Trail Blazers Thunder Basketball
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Zavier Simpson (9) dribbles against Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ Elleby (16) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck)


Mike Shara

I hate admitting this, but sometimes I get too cute with my picks. For some deep-seated psychological reason it’s somehow not good enough just to make smart bets by rostering players I feel confident will bring me a value return. Once in a while this strange compulsion grips me to try to outsmart everyone else and go ‘off the board’ to make a pick – as though winning with that pick will somehow bring me more satisfaction. I’ve been doing this a while and yet it still happens every now and then. Last night was one of those times. Despite 12 games to pick from, I recommended (and picked) a player that I wanted to be good, but kinda suspected had a pretty slim chance of succeeding. I won’t mention his name here again, but it rhymes with Blow Gonchar – which, incidentally, also perfectly describes his performance last night. So today, dear reader/psychiatrist, with only half as many games available on the schedule I give my word that I won’t be as vain today and let’s get back in the black, shall we?

ZAVIER SIMPSON, SF, Oklahoma City ($3,000 on DraftKings)
Well, this might be a first…a player recommendation so ‘under the radar’ that he’s not even available on FanDuel yet on the morning of a game! In fairness to FD, the Thunder’s myriad attempts to tank for draft picks next year are hard to keep up with late in this 2021-22 season. They’re now even limiting someone named Theo Maledon’s minutes! There’s a sentence you never thought you’d read. Anyhoodles, it backfired on OKC management last night as their team of scrubs, which included recent G-League callup Simpson, managed to defeat Portland’s team of scrubs anyway. In his first NBA game, the undrafted rookie out of Michigan had 10 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and a steal in 44 minutes. He probably won’t play that much again on the second half of a back-to-back, but if you get even half of last night’s return for the minimum investment, you’re still ahead. 

BRAXTON KEY, PF, Detroit ($4,300 on DraftKings, $4,900 on FanDuel)
In case you haven’t noticed, this rebuilding Pistons team appears to have turned a bit of a corner lately. While most of this season has been pretty dismal as far as wins and losses go, Detroit has continued to play hard for Head Coach Dwayne Casey and their younger players are starting to show signs of being pieces of a good team in the future. Tonight they will be playing without a lot of their veterans as Kelly Olynyk, Jerami Grant, Marvin Bagley and Hamidou Diallo all sit with various injuries. They face a tough opponent tonight in the visiting Mavs, but both Key and fellow forward Isaiah Livers are being given plenty of minutes lately as Pistons management tries to determine who they want to keep around for next year. Key has averaged 27.5 DFS points per game over the last few and Livers has averaged almost 34. They’re both good values today whose ownership numbers won’t be too high. 

CARSEN EDWARDS, Detroit ($3,500 on DraftKings, $5,300 on FanDuel)
I was about to move on from the Pistons/Mavericks game when I noticed the gigantic disparity between DK and FD’s pricing on this kid. On Sunday played his first NBA game in over a year after torching the G League all season by averaging 26.7 points, 4.2 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Detroit just signed him to a two-year contract, so I’d imagine the coaching staff will want to see him play a bit more before this season’s over. He’s a bit pricey on FanDuel, but I’d highly recommend him on DraftKings tonight. That way you can afford someone from the same game, like…

LUKA DONCIC, PG/SG, Dallas ($12,000 on DraftKings, $11,200 on FanDuel)
Sure it’s heartening to see Detroit experimenting with intriguing young players while their experienced veterans stay in street clothes for the rest of the season. It also means that the superstars facing the Pistons will have opportunities to absolutely feast against those poor inexperienced kids. The Mavericks haven’t played since Sunday so Luka’s legs should be good to go and Dallas needs to keep winning in order to keep home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, so there won’t be any let up tonight. Luka is averaging just less than 70 DFS points per game over his last four, is well-rested and is facing a team without anyone capable of stopping him in a mismatch game his team very much needs to win. His salary tonight is a bit lower than it was Sunday, too, for some reason. He’s also cheaper and available as a SG and PG on FanDuel as well, should you need versatility.

R.J. BARRETT, SG/SF, New York ($7,600 on FanDuel, $8,000 on DraftKings)
With the Julius Randle saga over for at least the rest of this season in Manhattan, more volume, space and responsibility have been handed to Barrett, the third-year pro out of Duke (by way of Toronto) who is starting to assert himself as the bona fide leader on this Knicks team. While that may not be a role anyone would want right now, he certainly earned the moniker on Sunday with 27 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal during a blowout win vs. Orlando and the team felt more cohesive sans Randall. Tonight New York is hosting the Nets at Madison Square Garden and I’d expect the remaining healthy Knicks will come out fighting, not wanting the team from the neighboring borough to stroll into the playoff tournament at their expense. The Nets have been pretty porous defensively lately and played last night, too. I’m expecting Barrett to have a bulldog of a night at home against their favored NYC rivals. It’s the closest the Knicks can get to redeeming an otherwise miserable season if they can beat Brooklyn at home during the final week. 

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