Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid
Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (21) reacts after a dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)


Mike Shara

With nine games happening, tonight’s options are fairly plentiful. Some are sneaky as advertised and some are so blatantly obvious that you might be tempted to overthink it and ignore them. Don’t outsmart yourself just to be a contrarian. I’m here to remind you that sometimes, the right choice is right there in front of you. I realize that, in retrospect, almost everything that happens in sports seems to have been obvious. However, if it all were, we’d all be rich from playing DFS fantasy sports, amIrite? Since you’re here reading this column, let’s assume none of us are rich yet and look at what bets might get us a little closer.

KEVIN DURANT, PF, Brooklyn ($11,000 on DraftKings and FanDuel)
Look, you can shop for a cheaper player afterward. Tonight, is an ideal night to roster “The Slim Reaper” in both formats. He’s facing a Chicago team that is playing the second game of a back-to-back (granted it was a blowout home win vs. a hapless Detroit team, but still…they had to run and jump a little bit…).  Kyrie Irving is eligible to play because the Nets are on the road, but Irving (ankle), James Harden (knee) and Nicolas Claxton (hamstring) are questionable at best tonight and LaMarcus Aldridge (foot) and Joe Harris (ankle) are definitely out. You see where this is headed, right? Rostering Durant is fairly costly, but his usage rate tonight figures to be huge and he’s been averaging well over 50 DFS points per game over his last six. Invest confidently. Buying stock in Microsoft and Facebook is sort of boring, but people still do it for a reason.


JOEL EMBIID, C, Philadelphia ($11,200 on DraftKings, $10,900 on FanDuel)
Okay so maybe for some reason you don’t want to spend your money on Durant. Maybe you’re a huge Bulls fan and can’t root for someone who’s playing against your team. Maybe you’re a Blazers fan still angry your team chose Greg Oden instead of KD. In that case, don’t look too far away from the top of the salary list today. Embiid is in the midst of a monster, MVP-level season and faces the Hornets tonight, who play offense at a fast pace and play defense when they feel like it. Both of those factors play right into the big man’s hands today. He’s averaging about 5 more points per game than Durant the last few weeks and the Hornets do not appear to be the team to bring those averages down.

MALIK MONK, PG/SG, LA Lakers, ($6,200 on DraftKings, $5,500 on FanDuel)
Monk has been playing very well lately after he was recently moved into the Lakers’ starting lineup. With Anthony Davis injured and Russell Westbrook struggling (a $44 million salary for Russ AND you lost those players in that Wizards trade, Rob Pelinka? Ouch.), Monk’s usage rates continue to increase, and he continues to make the most of it. He’s averaged over 35 DFS points per game in his last 4 yet remains a relative bargain – especially on FanDuel. Los Angeles’ roster doesn’t have a lot of usable depth (Pelinka!!) and tonight they face a porous Sacramento defense, so there doesn’t appear to be much stopping him from continuing to roll.

CODY MARTIN, SG/SF, Charlotte ($4,000 on DraftKings, $4,300 on FanDuel)
Kelly Oubre Jr. was just placed in Covid health and safety protocols on Monday, so the Hornets will have to replace his 30 minutes per game. Martin seems best poised to do so. His last game didn’t exactly light up the box score, but he did have 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals (!), checking a lot of category boxes nicely. Maybe if his minutes get extended tonight in what could be a very high-scoring game vs. Philly, he gets into double digits in points and fills out all the categories even more. Yes, I know. I said maybe. Maybe he’ll disappear and only play 8 unremarkable minutes tonight. For $4,000 you don’t get guarantees.

TYRESE MAXEY, PG, Philadelphia ($5,400 on DraftKings, $6,200 on FanDuel)
Almost $1,000 cheaper on DraftKings, Maxey is still a value on either format, but especially on DK tonight. He returns to action vs. Charlotte tonight after missing the last four games due to Covid. His absence has lowered his salary severely (surprisingly?) and presents us with a potent opportunity to take advantage of. In his last game before being sidelined, the second-year stud from Kentucky had 25 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 0 turnovers in 33 minutes. The Sixers will be missing Shake Milton and possibly Seth Curry as well in this game, so a lot of scoring opportunities and ball distribution will probably fall into Maxey’s lap.  If he’s just “well-rested” instead of being “rusty” tonight, this will be the last time this season his salary will be this low.

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