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 – Tyler Johnson, Miami Heat: $11.5 million
THE CHEAP – Andrew Harrison, Memphis Grizzlies: $7.5 million
With regular starter Goran Dragic out for three games, Johnson stepped up and averaged 32.2 fantasy points in his stead. Yet when Dragic returned to play 30 minutes last time out, Johnson stayed hot, recording 20 points and 29.1 fantasy points in a more off-ball role than before. The versatile Johnson’s value to his team comes precisely from this ability to fill multiple roles, and with so many injuries elsewhere on the roster (particularly to shooting guard Dion Waiters currently), the Heat are very short handed, thus keeping open a large role for Johnson, who is capitalising.
Harrison continues in his large role for the Grizzlies, averaging 22.2 fantasy points over the past ten games. He is not immune from variance in that span, with one lowly 8.5 fantasy point performance in particular going against the grain, yet an average that high against a price that low (and consistently low) speaks to reliable value.
THE PRICY – Austin Rivers, L.A. Clippers: $13.8 million
THE CHEAP – Sean Kilpatrick, Milwaukee Bucks: $6.0 million
In light of the injuries elsewhere, Rivers and Lou Williams have taken on huge scoring loads for the Clippers, to the point that in the last game, they were the only two players to record double-figures yet still combining for 74. Rivers has scored 38 points in back to back games, and is averaging 20.9 points per game in December. It would benefit the team overall if he was able to use his ability to create space to do more than just dribble between the legs, hesitate and take seven seconds to take the inevitable jump shot, maybe instead getting into the paint and throwing lobs for DeAndre Jordan or kicking to the corner shooters. Nevertheless, for now, Rivers’s way is working. And when he scores this much, he has tremendous fantasy value.
For the Bucks, recent pick-up Sean Kilpatrick has played the last two games, averaging 15.2 fantasy points between them. He has been given Jason Terry’s backcourt bench scoring role, and has been doing it better than Jason Terry did. Kilpatrick’s career with the Nets in the NBA, and with Cincinnati before that, showed that he has value as a player if he is able and permitted to take a lot of shots, for scoring is the plus-NBA skill he brings to the table. If the minutes keep up, he has low-end value.
THE PRICY – Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets: $11.2 million
THE CHEAP – Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic: $6.3 million
After a terrible start to the season, not helped by nagging injury, Chandler has finally warmed up. He is averaging 12.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists, has his three-point stroke back, and has averaged 27.1 fantasy points over the past eight games. The slow start had the effect of keeping Chandler’s price low, to the point that a hot streak now makes him a value pick.
Of late, although he has been playing, Hezonja has been very up and down. Over the past seven games, he has recorded outings of 21.2, 42.8, 6.4, 45.2, 14.4, 23.3 and 32.3 fantasy points, a massive variance that nevertheless averages out to 25.6 a game. This is great value for a mere $6.3 million, and no-one in that price range has any foreseeable chance of such big performances. Until Evan Fournier returns from injury, strongly consider Hezonja.
THE PRICY – Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: $12.1 million
THE CHEAP – Trey Lyles, Denver Nuggets: $8.0 million
Dirk is having a good month. In 12 December games, he is averaging 13.3 points per game, up from only 10.9 in November, and despite the idea of rest for veterans becoming normalised groupthink in the current NBA, Nowitzki never misses a game. This has translated to a 26.0 fantasy point average over the past six games, decent value at this price.
Lyles, meanwhile, has been a shrewd fantasy pick since Paul Millsap’s injury, and remains so. He also remains an $8.0 million player, which he really shouldn’t be by this time, having averaged 25.9 fantasy points over the past ten games. In his 12 December games, Lyles is averaging 13.8 points and 6.1 rebounds on 52.6% shooting, including 51.1% shooting from three-point range, a highly valuable sweet-shooting stretch big threat. The algorithms have not caught up for whatever reason, though, so take advantage.
THE PRICY(ish) – Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat: $11.4 million
THE CHEAP – Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic: $6.9 million
Of late, Olynyk has been starting at the power forward spot, and has been very productive as a result. He has averaged 30.8 fantasy points over the last five games via a range of stats, including a 32 point outing. Regular starting centre Hassan Whiteside may return tonight, but even if he does, this will have more of an impact than Bam Adebayo than it will Olynyk, as, with James Johnson and Okaro White both out, he remains the senior power forward option.
For Orlando, Nikola Vucevic is to miss six to eight weeks with a broken hand, and it appears as though Biyombo will be the starter in his absence. (It may also be Marreese Speights, $6.4 million, who also gets some low-end fantasy value because of Vooch’s injury.) Biyombo has hitherto not been a fantasy threat; although he is a legitimately impactful interior defender still (third best defensive rating on the team), he is overall amid a poor season, and his season averages to date yield a fantasy point average of only 12 per game, not enough to have value. Nevertheless, if starting and with enough minutes, Biyombo could get enough rebounds and high-value blocks to become a low end fantasy pick of his own.
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, D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn), Zach LaVine, Cameron Payne (Chicago), Josh McRoberts, Nerlens Noel, Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith (Dallas), Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee. Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver), Avery Bradley, Jon Leuer (Detroit), Glenn Robinson III, Edmond Sumner (Indiana), Wesley Johnson, Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers), Brook Lopez (L.A. Lakers), Mike Conley, Wayne Selden, JaMychal Green (Memphis), Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Okaro White, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters (Miami), Mirza Teletovic, Jabari Parker (Milwaukee), Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Jonathan Isaac (Orlando), Davon Reed, Brandon Knight, Alan Williams (Phoenix), Harry Giles, De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento), C.J. Miles, Lucas Nogueira (Toronto), Dante Exum, Rudy Gobert, Raul Neto (Utah)
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.