This article is part of our FanDuel NBA series.
We have a compact four-game slate on tap Wednesday night to kick off the new calendar year, giving us a fairly narrow amount of options to work with. Then, there's also confirmed absences of Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) and Andrew Wiggins (illness), which limits the top shelf of players but makes multiple reasonably priced options much more attractive.
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 Wednesday's slate!
Here's a closer look at the two games with the highest projected totals on Wednesday's slate:
Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers (Projected total: 226.5 points)
The Lakers bring an above-average defense, but the Suns have significant defensive deficiencies that include allowing 114.6 points per road game. The Lakers counter with 111.5 points per home contest while Phoenix has scored 111.8 points per road game, so the potential for the projected total to be reached is certainly there. The two teams also combined for 238 points in their one prior meeting.
Portland Trail Blazers at New York Knicks (Projected total: 223.0 points)
The Trail Blazers are a slightly less potent team on the road (110.5 PPG) than at home (114.7 PPG), while the Knicks are tied for the third-fewest points scored per home game (104.3). However, New York allows 110.8 points per Madison Square Garden contest and Portland is allowing 114.7 points per game when traveling, all factors that combine to give this game a fairly healthy projected total. Damian Lillard is in a particularly advantageous positional matchup, with the Knicks ranked in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency rating allowed to point guards (26.5).
Point guard and small forward appear to be the deepest positions overall Wednesday. Damian Lillard ($9,300) is the highest-priced option at PG and gives you access to potentially elite production without breaking your bank, while Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,800) and LeBron James ($11,000) head up a strong small forward group. In both cases, there's viable value to be had for tournaments all the way into the high $3K range.
Shooting guard is already weakened to an extent by the confirmed absence of Andrew Wiggins (illness) and would be further thinned out if Bradley Beal (calf) is also forced to miss. However, thanks to injury, there's still a solid mid-tier and value level. Power forward is in the running for the thinnest spot overall, as the Wizards' multiple frontcourt injuries and Aaron Gordon's (Achilles) potential absence help narrow down the options. Anthony Davis and Julius Randle should be especially popular as the only two options to pay up for ($10.8K and $7.5K, respectively).
Finally, center loses its only five-figure salary with Karl-Anthony Towns' absence, but it's still a strong group that's headlined by Hassan Whiteside and Nikola Vucevic and offers some viable large-field tournament choices down into the high $3K range (Anzejs Pasecniks, Robin Lopez).
Notable Injury Situations to Monitor
NOTE: Injury reporting is especially fluid in the NBA, where the status of multiple players can change during the course of a day. Therefore, although the following serves as a foundation for the latest injury report as of the time the article is written (usually late morning Eastern time), check back throughout the course of the day with RotoWire for the latest news regarding the status of all players on that night's slate.
Aaron Gordon, ORL
Antetokounmpo is probable with back soreness and played through the injury in Monday's win over the Bulls.
Anthony Davis, LAL
Davis is probable with a shoulder injury.
Bradley Beal, WAS
Beal is considered questionable with the calf injury that cost him the last two games, although he did manage to practice fully Tuesday. Gary Payton II and Jordan McRae would handle the bulk of shooting guard minutes again should Beal miss.
Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN
Towns is out with the knee sprain that's cost him the last seven games. Gorgui Dieng will draw another start in his place.
Andrew Wiggins, MIN
Wiggins is out with an illness. Jarrett Culver is slated for another start at shooting guard in Wiggins' place.
Jeff Teague, MIN
Treveon Graham, MIN
Graham is questionable with an illness. Josh Okogie, probable with an elbow injury, would likely draw a start at small forward in Graham's place.
Noah Vonleh, MIN
Vonleh is questionable with a glute injury. The veteran is averaging just 12.9 minutes per game in the frontcourt rotation.
Josh Okogie, MIN
Okogie is considered probable with an elbow injury.
Frank Ntilikina, NYK
Ntilikina is questionable with groin soreness. Dennis Smith, Jr. (oblique) would be in line of extra minutes as a backup point guard should Ntilikina miss.
Dennis Smith Jr., NYK
Smith is questionable with an oblique injury.
Damyean Dotson, NYK
Dotson is questionable with a back injury that already cost him Monday's game. Wayne Ellington could be the beneficiary of extra minutes in the wing rotation should Dotson miss.
Kevin Knox II, NYK
Knox is probable with an illness.
Wesley Matthews, MIL
Matthews is questionable with a thigh injury. Sterling Brown would be in line for a possible start at two-guard should Matthews miss.
Frank Kaminsky, PHO
Mario Hezonja, POR
Carter-Williams will likely be listed as questionable at best with a shoulder strain that's already cost him four games. D.J. Augustin should continue seeing plenty of backup point guard minutes behind starter Markelle Fultz.
Notable Longer-Term Injuries/Absences: Jusuf Nurkic, POR; Zach Collins, POR; Rodney Hood, POR; Skal Labissiere, POR; Davis Bertans, WAS; Rui Hachimura, WAS; Thomas Bryant, WAS; Moritz Wagner, WAS; C.J. Miles, WAS; Jake Layman, MIN; Al-Farouq Aminu, ORL; Reggie Bullock, NYK
With Towns already ruled out, we have three other five-figure salaries on the slate – Giannis Antetokounmpo ($11,800), LeBron James ($11,000) and Anthony Davis ($10,800). Damian Lillard ($9,300) and Hassan Whiteside ($9,100) are also appealing in the $9K range, and Bradley Beal ($8,800) offers the chance at elite production at a reduced price if he can overcome his calf injury, as does Nikola Vucevic ($8,400) in a matchup versus the Wizards.
With only eight teams in action and some key players ruled out, there should be plenty of injury-influenced chalk Wednesday. That will include multiple Timberwolves such as Jarrett Culver, Robert Covington, Shabazz Napier and Gorgui Dieng due to the absences of Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) and Andrew Wiggins (illness). Meanwhile, the Wizards will be in a similar situation if Bradley Beal (calf) misses, with the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Jordan McRae, Gary Payton II and Troy Brown Jr. likely to be particularly popular.
As usual, I've also compiled a list of some additional sub-$6K value plays that should carry a fair share of ownership due to savings, enhanced roles due to injuries, or both, and listed them below the following section.
Key and Likely Underowned Values
Terrence Ross, ORL at WAS ($4,400)
Ross is an above-average three-point shooter coming off a couple of poor performances and facing one of the most tantalizing matchups in the league. Those traits all make him an attractive and likely low-owned tournament play Wednesday, even on the smaller slate. The Wizards have allowed the fourth-most FanDuel points per game to shooting guards and have allowed 4.4 made threes per contest. Ross has also enjoyed solid success versus Washington on two prior occasions this season, averaging 14.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 1.5 steals across 21.5 minutes. The veteran's shot has gone cold from distance over the last pair of contests (1-for-8), but he certainly has the talent to bounce back against the Wizards' porous defense.
Bobby Portis, NYK vs. POR ($4,200)
Portis is another example of a player with the upside to occasionally see spikes in production, but one who's provided inconsistent returns throughout the season and therefore carries enough risk to keep ownership down. The floor-spacing big man is draining a serviceable 35.4 percent from three-point range and has been shooting much better of late, with a 50.5 percent success rate from the floor overall across his last 10 games. Portis is also averaging a solid 11.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists across 20.8 minutes during that span, eclipsing 20 FanDuel points in five of those 10 contests, including one tally over 50. Then, the Trail Blazers come in surrendering the third-most FanDuel points per game to power forwards on the season (51.7), along with the fifth-highest three-point percentage (38.4) to the position.
Dario Saric, PHO at LAL ($3,700)
Saric's last two games have been undeniably disastrous, which helps explain his precipitous price drop. The fourth-year forward's shot simply went in the tank over that pair of contests, as he drained just one of 12 attempts. The pair of clunkers should definitely help keep his ownership low Wednesday, but Saric is a much better shooter than his brief slump would imply. The Lakers are a tough matchup defensively overall, but they've been surprisingly vulnerable from a shooting perspective to power forwards, allowing the second-highest three-point percentage (39.0) to the position, along with 45.0 percent shooting to fours overall. Additionally, with Saric's price being so low and the big man averaging 24.2 FanDuel points per game, a solid 6x-7x return on his current salary is certainly conceivable.
Other likely higher-owned value plays to consider: Eric Bledsoe ($5,600); Jordan McRae ($5,400); RJ Barrett ($5,300); Carmelo Anthony ($5,300); Markelle Fultz ($5,300); Robert Covington ($5,100); Shabazz Napier ($4,800); Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($4,300); D.J. Augustin ($4,300); Jarrett Culver ($4,100); George Hill ($3,800)