Welcome to another edition of our NBA Preview here at PlayON’s Daily Fantasy Focus.
Below is a breakdown of my top picks at each position for tonight’s games – one expensive, one cheap. Once you’ve seen who I like, be sure to lock in your line-ups and win some cash tonight.
THE PRICY: Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans: $18.5 million
THE CHEAP: Shabazz Napier, Portland Trail Blazers: $7.9 million
We suggested Holiday as the pricy pick yesterday, and he performed pretty well, recording 24 points and 3 steals on his way to a 39.4 fantasy point night. The fact that this represents a slight decrease on the 41.4 fantasy points he has averaged over the previous ten games speaks to how well he has played of late. Having Rajon Rondo on the team has allowed Holiday to focus more on scoring the ball, and he is responding with a career-best 18.2 points per game on a steady diet of threes, mid-range pull-ups and layups. For all his cuts and work off the ball, Holiday can also create his own looks off the dribble, has free license to currently do so, and is taking advantage.
Napier has been on a fairly hot streak anyway, and is having a pretty good overall season, averaging 8.2 points and 1.2 steals as a havoc-style backup behind Damian Lillard. But he is picked especially today on account of Lillard being absent due to injury. Lillard was absent last game, too, and Napier took advantage of this increased opportunity with a 14 point, 5 assists, 4 rebound, 3 steal, 35.3 fantasy point night. Even half of that tonight would represent decent fantasy value, but, given that he is currently the only point guard on the roster, Napier will play as many minutes as he merits if he is playing well.
THE PRICY: Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers: $21.2 million
THE CHEAP: Wayne Ellington, Miami Heat: $8.0 million
At this point, it is common knowledge that Oladipo is amidst a tremendous bounce-back year and the reason that the upstart Pacers have been so surprisingly solid in the East. But even with that, he remains a good fantasy value pick, even as his price continues to increase. He has averaged 47.8 fantasy points over his past ten games, and, while it is not especially scientific, over the last six games in particular he has alternated between excellent and solid with striking precision. Excellent, solid, excellent, solid, excellent, solid…..tonight, it seems, it’s excellent’s turn.
The Heat are currently drowning in injuries, with potentially seven men on the shelf tonight, including Dion Waiters, who got injured during the last game and could not return. Ellington has had increased opportunities on the court as a result of this, playing 27.4 minutes per game in 11 December contests. And in those 11 contests, he is averaging 12.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, punctuated by 28 points (and 31.6 fantasy points) last night. Aside from the incidental rebounding, Ellington does little else on the court but shoot threes any longer, yet he is getting enough minutes and shots to have great value at this price, a price that should really have gone up by now.
THE PRICY: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors: $24.0 million
THE CHEAP: Omri Casspi, Golden State Warriors: $8.0 million
In the absence of multiple key players, but in particular Steph Curry, Durant has needed to take his game back to very top gear and carry the team through this stretch. And he has. Over the last seven games, Durant has averaged an enormous 61.3 fantasy points – take out the rogue 36.6 outing in there, and that number shoots up to 65.5.
Durant’s backup Casspi is taking advantage of the injury-availed opportunity, too. Through cuts, spot-ups and enthusiastic rebounding, Casspi is averaging 29.2 fantasy points over his last five games, a very sizeable amount for his small price. For Ellington and Casspi combined, then, you could pay only $16 million, equal to the cost of Kawhi Leonard, who is still injured and on a severe minutes restriction, yet whom some players are picking anyway. Do not be one of those players. Pick the value here and save the money for an extra star.
THE PRICY: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs: $20.2 million
THE CHEAP: Frank Kaminsky, Charlotte Hornets: $10.0 million
Aldridge is not listed here because he is in any kind of decent form (a 31.6 fantasy point average over the last five games is not impressive at that price), but because he will be needed to step up tonight. Kawhi Leonard is still limited, and will play on a minutes restriction if even he plays at all, while both Danny Green and Pau Gasol are also unlikely to play. Therefore, down three starters and with no other go-to half court scoring presence except occasional flashes from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, Aldridge will be needed to step up tonight. What helps is that he will be facing up against the Sacramento Kings, who do not defend any part of the court well (third last in defensive rating), and who do not rebound well either (second last in defensive rebounding percentage). An engaged Aldridge, then, could feast.
Kaminsky’s recent play (25.6 fantasy point average over the last three) has been buoyed by an injury to Cody Zeller, which has increased him time on the court due to also needing to cover the centre spot. That itself was further buoyed by a mid-game finger injury to Dwight Howard last time out. At the time of writing, Howard is listed as ‘questionable’, as is Kemba Walker, which means both are rated as having only a 50% chance of playing. In Howard’s absence, Kaminsky will need to play centre; in Walker’s absence, he will need to step up his scoring, as one of the team’s few players semi-capable of scoring in the half-court.
THE PRICY: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves: $21.7 million
THE CHEAP: Brandan Wright, Memphis Grizzlies: $7.8 million
There is a lot of conversation in the NBA right now about Towns’s defence, and whether it will ever improve enough to get him to the superstar level that his offence already puts him in. Nevertheless, it is said offensive skill that sees him on a recent fantasy tear, averaging 53.3 fantasy points over his last seven games. Up against a shaky Suns defence tonight, Towns may well go off again.
Wright has only played one game since returning from a 16-game injury absence. In it, though, he scored 8 points with 4 rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal, totalling 20.3 fantasy points, a good return on his price. Although his offence relies upon being set up by team mates almost exclusively, Wright is usually productive with his springy play and long wingspan; aiding his candidacy tonight is the fact that Marc Gasol is unlikely to play with a hip injury. Wright might not start, but he will play a decent role – he will have to.
Elsewhere, yesterday’s cheap pick, Bam Adebayo, came through for us with a 33.1 fantasy point performance, and is again a good cheap pick candidate at $8.1 million. And finally, Wright’s team mate Deyonta Davis ($6.5 million) will also be a significant beneficiary of Gasol’s absence. One of them, surely, will have to get the start.
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: Dennis Schroder, Mike Muscala, DeWayne Dedmon (Atlanta), Shane Larkin, Marcus Morris, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward (Boston), Jeremy Lin, D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn), Treveon Graham, Cody Zeller (Charlotte), Zach LaVine, Cameron Payne (Chicago), Josh McRoberts, Nerlens Noel, Seth Curry, Devin Harris, Dorian Finney-Smith (Dallas), Paul Millsap, Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver), Shaun Livingston, Stephen Curry, Chris Boucher, Zaza Pachulia (Golden State), Glenn Robinson III, Edmond Sumner (Indiana), Wesley Johnson, Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers), Brook Lopez (L.A. Lakers), Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Wayne Selden (Memphis), Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Okaro White, Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters (Miami), Mirza Teletovic, Jabari Parker (Milwaukee), Nemanja Bjelica (Minnesota), Tony Allen, Frank Jackson, Alexis Ajinca, Solomon Hill (New Orleans), Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Jonathan Isaac (Orlando), Devin Booker, Davon Reed, Brandon Knight, Alan Williams (Phoenix), Damian Lillard, C.J. Wilcox, Wade Baldwin (Portland), Harry Giles, De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento), Danny Green, Pau Gasol (San Antonio), Dante Exum, Rudy Gobert, Raul Neto (Utah), Sheldon Mac (Washington)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your lineups in to tonight’s games, and look out for our “Beat Mark Deeks” double-ups in the coming days, where you can win an extra $5 cash on top of the regular prizes just for finishing ahead of me.