It’s Super Bowl Sunday, but before you head off to wherever it is you’re going to watch the game, why not sweat some early basketball games first? The NBA has been gracious enough to give us a nice four-game slate that should wrap up well before the Super Bowl starts. Sometimes it’s difficult to find players worth writing up on a short slate, but that’s not the case today. Let’s take a look at who I’ll be targeting on FanDuel.
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics, $7,800 – You know you’re a horrific defensive team when you give up 129 points to the Brooklyn Nets in regulation. Yes, the Kings are the fastest-paced team in the league, but some things are simply inexcusable. Boston, led by Thomas, is a much better offensive team and they should have no trouble putting up points against Sacramento today. The Kings are ranked sixth-worst in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing point guards this season, and you know Thomas will be anxious to face one of his former teams. Players are having their best games of the season against the Kings right now, and I’m locking Thomas in against a team that just made Joe Johnson look like he was back in Atlanta.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets, $5,400 – Jameer Nelson is almost certainly out for today’s game. I’m writing this article Saturday night, so it’s very possible he’s been officially ruled out by the time this gets published. Regardless, you should check the NBA Starting Lineups Page to confirm. With Nelson likely out, Mudiay is line for huge minutes against a Knicks team that has been terrible against opposing point guards lately. This isn’t a surprise, as Jose Calderon is a turnstile on defense. Mudiay is still inconsistent (he’s a rookie), but it’s hard to pass on him at this price in a favorable matchup. He has well over 30-point upside, and I think he’s a great bargain at $5400.
Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, $5,500 – Bradley’s production has been all over the map, but he has serious upside in this matchup. The Kings play at the fastest pace in the league (Boston third-fastest), can’t defend anyone, and have been especially dreadful against opposing shooting guards for as long as I can remember. With Bradley playing heavy minutes on a nightly basis, it’s hard to imagine him finishing with anything under 25 fantasy points tonight. If he gets hot shooting and happens to generate some steals, he has tremendous upside relative to his $5500 price tag. I’m comfortable with him in cash game lineups, and I would certainly target him in tournaments.
Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers, $4,800 – Crawford had already settled into a nice role with solid, consistent production before Austin Rivers got hurt, but now that Rivers is expected to miss four to six weeks with a broken hand, Crawford is in line for big minutes off the bench. With Rivers missing last game, Crawford saw 35 minutes. Miami is typically not a great team to target as they play solid defense and slow the pace, but Crawford is too cheap to ignore playing starter minutes at just $4800.
Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings, $5,100 – Rudy Gay is doubtful, so my expectation is that Casspi will slide into the starting lineup. With Ben Mclemore also unlikely to play, the Kings are thin at the wing positions. Casspi is likely to see well over 30 minutes, and I like him to easily reach value in a matchup between two of the three fastest-paced teams in the league. Boston is a very good defensive team, but the pace of this matchup should more than make up for that. Value is tough to come by on short slates, and we need to take advantage of players that suddenly become excellent values because their playing time is going to temporarily increase.
Evan Turner, Boston Celtics, $5,900 – Turner’s price is on the rise due to his recent spike in production, but I still like him quite a bit today. He’s seeing less than 30 minutes of court time, but he’s met or exceeded 30 fantasy points in four of his past five games, and he’s very likely to make to five of six against Sacramento. I can’t stress enough how important is to target players facing a team that plays at a fast pace and is mostly inept on the defensive end of the floor. With Turner playing at such a high level, he’s an easy play for me at the small forward position.
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks, $6,400 – Porzingis has had some rough games recently, but if Carmelo Anthony is unable to play today, he’ll become a top play at a very weak power forward position. Denver sports a very soft front court, and in what should be a competitive game between two below average teams, Porzingis should have no trouble posting a solid stat line as the focal point of the Knicks offense. I still think he’s a good play if Anthony plays, but he becomes riskier with less upside.
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks, $7,800 – Today’s matchup with the Orlando Magic should be close, so expect a full complement of minutes from Hawks starters. Millsap is my top play at the power forward position, but it’s mostly due to a severe lack of options. I don’t want to suggest trying to figure out which cheap options is going to do well as they are all quite capable of busting. My advice is to pay up for the safety that Millsap offers. Orlando’s front court is anything but imposing on the defensive end of the floor, and Millsap should have little trouble posting at least 30 fantasy points today, though I think he’ll finish with somewhere close to 40.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings, $11,100 – Finally we reach today’s top play. Cousins should have a field day with Boston’s soft interior defense, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that today’s matchup pits the fastest and third-fastest paced teams against one another. Also, with Rudy Gay expected to sit out, Cousins will have to shoulder even more offensive responsibility. Boston is a good team that does many things well, but defending talented big men is not one of them. They don’t have anyone that can even attempt to slow Cousins down. A score of 60 is a bold prediction, but I strongly believe that Cousins will finish at, or very close to, 60 today. Nikola Jokic is a tempting option at just $6400, but I think using anyone but Cousins, at least in cash games, is a mistake.