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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The NBA playoffs are here, and the first round continues with another two game slate tonight. Here is where you might find players with good fantasy value among those two match-ups.
#1 Houston Rockets versus #8 Minnesota Timberwolves
Partly due to a lack of incumbent options, partly because of his affinity for him, and partly because of the relative success of doing so, Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau is playing Derrick Rose (PG, $5.5 million) quite a lot as his backup shooting guard. It has worked to the extent that Rose has averaged 14 points per game in the three contests thus far. It has been slightly less successful in the sense that Rose, a volume scorer who neither spreads the floor nor gets to the foul line, has taken 13 shots per game to achieve this total, and he is offering little else on the court other than this ability to get to the rim sometimes. Nevertheless, from a fantasy perspective, that volume should intrigue us, and Rose is recording a 19.4 fantasy points per game average in the series.
As a total body of work, few Timberwolves have demonstrated good fantasy value across the series. Lopsided defeats in the first two games saw all of the regular productive Wolves players – notably including All-Stars Karl-Anthony Towns (C, $21.6 million) and Jimmy Butler (SG,$17.5 million) – have their production go into the tank. One player to have least played two good games in three, however, is starting point guard Jeff Teague ($15.2 million). He followed a near-triple double performance in game one with 23 points and 9 assists last time, good for a 30.7 fantasy point average overall.
Alongside him, Butler – who was incredibly quiet for the first two games – woke up somewhat in game three. He recorded 45.9 fantasy points on the back of 28 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, getting his mojo back off of the dribble. Towns also had his first game of the series, driving the ball more aggressively and hitting the glass for 18 points and 16 rebounds, the foundation of a 47.7 fantasy point performance. We are leaving their series average out here for a reason, but any chance of success in the series goes through these two, and thus they will continue to be empowered to produce.
For the Rockets, as Ryan Anderson has become less and less effective, his role and minutes have also shrunk. This combined with some niggling injuries has seen his price in fantasy tumble all the way down to $6.6 million. But now back from injury, that price may represent an exploitable market inefficiency for us as fantasy players. Although his defensive limitations limit the number and variety of line-ups in which he can be played, Anderson nevertheless did enough to record 21.1 fantasy points in his first game of the series. More of the same would give him tremendous fantasy value.
#4 Oklahoma City Thunder versus #5 Utah Jazz
Oklahoma City’s starting small forward Corey Brewer ($9.2 million) recorded another 22.7 fantasy point performance last time out, and unlike what normally happens after a 20+ point performance from him, his price has not increased. That is now five consecutive 20+ fantasy point performances for the mid-season pick-up, who has slotted in nicely as a three-and-D wing role player on a team that has not really had one prior.
Utah’s own three-and-D role playing wing has had some success, too. Royce O’Neale (SF, $6.4 million) recorded 19.4 fantasy points in game three, taking his series average to 12.7 per game. It is self-evidently not much, but on a two-game slate with almost no low cost steals to pick from, it is worthy of our consideration.
Additionally, the Jazz’s starting backcourt of Ricky Rubio (PG, $16.4 million) and Donovan Mitchell (SG, $17.9 million) have been good, particularly the Spaniard. Rubio has averaged 48.0 fantasy points in the three games thus far, getting better in each one, while Mitchell has been right there with him sporting his own 43.6 average.
In contrast, the Thunder’s two All-Stars, Russell Westbrook (PG, $27.3 million) and Paul George (SF, $19.1 million) have been at their averages in this series, rather than above it. George has recorded a fairly consistent 37.9 fantasy points in his three games, while although his first two games saw him record in the mid- to high-fifties, Westbrook’s third game of only 38.3 fantasy points has seen his series average drop to 50.5 fantasy points per game. With the Jazz 2-1 up in the series before tonight’s pivotal game four, the Thunder will need players to step up, and the responsibility defaults to the two leaders to do so.
Alongside them, though, Carmelo Anthony (PF, $13.1 million) has had some fantasy success in this series. He has averaged 32.0 fantasy points in the series while averaging only 15.3 real points per game, contributing more in the rebounding and defensive statistics departments than he often does. Should this sustain, Anthony will be an important player tonight, both for his team and for us fantasy players.
MY TEAM TONIGHT:
PG – Ricky Rubio ($16.4 million)
SG – Donovan Mitchell ($17.9 million)
SF – Corey Brewer ($9.2 million)
PF – Ryan Anderson ($6.6 million)
C – Clint Capela ($16.9 million)
Bench – Jeff Teague ($15.2 million)
Bench – Jimmy Butler ($17.5 million)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!