Welcome to another edition of our NBA Preview here at PlayON’s Daily Fantasy Focus.
Below is a breakdown of my own choice of 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.
If you’re new to PlayON, be sure to take advantage of their first-time depositor’s bonus, where a deposit of $20 will get you a FREE $22 entry.
Point guard – Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: $24.8 million
Westbrook is the most expensive player on the slate, but he is also by far and away the most likely player to record 50+ for you tonight. Indeed, of the top five most expensive players, one other is definitely out (Nikola Vucevic, $19.5 million), and one other may well be (Damian Lillard, $21.9 million). The book on Westbrook is well-written – a good Westbrook game features a whole lot of everything – so the most important thing to note here is how that has gone for him lately – over his past ten games, Westbrook has averaged 59.9 fantasy points. I would buy this.
Shooting guard – Wayne Ellington, Miami Heat: $8.4 million
Ellington has become a key reserve. His ability to pull up off a curl and hit 27-footers from the wing is a useful weapon to have to bail out an offence that can often get stuck down, and although his own off-the-dribble game is that little bit more limited with each passing season, his defensive effort increase with it. Over his past eight games, Ellington has averaged 24.1 fantasy points, and is playing a sixth man role that should really mandate a higher price than this.
Small forward – Josh Richardson, Miami Heat: $13.o million
Richardson is one of the more unique players in the league, and it is to his credit that he is so unheralded in the process. Able to play all of the point guard, shooting guard and small forward positions, Richardson starts the game at the three, plays generally the entire first quarter, then backs up the point guard spot as Goran Dragic rests. All the while, he takes on the hardest defensive assignment at each of those positions, and also scores a few of his own through spot-ups, timely drives and cuts (especially to the elbow for what are now incredibly regular catch-and-shoot mid-range shots with his elbow sticking out).
His main virtue is his hardiness. Almost never missing a game, Richardson is 34th in the league in minutes per game at 33.8, and never looks gassed during them. He exhibits great hustle all the while, prowling the court, looking for the ball, getting deflections and throwing traps whenever he can. Even if Richardson was to be a defence-only player, he would be a valuable one what with his versatility, size, athleticism and effort. But the fact that he can also score a few points and be a solid-enough ball handling option makes him hugely valuable and one of the league’s better role players.
At this point, Richardson has become something of a must-pick from a fantasy point of view. With a 34.6 average over his last ten games, there is no reason at all why he should be overlooked in at least this aspect of NBA fandom.
Power forward – Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic: $18.9 million
After a strong start, the Magic have lost 23 of their last 27 games, and are also battling injuries to key players. Vucevic is out, as above, and starting swingman Terrence Ross is also out long term, as is once-key reserve Jonathan Isaac. Jonathan Simmons has also been in and out of the line-up; between all these absences, the Magic’s offence has struggled.
In theory, this gives Gordon a chance to shine. With so few quality offensive players around him to merit touches, Gordon should have the opportunity to score more often than he already does. Someone has to score, after all, and as the main offensive player remaining in the frontcourt, the opportunity theoretically falls to Gordon, who has improved his skill level as a go-to player all season long.
In practice, however, what the injuries have meant is a lack of support for Gordon. Despite his developments offensively, he is still more of a finisher in the mold of Anthony Davis than he is a handler and creator like a Kevin Durant type. And so without good opportunities to finish, Gordon has struggled for consistency, as good offensively only as the team around him.
Nevertheless, Gordon has shined at times, averaging 39.3 fantasy points over his last four games. For comparison’s sake, Kyle Kuzma – who is always extremely popular in fantasy largely on account of being a Laker – is averaging 17.4 in his last four games. He may be cheaper at $15.8 million, but it is with good reason.
Power forward – Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors: $15.0 million
Apart from being suspended for a game recently after an altercation with a team staffer, Ibaka has been mostly good lately and has had good fantasy value. In his last three games, Ibaka has averaged 33.8 fantasy points, and seems to be back blocking shots again, averaging 1.7 per game in his last 15 contests. If that continues to pick up again, Ibaka’s fantasy value will consistently be back.
Centre – Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat: $12.1 million
In my third Heat pick of the light, I have gone for Kelly Olynyk, a centre who has started ten consecutive games at power forward. Olynyk has done this partly due to the injury to James Johnson, but also because his ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot as well as take slower-footed opponents off the dribble makes him useful alongside the non-spacing duo of Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo at centre. Since Whiteside’s return, Olynyk’s production has been streakier than it was back on his hot streak, but his versatile output nevertheless always sees him contribute something.
Centre – Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic: $7.8 million
Even if the six picks above do nothing for you, make sure you pick Biyombo tonight. The regular backup is now a regular starter, and has averaged 28.6 fantasy points in the six games he has played since doing so. It is true that he still occasionally plays like a backup, as evidenced by a mere 5.2 outing two games ago. But risk it. It only happened once.
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: Nerlens Noel, Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith (Dallas), Rodney McGruder, Okaro White, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow (Miami), Andre Roberson (Oklahoma City), Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Jonathan Isaac, Jonathan Simmons (Orlando), Wade Baldwin, Damian Lillard (Portland), Harry Giles, George Hill, Zach Randolph, Frank Mason (Sacramento)
That’s all for today’s analysis. Be sure to get your line-ups in to tonight’s games.