Thunder Trail Blazers Basketball
Portland Trail Blazers guard Keon Johnson, right, shoots over Oklahoma City Thunder guard Vit Krejci during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Monday, March 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)


Mike Shara

Sometimes there’s something on my mind as I sit to write this column early in the morning, making it easy to write a little blurb to preface my picks for the day. Today is not one of those days. It’s Opening Day of the MLB season and the opening round of the Masters starts today and I’m writing about basketball. Maybe that’s the problem. 

KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS, C, Minnesota ($8,900 on FanDuel, $9,600 on DraftKings)
The Timberwolves are playing at home tonight against a Spurs team that doesn’t have a heck of a lot to play for. San Antonio has qualified for the play-in tournament and will be missing All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray again tonight with an illness. Minnesota, who are 14-7 in the last month, are making a run at avoiding the play-in, sitting two games behind the Nuggets for the 6th seed in the West. In KAT’s previous two games against the Spurs, he has averaged over 70 DFS points per game and nothing seems likely to stop him tonight. His price is really reasonable with that kind of ceiling. Especially for under 9 grand on FanDuel, for me he’s the best priced star player on the slate tonight. 

MARKELLE FULTZ, PG, Orlando ($5,200 on DraftKings, $6,000 on FanDuel)
Tonight Orlando is on the road in Charlotte, facing a Hornets team that is near the bottom of the NBA in defensive rating and also plays at a top five pace in the league as well. That’s a nice combo to play against, in case you were wondering. They have allowed 144 points in each of their last two games (admittedly they were vs. Miami and Philadelphia, but you get the idea – they can’t stop anyone). Magic starting point guard Cole Anthony is out tonight and Fultz will be starting for the second straight game. Two nights ago vs. Cleveland he played a season-high 24 minutes (they’ve been babying him since his return from ACL surgery) and averaged over 1.2 DFS points per minute. Facing a much worse defensive team tonight, he’s a good bet to increase his average numbers, even if his minutes remain limited. His DK price seems like a good value move. I’m a little more hesitant to pay the price on FanDuel but might get there.

BRANDON INGRAM, SF/SG, New Orleans ($8,300 on DraftKings and FanDuel)
He’s back up to his usual minutes level, having averaged 35 per game over the last three games after missing three weeks with an injury. Tonight the Pelicans are possibly going to be missing Jonas Valanciunas with a sore ankle (make sure you check lineup updates before you lock this pick in). If JV is out tonight, Ingram will see an uptick in volume and shots and New Orleans will be relying on him to carry a lot of the burden tonight because they are still fighting for positioning in the play-in tournament. Luckily for them, they will be playing the Trail Blazers who are finding new ways to redefine the term ‘tanking’ every night they play a game, with arguably their seven best players all sitting out tonight – and they don’t have that many good players. 

KEON JOHNSON, SG/SF, Portland ($5,300 on DraftKings, $4,400 on FanDuel)
Speaking of Portland sitting all the players on their roster that you could name…here’s a guy you probably don’t know. A first round pick earlier this year out of the University of Tennessee, he was acquired from the Clippers as part of the trade that saw Portland send Robert Covington and Norm Powell to L.A. two months back. He’s getting a chance to play now that Portland has officially pulled the chute on the season and he’s proving that he might be a piece going forward. In his last game (admittedly vs. their fellow tankmasters in OKC), he had 18 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists along with 2 blocks and a steal while playing 36 minutes. He’s probably going to see the same amount of playing time tonight because the Blazers’ bench is so short, so if he can approach that kind of stat-stuffing game again tonight vs. a mediocre Pelicans defense, you’re ahead of the game. Especially on FD, who are obviously having a hard time keeping up with Portland’s roster shenanigans. 

DEVIN VASSEL, SG, San Antonio ($5,500 on FanDuel, $6,000 on DraftKings) and  TRE JONES, PG, San Antonio ($5,300 on DraftKings, $5,800 on FanDuel)
With the Spurs playing in Denver tonight without their leader and best player in Dejounte Murray, San Antonio will be leaning very heavily on these two young guards to try to steal a win in the Mile High City. Jones has been averaging around 33 ½ minutes per game since Murray went down last week and has been returning about 1.2 DFS points per minute in that span, too. Vassel, a nice up-and-coming second year player from Florida State has seen a similar level of increase in minutes and statistics. Denver doesn’t match up well against quick guards like these two and they’re both priced really well considering the amount of minutes and volume they’re likely to see. They’ll both be in my backcourt in a lot of tournaments today on both formats.

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