NBA Preview 3rd December

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 29: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder handles the ball against the Orlando Magic on November 29, 2017 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images)

Read our NBA expert Mark Deeks before picking your daily fantasy line up for tonight.

 

Point guard – Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: $24.9 million

Westbrook has been as expensive as expensive can be in the game all season, because of course he has. After his triple-double averages last season, he was about as perfect of a fantasy player as could be. Yet after the Thunder’s offseason additions, Westbrook started the season slow. He was still good, regular posting low-40 fantasy point nights, but costing the highest price in the game, that was still not good value.

Well, he’s warmed up now. In light of his team’s struggles, Westbrook has returned more to the heroic if flawed style of play he employed to get those triple doubles, playing the freight train basketball he and only he can play, and his fantasy lines reflect that. Averaging 59.6 fantasy points over the past seven games, we are back to peak Westbrook, and it is OK to buy on him again.

 

Shooting guard – Jonathan Simmons, Orlando Magic: $10.0 million

At the beginning of the season, Simmons made this list regularly due to his great start to the campaign, but as his price rose and his production plateaued, we stopped listing him. He is back now, however, on account of the injury to fellow wing Terrence Ross.

Based on last night’s game, deep bench reserve Arron Afflalo will get the bulk of Ross’s minutes, but Afflalo rarely does much on the court any more, so the bulk of the workload will fall to Simmons. And based on the 39 minutes and 19 shots he posted last night, he seems willing to try, inefficiency be damned.

 

Small forward – Wesley Johnson, L.A. Clippers: $8.1 million

Johnson, who has been in one of his career’s best ever stretches and possibly the single best ever, continues to perform above his salary slot and expectation. He is racking up the defensive statistics (a block and a steal per game), while also shooting a career second-best 36.1% from three-point range. From a fantasy point of view, that is a 26.9 fantasy point average over the last seven games, and while his price has increased to reflect this, it has not done so by much.

 

Small forward – Michael Beasley, New York Knicks: $7.5 million

The only real differences between the Beasley of now and the Beasley of old are minutes, opportunity and reputation. Regardless of his career trajectory compared to earlier expectation, Beasley is the same core player that he ever was. Which means that, while it can be unclear how much he plays on any given night, it is known that when he does play, he will get up the shots.

After a six game stretch in which he played only 16 combined minutes, all of them garbage minutes in uncompetitive games, Beasley last Saturday played 36 minutes of the next contest and put up 30 points with 8 rebounds. It was, of course, a massively anomalous performance; Beasley had totalled only 41 points over the previous 12 games, and his second highest scoring output all season is a mere 11. But it speaks to what he is capable when he is given minutes, as he has subsequently been.

Now back in the rotation, Beasley’s quirky post-up, fallaway-two, dribble-drive game is suitably quirky as to be hard to defend. He will play, he will shoot, and he will probably score you a few fantasy points.

 

Power forward – Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic: $17.8 million

The first time Aaron Gordon scored 40, he followed it up with an exactly average game. This second time, however, he followed it with another good one. Gordon last night posted 29 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks, taking 11 three-point shots and hitting five of them.

This formerly awkward offensive player is now handling the ball up top, calling his own, becoming a featured offensive player, and becoming absolutely deadly shooting from the corners. And with his new-found quality jump shot combined with his physical tools, Gordon can simply raise up and hit shots at any time now. This makes him a much greater scoring threat and thus a much better fantasy player. He is still good value even at this price.

 

Power forward – Montrezl Harrell, L.A. Clippers: $7.0 million

Before the last Clippers game, we speculated as to who would start at power forward in Blake Griffin’s absence, as head coach Doc Rivers was non-committal. It was ultimately Harrell, who got the start, and although the Clippers were soundly beaten (to be expected on the road against decent Utah opposition when severely undermanned), Harrell himself was effective with 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 18.1 fantasy points in 21 minutes.

Concerns about the poor spacing between a Harrell/DeAndre Jordan frontcourt are very fair, as, for all their collective athleticism, neither is a floor spacer. But Harrell is likely the team’s third best big man talent, and until Gallinari and/or Griffin return, he is probably the best option going forward for the team, thus giving him fantasy value.

 

Centre – Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat: $6.5 million

While his offensive rawness was palpable (0-3 from the field, 1 point, 3 turnovers in 18 minutes), Adebayo cannot help but show his defensive potential whenever he steps onto the floor. His dominant physical profile saw him yield four steals, two blocks and five rebounds in that time, for a fantasy point total of 22.0 points. The senior and more skilled Kelly Olynynk will get the bulk of the centre minutes in Hassan Whiteside’s absence even as a reserve, but Adebayo is productive in his near-half of the game and a very good pick at this price.

 

Centre – Enes Kanter, New York Knicks: $16.5 million

Still a dominant rebounding force this year, Kanter averages a double-double in only 26 minutes per game. He would play more if he could defend any part of the court well and if he didn’t have very capable backups behind him, yet when he does play, his per-minute scoring and rebounding numbers are strong that he is a fantasy value pick even at this high price. He is consistent with it, too.

DO NOT PICK DUE TO INJURY/ABSENCE/SUSPENSION: Chris Boucher, Andre Iguodala (Golden State), Zhou Qi, Troy Williams (Houston), Milos Teodosic, Blake Griffin, Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley (L.A. Clippers),, Rodney McGruder, Okaro White, Hassan Whiteside (Miami), Justin Patton, Nemanja Bjelica (Minnesota), Frank Ntilikina (New York), Jonathan Isaac, Terrence Ross, Adreian Payne (Orlando), Kawhi Leonard, Derrick White (San Antonio)

 

Read our NBA expert Mark Deeks before picking your daily fantasy line up for tonight.

 

 

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