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. Once you’ve seen who I like, be sure to lock in your line-ups and win some cash tonight.
Point guard – Shabazz Napier, Portland Trail Blazers: $8.7 million
Napier has become ever more useful to his Blazers as the season has gone alone, with his defensive intensity, ball pressure and deflections being a key part of what is surprisingly one of the league’s very best defensive teams. In the recent absence of Damian Lillard, Napier stepped it up offensively, too, averaging 16.0 points and 3.0 assists over the past four games. Lillard is back now, but Napier has earned his minutes, and was getting them even with Lillard in the fold; the assists will decrease now, but the points and steals have been there all year.
Point guard – Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic: $16.2 million
As everyone around him has gotten injured, Payton, previously injured himself, has tried to steady the sinking Magic ship from the lead guard spot. In 13 December games, Payton is averaging 13.8 points, 6.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game, shooting 52.1% from the field, and over the last four games, he has averaged 41.7 fantasy points. Payton has not the talent to take on too big of an offensive load himself, and he needs the talent to get healthy around him pretty urgently, as to the Magic if they are to stop their slump towards the bottom of the East. But when so many others are injured, it does at least mandate Payton try and step up offensively, which benefits us here from a fantasy perspective.
Point guard – Ish Smith, Detroit Pistons: $10.0 million
Reggie Jackson, the regular Pistons starting point guard, will miss the next six to eight weeks with a particularly nasty ankle sprain. Smith, then, will be the beneficiary of this, replacing him in the starting line-up and certainly about to experience a big spike in his 20.1 minute per game average on the season. Over his last six games, Smith has a fantasy point average of only 16.4. But this is not about what he has been doing. This is about what he is about to do.
Shooting guard – Jamal Crawford, Minnesota Timberwolves: $7.9 million
There are two main reasons for suggesting Crawford here. Firstly, his own play of late has been more like the Crawford of old, averaging 21.4 fantasy points over the past six games. And secondly, both Jeff Teague and Aaron Brooks are doubts tonight to injury and illness respectively. This opens up point guard time for Crawford – also be advised that this might also give fantasy value to Tyus Jones ($6.9 million, point guard) who played extremely well in Teague’s absence last time.
Small forward – Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic: $6.6 million
Hezonja continues to perform as a starter when once he was so firmly on the bench. His streak of play is now equal to 25.9 fantasy points over the last nine games, a streak featuring not only plenty of points scored (it is amazing what a transformation Hezonja undergoes when he shoots with the confidence and reckless abandon of his youth), but only plenty of high-value defensive stats (having to defend a position other than your own has its perks). The Magic’s injured players are all on the cusp of returning, so Hezonja’s role going forward remains to be seen, but he still has fantasy value tonight.
Small forward – Reggie Bullock, Detroit Pistons: $6.6 million
The Reggie Bullock Starting Small Forward Experiment is now becoming the norm, Bullock has grown into this role at the second time of asking, averaging 10.3 points per game in December versus a lowly 2.5 per game in November. He has double-figure scoring games in five of the last six games, averaging 20.4 fantasy points in that span, and it appears as though the role is his until Jon Leuer returns.
Power forward – Tobias Harris, Detroit Pistons: $15.8 million
In his last two games, Harris has scored 54 real points and 77.8 fantasy points. Harris has always been streaky, not helped by the fact that with each passing year, he does less in every category other than scoring. But when he is hot, Harris’s frame, smooth athleticism and herky-jerky manner make for a scorer that is hard to guard, helped this year by turning many of what were mid-range jumpers into three-pointers which he is hitting at 41.7%. He will need to score in the absence of Jackson, but, on the plus side, Smith has always been better at finding him anyway.
Centre – Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic: $6.9 million
We suggested Biyombo as a fantasy pick before Orlando’s last game on account of his likely starting in place of the injured Nikola Vucevic, and he came through. Posting season highs of 12 rebounds and 5 blocks, Biyombo recorded 31.4 fantasy points and looked like the Bismack of his Toronto days. More of the same, please.
Centre – Zach Collins, Portland Trail Blazers: $6.2 million
Collins continues his solid and intriguing play as the main bench centre, and in his last game posted career highs of 11 points and 3 assists to go with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. Those all combined for 25.7 fantasy points, which itself makes for a 17.4 fantasy point average over the last nine games, and Collins is doing that while hinting at the stretch-and-D potential that lies belief. He is therefore already a solid value fantasy pick with the potential to be a great value one.
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: Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye (Boston), Jon Leuer, Avery Bradley, Reggie Jackson (Detroit), Clint Capela, Chris Paul, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute (Houston), Jabari Parker, Mirza Teletovic (Milwaukee), Aaron Brooks, Jeff Teague (Minnesota), Tim Hardaway Jr (New York), Terrence Ross, Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon (Orlando), Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia), Noah Vonleh, Wade Baldwin, C.J. Wilcox (Portland)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your lineups in to tonight’s games. If you’re new to PlayON, be sure to take advantage of their first-time depositor’s bonus, where a deposit of $22 will get you an extra, free $22 entry.