Welcome to another edition of our NBA Preview here at PlayON. Below is a breakdown of my top picks at each position for tonight’s game.
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Point guard – D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets: $12.4 million
As up and down as he can be, the Nets still value Russell as the ultimate redraft pick, and so he will continue to get every opportunity to succeed. Playing him alongside Spencer Dinwiddie is theoretically a good thing – Dinwiddie can do a lot of the ball handling, allowing Russell to focus on scoring opportunities, as well as find him for open looks and defend the bigger opponents Russell may struggle with – and even if the pairing does not work out long term, the Nets have no reason not to keep exploring the possibility for the remaining dozen games. Russell has averaged 34.7 fantasy points for the last four games, and is up against a Memphis Grizzlies team tonight that will let him go for 50 if he wants.
Point guard – Emmanuel Mudiay, New York Knicks: $8.5 million
Point guard – Cameron Payne, Chicago Bulls: $5.7 million
Kris Dunn has not travelled with the Bulls due to injury, and nor did he play last time out. In his absence, Payne started, and recorded 27.4 fantasy points, continuing his mini-rebirth after a tough past twelve months. His opponent tonight will be Mudiay, who has posted an average of 23.2 fantasy points over the last five games in his own starting audition. Neither team has anything to play for, but both of these players as individuals do, so prepare for a titanic tussle (and, from a fantasy perspective, some good returns for low prices).
Shooting guard – Tyreke Evans, Memphis Grizzlies: $17.9 million
Evans is back from injury, which may or may not be to the Grizzlies’ chagrin. He has played well, too, and even helped them to win a game, ending their losing streak at 19 games with a 20 point, 7 assist, 40.3 fantasy point outing last time out. The Grizzlies do not really want Evans helping them win right now, but the NBA has issued warnings about sitting out healthy players for stretches of games, and Evans has already missed a lot of games in this way this season. So while he may still sit for occasional games – keep your eyes peeled on the injury wire right until line-ups close to be sure – he has value for us when he doesn’t. After all, he’s still playing for a contract.
Small forward – Nick Young, Golden State Warriors: $5.9 million
Power forward – Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors: $5.8 million
Power forward – Jordan Bell, Golden State Warriors: $6.5 million
The Warriors currently have all of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson out injured, which pushes the trade value for everyone below them up. And with Omri Casspi also out, the value in particular has been picking up for those at the forward spots.
An oft-suggested pick earlier in the season, we stopped listing Bell on account of an injury that took quite a long time to heal, and when he did return, the rotation had initially filled up ahead of him. But he is now getting opportunities again, and being productive again, scoring 24.4 fantasy points last time out. He arguably performs better when paired with the same superstars who are currently out, but opportunity is opportunity.
Looney and Young, meanwhile, are currently starters. Someone needs to take the shots, and Young will happily oblige, averaging 25.6 fantasy points over the last three games, mostly via points and points only. And although Looney is listed on the Warriors’ injury report, he is nonetheless considered ‘probable’ to play (he supposedly has a ‘jaw contusion’, but that would have to be one mighty big contusion to cost someone a game). Having scored a 27.4 fantasy point average over the last three, his presence here should intrigue us.
Power forward – Jeff Green, Cleveland Cavaliers: $8.4 million
We are currently living in a world where Jeff Green is a starting centre. With all of the Cavaliers’ senior options (Larry Nance, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love) out due to injury, the spot has been filled by Green, and although he is extremely unfit to fill the role defensively, he continues to fit well into the Cavaliers’ offence. Averaging 31.7 fantasy points in this role over the last three games, Green should have value until those others start returning.
Centre – Cristiano Felicio, Chicago Bulls: $5.9 million
We are also currently living in a world where Cristiano Felicio is a starting centre. With the Bulls taking the opportunity to try and redeem value on a player who they have benched for much of the season despite giving him a big contract in the summer, as well as deliberately playing their lesser players more in a bid to not win, Felicio is getting starts on the nights Robin Lopez doesn’t play, and getting bigger minutes even when Lopez does. And without ever doing too much on the court, Felicio is playing enough to have fantasy value for us here, averaging 18.9 fantasy points over the last three games.
Centre – Al Jefferson, Indiana Pacers: $7.9 million
All season long, we have listed Jefferson in this space as being a good fantasy value pick when either Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis ahead of him are absent, and especially so when they both are. This has been the case both two games ago (Sabonis out, Turner in; 43.4 fantasy points) and last game (both out; 30.3). Sabonis has already been ruled out tonight, with Turner ‘questionable’ at the time of writing, thus the formula is invoked and Jefferson is listed.
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, Dante Cunningham (Brooklyn), Nic Batum, Cody Zeller, Michael Carter-Williams (Charlotte), Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Noah Vonleh, Kris Dunn (Chicago), Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver, Cedi Osman, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, Larry Nance (Cleveland), Tyler Lydon, Gary Harris (Denver), Stanley Johnson, Jon Leuer (Detroit), Omri Casspi, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson (Golden State), Domas Sabonis, Myles Turner (Indiana), Channing Frye, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart (L.A. Lakers), Andrew Harrison, Mike Conley (Memphis), Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters (Miami), Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brogdon, Tyler Zeller (Milwaukee). Ron Baker, Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee (New York), Timothe Luwawu-Cabrrot, Furkan Korkmaz, Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia), Vince Carter, Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles (Sacramento), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!