Fantasy NBA expert Mark Deeks is here to help you pick the best line up possible. Check out his preview of tonight’s slate before picking your PlayON team.
Point guard – Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks: $18.9 million
With a 2-16 shooting effort, Schroder recorded only 18.9 fantasy points in his last game, after averaging 35.7 over the previous seven.
Shouldering the offensive burden, Schroder is allowed to dominate the ball and is constantly attacking, recording career highs in every major category.
Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and John Wall form the top tier in tonight’s slate at point guard, but Schroder is top of the second tier. [Note also that Curry might miss the game due to injury, or at least be hobbled. If you’re picking from the top tier, pick Lillard]
Point guard – Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers: $13.3 million
With a triple-double in the last game, Ball broke out of a massive shooting slump.
He is averaging a unique 9.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game, and with rebounds and assists are more valuable in fantasy, his ability to fill out the stat sheet is a huge bonus.
Ball is also contributing 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, the latter an amazing figure for a point guard. Due to this versatility, he remains great value from a fantasy point of view even at this price.
Shooting guard – Tyreke Evans, Memphis Grizzlies: $13.1 million
Evans is playing with a confidence he hasn’t had in years. He’s back to being unstoppable driving to the basket, is shooting well from outside, averaging a very efficient 17.8 points per game to go along with 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
He is improving, too, averaging 24.2 points per game in November, an improvement his price has yet to reflect, giving him increased value.
Shooting guard – Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz: $9.8 million
Mitchell starts at shooting guard now and is trying to single-handedly remedy his team’s offensive struggles.
Taking 14.1 field goals in an average of 26.1 minutes per game, Mitchell usually yields scoring results, averaging 13.9 points on the season to go with 2.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
As a rookie, there will be some rough nights; one night of 3-12 shooting, three nights of 1-7 shooting, and one particularly disastrous night in which he took 21 shots and scored only 8 points. But there have also been four 20+ point outings already, and Mitchell can be excellent on any given night.
Small forward – Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks: $8.5 million
It is only an algorithmic anomaly that keeps Prince’s price this low. Averaging 13.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game, Prince is also good for a smidge over 26 fantasy points per game, a great average considering the output of those around him. (For example; Nick Young, $8.3 million, 13 fantasy points average; J.R. Smith, $8.3 million, 14; Tony Snell, $8.5 million, 17.)
Small forward – Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers: $11.5 million
Since Larry Nance’s injury, Kuzma has started the last five games at power forward. In that time, he has averaged 15.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game.
Some defensive stats with their high fantasy value to go along with that would be nice, but he’s already great value for this price, and in playing nearly 40 minutes per game now on average, Kuzma will surely put up big numbers again.
Small forward – Jeff Green, Cleveland Cavaliers: $8.4 million
Prince and Kuzma are better value as small forwards, to be sure. Nevertheless, Green provides the variance that they do not.
In his last three games, Green has recorded 4.2, 45.0 and 17.7 fantasy points; earlier in the year, he followed up a 38.7 fantasy point outing with lowly returns of 8.9 and 8.4 in the next two games. Considering his whole career to date has had this streakiness to it, we can assume it will continue. Picking Green could mean wasting money, but if you’re a true gambler, he might be the one.
Small forward – Thabo Sefolosha, Utah Jazz: $11.1 million
Bitten as ever by the injury bug, Utah has lost star centre Rudy Gobert for the next month with a leg injury. And rather than exposing useful yet limited backup centre Ekpe Udoh to a starting role he would simply foul out of, the Jazz will start Thabo in his place, at least for now.
Bumping Derrick Favors down to centre, Sefolosha will start as an extra wing forward; a better rebounder than Udoh anyway, Sefolosha further strengthens the Jazz’s already strong perimeter defence, and will provide some transition basket opportunities Udoh won’t. It has already somewhat worked in the first Gobert-less game, as Thabo recorded 9 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals for a healthy 35.3 fantasy points.
Note also that due to Gobert’s injury, plus those to Joe Johnson and Dante Exum, the versatile Alec Burks ($6.6 million) may have some cheap value.
Power forward – John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks: $10.7 million
Henson is very sporadic. He is an athlete but an opportunist, lacking great IQ or rhythm, ball skills or consistency, just sort of bouncing around the court, sometimes doing good but sometimes succumbing to silly fouls and being a non-factor.
In his last four games, he has put up 27.1, 12.1, 38.4 and 19.9 fantasy points, significant variance for a significant price. Whatever he puts up on any given night, though, he’s starting at centre for the foreseeable future.
Power forward – Taj Gibson, Minnesota Timberwolves: $13.2 million
Karl-Anthony Towns starts at centre for the Wolves, but all three of his backups should be out tonight.
Rookie Justin Patton has been out all year, while little-used Cole Aldrich and underwhelming Gorgui Dieng are also likely to miss the game.
As the only other post available, Gibson is likely to both start at power forward and back up the centre spot some.
This is what he did in the last game, when he returned a season high 37 minutes, putting up 16 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists for 35.2 fantasy points.
Centre – Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers: $16.5 million
Some streakiness excepted, Nurkic is playing fairly well on the season, averaging 15.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.9 blocks per game in only 27.0 minutes.
He would play more if he fouled less, but he is headed the right way, averaging 19.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks per game in November.
DO NOT PICK DUE TO INJURY/ABSENCE/SUSPENSION: Ersan Ilyasova, Miles Plumlee, Mike Muscala, DeAndre Bembry (Atlanta), Isaiah Thomas, Tristan Thompson, Derrick Rose (Cleveland), Chris Boucher (Golden State), Danilo Gallinari, Milos Teodosic, Patrick Beverley (L.A. Clippers), Larry Nance Jr (L.A. Lakers), JaMychal Green (Memphis), Mirza Teletovic, Jabari Parker (Milwaukee), Justin Patton, Cole Aldrich, Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota), Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Tony Allen, Frank Jackson, Rajon Rondo, Solomon Hill (New Orleans), Jonathan Isaac, D.J. Augustin, Adreian Payne (Orlando), Jerryd Bayless, T.J. McConnell (Philadelphia), Alan Williams, Greg Monroe, Davon reed, Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley (Phoenix), Al-Farouq Aminu, Wade Baldwin, C.J. Wilcox (Portland), Vince Carter, Harry Giles (Sacramento), Rudy Gobert, Joe Johnson, Dante Exum (Utah), Sheldon Mac, Devin Robinson (Washington)