The 2021 NBA season is going to be bigger and better than ever for Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS)!
For those that are first time players, or returning players that may be a little rusty, see below for the points system of NBA matches on Draftstars:
- Point Scored = 1 point
- Missed Field Goal = -0.25 points
- Missed Free Throw = -0.25 points
- Assist = 1.5 points
- Rebound = 1.25 points
- Turnover = -0.5 points
- Steal = 2 points
- Block = 2 points
- 3 Point Made Bonus = 1 point
- Double-Double = 2 points
- Triple-Double = 2 points
You have an allocated salary to spend on your DFS team which you can’t exceed, so you really do need to think and evaluate your players! This also makes strategy very interesting. Do you spend a huge amount on a player like James Harden and leave yourself a heavily reduced salary for your remaining players, or do you balance things out with 3-4 middle tier players that are reliable but might not go off?
Lots of player movement during this off season has made it extremely difficult to keep track of all the moves. Read on for a summary on each team, with standout players that are primed to have a big season statistically, as well as players that are great options for plug and play during the right circumstances, and finally, the Darkhorse players that could be candidates for breakout seasons!
If you play season-long DFS leagues with your mates this will be a useful read, but if you really want to put your NBA knowledge to the test, head over to Draftstars and enter daily contests where millions of dollars in prize money will be won this season – or head to PlayUp and bet on the matches, with individual player performance markets to bet on as well.
Zach Lavine is the safe play for big DFS points from the Bulls, but are there any other players to keep on your radar in 2021?
Zach Lavine – Lavine is a player who is fairly consistent with solid play, but has sporadic magnificent games thrown in. He only scored less than 18 points 8 times last season and scored in single digits just once. He scored between 35 and 49 points 11 times throughout last season. His rebounds (4.8), assists (4.2), steals (1.5) and threes (3.1) were all good complements to his 25.5 points per game. It was actually pretty similar to what we expect from guys like Devin Booker, so don’t overlook Lavine, and hopefully you can choose to play him on a game where he drops 40+.
Looking through his game log from last season – he tends to play better against the poorer teams in the league. Against teams that made the playoffs last season, Lavine averaged 23.4ppg. Against teams that missed the playoffs, he averaged 27.1ppg. That’s a difference of 3.7 ppg which is pretty big, so consider this when playing him. Undersized backcourts especially, are the types of teams that he will feast against when his shot is falling, e.g. Charlotte, Cleveland.
None – No other player on this team really qualifies as a stud.
PLUG AND PRAY
Coby White – Coby White is the player on this team with the next highest ceiling. As a rookie, he had an excellent finish last season! Over his last 9 games he averaged: 26.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.4apg, 3.9 treys. This included a 3-game stretch where he dropped a total of 101 points and 18 threes so the guy can definitely light up the boxscore.
How much of that was him finding his feet in the league? And how much was attributable to being the last 9 games of the season? This is debatable because the last few weeks of the season typically is a time where struggling teams that are out of the playoff race look to showcase their young talent. It wouldn’t be a shock to see White average 18+ points per game as the 2nd leading scorer on the Bulls next season, with some 30-40 point games sprinkled in for good measure. He can go on a roll so keep an eye on him and hope that this mercurial talent is on your team on the days where he goes nuts!
Lauri Markkanen – The last few years have taught us that Markkanen is not a good player to target in DFS. His price tag will generally be higher than his production, and last season was a big step back for him. Sure there were injury issues which partly explain the dip in his minutes from 32.21 mins per game to 29.50 mins per game, but the drop off in production while he was on the court was pretty big. He went from 18.7ppg and 9.0rpg, to 14.7ppg and 6.3rpg. His defensive stats are simply non-existent, and his shooting numbers are inefficient too. He could still come good, but at this point he’s rapidly slid down the rankings for most DFS players and for good reason. Avoid him unless he manages to turn things around and go on a tear in the points and rebounds category – just beware you likely won’t get much else.
Is it time for a break from KAT?
Karl-Anthony Towns – If he’s healthy and playing at his best, KAT has the potential to be a top 3 player statistically. The guy does everything from the Centre position. Look at his numbers from last season:
26.5ppg, 10.8rpg, 4.4apg, 3.3treys, 1.2bpg, 0.9stl
His upside when he’s playing at his peak? Well, the 2nd game of the season he put up 37 points, 15 rebs, 8ast, 4stl, 2blk and made 4/7 threes on 13/18fgs – he does it all.
Expect him to take a significant chunk of your salary cap to play him, but you could be rewarded with a gem of a line when he’s producing games like above.
There is some risk with KAT this season, he did miss a ton of games last year for the first time in his career. So be aware of his status each game in case he’s a late scratching, but when he does play he should go massive.
D’Angelo Russell – Russell should be a safe bet to average 20+ppg with nice assists and threes this year. He will be sharing the backcourt with Ricky Rubio and #1 pick Anthony Edwards, which is going to be slightly more competition than he faced when playing for the Warriors minus Curry and Klay last season. There will be games where he scores 35+ points this season but he should be a safe bet all year round.
PLUG AND PRAY
Ricky Rubio – This guy is very hit and miss:
Feb 29 (Vs GSW): 6pts, 3rebs, 8ast, 5 turnovers
March 8 (Vs Milwaukee): 25pts, 13rebs, 13ast, 1 turnover
As Forrest Gump might say: Ricky Rubio is like a box of choc-o-lates… you never know what you’re gonna get. His good games and his dud games do tend to come in bunches though so have a look at his game log before you play him in DFS.
Anthony Edwards – Barring an injury to either of Rubio or Russell, it’s hard to project numbers from this year’s #1 pick ahead of where the rookie hype will have him. Most rookie guards enter the league a little rough around the edges, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him average around 12-13ppg in his rookie season, with those numbers skewed higher towards the end of the season.
He’s definitely one to keep an eye on, but in the short term he’s probably a player to take a wait and see approach with. If the T’Wolves fall out of contention or if Rubio goes down with an injury, sub him in and hope for the best, otherwise – avoid!
DFS is often won and lost with the mid-range players that overperform. Although Vucevic is the main man in Orlando, there are some other players worth looking at.
Nikola Vucevic – He’s a safe bet for very reliable numbers. He doesn’t often have a terrible game that will kill your chances, so he’s stable high end and will be good for 20-10 most nights with the 1-1-1 steals/blocks/threes type of lines. He also chips in 3-5 assists pretty often for a good all-round line. If you’re confident in the rest of your team and don’t need a guy who will knock it out of the park or you want a guy with a high floor for H2H contests, Vucevic is your man.
None – No other player on this team really qualifies as a “stud”. Jonathan Isaac was trending towards it last year, but with all his serious injuries you can’t include him.
PLUG AND PRAY
Evan Fournier – I’ve never been lucky when starting Fournier, but this guy averaged around 18ppg last season. He doesn’t do a lot besides score, with averages of around 3 rebounds and 3 assists, but if you can time it right, it’s possible to get some value out of Fournier. He did put up 25 points or more 15 times last season. He scored in single digits 10 times too though, so it takes a bit of intuition as well as luck to time it right. 10 of his 15 best scoring games last season came against poor teams.
Mo Bamba – He’s had some nice games but he’s a little bit in no-man’s land right now with Orlando. Even with Isaac sidelined, his pathway to relevancy in DFS is pretty limited. Vucevic gets the main bulk of minutes in the middle – he starts and will sub out at around the 9-minute mark of the 1st quarter, before Bamba gives him a spell for the end of the 1st quarter and the start of the 2nd quarter, so he’s limited to around 5-6 minutes per half most games. When you factor in that the team seems to be favoring Khem Birch right now, it pretty much destroys any playability for Bamba. He’s a very raw player with a lot of per-minute upside with his production, similar to a Bismack Biyombo type that could produce 15-12 with blocks on a team that is willing to play him 30 mins a game. With Vucevic firmly entrenched in front of him on the depth chart, he won’t reach that potential anytime soon.
Lots of potential headaches with the dreaded ‘time-shares’ in Sacramento this year!
De’Aaron Fox – Fox is the most reliable player on this team in 2020/21. He’s already shaping into a really talented point guard that will be a source for good numbers this year. He only really has to contend with Cory Joseph who shouldn’t take much of his minutes or usage away from him. The Kings have a nice variety of players that can score around Fox, so look for him to put up around 8+ assists per game and should also chip in 20 pts and 5 rebs to go along with it most nights.
PLUG AND PRAY
Bagley/Whiteside/Holmes – All of these players are capable of producing decent numbers from time to time. The thing is, a lot of them will be splitting time with each other (and Bjelica) in the front court. Bagley finished high school as the #1 ranked prospect in the nation ahead of Zion Williamson amongst most pundits, however last season he was derailed by injuries. This is a big year for him to prove if he can be less of a role player, and more Kevin Garnett-like in his output. He has that upside.
My initial reaction when I saw Whiteside was traded out from under Nurkic’s shadow was that this is a great move for him for DFS numbers, but then you look at this team and he’s not a lock to produce the same jaw-dropping numbers he did most of last season. Holmes has a knack for playing his way into more minutes, and it’s possible that this becomes an even split in playing time with each guy getting around 20+ mins per game. They can still put up nice numbers in limited court time but it does limit their ceiling quite a bit. Keep an eye on how these two settle out because there could be some monster lines coming for Whiteside if his minutes can hover around 28-30+
Harrison Barnes – Barnes is a risky play this year. With Jabari Parker and Glenn Robinson III nipping at his heels, he’s in danger of the small forward position becoming a 3-headed snake between these guys. Of the three of them Barnes is probably the better play, but Parker is a very competitive player who will probably play himself into 18+ mins per game, and Robinson will be fighting for minutes too. Barnes could be good in the games where he gets off to a hot start, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him drop 20+ points in 10 or more games this season, but there will also be many games coming where he is mediocre and hurts your Draftstars team with low double figures scoring and 5 boards. For the big money tournaments, a player like that can quickly take you out of contention so would be one player I’d steer clear of this season.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are a sad sight heading into 2021, and there’s a lot to get your head around in terms of DFS because this team seems to be walking the Green Mile right now. They’re in a difficult position where they are not good enough to make the playoffs and don’t really have a wealth of young talent to build around for the future.
LaMarcus Aldridge – This is a tricky one. You can normally bank on him to put up 20+ and 8+ like clockwork. Whether that remains unchanged this season is questionable, but if he stays and plays, he should be locked and loaded for his usual type of numbers.
DeMar DeRozan – See above. DeRozan is a lock for 25 points whenever he plays, and at this stage of his career he seems to be incorporating more assists into his game as well. The million-dollar question though is what do the Spurs do with him? Keep him, or trade him for young assets to a contending team?
PLUG AND PRAY
Dejounte Murray & Jakob Poeltl – Murray is actually the best positioned on this team to eat up the lion share of the stats for the Spurs this season if they pull the trigger and move DeRozan and Aldridge. Poeltl is a vacuum cleaner for rebounds when he plays as well, so if he can get minutes in the high 20’s he could do enough to propel you to the top.
Rudy Gay – At this stage in his career, Rudy Gay is no longer producing numbers like he did in his prime. That’s obvious. But he was able to produce some sneaky low to medium level production at times last season. August 3 and August 5, he put up a total of 48 points in 50 mins of court time in a 2-game span. So, he still has a little gas left in his tank, but he’s now 34 years old and the Spurs have no reason to play him when they could just be using those minutes to develop their younger players. He could be a victim of circumstance here and his numbers could take a big hit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his average down to 8 or 9 ppg in a diminished bench role.
Westbrook will pull a Miley Cyrus and come in like a wrecking ball in Washington! This team will have a lot of interesting players for DFS this year.
Russell Westbrook – Westy knows how to fill up the stat sheet. He could return to his triple double average this season playing with the Wizards. If the price to start him isn’t too outrageous, consider playing him because his upside is in the 35-13-13 triple double type of range!
Bradley Beal – He may dip back from being a 30ppg type player this year, but he should still be a safe bet for 25-28ppg, highlighted by the occasional 40+ point performance. His assists will likely dip a little with a ball dominant point guard added to the mix.
PLUG AND PRAY
Thomas Bryant – I actually think Bryant is going to be even better this season. Even if Westbrook snatches a few of his boards away from him, he should present a massive target under the basket and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him putting up 18-20ppg and 10+ rebs more consistently this season.
Rui Hachimura – This is actually a difficult one to write, because I like Hachimura and think he can be decent. However, there were some glaring problems with his game last season. He takes a lot of 2’s, he isn’t a defensive presence on the court, and the team has improved considerably over last year with Westbrook taking the place of Wall who didn’t play last season, and they added another lottery pick in Avdija. With Bertans being a very efficient 3-point shooter, the Wizards will look to have him on court more with Westbrook to space the floor on his drives, and present a target on the perimeter. So I wouldn’t be shocked if we see Rui’s substitution pattern being to start the game and then subbed to the bench by around the 4 minute mark of the quarter, or they may even decide to start Bertrans over him. This will mess with his rhythm and I think it could be a tough year for Rui.
The Detroit Pistons… Read on below as we try and sort out this absolute mess!
None – It’s tempting to call Blake Griffin a stud, but does he really still qualify? The guy is made of glass, and the Pistons paid a lot to bring in Jerami Grant who’s looking to get a lot of playing time. So, nah.
PLUG AND PRAY
Mason Plumlee – He quietly moved from playing behind Nikola Jokic, to now having a starting role on a team without much direction. It’s possible Plumlee puts together a really good season. His output per-36 minutes last season was 14.9ppg, 10.8rpg, 5.2apg, 1.1stl, 1.3blk on 61.5% shooting. So he definitely has the potential to be a matchup winner for you if you get on the train early and plug him in before more people catch on. He’s a genuine sleeper pick this year that a lot of people will overlook so keep a close eye on him and be ready to start him regularly if his minutes are anywhere close to 30 per game!
Sekou Doubmouya – It feels weird to put a 2nd year player on a messed up rebuilding team onto an ‘Avoid’ list but he’s the main player that stands out to me that is going to have a disappointing season from this team. Playing behind Blake Griffin and Jerami Grant doesn’t leave much of the scraps for Doubmouya in terms of court time. His game isn’t really fantasy friendly either – even when the Pistons were severely undermanned last year, he found his way back to the end of the bench and the coach was reluctant to play him. Don’t get confused and play him hoping for a 13-9 line on the cheap because it’s very unlikely he gets games like that with any consistency this season.
Lamelo Ball and Gordon Hayward are now in the mix!
None – Gordon Hayward could be one I guess? He hasn’t been at his best really since he left Utah so we will have to see what he does this year for Charlotte after signing a 4-year $127mil contract!
PLUG AND PRAY
LaMelo Ball – He should have a very fantasy friendly game as a player that can score, rebound and assist – he has an opportunity to fill the boxscore right from the outset. It won’t be surprising to see Ball have games as a rookie where he puts up 16-8-9 type of lines, but just beware he could have a lot of bad games as well.
Terry Rozier – He’s going to be playing behind Graham from the looks of things, and the addition of Lamelo and Hayward will also take away some of his touches on offense, so it’s likely his scoring drops back to the 14-16ppg range this season, after being a 20-5-5 threat last season.
The Cavs haven’t made any major off season moves but are an intriguing team to try and project. Let’s dive right in!
Kevin Love – Assuming there are no changes made, and the team plays him a full allotment of minutes, Love is in a good position to produce big in the points, rebounds and threes. His upside at this stage of his career is around the 30-10-5 type of games on a good day. Keep a wary eye on him and if you’re feeling that lucky tingle as your eye moves down the list of Power Forwards, give him a try and he may reward you with a big game.
PLUG AND PRAY
Andre Drummond – If Drummond had been born 20 years earlier we’d be looking at him as a HOF’er candidate for his ability to put up 20-20 games like no other player in the league right now. But with the move to 3-point shooters that spread the floor, team executives treat the guy like an extant line in the evolutionary tree of NBA bigmen. If the Cavs unleash him with a full slate of minutes, just look at what he achieved with Detroit for an idea of what to expect. There is the risk that he cedes some court time due to his inability to step out and shoot threes though, so keep a watchful eye on how the Cavs play him this year and if they are confident playing him then you should be too.
Kevin Porter Jr – There’s huge upside for Porter Jr if the Cavs go into rebuilding mode at any point this season. I see his ceiling something like Andre Iguodala in his prime, and we could see him putting up 20-5-4 at some point this season or next season, if a lot of things go his way.
Cedi Osman – He’s not a veteran or a player with massive upside, so whichever way this season pans out for the Cavs his ceiling is locked in at mediocrity. He could be the type to put up 12-4-5 type of games from time to time, but it’s hard to envision him doing that all too often the way the team looks on paper now. Avoid.
New York Knicks
A tricky team to try and work out for DFS purposes, it could be a team to avoid for the most part. Let’s break down the key players.
None – Julius Randle is decent, but it’s hard to really call him a stud, so nobody on the Knicks really qualifies.
PLUG AND PRAY
RJ Barrett – He was definitely inefficient and disappointing last season, but the Knicks don’t really have much to get excited about besides Barrett, and maybe Mitch Robinson (if the coach decides to play him).
Kevin Knox – It’s unlikely we will see much out of Knox this season. He could have the occasional game where he scores 15+ points but he’s more likely to have bad games than good ones this year. Avoid him!