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 each team for tonight’s four-game slate. Once you’ve seen who I like, be sure to lock in your line-ups and win some cash tonight.
HOUSTON ROCKETS vs OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
These two are two of the three hottest teams in the Western Conference. An 0-4 start for the Thunder has been supplanted by a six game winning streak, and while they limped to victory over the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers last night (and were unconvincing in doing so), they had the very valid excuse of Russell Westbrook being out. Similarly, the inauspicious 1-5 start for the Rockets has at least now yielded a three-game winning streak; one of these streaks will of course have to end, but with both teams carrying in various significant injuries, it is not obvious which. And those injuries of course can benefit us in fantasy.
Small forward – James Ennis, Houston Rockets: $6.8 million
Power forward – Gary Clark, Houston Rockets: $6.7 million
While Houston’s winning streak can in large part be credited to the fact that they finally have both Chris Paul and James Harden back at the same time, they also go into tonight severely lacking in guard depth, with each of Brandon Knight, Eric Gordon and Michael Carter-Williams out. That is in fact pretty much all of the guard depth, so Gerald Green will bump down a position, opening up more time for Ennis on the wing, who was already playing pretty well. He has averaged 22.3 fantasy points over the last two games, both in a starting role that he will keep for now. And given the Rockets’ general lack of depth anyway, Clark has increasingly shone of late – among the rookie leaders in both threes and blocks (it is very rare to be both), the workhorse has averaged 19.6 fantasy points over the last four, and will have an even bigger role today.
Point guard – Dennis Schroeder, Oklahoma City Thunder: $13.2 million
As ever, with Russell Westbrook out, Schroeder benefits. Despite being a starting point guard and somehow managing to record 0 assists on the night, Schroeder’s ability to constantly get into the lane, and his much-improved defence thus far this season, saw him record 40.4 fantasy pint sin last night’s win over Cleveland. If Westbrook is out again, this seems realistic again.
BOSTON CELTICS vs PHOENIX SUNS
With respect, be wary of picking any player going up against the Suns that night. The league’s worst team tend to lose heavily, meaning lesser minutes for opposing team’s starters, so be advised of this going in. The Suns’s seemingly constant turmoil and reinventions do however sometimes give rise to some fantasy picks of their own.
Power forward – Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics: $13.4 million
Should you wish to find a prominent Celtics rotation player for tonight, then Tatum is the one who has been playing with the most consistent value. There is some criticism about Tatum right now that, in a bid to prove he has expanded his offensive game from the package he showed as a rookie, he is trying to do too much, and specifically taking too many inefficient mid-range jump shots off of the dribble. And that is a valid criticism. Yet that value has seen him at least return a fantasy point scoring average on the season of 29.9, more than double his price.
Power forward – Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns: $15.0 million
Point guard – Isaiah Canaan, Phoenix Suns: $7.7 million
Ayton’s price has dipped slightly after a struggle of a last outing in which he struggled from the floor and recorded no stocks. He still though ground his way to 31.1 fantasy points per game, not shabby at all for a “bad” outing in which he missed a lot of close-in shots uncharacteristically and couldn’t get the guards to find him the ball enough. Canaan is one such guard, overmatched in his starting role, which while not his fault is emblematic of the problems of the Suns right now. That starting role however does give him some fantasy value to us, and he has averaged 21.7 fantasy points over the last three games.
L.A. CLIPPERS vs PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Through their year-on-year continuity, the Blazers have kept together a good team, and kept a hold for now on the third seed they surprisingly managed to back last season. Through their calculated decision to reload rather than rebuild, the Clippers are also a tough opponent out West, 6-4 on the season and with an incredibly deep rotation that provides fantasy value all over.
Centre – Boban Marjanovic, L.A. Clippers: $7.1 million
Point guard – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, L.A. Clippers: $8.9 million
Power forward – Montrezl Harrell, L.A. Clippers: $11.2 million
It seems as though Boban being the starting centre is now a thing. He has averaged 28.9 fantasy points in his last four games, and while he will always be a limited minutes player, he is so productive in those limited minutes that we need not worry about that. (What would be the purpose of starting Marcin Gortat now?) Similarly, despite being a point guard by trade, and despite the Clippers already having Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic at that position, plus about twelve good shooting guards, Gilgeous-Alexander is too defensively adept and versatile to bench, and so with Avery Bradley out, Shai got the start last time at off guard ahead of Lou Williams and recorded 21.1 fantasy points. And with Gortat out of the way, Harrell’s job is to come in off the bench, be the opposite of Boban, bounce all over the place, tidy up, post up and crash the glass, recording 29.4 fantasy points in this vein last time out.
Centre – Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers: $14.8 million
Notwithstanding the above re: Boban, Nurkic’s role as the small ball punisher is proving effective. Five straight performances in the thirties have seen him return a 35.5 fantasy point average – good, productive and consistent. Dealing with Marjanovic on the other end will be a different form of challenge for him, but may also benefit his block rate.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS vs GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Although they lost their last game to top Eastern Conference rival Toronto, the Bucks still sit pretty on an 8-2 record, while the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors have lost only once this season (by a mere two points) and are arguably better than they have ever been. This, then, is clearly the choice match-up of the night.
Shooting guard – Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks: $16.9 million
Small forward – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: $24.8 million
Good as they are, the Bucks’ roster as a whole has little good value for us in fantasy – their rotation is healthy, their rotation is (except for Donte DiVincenzo off the bench) made entirely of veterans, and no one is breaking out. We thus look back to the top, and their two best players, the steady-scoring Middleton and the does-everything Giannis. Middleton normally doubles his cost in production, without the upside of an Antetokounmpo but with a consistency most others crave for, while although there is variance to be had, the fact that Giannis is the number one option on both ends of the court and able to put up big numbers in every column of the stat sheet gives him the possibility if the huge nights that most others definitely envy, such as his 78.6 fantasy point performance five games ago.
Power forward – Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors: $8.1 million
Draymond Green will be out tonight, and so while his replacement starter has been announced, keep an eye on both Looney and Jordan Bell tonight. Looney is already the regular backup centre – Damian Jones’s role as the starter in front of him is shrinking rather than growing – and while there is nothing spectacular about his production on his how he does it, his workmanlike performances in the paint and on the glass make for steady high-teens returns, which could rise to the low 20s with no Draymond (and thus no Hampton Five).
PG – Dennis Schroeder, $13.2 million
SG – James Harden, $24.4 million
SF – Giannis Antetokounmpo, $24.8 million
PF – Montrezl Harrell, $11.2 million
C – Boban Marjanovic, $7.1 million
Bench – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, $8.9 million
Bench – P.J. Tucker, $10.4 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: Jabari Bird, Daniel Theis (Boston), Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, DeMarcus Cousins (Golden State), Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Knight, Eric Gordon, Nene (Houston), Avery Bradley, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute (L.A. Clippers), Trevon Duval, D.J. Wilson (Milwaukee), Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson (Oklahoma City), Mo Harkless (Portland)
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 pick advice!