Welcome to another edition of our NBA Preview here at PlayON. Below is a breakdown of my line-up for tonight’s game.
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Point guard – Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs: $11.6 million
A relatively quiet streak of games for Murray has seen him return only a fantasy point average of 22.6 over the last four games. With the incremental increases in his price, that kind of performance range would mean he no longer would have great fantasy value were that to become the norm. It is still some value, though, and since taking over from Tony Parker as the starting Spurs point guard. Murray has shown he is capable of bigger nights than that. On nights when his traps and anticipation catch offenses unawares, Murray’s strong plays on the ball see him record many steals, the highest value statistic in the game. So I am hereby gambling slightly on this being one of those nights – it is something he has proven possible before.
Shooting guard – James Harden, Houston Rockets: $26.4 million
It is of note that this is to be the second half of a back-to-back for Harden’s Rockets, and that he sat out the first half last night with a minor knee injury. These need not however be considered a reason not to pick him tonight – with the Rockets absolutely dominant right now and sure of a top two seed in the Western Conference regardless, they should want to prioritise resting their best players for when it matters the most (and also because last night’s opponent, the Dallas Mavericks, could be easily cast aside even without Harden). When he is playing, Harden is playing as well as anyone is, having turned the step-back isolation three-pointer into a high efficiency offensive weapon just as Steph Curry made the deliberate pull-up thirty footer into a thing before him. Pairing with Paul has not limited his own scoring game, but freed him, and so while his fantasy price here is about as high as can be, it is worth it for the MVP.
Small forward – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: $25.2 million
The third-highest price player on the slate tonight, Giannis is behind only Harden above and Russell Westbrook. We hereby pick Giannis over Westbrook on account of two things – firstly, his opponent tonight. Westbrook and the Thunder will play the Sacramento Kings in a game that could be over by the first media timeout, and although Antetokounmpo’s Bucks will play the league-worst Memphis Grizzlies, a disjointed and easily stifled Grizzlies line-up plays right into the hands of a freeroaming defensive menace such as Giannis. And the second reason is his production relative to his cost.
Consider for a minute some of Westbrook’s recent games. Recent stat-lines of his include a 27 point, 9 assist, 8 rebound outing, a 30 point, 11 assist, 6 rebound performance, and a 21 point, 12 rebound, 10 assist triple double. Yet from a fantasy point of view, these stat lines equate only to fantasy point nights of 48.1, 50.2 and 48.4 respectively. All very good, certainly, but not great value at $26.7 million – they are less than double his price in million, a loose yet consistent yardstick for determining value.
The difference lies in the raw defensive metrics captured in fantasy. In addition to his points, rebounds and assists, Antetokounmpo averages 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, both of which are worth three points each in fantasy. On a night when he picks up those, then, he has the potential to put up particularly huge fantasy point nights. Westbrook by contrast records few of either, thus his value-laden nights come from having particularly big scoring outbursts. And considering he might not crack 30 minutes against the Kings tonight, we cannot anticipate this happening.
These defensive stats also leave Giannis open to a greater variance than his elite price-point peers. So be it.
Shooting guard – Ben McLemore, Memphis Grizzlies: $6.7 million
Small forward – Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzles: $9.1 million
Power forward – Jarell Martin, Memphis Grizzlies: $8.9 million
As is always the case right now on any night that the Grizzlies are playing, we need to carefully study their roster for value fantasy picks. Kobi Simmons is again an option at point guard, considering that all four senior options ahead of him (Mike Conley, Tyreke Evans, Andrew Harrison and Mario Chalmers) will all miss the game with injuries no one has any desire for them to rush back from, allowing him to start. But as a two-way contract player, Simmons has played so few games overall this season that his recent stretch of starts has seen his price rise enough to the point that he is not altogether that valuable in fantasy any longer.
Conversely, the above trio are starters (or sixth men) for the price of deep bench players. The algorithms which determine fantasy player price do so while using the full season’s body of work as the foundation of its calculation, and so while McLemore (30.4 fantasy point average over his last five games) and Martin (27.2 over his last five) are now front-line rotation players, their costs reflects their place in the season as a whole. Meanwhile, although Brooks has started the majority of the season to date, his role has gone from weakside shooting threat and ball rotator into go-to-scorer, on account of his relative seniority on the team now, and he has averaged 24.2 fantasy points over his last six. Combined, then, all three should have strong fantasy value tonight.
Centre – Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat: $11.4 million
Regular starting centre Hassan Whiteside continues to struggle due to injury, and although he will accompany the team on their current road trip, he should be considered a game time decision each night. This then opens up time at the centre spot for Olynyk, who was already performing well enough to have fantasy value at the power forward spot. Over his last five games, Olynyk has averaged 29.9 fantasy points, and should therefore be the most valuable fantasy centre available tonight on our small four-game slate.
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: Ryan Anderson, Brandan Wright (Houston), Mike Conley, Tyreke Evans, Andrew Harrison, Mario Chalmers (Memphis), Dion Waiters, Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade (Miami), Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brogdon (Milwaukee), Andre Roberson (Oklahoma City), Skal Labissiere, Iman Shumpert, Harry Giles, (Sacramento), Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili (San Antonio)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!