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 – Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors: $9.2 million
VanVleet has been on a solid recent stretch of play. Over the last nine games, he has averaged 27.7 fantasy points game, a streak length of some significance. Toronto are also soaring lately, and are doing so through employing their bench depth with regularity. Through the dog days of the season, the stars are easing off slightly, allowing the reserves to get some run. And run they are doing, not least VanVleet.
Point guard – De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings: $11.0 million
With George Hill traded to Cleveland and Frank Mason out injured, Fox has the keys to the team a little earlier than he might have imagined he would. And he is responding to the task with his career best stretch of play thus far. Fox averages 25.9 fantasy points over the last 11 games, almost all of which came in the mid-twenties to mid-thirties range. Two anomalous performances of 8.2 and 8.4 are dragging that average down – take them out, and suddenly Fox is up to 29.8. Anomalies will happen with rookies, and so should incremental improvements, so strongly consider Fox here if understanding of the risk.
Point guard – Dennis Smith Jr, Dallas Mavericks: $14.3 million
Similarly to Fox above, there is a certain streakiness to Smith Jr’s production, but also a year-long improvement that gives hope for the future. Smith is using his blazing speed in transaction and the half court to average 35.5 fantasy points over the last three games, and, notwithstanding the variance of youth, this is a range he has been there or thereabouts in for two months. And at this price, it is value.
Shooting guard – Alex Abrines, Oklahoma City Thunder: $5.9 million
The Thunder’s injuries have created a role once again for Alex Abrines, most significantly the season-ending injury to Andre Roberson. Abrines is of course the complete opposite of Roberson as a player, but as the second-best shooting guard on the team, he just needs to come in, get open, hit shots, at least compete defensively, and not mess up. And that is basically what he is doing, to the tune of a 17.8 fantasy point average over the last six games.
Shooting guard – Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings: $10.5 million
Scoring 16 (actual) points in three of his last five games has seen Hield come into tonight’s slate with a 24.2 fantasy point average over his last five games. An older-school shooting guard, Hield does not do much other than shoot and score the ball, but if he is scoring at hat kind of rate on this kind of price, then that need only be what we concern ourselves with here.
Small forward – Cedi Osman, Cleveland Cavaliers: $5.7 million
Before the Cavaliers’ last game, we tentatively suggested Osman as a fantasy pick on account of his two performances just before the trade deadline. We were not sure, however, of what role he would have after it. Turns out it’s a starting one. Apart from a missed dunk in which he was the only person in his half of the court, Osman looked very sharp and alert in the new-look Cavs line-up, recording 20.5 fantasy points through spot-ups, defensive rotations and a willingness to try and rebound. He has earned his spot going forward and could be great value.
Small forward – Justin Jackson, Sacramento Kings: $6.0 million
All told, it has not been a great rookie campaign for Jackson thus far, looking inexperience and unconfident on both ends of the court. Things have improved lately, though – looking more decisive offensively, Jackson has hit some jump shots and floaters in the lane in recording an 18.3 fantasy point average over his last six games. There have been no huge games and might never be, but he is at least tripling his cost in points.
Power forward – Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors: $8.7 million
As with VanVleet above, Siakam is one of the beneficiaries (and reasons for) the Raptors’ strong depth and their willingness to use it. Over the last five games, he has recorded a fantasy point average of 22.8 points per game, coming through a high real points total of his own. Siakam is doing this while still being unable to knock down NBA range three-point attempts, despite how many he is taking. Once that happens – and, given how determined to be a shooter he is, it will – his value will increase further.
Power forward – Dwight Powell, Dallas Mavericks: $9.3 million
The athletic, slender Powell is playing well of late, and is being helped by absences elsewhere. Averaging 32.0 fantasy points over the last five games is tremendous value for a sub-$10 million price, and Powell is not doing anything exceptional to do it, merely his usual brand of rolling to the rim, going to the glass and chasing the ball around defensively. It could well continue.
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: Tyler Cavanaugh (Atlanta), Kevin Love (Cleveland), Salah Mejri, Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith, Nerlens Noel (Dallas), Tyler Lydon, Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee (Denver), Trevor Ariza (Houaton), Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, Kelly Olynyj (Miami), Mirza Teletovic, Malcolm Brogdon, John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova (Milwaukee), Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Roberson (Oklahoma City), Iman Shumpert, Harry Giles, Skal Labissiere, Frank Mason, Joe Johnson (Sacramento), Rudy Gay, Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), O.G. Anunoby (Toronto),
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!