Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) passes the ball while defended by Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021, in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Bucks won 117-113. (AP Photo/Jon Durr)


Mike Shara

Tonight’s slate includes players that have been newly placed in COVID Health and Safety protocols and a few others who will miss games due to new injuries. Stay on top of these situations, as they are always fluid, and double-check your lineups before the whistle blows tonight. Here are a few good places to start sniffing around for bargains (relative and real).

KHRIS MIDDLETON, SF, Milwaukee ($7,900 on DraftKings)
The Bucks will be severely shorthanded tonight. Yes, Giannis is returning from an illness (hopefully), but Grayson Allen, Pat Cannaughton, George Hill and Jrue Holiday have all recently hitchhiked along on the road trip to the Covid list, joining Dante Divencenzo (ankle injury) on the sidelines. This will force Milwaukee to extract big minutes from both Giannis and Middleton tonight in Brooklyn. Middleton is already a DFS beast who has averaged over 60 fantasy points over his last 4 games. With an increased usage rate and a price tag that isn’t nearly as burdensome as the Greek Freak’s, Middleton is a great deal tonight against a Nets team that loves to push the pace and is averaging allowing their opponents nearly 108 points per game.


ROYCE O’NEAL, PF, Utah ($4,100 on DraftKings)
The Jazz’ COVID list suddenly has exploded, with Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic all expected to miss tonight’s game vs. the Raptors. As much as that would seem to guarantee a blowout loss for Utah in Toronto tonight, someone still has to play and accumulate meaningless fantasy stats, even if his team only scores 85 points. O’Neal has been fighting a nagging knee injury, but he still managed to play 36 minutes on Wednesday night in Denver (accumulating a double/double with five assists a block and a steal), so he’s being undervalued on DraftKings right now, considering his ability to stuff the stats sheet in many different categories and the dearth of other options for Head Coach Quin Snyder.

KEVIN DURANT, SF/PF, Brooklyn ($10,300 on DraftKings)
For some reason, Durant’s price tag on DK is $2,000 less than it was a few weeks ago. This despite the fact that the Nets are shorthanded tonight vs. Milwaukee, with Kyrie Irving’s glorious high-usage game on Wednesday a pipe dream once his team returns to the NYC area, where his unvaccinated status leaves him unable to play. Adding to Kyrie’s absence is the news that Joe Harris will require ankle surgery and suddenly Durant will be carrying the mail even more. A chance to nab one of the great scorers in league history against a thinned-out Milwaukee roster at a (much) cheaper price tag when his usage rate is likely to increase tonight is a rare confluence of elements that you should take advantage of.

JALEN BRUNSON, PG/SG, Dallas ($7,000 on DraftKings)
Luka Doncic’s ankle is still pestering him and he is listed as doubtful for tonight’s game at Houston, meaning Brunson will be the main man at the point for Dallas tonight and that most of the offense will be running through him for 30-33 minutes. Brunson has logged a lot of court time in the last little while, averaging over 32 minutes per game and playing 6 games in the last 10 days, but, hey – he’s only 25 years old. In those last six games he has averaged over 30 fantasy points per game and, along with increased opportunities tonight, he also gets the distinct pleasure of facing the second-worst team in the NBA in terms of defensive rating. He has scored in double digits in almost every game this season and with Luka sitting (again!),  his usage rate combined with a soft opponent and just an approximately league average salary make him an especially good option tonight.

SETH CURRY, SG, Philadelphia ($6,100 on DraftKings)
In his last game, Curry was nothing short of awesome. He played over 41 minutes and had 20 points, 7 rebounds, 12 assists and a steal. Granted, that was against a weak Orlando team, but tonight Philadelphia guards Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey are both out of the lineup and the Sixers are facing a San Antonio team that will suddenly be missing Derrick White, Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson. The combination of more playmaking and shooting opportunities and a newly weakened opponent mean Curry’s salary should be a lot higher tonight. Take advantage before it starts rocketing.

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