Welcome to another edition of our NBA Preview here at PlayON. Below is a breakdown of my top picks at each position for tonight’s game.
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Point guard – Quinn Cook, Golden State Warriors: $8.7 million
Cook is the must-pick of the month. Filling in for Steph Curry is not the same as replicating Steph Curry, yet in playing big minutes in a system reliant upon having a significant scoring presence at the point guard position, Cook is extremely productive right now relative to both expectation and fantasy price. If you don’t pick him, be aware that everyone else in your game will, and if Cook performs like he has done usually with Curry out, everyone else will thus get a massive head start that your other picks will struggle to make ground on.
Point guard – Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons: $8.1 million
You might also want to consider Jackson for the bench. Freshly back from injury, Jackson is still not back to his best, but it won’t be long, and the price is still in the tank. The single game breakout performance is coming.
Shooting guard – Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: $11.6 million
After his trade from Cleveland at the deadline, Wade found himself back with the team with whom he had his best years, and whom currently have a lot to play for. They also currently have a vacancy at the shooting guard position due to the injury to Dion Waiters. On top of that, Wade is playing well, with 31 fantasy points scored last time out. And on top of all that, he will tonight be up against the Chicago Bulls, his hometown team with whom he only recently had a brief reunion that ended rather acrimoniously. A combination of all those factors should, we are hoping, make for a strong showing tonight.
Shooting guard – Pat McCaw, Golden State Warriors: $5.5 million
The Warriors are currently experiencing a lot of injuries, and are not the Warriors we are used to. Of late, McCaw has been one such injury, only recently getting back into the lineup after a month’s absence. But he is now back, and with Curry and Klay Thompson both out, McCaw’s role on the team is now strikingly senior for a sophomore on a title contender. After all, compared to aforementioned fill-in point giard Quinn Cook, McCaw is a grizzled vet. And while big nights are not forthcoming, big minutes are, along with a fantasy minimum price that automatically conveys value to any rotation player.
Small forward – Corey Brewer, Oklahoma City Thunder: $7.1 million
With only 8 fantasy points scored, and with not much more than that in his previous game either, Brewer has been a disappointment to us of late. But he has only been a disappointment relative to his own expectations through his own tremebdous start once joining the Thunder, regularly scoring in the 30s for a then-sub $6 million cost. Those days are nigh again, so pick him again.
Power forward – Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors: $6.9 million
While Quinn Cook has picked up for Steph Curry in the backcourt, it has fallen to Kevon Looney to pick up for his near-enough namesake Kevin Durant in the frontcourt. Admittedly in a very different way to KD – he is, most obviously, a lot slower – KL uses his own inside/outside game and high skill level to score, rebound and defend, and has averaged nearly 30 points over his last five. The value here is tremendous.
Power forward – James Johnson, Miami Heat: $12.2 million
Centre – Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat: $13.5 million
As with Wade above, Johnson will also go against his former team in the form of the Bulls, while although Olynyk has never played for them, Chicago were something of a nemesis to him (and he to they) during the Tom Thibodeau era. The willingly free-falling Bulls should present little obstacle to a competitive and tough Heat team right now, and with both Johnson (46 fantasy points last time out) and Olynyk (on a career-best stretch defined by massive assist totals) playing well right now, they will happily tee off on the Bulls given the opportunity. And they should have that opportunity.
(It is perhaps worth saying here that, notwithstanding the Chicago factor, it is mostly coincidental that so many of today’s picks are either Warriors or Heat players. We have no biases and seek value wherever it lies, and the cyclical nature of fantasy value, reliant as it is on streaky play and injuries, merely currently favours players on these two teams.)
Centre – Tyler Zeller, Milwaukee Bucks: $5.7 million
The fact that John Henson has started at centre for almost the whole season does not necessarily mean he has a strong grip on the spot. Especially with reserve Thon Maker out due to injury, there exists an open door should any other suitor be able to run through it. Zeller was targeted for by the Bucks – traded for, even – for precisely this reason. As a plenty solid enough third strong centre with some relative youth and experience, he can be a quality bench contributor when called upon. He showed this with 23 points last time out, and if Maker remains out, Zeller remains a good candidate for us here.
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: Zach LaVine, Paul Zipser, Cristiano Felicio, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Robin Lopez, Antonio Blakeney (Chicago), Jon Leuer (Detroit), Chris Boucher, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Omri Casspi (Golden State), Trevor Booker (Indiana), Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, Dion Waiters (Miami), Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brogdon (Milwaukee), Andre Roberson (Oklahoma City), Garrett Temple, Iman Shumpert, Harry Giles (Sacramento), Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio), John Wall (Washington)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in!