It’s been a summer of high drama in the NBA. If it wasn’t a superstar player screwing over as many franchises as they possibly could with their free agency moves, then you had a GM setting off a geopolitical incident because of a late-night retweet.
That’s all in the past now though – at least until the Chinese Communist Party roll tanks into Houston – but opening night gives some of the central protagonists in the player machinations a chance to do what they do best.
But who do you pick if you’re playing Daily Fantasy on Paddy Power Fantasy?
Kawhi Leonard, SF, Los Angeles Clippers (£9,900)
While Kawhi Leonard’s value may eventually be capped by nights off and sharing the offensive workload with Paul George, that’s not a concern on opening night.
Leonard will not have a restriction on his minutes tonight, and with George sidelined to start the year following shoulder surgery, Kawhi’s Los Angeles Clippers debut should be a big one.
Kawhi won’t have much competition for offensive touches with the starting unit, as only one other starter for tonight (center Ivica Zubac) posted a usage rate of even 20% in the 2018-19 season. Leonard, on the other (and much larger) hand, posted a 30.3% usage rate in his lone season with the Toronto Raptors, as well as marks above 30% in each of his last two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs.
In addition to that high offensive volume, he remains a threat to rack up big peripheral numbers, averaging 7.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 0.4 blocks per 36 minutes last season. It remains to be seen how tough a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers will be for fantasy purposes this season, but on a short two-game slate that’s not much of a concern while we get Leonard at such a cheap price-tag.
Pascal Siakam, SF, Toronto Raptors (£8,000)
Don’t expect to get this kind of a discount on Pascal Siakam for long.
Spicy P averaged 37.4 fantasy points in a fairly modest 32.6 minutes per game in 21 contests played with Kawhi last season. That’s already a solid 4.7 fantasy points per £1,000 on this price-tag, but it wouldn’t be surprising him to beat that mark with increased minutes tonight.
The Raps will be without Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (groin) for the season opener, and 34-year-old Marc Gasol is probably not going to handling big minutes to start the year.
Siakam also saw his minutes pick up down the stretch last year, averaging 35.0 per game after the All-Star break. If he plays minutes into the mid- to high-30’s tonight he should have little trouble returning huge value on this price-tag, especially against a New Orleans Pelicans team that finished last season ranked 23rd in defensive rating and has since lost their best interior presence in Anthony Davis.
Anthony Davis, PF, Los Angeles Lakers (£12,100)
Davis doesn’t carry nearly the safety or point-per-dollar value that Siakam and Kawhi do, and with value being hard to come by on a short slate he’s far from a cash game lock.
Tournaments are a different story though. Davis has true slate-breaking upside, and with only four teams in action that should keep him firmly on your radar in GPPs.
Last season there were only 13 players to notch at least 80 fantasy points in a regular-season game. Only James Harden (9) did it more often than Davis (5) while nobody else in the NBA did it more than twice, and nobody else active tonight did it even once.
Of course, the Brow won’t be as much of a focal point while playing alongside LeBron James, but as an elite passer that will take away some defensive pressure, the King could allow Davis’s efficiency to reach new heights.
Davis is the biggest gamble on this list, but if we’re talking pure upside then he is fully deserving of the highest salary on our Opening Night slate.