Welcome to another edition of our NBA Preview here at PlayON’s Daily Fantasy Focus.
Below is a breakdown of my line-up for tonight’s game. Once you’ve seen who I like, be sure to lock in your line-ups and win some cash tonight.
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Point guard – Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: $26.5 million
Westbrook is the most expensive player in the game because he is the best fantasy player in the game. He deferred early, but that is long in the past now, and he is essentially every bit the statistical terror that he was last year. Westbrook’s opponent tonight will be the Washington Wizards, a team very much wobbling right now and leaky defensively. Players much lesser than Westbrook have feasted on the Wizards recently. So be prepared for a high 50s or low 60s night from him.
Point guard – Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets: $14.6 million
Streaky though he is, Murray is on a tear of late, able to have fantasy point nights far higher than many in his price range are capable of. Murray has totalled 99 fantasy points over his past two games combined, and while it cannot truly be ignored that his two games prior to that were both single-figure outings, there is logic to taking the risk here. With Gary Harris looking likely to miss the game, Murray becomes THE backcourt scoring option rather than just one of them, and in going up against a New York Knicks team that has given up the second-most three-pointers in the league this season, there is big potential against them from any scoring guard opponent, such as Murray.
Shooting guard – Wayne Ellington, Miami Heat: $9.8 million
One of the distinct advantages to getting to this point of the season is that most players have about 40 or so games played under their belt, and the algorithms that determine player price use the entire body of work to do so, rather than employing any recency bias. So those of us in the business of rooting out the recency bias can greatly benefit from the inefficiencies and under-pricing this throws up. Ellington’s price has slowly tickled up over the course of the past month, concurrent with his move to the starting line-up and his big uptick in minutes and production. Yet because his price is calculated on the total body (11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds per game) rather than the recent bits (14.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in January), we can pick a player for the cost of the former who we can pretty much expect at this point to do the latter. Pick Ellington, then, a high scoring and remarkably consistent role playing shooter who the Heat need out there very night on a team that otherwise struggles with spacing.
Small forward – Michael Beasley, New York Knicks: $11.7 million
Beasley’s resurgence and fantasy value never went away, but did temper slightly with the return to full health of Tim Hardaway Jr, which moved him back to the bench. However, when Kristaps Porzingis misses a game, Beasley moves back into the starting line-up and is his usual productive per-minute self. Porzingis missed the last game, and Beasley responded with 31.8 fantasy points – it appears that Porzingis might be out again tonight, too.
Power forward – Nemanja Bjelica, Minnesota Timberwolves: $6.4 million
Last night, in advance of the Timberwolves’ game against the Portland Trail Blazers, we suggested Bjelica as a pick with the following justification:
In Jimmy Butler’s absence, Bjelica has gotten the last two starts, with Andrew Wiggins bumped down a position to shooting guard and with Bjelica starting as a big small forward. Given Tom Thibodeau’s consistent huge minutes disparity between his starters and his bench players, any spot starter for the Timberwolves usually has good fantasy value, and Bjelica has been no different. Averaging 27.5 fantasy points over those two games, Bjelica’s high IQ and floor spacing games are very snug fits as a fifth starter, which, if Butler misses tonight’s game as well, he will be once again.
He was indeed that once again. Bjelica posted 9 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals in that game, corresponding to 23.4 fantasy points, and moving his Butler-less average to 26.1 fantasy points. His price has gone up a mere $.2 million, and so if Butler is out again, pick Bjelica again.
If Butler does play, drop Bjelica, have Trey Lyles (below) in your power forward spot, and play Willy Hernangomez (New York Knicks, center, $6.3 million) instead. Kyle O’Quinn is likely to miss tonight’s game, giving Hernangomez much needed minutes, and he is very productive with any time he gets, as evidenced by his 20.1 fantasy points last night.
Power forward – Trey Lyles, Denver Nuggets: $10.6 million
Trey Lyles has never let us down, except maybe once, and everybody gets one. Despite being a much better starting power forward option than Mason Plumlee (who forces Nikola Jokic down to a de facto power forward role that doesn’t help anybody involved), Lyles mostly comes off the bench anyway, despite his fit, consistency and production. Nevertheless, brief wobble aside, Lyles is back averaging 24.2 fantasy points over his last three games, which as ever is good fantasy value at this price.
Centre – Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat: $19.0 million
With a bad knee and a big brace on it, Whiteside is not playing to the level that he played to last year. Nevertheless, he has improved slightly of late, averaging 46.0 fantasy points over his past four games. Working in his favour here tonight is a match-up against the Sacramento Kings. Sacramento are the third-worst defensive team in the league and the fifth-worst defensive rebounding team, who are currently force-feeding the post in the forms of Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein. All of this works to Whiteside’s strengths, and tonight could be a big one for him.
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: Gary Harris, Kenneth Faried, Paul Millsap (Denver), Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell (Golden State), Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, Okaro White (Miami), Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford (Minnesota), Kyle O’Quinn, Kristaps Porzingis (New York), Frank Mason, Harry Giles, De’Aaron Fox, Zach Randolph (Sacramento), Sheldon Mac (Washington)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!