Welcome to another edition of our NBA Preview here at PlayON’s Daily Fantasy Focus.
Below is a breakdown of my top picks at each position for tonight’s games. Once you’ve seen who I like (and don’t like) be sure to and win some cash tonight.
Point guard – Andrew Harrison, Memphis Grizzlies: $7.7 million
You may have been burned by Harrison’s poor showing two games ago. Me too. With only 8.5 fantasy points, Harrison was basically a wash-out. Nevertheless, we recommended Harrison then on account of his recent body of work, having averaged 22.6 fantasy points over the nine games prior to that.
Last night, Harrison recorded 14.4 fantasy points, but that was against Golden State and thus a down performance is to be expected. Hopefully, the 20+ range becomes the norm again. And with the Grizzlies still struggling with multiple injuries while also requiring Chandler Parsons to rest on the second half of back-to-backs, Harrison should keep his decently-sized role tonight.
Point guard – Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks: $8.5 million
You may also have been burned by Frankie Smokes’ poor showing two games ago. Me too, too. With only 4.2 fantasy points, Ntilikina was definitely a washout. We had suggested him too on account of his previous play, specifically a stretch of four straight 20+ fantasy point games that suggested the beginning of a breakout. And we still do.
The risk with picking a raw rookie such as Ntilikina is that he will have these washout games as he continues to adjust to the league. But the talent that got him drafted so high makes it unlikely to happen twice.
Shooting guard – Troy Daniels, Phoenix Suns: $6.8 million
Daniels is putting up a more consistent stretch of fantasy production that is normal for him, on account of his enlarged role in the absence of Devin Booker. Averaging 17.8 fantasy points over his last eight games, Daniels is fulfilling his self-prescribed role (come in, shoot outside shots as much as possible, sub out) to decent effect. There is also the potential for bigger nights, too, as evidenced by his 38.6 fantasy point performance four games ago.
Shooting guard – Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs: $8.1 million
Old man Manu still gets his rest games, the idea being that those give him enough juice in the tank to occasionally have big performances when called upon. And it pretty much works. The 20.7 minutes per game he has averaged this season is probably more than was intended, necessitated by the injuries elsewhere, and the inexplicable loss of his three-point shot thus far (25.7%) has not helped, But Ginobili has gotten stronger throughout the season, with his December splits of 9.5 points, 3.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds being season bests in every category. Perhaps it took his aging body time to warm up. Either way, unless he is being rested – and this is not a scheduled rest game for him – Manu has fantasy value at this price.
Small forward – Michael Beasley, New York Knicks: $8.1 million
In the absence of Tim Hardaway Jr, Beasley has been given a bigger role. But when Kristaps Porzingis has been absent as well, he has really had a role to play. Beasley being Beasley, that role is scoring, running high post-ups and isolations for turnaround mid-range shots, doing things few other players attempt and that coaches generally now try to eradicate. And if given the green light, it works, too. Beasley has averaged 32.2 fantasy points over the last four games on an average of 20.3 actual points, and while Porzingis is likely to be back tonight, Hardaway won’t be available. Beasley, then, will be needed.
Small forward – Joe Johnson, Utah Jazz: $6.8 million
After missing most of the season to date, Johnson has been back for the last three games, and is seeing his court time increase, including starts in the last two games. It is true to say that despite starters minutes, Johnson has not done a lot with them. Nevertheless, Johnson starts because his quirky old-man offence is needed on a streaky Jazz team prone to cold streaks. They’ll at least keep the pace down for him.
Power forward – Jonas Jerebko, Utah Jazz: $7.2 million
Power forward – Ekpe Udoh, Utah Jazz: $7.7 million
Power forward – Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz: $14.6 million
As ever with the Jazz, there are injuries to factor in. What is known is that Rudy Gobert will be out for a while with a knee injury, and, last time this happened, Derrick Favors stepped in as centre and performed remarkably well. Favors himself has not been healthy with a concussion and an eye injury; however, he returned to action last night, and immediately took the starting centre spot, where we should expect him to stay.
Part of the reason Favors did so well was having Jerebko alongside him. The Swedish stretch four spread the floor for Favors, who could then thrive in the mid-range and paint, and both helped the other, with their two-man line-up yielding a net point rating of +14.3 per 100 possessions. In Gobert’s absence, then, this should be a key pairing going forward, even if the aforementioned Johnson gets the power forward start.
However, regardless of who starts, Udoh, as the only man who can do what Gobert does defensively, must feature heavily if fouls permit. Since Gobert went down, Udoh has averaged 28.9 fantasy points per game, and while Favors’s return will temper that somewhat, Udoh has done enough to carry some value here anyway.
(We are hereby looking the poor performance of all three in last night’s blowout loss. Anomalies happen.)
Centre – Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers: $6.6 million
Thompson is finally back and healthy, and slowly working his way back into the rotation. His long time out of the line-up and his steadily diminishing role even when healthy has knocked his price right down to this level. But the advantage to that is he now has fantasy value.
Be advised however that the Cavaliers’ matchup tonight is the Chicago Bulls. And while the Bulls have very much picked up the pace and scoring over their recent resurgence – more possessions always yields more fantasy stats – the Bulls are the second-best team in the league at defensive rebounding. Considering Thompson’s main strength is offensive rebounding, bear this in mind. Nevertheless, on such a short slate, Thompson has some fantasy value tonight anyway.
Centre – Alex Len, Phoenix Suns: $13.5 million
Len is in the midst of a hot streak. He has become a dominant force per minute, averaging 33.5 fantasy points over the last five games despite playing only 22 minutes per game in that time. Last night, although he scored only four points, Len grabbed 13 rebounds in only 17 minutes, continuing his piping hot streak of play. Ride this wave, despite the minutes.
As with all NBA slates, we need to be sure to avoid certain players each night. Here’s who you should steer clear of.
DO NOT PICK DUE TO INJURY/ABSENCE/SUSPENSION: Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris (Boston), Cameron Payne, Zach LaVine (Chicago), Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, John Holland (Cleveland), Brandon Wright, Wayne Selden, Mike Conley (Memphis), Tim Hardaway Jr (New York), Markelle Fultz, Justin Anderson, Joel Embiid, Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia), Devin Booker, Davon Reed, Alan Williams, Brandon Knight (Phoenix), Lucas Nogueira, C.J. Miles (Toronto), Dante Exum, Donovan Mitchell, Ruby Gobert, Raul Neto (Utah)
That’s all for today’s analysis! Be sure to get your lineups in to tonight’s games and stay tuned for our “Beat Mark Deeks” double-up tomorrow, where you can win an extra $5 cash on top of the regular prizes just for finishing ahead of me. Good luck!