Welcome to the 2018-19 NBA season!
To help you with your DFS lineups at PlayON, we’ll provide daily editions of our NBA Preview all season long here at Daily Fantasy Focus.
Your NBA fantasy teams have a budget of $100 million to spend on a seven-player team, with players ranging in price from $26 million to $5 million. You must pick one player from each of the five NBA positions – point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and centre – with two final picks being at whichever position you like. With the need to squeeze in that much under budget, we need to look for the best value picks in each night’s game, at all positions.
Below is a breakdown of my picks for tonight’s short three-game slate. Once you’ve seen who I like, be sure to lock in your line-ups and win some cash tonight.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS VS TORONTO RAPTORS
Point guard – Derrick White, San Antonio Spurs: $12.5 million
Spurs guards like to take it in turns to miss near-entire seasons due to injury. This year, it is incumbent starter Dejounte Murray’s turn – having returned from his turn last year, White has thus started the majority of the season in Murray’s stead. A slow start has given way to plenty of recent fantasy value, itself built on a high yield of high-value defensive statistics – in his last three games, White has averaged 36.4 fantasy points.
Small forward – Davis Bertans, San Antonio Spurs: $9.1 million
Whenever Rudy Gay is out, Bertans becomes a good fantasy candidate. This has held true all season, and was also true last year whenever the Spurs were down a small forward. With Gay out last game, Bertans contributed a 25.0 fantasy point night that is right in the wheelhouse of what he usually does in these situations, so take note that Gay will be out again tonight, too.
Point guard – Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors: $10.9 million
Similarly to the above, take note of VanVleet as a fantasy candidate whenever Kyle Lowry is out. This has not gone as well recently as it usually does; despite Lowry being sidelined with a back problem, incremental price increases and less-than-usual production have seen VanVleet average only 21.4 fantasy points per game over his last five, a solid but not stand-out return on this price. Nonetheless, he is a solid and consistent starter, with upside, at a low price. That is hard to find on a three-game slate.
Small forward – Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors: $20.7 million
A great player anyway and a very frequent attendee on this list all season, Leonard is playing well, but tonight he should have extra motivation. This is his first return to San Antonio since the mysterious circumstances surrounding his departure. All eyes will be on him. Let’s see if he wants that.
DENVER NUGGETS VS SACRAMENTO KINGS
Shooting guard – Malik Beasley, Denver Nuggets: $11.1 million
Small forward – Torrey Craig, Denver Nuggets: $8.0 million
Both Gary Harris and Will Barton, the starting shooting guard and small forward on the Nuggets, have been out through injury. And while Harris returned in the last game, it seemed not to much affect the fantasy production of either of this pair. Craig put in yet another steady low-20s performance with 22.3, which is also his average over the last four games, while Beasley continued his highly surprising burst with another sizeable 40.1 fantasy point performance. Beasley now costs only $0.1 million less in fantasy than Harris. It feels as though it cannot continue, but it always does.
Power forward – Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets: $13.2 million
Centre – Mason Plumlee, Denver Nuggets; $12.1 million
Millsap is back from injury, and while he was slowed and rusty in his first game back, his second and the resultant 35.8 fantasy points per game he scored in it show the upside that his injury-lowered price now holds. Meanwhile, Plumlee, who has started at power forward in his stead, put in another 25.4 fantasy points as the latest instalment of his incredibly consistent eight-game streak of 24.8 per game. Millsap’s return likely limits Plumlee’s time at power forward, yet he is proving to be too important of a player to keep on the bench; after all, he is the second-best passer on the team.
Point guard – De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings; $16.7 million
Although his six game streak in which he had averaged 47.6 fantasy points per contest ended last time out in an anomalously loss, we should continue to think of Fox as one of our first picks at the point guard position. After all, prior to that six game streak had come another six-gamer of 44.3. Two rogue performances of 0.2 and 22.4 cannot overpower that.
Power forward – Nemanja Bjelica, Sacramento Kings; $12.1 million
With Marvin Bagley III out due to injury and Zach Randolph completely out of favour, Bjelica sits largely unchallenged at the power forward position. Three 30+ fantasy point performances in his last four games have seen him return a 32.3 per game average in that span, and while his low offensive usage rate largely prohibits any nights much bigger than that sort of range, at this price, he does not need them.
HOUSTON ROCKETS VS GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Shooting guard – James Harden, Houston Rockets: $24.8 million
The storyline of choice in the NBA of late has been the phenomenal level of play of Harden. Leading his injury-depleted Rockets to ten wins in their last 11 games, the reigning MVP has strongly staked his claim to a repeat title, averaging 39.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game in that time. From a fantasy point of view, that correlates to a giant 62.4 fantasy point per game average. He is now the leading scorer in the league, and is leading quite comfortably. With Eric Gordon out short term, Chris Paul out long term and Brandon Knight just not ready right now. Harden has had to do pretty much everything himself. And he has.
Small forward – Gerald Green, Houston Rockets: $7.8 million
Small forward – Danuel House, Houston Rockets: $9.4 million
The aforementioned backcourt shortage also has a knock-on effect on the wing. Without the option of playing Harden as the bigger part of smaller line-ups, and without regular small forward starter James Ennis III due to injury, the Rockets are running this tandem at small forward, and have not the option to do much else.
House starts the game and plays in the Ariza-lite role, being a positive influence in transition on both ends of the court and doing just enough shooting and dribble-drive work to not be an offensive negative; his starting role on the team has allowed him to return four consecutive fantasy point games between 21.8 and 24.6 fantasy points per game. Green meanwhile has alternated between double and single figure real point scoring performances consistently throughout this eleven game stretch, and so while his shot selection and defence are no better than ever, his sheer volume of minutes of late has seen him average 17.3 fantasy points per game in his last five. It is not much, but on a slate this small, it is at least something.
Point guard – Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: $21.3 million
This is hardly a sneaky-cheap value pick. Nevertheless, Curry is fully returned from his injury, and is playing well. He is also playing consistently for us in fantasy; his last three games have seen him record 50.5, 50.0 and 50.8 fantasy points, which is about as consistent as it gets. The aforementioned Rockets problems with depth at the guard spot could prove advantageous to a menace of a scoring guard who can tire out the few legs Houston have at the position, and who should be motivated by who the opposition is, too.
Point guard – De’Aaron Fox, $16.7 million
Shooting guard – James Harden, $24.8 million
Small forward – Kawhi Leonard, $20.7 million
Power forward – Nemanja Bjelica, $12.1 million
Centre – Greg Monroe, $7.7 million
Bench – Davis Bertans, $9.1 million
Bench – Torrey Craig, $8.0 million
On any NBA slate of games, we need to be sure to avoid certain players each night. Here’s who you should steer clear of.
(Note that the NBA provides four different player injury classifications – ‘probable’ (meaning the player has a 75% chance of playing in the game), ‘questionable’ (50%), ‘doubtful’ (25%) and ‘out’ (0%). Such classifications are subject to change right up until game time; for the purposes of the below, we list anyone from ‘questionable’ on down as being picks to avoid.)
DO NOT PICK DUE TO INJURY/ABSENCE/SUSPENSION: Will Barton, Jarred Vanderbilt, Isaiah Thomas, Michael Porter Jr (Denver), DeMarcus Cousins, Damian Jones (Golden State), Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, James Ennis III, Carmelo Anthony (Houston), Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento), Dejounte Murray, Rudy Gay (San Antonio), Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry, Jordan Loyd (Toronto)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in, and check back every day during the season for our daily picks and advice!