Check out what NBA expert Mark Deeks has to say before picking your daily fantasy line-up for tonight.
Point guard – Tomas Satoransky, Washington Wizards: $6.4 million
Satoransky’s recent hot streak came to an end last night, with an outing of a mere 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 13.9 fantasy points. That said, all the Wizards were bad last night, looking extremely listless in a giant 47 point defeat. And Satoransky’s lone rival for point guard minutes right now, Tim Frazier, wasn’t any better. Tonight is a fresh opportunity, and you should still be buoyed by Satoransky’s recent play, full of aggressive drives to the rim, strong finishes, offensive fluidity and improved-looking outside shooting. And, worst case scenario, 13.9 fantasy points is quite handy at this price anyway.
Point guard – Tyler Ulis, Phoenix Suns: $9.3 million
Ulis has not just won the starting point guard spot from Mike James, but has dispatched him firmly to the bench. It would be an overly generous interpretation of events to say that Ulis was now a starting NBA point guard, for the fact that he is starting currently is more out of necessity than talent. But not only is he starting, but he’s playing increasingly large minutes, recording nearly 40 last night and recording 12 points and 12 assists in the process.
Shooting guard – Alec Burks, Utah Jazz: $8.1 million
This has been by far and away the best stretch of Alec Burks’s career. In the last week alone, he has scored 14, 28, 24 and 27 points, adding 19 rebounds, 9 assists and 7 steals along the way. The man who started the season on the very edges of the rotation is now an absolutely vital sixth man, amongst the league’s very best. And yet the slow start has algorithmically kept the fantasy price low. It won’t be this low for much longer, so get in there now – Burks is almost a must-pick at this point.
Small forward – Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder: $20.3 million
Value picks are harder to find on such a narrow slate of games as tonight’s, so the fantasy value of someone like George increases when there are only three games available. Obviously a tremendous talent, George’s move to the Thunder has seen his numbers dip across the board (23.7 points per game down to 20.2, 6.6 rebounds down to 5.9), which in turn has had an impact on his fantasy value. Of course, being that productive still means there will always be value in some form anyway, and buoying that has been George’s improved play of late, recording an average of 39 fantasy points over his last ten games.
Small forward – T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns: $17.0 million
The other small forward of note tonight is Warren, who has five games of 38.9 fantasy points or more in his last eight games. Indeed, his only games of less than 32.4 fantasy points in his last ten contests have all come in double-digit losses for his Suns team. This can often be the case for starters, of course, who rarely play down the stretch of heavy losses. But this also speaks to the importance of Warren. If he’s on, the Suns have a chance. And if the Suns are in a game, Warren becomes a particularly valuable fantasy player. Going on the road to the Raptors is a tough game, so the risk is there, but so are the rewards.
Power forward – Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz: $15.1 million
Favors broke out in the absence of Rudy Gobert by taking his position defensively and, due to being surrounded by more floor spacing and pick-and-roll players offensively, being able to get not only a higher volume of touches but a better quality of touches more suited to what he is best at (rolling, mid-range popping, catching and finishing off of guard penetration). It remains to be seen how much of that momentum can be carried forward even now that Gobert is back. The one game thus far was a good start – 9 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 23.6 fantasy points in only 25 minutes of the massive aforementioned blowout win. But to keep producing at only that rate would be a notable regression on the 40.5 fantasy points he had averaged over the five previous games. Let us assume the former will sustain until further notice. He has confidence and momentum now.
Power forward – Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors: $9.0 million
Despite producing whenever he got minutes, and doing especially well as a spot starter earlier in the year, Siakam lost out on minutes when Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka returned from ill health. When that happened, Siakam had to battle fellow young bigs Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira for minutes – all three are good and deserve their own share. However, going into tonight, Nogueira is definitely out with a calf tear, and Poeltl is unlikely to play due to illness. Siakam, then, is about to get some decent minutes, and he usually responds.
Centre – Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: $19.0 million
Returning from injury, Gobert played only 21 minutes in his first game back, but see earlier comments about the one-sidedness of that game for important context on that. He nonetheless looked sharp, recording 27.5 fantasy points in a lot less time than he usually plays. Gobert at his peak is an automatic double-double (logging 8 in the 12 games he played before injury) with plenty of high-value defensive stats to go with it. His opportunistic vertical-spacing offensive game needs only alert guard play to be effective, and the rebounds are always there.
Centre – Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers: $16.5 million
Nurkic has hit a relative purple patch, recording a 32.2 fantasy point average over his past six games, fuelled by versatile stat-lines punctuated by an uptick in his scoring rate. The Blazers need Nurkic to be better offensively than he is – the 15.1 points per game he scores come on a high 13.6 field goal attempt per game rate and a lowly .490% true shooting, and the turnovers remain high at 3.1 per game. Nurkic is still impatient in the post and flicks the ball towards the rim impulsively rather than reading the defence, making more impactful moves or taking the contact to power the ball in. Yet because the Blazers need him both now and in the future, he will continue to be fed the ball and given opportunities to develop. Which means he will continue to put up good scoring numbers. Which means we should be interested in him from a fantasy point of view.
DO NOT PICK DUE TO INJURY/ABSENCE/SUSPENSION: Davon Reed, Brandon Knight, Alan Williams (Phoenix), C.J. Wilcox, Wade Baldwin (Portland), Delon Wright, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl (Toronto), Dante Exum, Joe Johnson, Rodney Hood (Utah), John Wall, Sheldon Mac (Washington)