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 – Jerian Grant, Chicago Bulls: $9.5 million
Kris Dunn is out of concussion protocol, but might not play tonight anyway, thus potentially giving another starting opportunity to Grant. And in the opportunities given to him by Dunn’s injury, Grant has been very effective. Over the last three games, he has averaged 35.3 fantasy points per game – always a better rebounder than most point guards, Grant is being more decisive this time around as a starter than he was earlier in the season, and, perhaps benefitting from the much better overall team spacing, he has gotten his jump shot back. Those things in tandem are making him a fine fantasy value option, and while there are other good value picks at this position on a deep twelve-game slate, Grant may be the best of the bunch. At least, he might be if Dunn doesn’t play.
Point guard – Josh Gray, Phoenix Suns: $10.1 million
G-League call-up Gray has been a useful contributor for the Suns since joining the big league, at least as much as such things matter in the face of routine heavy losses. With only Elfrid Payton on the roster as the only other healthy point guard, and with neither having much idea of the playbook, Gray is getting minutes to spell Payton regularly at the minute. And despite being very small and slender by NBA standards, Gray isn’t a pushover. He uses his speed and plenty of tenacity to compete with all the bigger and quicker guards, and is getting in the high fantasy defensive stats. A 17.0 fantasy point average over his career thus far is not great value at this anomalous price, but few other backups will get this much freedom and time on the court tonight.
Shooting guard – Tyler Dorsey, Atlanta Hawks: $5.9 million
Shooting guard – Alex Abrines, Oklahoma City Thunder: $5.9 million
Both Dorsey and Abrines are shoot-first, shoot-from-outside players benefitting currently from enlarged roles on their teams. Dorsey is getting greater opportunities due to the “eh, why not” status of his Hawks team, while Abrines is benefitting from the injury to Andre Roberson. Either way, both do the same thing, for the same price, and both well enough to have some value here.
Small forward – Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic: $9.5 million
Hezonja’s growth over the last few weeks has been striking. From still-tense rookie-like awkwardness unsure of his position or purpose on the court, the surety of regular minutes has seen Hezonja regain all that which he had lost. This ascent culminated last time out with a career-best night; 24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks, 51.2 fantasy points. Who knows what the future holds for Hezonja, but the present is pretty good, and the fantasy value is magnificent.
Small forward – Reggie Bullock, Detroit Pistons: $9.0 million
Since his last entry on this list, Bullock has moved into the league lead in three-point shooting percentage. He has done so while averaging 23.2 fantasy points over the last nine games. And he still only costs $9.0 million.
Power forward – Julius Randle, L.A. Lakers: $14.2 million
Randle has been one of the most productive players in the league per minute this season, and he would play more minutes if he was more consistent with his defensive effort. Over the last ten games, he has averaged 34.9 fantasy points, and what particularly aids his fantasy candidacy tonight is his opponent. The New Orleans Pelicans lack for much frontcourt size and defence, and particularly so against more face-up aggressive offensive players like Randle. Nikola Mirotic is better defensively than advertised, but he is also flying solo here, and Randle will go at him.
Power forward – Pascal Siakam, Portland Trail Blazers: $8.7 million
The Raptors are barely playing their starters half the game at this point, opening up good playing time for all of their backups. One such beneficiary is Siakam, whom the Raptors are also entrusting with more opportunities to attack off the dribble. Siakam’s skills are starting to catch up to his physical profile, and for as long as the Raptors are easing off in these, the dog days of the season, Siakam will benefit.
Centre – Brook Lopez, L.A. Lakers: $10.2 million
Amid a career worst year overall, Lopez has found some brief respite in the last fortnight. He has averaged 26.1 fantasy points over the past five games, bolstered by a brief scoring post. Lopez’s season stats of 21.3 minutes, 12.0 minutes and 3.9 rebounds on 43.9% shooting and a three-point rate of 42.4% are basically the numbers of an exciting backup young small forward serving as the sixth man on a contending team, rather than those of an older clunky centre on one of the league’s worst. His price has cascaded to reflect this sharp decline – the three-point shot has quickly gone from weapon to the weapon. Nevertheless, with the price as low as it now is, he has some value.
Centre – Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn Nets: $8.9 million
The total opposite of Lopez on the court, Allen’s athleticism and activity give him plenty of opportunities to roll to the rim, run the floor, dunk and finish, along with crashing the glass and playing like a pogo on D. If he sticks the occasional jump shot, as he is increasingly wont to do, even better. Allen has averaged 29.5 fantasy points over his past seven games, and should be picked by all of us tonight.
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), Jabari Bird, Shane Larkin, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward (Boston), Jeremy Lin, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Brooklyn), Kris Dunn, Cameron Payne (Chicago), Jon Leuer, Reggie Jackson (Detroit), Pat McCaw, Draymond Green, Jordan Bell, Kevon Looney (Golden State), Trevor Ariza (Houston), T..J Leaf, Glenn Robinson III, Darren Collison (Indiana), Jawun Evans, Patrick Beverley (L.A. Clippers), Lonzo Ball (L.A. Lakers), Wayne Selden, Mike Conley, JaMychal Green (Memphis), Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, Kelly Olynyk (Miami), Frank Jackson, DeMarcus Cousins, Solomon Hill, Alexis Ajinca (New Orleans), Andre Roberson (Oklahoma City), Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Terrence Ross (Orlando), Justin Anderson, Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia), Alan Williams, Brandon Knight, Troy Daniels, Devin Booker (Phoenix), Jusuf Nurkic, C.J. Wilcox (Portland), Iman Shumpert, Harry Giles, Skal Labissiere, Frank Mason, Joe Johnson (Sacramento), Lorenzo Brown (Toronto), Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha, Dante Exum (Utah), Tomas Satoransky, Tim Frazier, John Wall (Washington)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!