Wednesday's NBA slate offers six games for DFS players to search for options, but which players stand out as must-starts? And which should stay on the fantasy bench? Our experts weigh in.
Player to build around
Jim McCormick -- Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers I swear this endorsement has little to do with my loyalty to the 76ers, and instead is motivated by inviting matchup metrics. The Knicks have surrendered 49.9 fantasy points per game to centers on FanDuel's scoring key this season, second most in the league behind only Brooklyn. Even over a recent sample, we find the Knicks yielding 51.8 points per game to opposing fives, third highest in the league in this stretch. With Embiid ranked fourth in the NBA in usage rate and his minute restriction alleviated to 28 per game, we find a valuable outcome spectrum in place. Diving specifically into his efficient fantasy pattern, Embiid averages 1.32 fantasy points per minute and 27 minutes during the past 15 games, thus we can reasonably project upwards of 36 fantasy points given the soft matchup.
Last night was a very clear "stars and scrubs night" and tonight looks like a great night for a balanced lineup approach. Kevin Love is in a great spot this evening with the Cavs having the highest implied team total and looking at a great matchup against the Trail Blazers who he torched for 62 DraftKings points in their first meeting this season. Locking in Kevin Love allows for two other All-Star players at mid-to-high prices ($7,000-$9,000) to fill out your head-to-head lineups tonight.
The point guard position is loaded tonight and there are a few pricey forwards that are intriguing, so if you can hit value (or even more) from a cheap center, this is going to be a profitable evening. Gortat is averaging 13.1 rebounds during his past eight games and with a matchup against a Boston team that ranks 29th in team rebounding rate, it is tough to project Gortat for anything less than double-digit boards.
Now, Gortat did play 42 minutes last night, but if patterns hold, that shouldn't force you to pivot. Not only did he play 40 minutes on consecutive nights fewer than two weeks ago, but his per game averages this season on the second night of a back-to-back are actually greater than his annual averages in minutes, field goal attempts, rebounds and points. Jonas Valanciunas had his way with the C's frontcourt last night (18 points and 23 rebounds) and while that stat line is a bit optimistic, Gortat should offer nice value and allow you roster flexibility in this spot.
Any time there's a six-game slate and the Thunder are playing, you have to seriously consider Westbrook and tonight that's especially true on DraftKings as his salary is $1,200 below where it was Monday. Yes, Memphis has a good defense, but no team has been able to slow down Westbrook at all this season and it's rare you can get Westbrook at a discount. I'm cashing in while I can Wednesday.
Player to fade
Jim McCormick -- Derrick Rose, New York Knicks Sticking in South Philly, I'm fading Rose based on the matchup ingredients. The unique no-show from earlier this week is simply another element driving down Rose's value, but the real reason here is the fact that the 76ers have allowed 102.8 points per 100 possessions in the past five games -- fifth fewest in the league. With T.J. McConnell playing superior defense than Sergio Rodriguez and Embiid anchoring stout rim protection in the paint, it makes sense to fade a drive-dependent scorer like Rose.
I just won't have the space to play Horford with the way lineup construction looks today. With his rebounding way down (11 percent rebound rate vs. 15 percent on his career) he lacks both the floor and upside he had in seasons past. Considering my Building Block and the other options that have center eligibility with a far greater chance at the double bonus this evening, Horford is not going to find his way into my lineups today.
Kyle Soppe -- Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Maybe I just don't like fun, but I'm passing on "The Process" tonight in a matchup with "The Unicorn." I'm not crazy about the idea of him potentially guarding Kristaps Porzingis on the perimeter, as Embiid plays limited minutes as it is and has committed at least five fouls (including two disqualifications in his past four games) in five of his past 10 games after doing so in just three of his first 15. I am also not a fan that despite some struggles recently from distance (20.8 percent from 3-point range in the past three weeks), the 76ers big man continues to launch more than three triples per game. Yes, I understand that Embiid has pumped in at least 20 points in each of his past six games, but this matchup worries me from a basketball standpoint and there are no shortage of big men to roster instead.
Joe Kaiser -- Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Smart has played well in Avery Bradley's absence the past two games, raising his salary above $6,000 on DraftKings tonight. The only thing is, there's a real chance that Bradley returns to the court tonight against Washington in Boston's second game in as many nights, and if that happens Smart's minutes and shot attempts will take a hit. He's a player who will likely be highly owned but one that will have a hard time reaching his salary value if Bradley is back in the lineup. Keep in mind that Smart is lower priced and a better value on FanDuel tonight.