Welcome to another edition of our NBA Preview.
Below is a breakdown of my top picks at each position for tonight’s games at PlayON. Once you’ve seen who I like, be sure to join a game and win some cash.
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Point guard – D.J. Augustin, Orlando Magic: $8.2 million
Augustin’s two starts since the trade of Elfrid Payton have seen him return a fantasy point average of 31.7. He was able to do this last time despite shooting poorly from the field, because even if his shot is off on any given night, he is still the senior ball handling and playmaking option on the team. This should continue for at least the remainder of the season, and thus so should his fantasy value.
Point guard – Jerian Grant, Chicago Bulls: $9.3 million
Shooting guard – Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls: $12.9 million
Grant has been starting in the absence of Kris Dunn, and although the results have been mixed, the overall average is good. It has been particularly good over the last two games, averaging 35.7 fantasy points per game, and with only Ryan Arcidiacono to back him up, he has been getting as many minutes as he can handle. Consider him if Dunn remains out. Meanwhile, LaVine has been scoring the ball at a very high rate, and although he is being rested on the second half of back-to-backs as is so normal nowadays after serious injury, he looks fresh and healthy otherwise. With a 35.7 fantasy point average over his last four games, LaVine has better fantasy value than the more expensive shooting guards ahead of him.
Shooting guard – Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets: $8.6 million
With D’Angelo Russell’s return, the Nets are still extremely guard-heavy, something which will only get truer when Jeremy Lin and Caris LeVert return. This could have squeezed out Harris in a numbers game. But it hasn’t – always willing to play help defence and expand his game beyond the catch-and-shoot shooting he is best known for, Harris is playing too well to marginalise. With a 35.9 fantasy point average over the past two games, he is a key part of the rotation with good fantasy value who you should consider here.
Small forward – Royce O’Neale, Utah Jazz: $6.0 million
O’Neale is contributing good fantasy value performances with a pretty high degree of consistency. The undrafted rookie free agent is running hard, spotting up and playing good help D, recording an average of 23.3 fantasy points over the past five games. His price has yet to adjust for this enlarged role, so consider him here.
Small forward – Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic: $9.1 million
Although he is not exactly playing at the level of a #5 overall pick yet, Hezonja is at least playing like a first rounder, continuing the career-best stretch of play that he has been on for about a month now. Averaging 28 fantasy points over the last eight games, Hezonja has done so without dipping below 20 fantasy points in a single outing at any time. All of those are good value performances.
Small forward – Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns: $9.9 million
Power forward – Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns: $6.9 million
Jackson is a must-pick any night he plays at this point. Through his drives, cuts, baseline dalliances and transition game, he is becoming a more useful, poised, disciplined and aggressive offensive player with each passing night, while still defending any position necessary and crashing the glass. His breakout will be the thing that salvages the Suns’ season. Bender is also experiencing a bit of a breakout – with Greg Monroe gone, Tyson Chandler injured and Alex Len way off his early season form, Bender has been playing centre, and he has been excellent at it. When he has more to do than just spot up on the weakside, he can show his offensive skill through his cuts, passing and occasional interior finish. He still needs some nuance, strength and rebounding positioning training, yet his 28.0 fantasy point average over the last five games could be the start of something.
Power forward – Cheick Diallo, New Orleans Pelicans: $5.7 million
With the Pelicans so short of size now, they have turned back to Diallo, whom Alvin Gentry had previously been reticent to use. And Diallo is filling his role well. Diallo’s role is to crash the glass, finish from the mid-range areas and within, be active, and try not to foul too much. And with an 18.7 fantasy point average over the past five games, he is doing just that.
Power forward – Khem Birch, Orlando Magic: $6.1 million
Centre – Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic: $9.5 million
Nikola Vucevic will be back soon, which will drive Biyombo back to the bench, negating his fantasy value. It will probably do the same to Birch, too. Still, for now, both still have value. Biyombo still cannot be trusted to catch the ball in traffic, make a layup or indeed make a one-handed dunk, yet he continues to contribute with a 23.2 fantasy point average over the last four games. Meanwhile, more nimble and more skilled but not with the dominant length of Biyombo, Birch has carved out a small role on the interior alongside Mo Speights and is averaging 18.7 fantasy points of his own over the last three games.
Centre – Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn Nets: $9.2 million
Playing only a few minutes in the Nets’ last game due seemingly to Kenny Atkinson’s fears over Anthony Davis exploiting his inexperience, Allen nevertheless still put up 8 points, 9 rebounds and 18.8 fantasy points in what felt like no time at all. That is a measure of how productive Allen now is per minute. And with a more favourable match-up tonight against DeAndre Jordan, he should be back into his usual range pretty soon.
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: Jeremy Lin, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Brooklyn), Kris Dunn, Cameron Payne (Chicago), Jon Leuer, Reggie Jackson (Detroit), Jordan Bell (Golden State), Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic, Jawun Evans (L.A. Clippers), Solomon Hill, Alexis Ajinca, DeMarcus Cousins, Frank Jackson (New Orleans), Kristaps Porzingis, Ron Baker, Joakim Noah (New York), Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Roberson (Oklahoma City), Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia), Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler, Alan Williams, Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker (Phoenix), Rudy Gay, Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), Thabo Sefolosha, Dante Exum (Utah)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!