This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We have a compact four-game slate on tap Saturday night, giving us that rather tight eight-team core to work with in terms of our lineup selections. While four games do naturally restrict our player pool to at least a slightly uncomfortable degree, we do have enough to work with at each position and price point with proper due diligence. However, it's worth noting just two of the four games have projected totals that whet our appetite from a DFS perspective.
As usual, we'll proceed to break down the positional outlook below, along with possible chalk plays and some likely under-owned bargains that could help you round out your lineups with a couple of superstars.
Before delving into the slate, a reminder that FanDuel has reverted to its previous format of NOT dropping the lowest scoring in lineups after a one-year experiment with that feature. Therefore, it will be important to be prudent with each selection, as each player's total will count toward your final score.
Without further ado, let's take a more comprehensive look at Saturday's slate!
Here's a closer look at the two games with the highest elevated totals on Saturday's slate:
Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets (Projected total: 240.5 points)
This is the "track meet" of the night on the short slate, with two fast-paced, high-scoring and below-average defensive teams in the league getting together. The Suns come in allowing 114.1 points per game and averaging 106.6 possessions per game. The Rockets counter with a Western Conference-high 120.8 points scored per game, including 122.5 per home contest. They're also yielding 115.2 per game while averaging an NBA-high 109.4 possessions per contest, setting up all the key pieces from both teams in even better position than usual.
Memphis Grizzlies at Utah Jazz (Projected total: 218.5 points)
Just a couple of seasons ago, a Grizzlies-Jazz clash would have been a grind-fest with a projected total likely under 200. However, this is a new-look Memphis team, one that plays at a much faster pace than its predecessors. The Grizzlies check with the sixth-fastest pace in the NBA (107.2 possessions per game) while allowing the fourth-most points (116.5) per contest. And, it's worth noting even Utah has been playing a bit faster lately, averaging 118.0 possessions per game over the last three (compared to 105.9 for the season). The projected scoring here tilts much more in Utah's favor and the nice bump in pace this game brings makes key Jazz components such as Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert especially attractive.
PG: We have a muddled picture at point guard Saturday when factoring in the confirmed absence of Ja Morant (back) and a possible one for Mike Conley (hamstring). Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons and Malcolm Brogdon are fine choices if you're paying up, but after Ricky Rubio ($7,600) and Collin Sexton ($6,100), we're left with a lot more uncertainty the rest of the way.
SG: James Harden, Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker are about as high an upside trio as you'll find at the position on any given night, and the fact Harden and Booker oppose each other in the game with the highest projected scoring total of the night only sweetens the pot. There's also some viable value below the $4K range in Grayson Allen (who's discussed further in the Key Values section).
SF: Small forward is in the best shape of any position overall Saturday. While there are no truly elite options on the short slate, Tobias Harris, Kelly Oubre and Bojan Bogdanovic are excellent mid-tier options at the top, and there's very solid and cheaper depth in the form of Marcus Morris, Jae Crowder, T.J. Warren, Danuel House and Cedi Osman, with more options all the way into the sub-$4K range.
PF: Kevin Love's confirmed absence dilutes our choices slightly here, but there's still plenty to like up top (Domantas Sabonis, Al Horford), in the mid-tier (Jaren Jackson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance) and in the bargain section (Frank Kaminsky, P.J. Tucker, Cheick Diallo).
C: Joel Embiid's confirmed absence is naturally a big one, but it happens to come on a night where we will still have access to the likes of Clint Capela, Rudy Gobert, and Jonas Valanciunas as far as elite/above-average options. Meanwhile, Tristan Thompson, Myles Turner and Mitchell Robinson (with a new coaching staff in place) are certainly intriguing in the mid-tier. Then, due to Embiid's absence, Kyle O'Quinn becomes a highly sought-after chalk play at $3,500 for those looking to pay all the way down and stock up elsewhere.
Notable Injury Situations to Monitor
Joel Embiid, PHI
Embiid has been ruled out for Saturday's game due to a bruised left hip. The big man's absence will up the usage of his remaining first-unit teammates and afford a potential start to Kyle O'Quinn at center.
Josh Richardson, PHI
Kevin Love, CLE
Love will likely be labeled as questionable at best with an illness. Larry Nance would be in line for a second straight start should Love miss.
Aron Baynes, PHO
Mike Conley, UTA
Conley is considered questionable for Saturday's game due to a hamstring injury. Donovan Mitchell could potentially slide over to point guard in Conley's absence, while Dante Exum and Emmanuel Mudiay would rotate in off the bench in such a scenario.
Ty Jerome, PHO
Jerome is considered probable for Saturday's game with the ankle injury that sidelined him the first 18 games of the season.
Dillon Brooks, MEM
Brooks is considered questionable for Saturday's game due to right shoulder soreness. Marko Guduric, Grayson Allen and De'Anthony Melton would presumably hold down the fort at shooting guard should Brooks miss.
Kyle Anderson, MEM
Anderson is considered doubtful for Saturday's game due to heel soreness. Solomon Hill should continue seeing extra opportunity in Anderson's stead.
We have just two five-figure salaries on the four-game slate, but only one, James Harden, is actually available to play, as Joel Embiid (hip) is already ruled out. We also have a trio of highly worthy options in the $9K range in Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons and Clint Capela, followed by a loaded $8K pool that includes Domantas Sabonis, Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker.
There aren't any must-haves in the elite player pool based on positional scarcity alone, but Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons do come close at point guard due the overall lack of depth at the position. Additionally, Simmons takes on some extra appeal with Embiid out of the equation Saturday. The same holds true for Tobias Harris and Al Horford, although they do not require you to break the bank at salaries of $8,100 and $7,600, respectively.
With just eight teams in action and one five-figure salaried player unavailable (Joel Embiid), there should be plenty of money available to make the elite players such as James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Clint Capela and Ben Simmons very popular. Simmons' teammates Al Horford and Tobias Harris should also carry an extra layer of popularity due to Embiid's absence. And, as alluded to earlier, Kyle O'Quinn should be heavy value chalk at $3,500.
As customary, I've also listed some likely high-owned value plays under the next section, with several of those deriving their expected popularity due to the expanded minutes the absences of their teammates are affording them.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Kevin Porter Jr., CLE at PHI ($4,000):
Porter has settled into a steady role off the Cavaliers bench, logging at least 20 minutes in seven of his last nine games, and checking in with 19 minutes in one of the two contests during that span in which he didn't reach the threshold. He's made solid use of those opportunities, scoring over 20 FanDuel points thrice and 19.3 in one other game over that sample. He doesn't project for an overabundance of ownership despite the small slate, and he'll face a Sixers squad that's tied for the fourth-highest shooting percentage allowed to opposing second units (47.0), and the sixth highest (46.4 percent) to small forwards.
Grayson Allen, MEM at UTA ($3,800):
Allen's reserve backcourt mate De'Anthony Melton is likelier to get the higher ownership of the two, hence his inclusion in the list underneath this section. Meanwhile, Allen comes at a deep discount from Melton's $5,500 salary and has posted 22.0 and 23.9 FanDuel points in two of his last three games, respectively. The 2018 first-round pick of the Jazz will get a crack at his old team, which should certainly give him some motivation after they cut him loose just one season into his tenure. Moreover, Utah is allowing 49.6 FanDuel points per game to shooting guards on the campaign, and the Jazz also ranks just outside the bottom 10 in the league with a 34.9 three-point shooting percentage allowed to opposing second-unit players. Allen has logged between 25 and 30 minutes in each of his last three games as part of the domino effect of Ja Morant's absence with a back injury, and he could also see extra opportunity Saturday if Dillon Brooks (shoulder) sits.
T.J. McConnell, IND at NYK ($3,600):
McConnell isn't likely to garner much attention all the way down at the bottom of the point guard pool with a game log that sports tallies of 4.7 to 11.9 FanDuel points in four of his last five contests. That type of volatility makes McConnell a large-field tournament play only, but keep in mind this is a player that scored 25.0 to 26.4 FanDuel points in a three-game stretch right before his current downturn, and that's also eclipsed 30 FanDuel points in two other contests already this season. Moreover, there's always a possibility of a blowout that could afford McConnell extra time off the bench, even if the Knicks start off the game strong under interim coach Mike Miller. Finally, consider New York is surrendering the second-most FanDuel points per game (56.0) to point guards, along with the eight-highest offensive efficiency rating (46.0) and third-highest three-point shooting percentage (38.8) to opposing second-unit players.
Other likely higher-owned value plays to consider: Mitchell Robinson ($5,800); Jae Crowder ($5,700); De'Anthony Melton ($5,500); Frank Kaminsky ($5,400); T.J. Warren ($5,400); P.J. Tucker ($5,400); Danuel House ($5,000); Cedi Osman ($4,900); Solomon Hill ($4,500); Matisse Thybulle ($4,000); Kyle O'Quinn ($3,500)