This article is part of our DraftKings NBA series.
The final day of seeding games on Thursday will be awash with playoff implications, but that won't be the case on Wednesday. Aside from some minor tweaks in the middle of the order, this four-game offering won't affect playoff seeding at all. Experienced DFS players are familiar with the difficulty of slates like these at the end of a season, but to the uninitiated, the number of player absences can be disorienting. As I write this, we have very limited knowledge about what starting lineups will look like and I can only make educated guesses.
For the purposes of this unique slate, I've placed teams with the least potential for lineup changes in bold, and the likely squads with retooled lineups in italic.
IND vs. HOU (-8.5)
TOR vs. PHI (+5.5)
MIA vs. OKC (-3.5)
LAC vs. DEN (+5.5)
I have a rule of thumb about this slate. I believe all players who have a salary of $7,000 or above will see a reduction in minutes. Even the LAC/DEN game, which pits the second seed versus the third seed, will have some absences, although I think it may end up being the contest with the most familiar starting lineups. The Thunder also have a little motivation to distance themselves from Utah, but that's about it.
The most important tool you have in today's lineup is the ability to late swap. As a result, we need to take advantage of the flexibility at certain positions and be very careful with those that are scarce. When we want to pivot a lot, we should stay away from players who have limited eligibility. A guy with a PF/C eligibility will be a lot more valuable than someone who is just one or the other, and so on. I want to enter a lineup at lock that has a lot of potential moving pieces. If you don't have the time to keep a close eye on the news today, it could be rough going for your build.
INJURY SITUATIONS TO MONITOR
Rather than list out individual players, we will go team-by-team and discuss players who will likely be absent (as best we can). I'll then make my selections based on those absences in the usual sections.
Myles Turner, Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon are listed as questionable, while T.J. Warren has already been ruled out.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden ($11,000) have been swapping scratches, so I think we will see a half from Harden with Westbrook taking a seat. I also think Danuel House will sit. Even though Eric Gordon will be making his return, the Rockets have no motivation to play him.
Right now, Serge Ibaka (knee) is the only player with an official injury designation, but the Raptors have sealed up the second seed and have no need to take unnecessary risks. They only have a 13-man roster, so they will have to play their starters for a little while, but I wouldn't expose myself to too much risk here. This team may be the trickiest to navigate on the slate.
Don't expect any usual starter to take the floor for Philly. Shake Milton ($5,400) will be the lone exception, but the Sixes have resigned themselves to the sixth seed.
Other than a probable tag for Kelly Olynyk, we don't have much information for Miami. The Pacers and the Heat are destined to play each other at this point, and it doesn't matter whether they are fourth or fifth. Since this game sits later in the day, I'm inclined to pepper a couple of usual starters in here, with the ability to pivot later within the game as news comes in.
I'm trying to stay positive here! The Thunder and the Heat are mutually beneficial to each other, as swapping pieces between the two and upgrading/downgrading options will be fairly simple. Unless we get different information, I don't think we will see any of the Thunder starters take the floor.
I expect we will see some action for Paul George ($8,400) and some of the less important pieces of the Clippers lineup, but I doubt we will see Kawhi Leonard. This is just the kind of game that Kawhi would sit. However, you can guarantee absences for Landry Shamet (foot) and Patrick Beverley (calf).
The usual Nuggets who have been absent throughout the bubble remain out. The most intriguing player here is Jamal Murray ($7,000). The Nuggets could go one of two ways here. Since Murray hasn't had much opportunity to play, they may bring him out for a little bit of extra time. Then again, they could sit him altogether. Luckily, an internal pivot to Monte Morris ($4,200) will be easy to do. It's also fortunate that the Nuggets play late. We could get a lot of value here if we wait and see.
Hopefully, that was helpful for everyone. Along with the issue of positional eligibility, it's also important to understand how the game locks roll out. These games are spaced about two hours apart, with the exception of the final two contests. Obviously, having more exposure for the later games is best, but here's a good schedule to follow. For all of your lineups, get the information for the first game and adjust. Then, do the same for the second game in relation to the third game, and so on. With every lock, you'll be able to leave one or two pieces behind from the current contest until we get to the final game.
Is there anyone we can play within reason here? We can certainly afford to, as a spend-up will be an easy endeavor. Unless I hear otherwise, I think James Harden ($11,000) is safe. I also think Paul George ($8,400) is safe for 20-25 minutes. I will also list some guys that I have a decent chance to see significant time, and you'll be able to pivot off them if you hear otherwise.
Nikola Jokic, DEN ($9,200) vs. LAC
If the Nuggets face a limited Clippers team, they'd be wise to give Jokic 20 minutes and put the game away early. There's some merit to seeing Jokic on the floor if they elect to play Jamal Murray, as they'll want to sync up that connection in a real-game environment to get ready for the playoffs. If he doesn't play, a lot of output should flow to Mason Plumlee ($4,200), and if there ever were a day to go with Bol Bol ($3,400), this would be it.
Michael Porter Jr., DEN ($7,400) vs. LAC
As I said, it's valuable to target the later games for flexibility, and I think Porter has an excellent chance to put in some significant minutes. He's become a critical piece of the offense in the bubble, so there's proper motivation to be careful here since rest is always a possibility. The argument can be made to stack Jokic and Porter here for safety because the same pivots for Jokic could be used here. Porter also has that valuable SF/PF tag that we discussed. A guy like Bol or Torrey Craig ($3,900) could fit if MPJ were to sit.
EXPECTED CHALK AND VALUE PICKS
Since most of my picks will be in the value range, I am combining the category for this small slate. Even though this is a very volatile slate set of games, I think we can identify some role players who will definitely carry a great deal of value here. Rather than go from ascending to descending salary order, I'm going to go in the slate order.
Austin Rivers, HOU ($4,800) vs. IND
Rivers had a career night when he took over for Westbrook the other day, and I think he's well-positioned at least to get the same number of minutes on Wednesday. I don't expect him to explode with 60 DKFP again, but I think he is one of the guys that you can stick into your lineups with a pretty good degree of confidence. All he needs is 25 DKFP to exceed 5x value.
T.J. McConnell, IND ($3,500) vs. HOU
This game has McConnell written all over it. He has one of the best fantasy-point-per-minute numbers on the team, and even if he doesn't play a full complement of minutes, he has a real shot at getting value. Reaching value isn't as important today because we have no real motivation to save, but if you project him to have 25 points at this price, he comes in at an incredibly appealing $140 per point.
Norman Powell, TOR ($5,300) vs. PHI
Powell is another guy who will sit solidly in my lineup for the day. He poured in 44.5 DKFP against the Bucks with multiple people sitting, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the starting five today. I think there are a lot of different ways to go on this team, but I feel obligated to give you the most dependable options before moving downward. If the Raptors go into safe mode as expected, I expect a big day from Powell.
Kyle O'Quinn, PHI ($3,000) vs. TOR
There was such a buzz about O'Quinn's potential yesterday against the Suns, I almost bought into it. I wish I had listened because fading him in favor of Rodions Kurucs cost me points across a few lineups. There's little doubt now that he has a leg up on the other competition to fill Joel Embiid's spot today. There's still an argument for Mike Scott ($3,700), who could see a lot of time at the four, but I ultimately like O'Quinn a lot here.
Derrick Jones, Jr., MIA ($3,500) vs. OKC
Jones could probably use some additional playing time as he comes back from injury, and I think we should see a good dose of Jones through this matchup if the Heat go into safe mode as expected. Like Kawhi, this is exactly the kind of game Jimmy Butler would fade, and I like Jones even better if that comes to pass. He looked excellent off the bench against the Pacers two days ago, and he'll likely post an even better number on Wednesday.
Darius Bazley, OKC ($5,800) vs. MIA
Bazley can't hide anymore, and he's emerged as a better option than Nerlens Noel to fill the gap while Steven Adams (leg) is out. Noel sat the other day so it is entirely possible that he'll sit again. Regardless of his status, I have a lot of confidence in going with Bazley after watching him handle Deandre Ayton inside the other day. Adams isn't getting any younger and Bazley has the goods for a full-time gig.
Lou Williams, LAC ($5,500) vs. DEN
This pick is a go if Kawhi Leonard sits. Williams has an extensive history of playing garbage minutes at every stop he's made in the league. It isn't a knock on the perennial sixth man's talent. He's very capable of directing an offense and can provide solid leadership if the Clippers play it safe today. This is one of those games that I will need to check in on, and a lot of my spots will fall to this game based on how the other matchups go. It's wait-and-see for Williams and a lot of guys.
In closing, don't be alarmed if you don't spend your entire salary today. Just like the end of every season, this is what happens, and it will also be the case in my article tomorrow. If it makes you comfortable, go ahead with the more sensible options and wait for the news. I wanted to give you a more realistic impression of the slate. As always, our Advanced Lineups tool will be the best place to go for all the latest information about our lineups. Good lick!