Carter Jr. is also a fantastic option at power forward in an extremely favorable matchup with the Rockets.
Value option: Jaden McDaniels ($3,700)
Jaden McDaniels has been inserted into the starting lineup for the Minnesota Timberwolves alongside D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Towns. Not many starters in the NBA are priced under $4,000, especially ones that have returned value as consistently as McDaniels has as of late. McDaniels has posted 15+ DraftKings points in 10 straight games, giving us a safe floor that won’t hurt us in tournaments. He’s also scored 25+ DraftKings points in five of his last 10 games, which makes him someone that can easily return value at his current salary. Even in a tough matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, McDaniels doesn’t need to do much to make him worth rostering.
Pay-up option: Joel Embiid ($11,600)
Speaking of the 76ers, Joel Embiid has cemented himself as an MVP candidate and he was clearly chasing the All-Star MVP trophy on Sunday. If it weren't for Stephen Curry going bonkers with 50 points and 16 three-pointers — and a Team LeBron win — Embiid would have taken home the hardware. The good news for Embiid is that James Harden is set to make his debut for the 76ers on Friday. I expect Harden to have somewhat of a minutes restriction in his first game back from a hamstring injury, so Embiid’s usage should still be relatively high. If you’re someone that likes using game logs, Embiid recorded 70.5 DraftKings points versus the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this season. We could get a special matchup between Embiid and Towns on Friday. Christian Wood and Deandre Ayton are viable options in the mid-tier range if you are unable to afford Embiid.
Value option: Alperen Sengun ($4,300)
The Rockets continue to roll out Alperen Sengun in the starting lineup alongside Wood when they face teams with multiple bigs on the floor. Seeing that the Magic use Carter and Mo Bamba in their starting lineup, I’d expect Sengun to draw another start on Friday. The rookie center has performed well when given minutes, but his inconsistent role has made him a volatile option in DFS. That being said, even when he had only 18 minutes of action versus Orlando earlier this season, he still supplied 26.3 DraftKings points. If you’re someone that likes taking risks, Zach Collins is only $3,400 on the green site and he could get more run in the second half of the season for the San Antonio Spurs.