Mark Deeks is back with another fantasy preview for tonight’s NBA contests. Make sure to take note before picking your teams.
Point guard – Jose Calderon, Cleveland Cavaliers: $6.0 million
As the Cavaliers struggle with injuries and a seemingly interminable lack of point guard depth, Jose Calderon has been intermittently called upon to fill in.
After a string of seven consecutive DNP-CDs, Calderon has played double figure minutes in the last three games, including starting the last two.
While his days as an impact player are now past him, Calderon can still hit jump shots and handle the ball reasonably reliably if not dynamically.
With all the Cavaliers’ injured guards still out tonight, Calderon might start again. And if he does, a night much like the 17.5 fantasy point average he has had over those two starts is plenty foreseeable.
Point guard – Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors: $6.2 million
VanVleet has played at the very end of the rotation all year, but his minutes and output have increased in the absence of Delon Wright, who will miss the next month with a shoulder injury.
VanVleet has played at least 16 minutes in each of the last five games, and while nothing about his effort-based game will ever lend itself to big individual nights, he has averaged 17.1 fantasy points over that span, a useful and consistent return.
Shooting guard – Marco Belinelli, Atlanta Hawks: $10.2 million
Despite being listed as a game time decision every night, the veteran Belinelli has played in all Hawks games this season, posting a career high in points in his eleventh season.
Recording 12.1 ppg in only 25 minutes, Belinelli is hitting the three-point shot at a 40% clip, and having a surprising amount of success at reaching in to poke the ball away (1.3 steals per game versus a career average of 0.6).
While there is a lot of variance in his performances, with three sub-10-point fantasy performances in his last ten games as well as ten 30+ ones, the Hawks’ burning need for perimeter scoring suits Belinelli, a man with a burning need to take perimeter shots. He can score with value at this price.
Shooting guard – Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics: $10.9 million
Small forward – Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks: $10.3 million
Small forward – Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics: $12.3 million
Both Brown and Prince have been listed in this space pretty much before every game they have played. They are good, they are consistent, they are productive, and yet somehow, despite incremental cost increases, they remain remarkably underpriced here.
Tatum, too, has featured a few times. The main recipient of the minutes opened up by Gordon Hayward’s injury, Tatum is extremely heady and skilled for a rookie, demonstrating a highly polished skill set and offensive awareness rare in one so new. They are all great value. Picking all three and spending the big money on your big men is a very viable strategy.
However, if you are only going to take one or two, consider the following.
At the time of writing, 32.9% of tonight’s participants have picked Tatum for their team, whereas only 5.5% have picked Prince. Over the last ten games, Tatum averages 27 fantasy points per night, while Prince averages 26. Both have one game of over 40 points, but Tatum has four games of sub-20 points, while Prince has only three.
Why take Tatum, then, when you can take Prince, get the same output, and reinvest a valuable $2 million elsewhere?
Small forward – Juancho Hernangomez, Denver Nuggets: $6.0 million
Power forward – Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets: $9.2 million
Power forward – Trey Lyles, Denver Nuggets: $6.3 million
Regular power forward Paul Millsap will be out a while, and in his absence, Kenneth Faried figured to be the starter. However, he was benched for the game versus Houston in favour of a small ball line-up featuring the pairing of Wilson Chandler and Will Barton (to the direct benefit of Hernangomez, who thereby became the primary backup perimeter forward).
Uniortunately this line-up did not work. Denver got hosed in that game, trailing by as many as 48 in an eventual 30-point loss. Chandler, who has been poor and affected by injury all year, was particularly ineffectual as a power forward.
Be they wins or losses, none of Denver’s last six games have been decided by less than 16 points, and the lop-sidedness of these results can show anomalous minute rotations amongst the players, especially the hitherto infrequently used ones.
Consistently good, though, has been Lyles, who has barely received a rotation minute all year but has been productive at every opportunity he has had. In the last three games, Lyles has averaged 18 fantasy points. If Faried and Chandler both failed, maybe it is now his turn.
In short, then, while the minutes on any given night of any of the three is in a state of flux, all are good candidates to play more going forward, and all are productive when they do. After all, right now, nobody’s in their way.
Centre – John Collins, Atlanta Hawks: $10.2 million
Collins has not slowed down any, averaging 35.4 fantasy points over his last three games, remaining a hugely productive player per minutes both with his scoring and rebounding rates. At the position in which it is by far the hardest to find fantasy steals, Collins continues to be a brilliant one.
Centre – Deyonta Davis, Memphis Grizzlies: $6.0 million
Brandan Wright has a quad injury, and in his absence, the little-used Davis has been used in the rotation in the last two games. And Davis has responded. Grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking four shots in 29 minutes across the two games, Davis showed defensive potential both around the basket and on the perimeter, and also scored some in the second game, recording 14 points in only 15 minutes.
A 19.5 fantasy point average across those two games is very useful for the minimum, and with Wright out again, Davis should play again. Let’s see if it sustains.
DO NOT PICK DUE TO INJURY/ABSENCE/SUSPENSION: Isaiah Taylor, Mike Muscala, Luke Babbitt (Atlanta), Gordon Hayward (Boston), Nic Batum, Julyan Stone (Charlotte), David Nwaba, Cameron Payne, Nikola Mirotic, Zach LaVine (Chicago), Derrick Rose, Tristan Thompson, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert (Cleveland), Paul Millsap (Denver), Jon Leuer (Detroit), Chris Boucher (Golden State), Edmond Sumner, Glenn Robinson III (Indiana), Mike Conley, Ivan Rabb, Brandan Wright, Wayne Selden (Memphis), Okaro White, Rodney McGruder (Miami), Justin Patton (Minnesota), Alexis Ajinca, Solomon Hill, Frank Jackson (New Orleans), Ron Baker (New York), Jonathan Isaac, Adreian Payne (Orlando), Jared Dudley, Alan Williams, Davon Reed, Brandon Knight (Phoenix), Al-Farouq Aminu, Wade Baldwin, C.J. Wilcox (Portland), Malcolm Miller, Delon Wright (Toronto)