New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jone
New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones (5) takes off on a fast break against Brooklyn Nets center Day'Ron Sharpe, center, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

SNEAKY NBA DFS PICKS FOR JAN. 24

Mike Shara

Just four games to choose from tonight. Normally I might be tempted to leave this relatively shrunken slate alone due to a dearth of options, but tonight actually has some really unique plays to be made, so I’ve decided to give it a go. You’re welcome, America.

ZACH LEVINE, SG, Chicago ($8,400 on DraftKings)
The Bulls have been without their starting backcourt of Levine and Lonzo Ball for five consecutive games now, but the good news for Chicago is that Zach flew to Oklahoma City and Head Coach Billy Donovan said there is ‘a chance’ his knee injury has improved enough for him to play Monday night vs. the Thunder. He might only play limited minutes (then again, he may not – Levine is an absolute athletic freak, the Bulls are really short-handed in their rotation, and they played last night, too) but his DraftKings salary was as high as $10,500 just last month before his injury. I’m not necessarily recommending Levine – although OKC is a nice team to make your return against – but it is a brave play for tonight and could pay off for you because I’d bet a lot of folks will steer clear out of fear. Keep an eye on him and see if he’s going to play and then decide if you’re feeling bold.

MGM NBA Offer

HERBERT JONES, PF/C, New Orleans ($4,700 on DraftKings)
Jones has made appearances on this list before and every time he has been worth the recommendation. The rookie, a second-round pick out of Alabama, has been a revelation for the Pelicans, already having started 33 games while averaging 9 points, 2 assists, 3.7 rebounds, a block and and 1.5 steals per game in under 30 minutes. Tonight, New Orleans will be without Brandon Ingram due to an ankle injury, so Jones’ minutes and opportunities will undoubtedly increase, meaning a double/double with a few checkmarks in other categories is a strong possibility. At that price, he could prove a huge value play and will give you room to spend elsewhere.

CHRIS DUARTE, SG, Indiana ($6,400 on DraftKings)
For their game tonight in New Orleans, the Pacers – who had been playing a little better last week – will be without Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. McConnell, Myles Turner and Caris Levert will be a game-time decision due to a calf injury. That means the Pacers’ lineup is missing at least three – and possibly four – starters in this game. That makes it certain that Duarte, who has averaged over 35 DFS points in his last four games, will be carrying a lot of the freight and playing extra minutes tonight. The rookie from Oregon has been a pleasant addition to the Pacers lineup so far this year and Indiana are about to begin a significant rebuilding operation, so they’ll be happy to have an excuse to see what he can do when he’s ‘The Man’ in the lineup. If he’s only going to cost you an average player’s salary tonight, you’ll regret not checking his box.

GOGA BITADZE, C, Indiana ($6,200 on DraftKings)
He was an absolute steal just a week ago when he played 25 minutes and got 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals for just $3,800 on DraftKings. You’re not going to replicate that kind of bargain again quite tonight, but in the Pacers’ last game he ended up playing 35 minutes and returned a very similar stat line. The big difference for tonight’s game is Sabonis’ absence. That means Indiana’s front court will be very thin and Bitadze will probably see more chances to accumulate numbers. He’s below the average salary (barely) and is playing starters’ minutes with a motivation to prove himself as someone the team should keep for the future. The Georgian big man might still prove a worthwhile investment tonight despite his salary having increased so quickly.

DARIUS GARLAND, PG, Cleveland ($9,300 on DraftKings)
His salary has risen $1,500 from 10 days ago, but that’ll happen when you’ve gone four consecutive games with at least 20 points and 10 assists as well as contributing in two other categories as well. At 7 pm Cleveland will face a Knicks team whose only recent win was yesterday vs. a beaten-up Clippers squad, and then will have to travel to “The Land” to play tonight against the Cavs. Since Ricky Rubio and Collin Sexton went down to injuries, Garland has absolutely been on fire and his salary won’t compromise the integrity of the rest of your lineup too badly. He’s a strong pick for someone to structure your team around on a quiet Monday.

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