Five Situations to Exploit Early On in NBA DFS

The daily fantasy basketball season is right around the corner but beginning research now should help create an edge for when opening night/week comes around. Here are five different situations worth taking advantage of early in the season to help get a leg up on the competition:

D’Angelo Russell, Nets – Amongst players who started last year and switched teams in the offseason, no one gained more value than D’Angelo Russell. Whereas Russell rotated back and forth between the starting lineup and coming off the bench, his role as a starter is now 100-percent solidified with the Nets (as it should have been last year). Furthermore, Russell’s 26.6-percent usage rate (USG%) is bound to rise on a Nets squad that was led by Brook Lopez’s 29.2 USG% last year. Without Lopez, and playing alongside a starting lineup that features such names as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (18.7 USG% last year) and Timofey Mozgov (15.1% USG in 2016), Russell and Jeremy Lin are going to have to provide a majority of the offense (similarly to the way Lin and Lopez did last year). Without Lopez lumbering in the middle, the Nets should once again play at one of the fastest paces in the league, and it is possible they even speed up on their pace from last year (which already led the NBA). More possessions equal more opportunities for production and Russell should be both the team’s top offensive threat and top facilitator. In other words, monstrous numbers are on the horizon, and Russell will be a player worth rostering from the get-go.

Victor Oladipo, Pacers – Since entering the league, fantasy owners have been waiting for a true breakout season from Victor Oladipo. On a Pacers team virtually devoid of scoring options (with Paul George leaving for the Thunder), it is now or never for Oladipo to take his game to the next level. Sure, Oladipo signed with the Pacers who are only about an hour away from his college team (Indiana Hoosiers), but that is not the reason for optimism. Two seasons ago, Oladipo was playing on an offense where the center commanded the ball down low. By comparison, his former teammate, Nikola Vucevic, averaged 6.9 post touches per game in 2015 which ranked sixth in the NBA and his 60.9 touches per game ranked sixth amongst centers that year. Of course, last season Oladipo had to compete for touches with Russell Westbrook who led the league in touches per game and USG%. Basically, he has not found a system where he has been featured thus far. On the other hand, while Myles Turner slightly edged Vucevic out in post touches per game (5.2), he only commanded 49.3 total touches. Although Turner will almost assuredly look to be more aggressive on offense this year, he is also comfortable shooting mid-range jumpers and not being the focus of the offense. If Turner and Darren Collison are his main competition for the ball, well, Oladipo should find himself running a majority of the offense. Since his skill set includes every category across the board, this could finally be the year the 25-year old takes the next step.

Atlanta Hawks – In the offseason, the Hawks lost Dwight Howard to the Hornets, Paul Millsap to the Nuggets and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Knicks. Essentially, a lot of production needs to be filled by the newcomers in the starting rotation and it does not seem like they are being talked about enough. From the get-go, the team will likely start Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Ersan Ilyasova and Dewayne Dedmon. For what it is worth, Schroder garnered a 37.8 USG% without Howard nor Millsap on the floor last year and Hardway Jr. ranked second with a 26.1 USG% in that split. Down the stretch, in the month of April, Prince averaged 28.7 minutes per game (MPG) and produced 10.4 points per game (PPG), 3.1 rebounds per game (RPG), 2.0 assists per game (APG) and 1.1 steals per game (SPG). In the team’s latest preseason game, Prince only needed 23 minutes to produce 15 points (PTS), including two three-pointers (3PM), eight rebounds (REB) and three assists (AST). Ilyasova should prove to be a consistent scorer on this team as well and Schroder’s number should take the next step. All-in-all, this team is unlikely to start the year with anyone priced over $12,000 on FantasyDraft, and yet their roles suggest they could be. Get ahead of the curve and roster Hawks.

Dennis Smith Jr., Mavericks – Almost everyone in the industry knows Lonzo Ball and Ben Simmons’ names right now and is tracking them closely. However, the same cannot be said for Dennis Smith Jr. who was the ninth pick in this year’s draft. He landed on an unexciting Mavericks offense which ranked 29th in pace last season but he will be walking into a starting job a team badly needing a franchise point guard. Unfortunately, as a Yogi Ferrell truther, I must admit that he is nothing more than a bench warmer at best in the league. Anyways, Coach Rick Carlisle has been quoted as saying Dennis Smith Jr. is “comfortable doing just about anything” on a basketball court and “It’s all a matter of learning the rhythm of the NBA game.” As of Oct. 6, Smith Jr. has scored 27 points in his last 37 preseason minutes and he is filling the stat sheets to boot. Growing pains are inevitable around the way but Smith Jr. could quietly compete for Rookie of the Year honors while most head into the year focused on other names.

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls – Listen, the Bulls are quite possibly the worst team in the league, but scoring must come from somewhere, right? Nikola Mirotic was frustrating to roster most of the time last year but he came on strong during the stretch run. In 12 March games, Mirotic averaged 15.3 PPG on 49.6-percent shooting and followed that up by scoring 12.6 PPG in April (only 39.0-percent from the field though). Altogether, Mirotic averaged 14.2 PPG, including 2.7 3PM per game, 6.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.8 SPG and 0.8 blocks per game (BPG) after the All-Star Break. Remember, 2016 was only Mirotic’s third season in the league, and only his second season in which he played more than three games. The team lost Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo and it is worth noting Mirotic led the team in USG% (33.3-percent) with those three off the floor last year. The industry consensus will be rostering Mirotic is “risky” in daily fantasy basketball to begin the year but people are basing that off last year’s team. On this year’s version, Mirotic will be needed on the offensive end like never before, and he should end up leading the team in scoring (at least until Zach LaVine returns from injury).

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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