Welcome to another edition of our NBA Preview here at PlayON. Below is a breakdown of my top picks at each position for tonight’s game.
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Tonight’s slate will be different to most. This is the final game of the NBA regular season, and 24 of the 30 teams will be playing tonight. However, with fifteen of the sixteen playoff spots decided – the only remaining spot is last place in the West, where, fittingly, the two teams competing for the spot, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets. are playing each other in what is essentially a one game playoff.
Some of the teams in the playoffs already will therefore rest their key players. They will either bench them outright, or play much less than they normally would, and with only a couple of seedings still undecided, almost no-one has incentive to put forth their best efforts. The many lottery teams certainly don’t, and we have seen in recent weeks in this space the side effects of them benching so many of their more talented players for tanking purposes. Some seedings are up for grabs, especially in the hugely compressed West (where the five teams between third and seventh could all move tonight), yet there are so many games and benchings that there is value all over the show.
There are therefore going to be many, many players on tonight’s slate who are going to have fantasy value far beyond their usual.
Kyrie Irving’s absence has given over the point guard spot to Terry Rozier, but his price increases (up to $14.8 million now) have diminished his fantasy value, so counsel caution.
Allen Crabbe (SG, $13.8 million) has been playing the best basketball of his career. Averaging 42.8 fantasy points over the last three games, he is the clear stand-out pick on a team that is neither winning nor tanking and otherwise lacks for deep picks of note.
Having already won too many, the Bulls would really not like to win tonight, and being at home they can bench whoever they choose. This should mean no Lauri Markkanen, which in turn should mean yet more Sean Kilpatrick (SG, $7.1 million, 28.1 average over the last five).
Needing some kind of momentum going into the playoffs and with the third seed still within reach with a win tonight, the full-strength Cavaliers have no great value picks tonight. And ‘great’ is the threshold for our interest here on such a slate.
In the biggest game of all, Denver are badly needing to win. They also are riding a six game winning streak borne out of the brilliance of their star Nikola Jokic (C, $24.1 million). With a 595 fantasy point average over those six, consider Jokic as one of your pricy picks tonight.
Limping to the end, both Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond should miss tonight’s unimportant and bitter finale. This then opens the door to the frontcourt depth; Henry Ellenson (C, $5.5 million, 18.3 average over the past two games), Eric Moreland (PF, $6.8 million, 29.9 last time out) and Anthony Tolliver (PF, $9.0 million, has scored over 20 fantasy points for nine straight games).
Having won the West, and after seeing Luc Richard Mbah A Moute suffer an injury last night that will keep him out of the first round, the Rockets have little reason to play their key vets tonight. This should bode well for Gerald Green (SF, $9.3 million), who will happily take all of James Harden’s shots.
With every senior guard out, the Clippers, who have now missed the playoffs, should give considerable time to C.J. Williams (SG, $6.1 million), Sindarius Thornwell (SG, $7.9 million, 45.5 points last time out) and Tyrone Wallace (SG, $9.3 million).
Not in the playoffs, not tanking, but also legitimately not healthy, the Lakers have been airing out Tyler Ennis (PG, $7.5 million) of late, and he has responded with a 27.5 fantasy point average over the last six. This should continue.
Memphis are benching eight (see below), leaving only nine. Of those nine, particularly consider Deyonta Davis ($7.5 million, the only active centre) and Ivan Rabb (PF, $7.9 million, 26.8 average over the last five).
At full strength except for Dion Waiters, and needing a win to have a chance move up, the Heat will be going for it, and have had few value picks of late for this reason. Look elsewhere.
If the Bucks win tonight, they will finish sixth, and face either the 76ers (who they play tonight) or the Cavaliers (who will claim third if both they and the Bucks win). If they lose, they might still get sixth, or fall to seventh, meaning the Sixers or Celtics. Considering the recent form of those two, losing thus wouldn’t be the worst thing, and Giannis Antetokounmpo might be limited due to injury. Therefore, consider Shabazz Muhammad (SF, $6.1 million), who recorded 31.6 last time out in Giannis’s absence.
Playing in the biggest game of all tonight, the Wolves will be at near-enough full strength bar the possible absence of Taj Gibson. There will therefore be no bench steals – however, Karl-Anthony Towns (C, $23.0 million) will be looked at to star.
New Orleans Pelicans
Starting out fifth, the Pellies can climb two places or drop two places, and control their own destiny. They thus need to win, and haven’t the value picks of others – nevertheless, Nikola Mirotic’s rebirth (PF, $16.1 million, 48.3 average over the last four) has been the reason for the four-game winning streak that got them here.
New York Knicks
Out of the main tankathon, the Knicks have started their strategic benching too late. Nevertheless, it has yielded fantasy value for Damyean Dotson (SF, $5.5 million, 32.2 average over the last three) and Kyle O’Quinn (C, $11.7 million, 37.8 over the last five).
Oklahoma City Thunder
Currently in the seventh spot and absolutely not wanting a first round matchup with the Warriors, the Thunder will be all guns blazing tonight, and with no injuries other than Andre Roberson, they have no real value picks. Be advised though that Russell Westbrook (PG, $27.4 million) will be giving it the beans tonight, and, with all the cheap picks available elsewhere, you can afford him.
Orlando really need to lose to enter the tie for the third-worst record at 24-58 (along with Dallas and Atlanta, who finished their seasons last night). They have, however, shown very little impetus this season to tactically rest players, so it happening tonight should not be assumed. Khem Birch (PF, $7.1 million) has however been playing more, averaging 30.3 fantasy points over the past five games.
Winners of 15 in a row, the Sixers are coasting, and while they should want to continue to ride that momentum, they may ease off of the starters minutes for starters. With no announced plans for rest, however, look elsewhere, except for Ersan Ilyasova (PF, $11.4 million, 34.8 average over the last seven).
Portland Trail Blazers
Losers of four in a row and the surefire grip they once had on the third seed, Portland will be at almost full strength and with it all to play for tonight, so there should be no steal picks.
If the Kings win, and the Bulls lose, they will tie at 27-55 and go to a tiebreaking coin flip for the sixth overall pick. To avoid that, they will turn to the bench, giving value to Nigel Hayes (SF, $5.5 million) and Buddy Hield (SG, $12.8 million, 32.2 average over the past 13). It will very much help that they are playing the Rockets.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are in, thanks to the play of LaMarcus Aldridge (PF, $21.0 million), who has averaged 50.2 fantasy points per game. They are still playing for their seeding, and thus will require Aldridge to do the same again.
Head coach Dwane Casey has said no one will be rested tonight, and the Raptors already utilise a lot of depth, thus there will be better value elsewhere tonight.
Another team that can come between third and seventh, Utah will be at almost full strength, playing the team they are tied with at 48-33 (Portland), thus seeking to play their best. Their highest value picks (Donovan Mitchell, SG, $18.4 million; Rudy Gobert, C, $17.8 million) might therefore pique our interest, as the plethora of cheap picks available means the more productive pricy players are at a premium.
With Otto Porter getting hurt in the last game, and John Wall doubtful, Kelly Oubre Jr (SF, $11.6 million) and Tomas Satoransky (PG, $11.0 million) become good players. The Wizards can finish anywhere between eighth and sixth in the East based on results tonight, so they will be trying to win to move up, thus they will play their primary backups rather than the deep bench.
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: Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Daniel Theis, Guerschon Yabusele (Boston), Isaiah Whitehead, Jeremy Lin, DeMarre Carroll, Joe Harris (Brooklyn), Antonio Blakeney, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Paul Zipser, Robin Lopez (Chicago), Tyler Lydon (Denver), Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Jon Leuer, Reggie Bullock (Detroit), Tarik Black, Ryan Anderson, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute (Houston), Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Jawun Evans, Danilo Gallinari, Avery Bradley, Milos Teodosic, Austin Rivers (L.A. Clippers), Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Kuzma, Luol Deng, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball (L.A. Lakers), Marc Gasol, Tyreke Evans, JaMychal Green, Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Andrew Harrison, Jarell Martin, Wayne Selden (Memphis), Dion Waiters (Miami), Giannis Antetokounmpo, Matthew Dellavedova (Milwaukee), Justin Patton, Taj Gibson (Minnesota), Alexis Ajinca, DeMarcus Cousins, Frank Jackson (New Orleans), Ron Baker, Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah, Troy Williams, Enes Kanter, Emmanuel Mudiay, Doug McDermott, Tim Hardaway Jr (New York), Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines (Oklahoma City), Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons, Jonathan Isaac (Orlando), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid (Philadelphia), Mo Harkless (Portland), Iman Shumpert, Harry Giles, Garrett Temple, Frank Mason, Skal Labissiere (Sacramento), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), Lucas Nogueira, Fred VanVleet, Malachi Richardson (Toronto), Thabo Sefolosha, Dante Exum (Utah), John Wall, Otto Porter (Washington)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!