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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Point guard – Shaun Livingston, Golden State Warriors: $6.0 million
Stephen Curry will be absent tonight, as will Pat McCaw, out long term with injury. So too may Quinn Cook, who started last time out – and with that, there remains only one healthy point guard option, that being Livingston. With the unique way in which the Warriors are constructed, there is no need for them to have a conventional point guard offensively, merely someone who can help to get the ball into the front court every time. And someone like Nick Young can do that. Yet regardless of who in particular clears that low bar, someone also needs to be able to defend opposing points. And although Livingston struggles with the speedier opponents, he is the best chance of that, and thus should get as many minutes tonight as he can handle.
Point guard – Dennis Smith Jr, Dallas Mavericks: $14.6 million
Smith sat out last night’s game, so be advised of that before picking him here. He is however expected to return, and he has played suitably well of late to have accidentally won his team a couple of games recently, averaging 34.8 fantasy points over the last five games. Dallas’s motivation to benching him last night may have been because their opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, are one of their rivals in the ugly but real race to the bottom. However, no one can out-tank the Grizzlies, and Dallas won by 34 to accidentally open up a two game winning streak. Tonight’s opponent though will be the Houston Rockets, so no such danger of accidental wins here – it is therefore safe for them to play Smith, and advisable for us to pick him.
Shooting guard – Tyler Dorsey, Atlanta Hawks: $6.0 million
Shooting guard – Jaylen Morris, Atlanta Hawks: $5.6 million
We profiled both Dorsey and Morris in tandem like this a few days ago, as both were starting to get minutes on a Hawks team not trying to go anywhere. They still are. Dorsey, the shooter, has averaged 19.1 fantasy points over the last three games, while over the same time span, Morris, the do-everything-elser, has averaged 16.5. The Hawks play the Chicago Bulls tonight in what will be a tank-off. And this bodes well for young, undertested players like these two.
Small forward – Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors: $22.9 million
As above, Stephen Curry will miss tonight’s game, just as he did last time. And when he did so last time out, Durant was the main beneficiary. It has been a cold recent stretch for Durant, who has eased off just as his team around him has, yet when Curry is out, easing off is no longer possible. Durant posted 40 points and 57.2 fantasy points last time out – given that this effort still resulted in a heavy 17 point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, even more will be needed, thus increasing his potential fantasy value.
Power forward – Larry Nance, Cleveland Cavaliers: $12.8 million
As a player whose offence involves running the court, cutting and crashing the glass, Nance was always going to enjoy playing alongside LeBron James and about 92 different shooters. There is a lot of space for him to run in, and a legendary playmaker who will be able to find him running in it. Combined with his permanent rebounding tenacity he has long since dined out on, plus an increasingly regular mid-range jump shot with potential for expansion to the three-point line, Nance is on fire right now, starting at centre and recording easy double-doubles nightly. Pick him.
Power forward – Cheick Diallo, New Orleans Pelicans: $6.1 million
In the absence of Anthony Davis last time out, Diallo, although he did not start, was the main beneficiary of all the minutes and opportunities it opened up. Always a solid finisher and committed rebounder, Diallo threw in three blocks in 23 minutes as well on his way to a very strong 35.8 fantasy point performance. Even if Davis returns, Diallo has some value in fantasy still, but if Davis remains out, definitely consider him tonight.
Power forward – Nemanja Bjelica, Minnesota Timberwolves: $7.6 million
Bjelica continues to start for the Timberwolves, and had a career night last time out. Scoring 30 points on 19 shots, Bjelica poured in six three-pointers, flanked it with 12 rebounds and 2 assists, all combining for 45.4 fantasy points. Bjelica has played no less than 32 minutes in any game as a starter this year, save the first one, and when he plays, he produces. And because of the fact that he has spent most of the season coming off the bench, the relatively tiny price gives him tremendous must-pick fantasy value.
Centre – Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn Nets: $9.6 million
After a brief blip, Allen got back to his best last time out when he posted a 25.9 fantasy point outing on Dwight Howard and the Charlotte Hornets. As impressive as he has been in the second half of the year as an athletic roll man, glass cleaner and floor runner, blips are still part and parcel of life as a rookie, which Allen still is. Nevertheless, the upside of when he is playing well still outweighs his fantasy cost, giving him fantasy value here.
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: DeAndre Bembry, Antonius Cleveland, Malcolm Delaney, Dennis Schroder (Atlanta), Gordon Hayward, Jabari Bird, Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele (Boston), Jeremy Lin (Brooklyn), Paul Zipser (Chicago), Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, Rodney Hood (Cleveland), Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith (Dallas), Jon Leuer, Stanley Johnson, Reggie Jackson, Dwight Buycks (Detroit), Stephen Curry, David West, Andre Iguodala, Jordan Bell, Pat McCaw, Quinn Cook (Golden State), Ryan Anderson, Brandan Wright (Houston), Channing Frye, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart (L.A. Lakers), Jimmy Butler (Minnesota), Alexis Ajinca, DeMarcus Cousins, Solomon Hill, Frank Jackson (New Orleans), Ron Baker, Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah (New York), Furkan Korkmaz, Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia), Skal Labissiere, Iman Shumpert, Harry Giles, Willie Cauley-Stein, De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento), OG Anunoby, Lorenzo Brown, Delon Wright (Toronto), Dante Exum, Thabo Sefolosha (Utah)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!