We have plenty of games scheduled today, but we’re only interested in six of them. There are early-only and all-day games available on FanDuel, but given the big GPPs and double ups are including only the late slate, I’m going to choose to focus on players from those contests only. The difficulty in writing today is that we don’t yet have all of the information that is going to be needed to build competitive lineups. Once again, the Minnesota Timberwolves could be without several starters, which would open up more playing time and opportunity for the remaining players.
Some of today’s picks will be under the assumption that certain players will be out. As always, I’ll give a few hypothetical scenarios and make sure to let you know who will stand to benefit from players being out, and who to avoid if they’re in.
Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons, $7400 – Jackson has put his recent struggles behind him, and hopefully everyone who got burned by his dud against the Lakers has already forgiven him. If not, today is the day to do it. Jackson’s putting up gaudy numbers while Greg Monroe is out, and that should continue today against Boston. The Pistons will be without Monroe once again, and the Celtics will be missing one of their defenders as Marcus Smart serves a one-game suspension. Jackson’s usage rate spikes dramatically without Monroe, and he should be Detroit’s primary offensive weapon again tonight. His price is still not reflective of his current value, and he should be a primary target in both cash games and GPPs tonight.
Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic, $7400 – Considering Payton is coming off of consecutive triple-doubles, I’m expecting high ownership tonight in what should be a close, high-scoring matchup with the Denver Nuggets. Ty Lawson is actually a solid defender, but given what Payton’s been doing recently, I can’t justify a fade at his current price. He contributes in every meaningful category, and is capable of giving you a solid fantasy outing even if he’s struggling to score. Tobias Harris’s status is still up in the air, but if he’s out, give Payton a boost as he sees an increase in usage, rebounding, and assist rate with Harris off the court. If Harris does play, Payton is still a very good option, though I think his value does take a slight hit.
Ishmael Smith, Philadelphia 76ers, $5700 – If Isaiah Canaan is forced to miss a game for whatever reason, Smith should be priority #1 when building your lineups. He’s coming off of two 33-fantasy point performances, and that’s while being limited to under 30 minutes of court time due to the timeshare with Canaan. He’s been starting, and as long as he remains in the starting lineup, he’s a good player to target despite the limited minutes. He draws a very favorable matchup with the Lakers, and he’s a safe bet for another very productive outing. I wouldn’t hesitate to use him in cash games if I needed the savings, and he makes for a solid GPP play as well.
Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks, $6700 – Ellis’s game log might scare you, but his poor outings have been in tough matchups, so I’m willing to overlook those. He’s very cheap relative to the upside that he offers, and I really like him in what should be an up-tempo, high-scoring matchup with the Suns. In close games, Ellis tends to be the guy that takes over for on offense for Dallas, and I think there’s a very good chance that’s what we see again tonight. At this price, it’s very difficult to imagine him having a performance that hurts you, and given he has 40-point upside, he makes for a very good play in both cash games and GPPs tonight.
Brad Beal, Washington Wizards, $5800 – I’m not a fan of using Beal at all. Even at his modest salary, he often comes short of his value threshold, and rarely offers any real upside. However, shooting guard, as is often the case, is weak and void of value plays. Victor Oladipo is overpriced, and I have a lot of trouble trusting Eric Bledsoe in cash games at his salary. Therefore, I like taking the savings and rostering Beal against a Kings team that has been league-worst against opposing shooting guards over both the past three weeks and the entire season. Ben McLemore is an extremely poor defender, and Beal should push for 30 or more fantasy points in this very favorable matchup.
Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics, $5200 – It’s very difficult to find consistency at the small forward position, but Crowder is looking like a safe play tonight. With Marcus Smart out, there’s going to be some redistribution of minutes, and while Crowder certainly doesn’t play the same position, my expectation is that guys like Avery Bradley and Evan Turner will fill in for some of Smart’s responsibilities. This should open up more time for Crowder at either shooting guard or small forward. Crowder’s been playing around 30 minutes consistently, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he picks up a few extra minutes tonight. He’s had some down games, but he’s usually in the 25-30 fantasy point range, which is what I’ll be expecting tonight against Detroit.
P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns, $5400 – Tucker is the most consistent scoring threat, but he plays huge minutes every night for the Suns, and considering he’s by far their best wing defender, there’s no reason to think that’s going to change. He excels in up-tempo games, and that’s exactly what I expect tonight’s matchup with Dallas to be. Given the pace and the amount of time we should expect to see Tucker on the court, it’s hard to imagine him not contributing enough on the stat sheet to pay off his $5400 price tag. He should be good for at least 20-25 fantasy points tonight with upside well over 30. I don’t trust many plays at small forward, but I think Tucker is one of the safer options.
Marcus Morris, Phoenix Suns, $5200 – With no good news regarding Brandon Knight’s injury, my expectation is that he’ll be out once again today. That means Marcus Morris will continue to get the starting nod. He actually starts at small forward, a position the Mavericks have not defended well all season. As a part of the starting unit, Morris has been extremely consistent. His lowest score on FanDuel was 23.8 on a day where he shot one for eleven from the floor and scored two actual points. He’s also flashed over 35-point upside, and as long as Brandon Knight is out again, I think he makes for an easy plug and play option tonight.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets, $7200 – Faried continues to thrive under interim head coach Melvin Hunt, though I’m sure it has more to do with the fact that Brian Shaw is gone. Faried is seeing consistent minutes, and he’s regained that hustle and energy that makes him both an exciting and productive player. He draws a very favorable matchup with a Magic team that has not defended the power forward position well this season. Give Faried a significant boost if Tobias Harris and Dewayne Dedmon are out, as Channing Frye would get the starting nod at power forward. Frye is an extremely poor defender, and he has no chance to keep up with Faried. Faried’s price is up, but given he’s offering 35-40 fantasy points nightly, he’s paying off his price tag easily.
Tyler Zeller, Boston Celtics, $4700 – Writing up guys like Andre Drummond and Nikola Vucevic in their respective matchups against poor defensive front courts is pretty easy, so I wanted to offer an off-the-board GPP play instead. Zeller’s minutes and production are all over the place, but Zeller is Boston’s best chance to match up with Andre Drummond, so there’s a good chance he plays close to 30 minutes tonight if he stays out of foul trouble. Zeller is a capable scorer, and Detroit has been a disaster against opposing centers all season. Andre Drummond can rebound and block shots, but his defense is very raw and he makes a lot of mistakes. We’ve seen Zeller have big games from seemingly out of nowhere all season, and while there’s no way I’d ever trust him in my cash game lineups, I think he makes for a very good GPP play tonight given the upside potential and very low ownership.
Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets, $4700 – While center certainly has some good plays at the top, there’s a lot to like in terms of value as well. In GPPs, I absolutely think it’s worth taking a shot on either Zeller or Nurkic and using the cap space to pay up for better options elsewhere. There simply aren’t any options at this price point at other positions that are offering you as much upside at such a low price. Nurkic had been playing limited minutes since returning from an injury, but he started and played 30 minutes last game, posting 26.4 FanDuel points against a Miami Heat team that has been very solid against opposing centers lately.
While Orlando looks like they’ve been one of the best teams against centers lately, a quick look through their recent games suggests that their numbers are simply a function of playing teams with no legitimate threat at the position. Their seasonal numbers are bad, and it’s a well-known fact that Orlando struggles against opposing big men. Nurkic is very capable of posting a big line against this team, and given that he contributes in every category, he’s a high floor, high ceiling value play that I would be comfortable using in my cash game lineups tonight.
Additional Plays: Nikola Vucevic, Andre Drummond, Gorgui Dieng (If Pekovic is out), Jordan Hill