At this point in the season, injuries and rest rule the day. Last night we saw two must start value plays in Brandon Jennings and Bismack Biyombo crush value. Elfrid Payton sat out, and while it was expected that C.J. Watson would start, it was Jennings instead. He promptly rolled to 33 fantasy points for just $3,500. Biyombo scored the same, and if you used, you locked up 66 fantasy points with two dirt cheap players and a ton to spend on the rest of your roster. This illustrated the importance of getting these value plays right and not getting cute and fading them. Their high ownership and tremendous upside relative to their salary puts you at a severe disadvantage if they do well and you don’t own them.
Of course we have plenty of questionable or inactive players today, and there will almost certainly be more DFS news throughout the day. I’ll discuss who I’m targeting based on the time of this writing (around 11:30 EST). Let’s take a look at today’s FanDuel picks.
Value Plays: Brandon Jennings and Toney Douglas should take precedence over the below plays if they end up starting. Elfrid Payton was announced out well in advance of roster lock yesterday, so hopefully we hear something early. Regardless, this game tips off at 7:00 EST, so we’ll definitely know if Payton is active before rosters lock. We may not be as lucky with Douglas as the Pelicans are in Sacramento and tip off three hours after lock. Monitor Norris Cole’s status and be ready to plug in Douglas if he’s out. He’s coming off of a monster game against the Warriors and should do very well against a fast-paced Kings team that can’t defend anyone.
John Wall, Washington Wizards, $9,400 – Wall has been carrying the Wizards all season, and it doesn’t get much better than a home matchup against Chicago tonight. The Bulls have been absolutely horrific against opposing point guards lately, and the status of Derrick Rose (questionable) doesn’t really matter. Regardless of who has started for Chicago, opposing point guards have been roasting them night in and night out. I like Wall at $9,400 (only if the value plays are unusable), and I think he has 50 point upside in what should be a very close game with the Bulls. The Wizards are fighting to get into the playoffs, and as long as the postseason is a realistic goal, you can expect Wall to play heavy minutes.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder, $10,700 – We saw Westbrook’s tremendous last game as he posted a massive 59 fantasy point triple double in just 28 minutes against Portland. Yes, the Celtics have been one of the best teams in the league at limiting opposing point guards, but we’re talking about Russell Westbrook here. This game is going to be played at an extremely fast pace, and should stay very close. The great thing about Westbrook is that he doesn’t need to score a ton of points to have a huge day. Those 59 points came on just 17 real points as he racked up 16 assists and 10 rebounds. He touches the ball every play, creates countless opportunities for his teammates, and should have no trouble attacking the basket against a Celtics team that lacks good rim protection.
I love the value options at point guard if the injury news is favorable, but if not, I’ll be looking to target value elsewhere and pay up at the position today. I like pairing him with one of the value plays (assuming you can) today as well.
Lance Stephenson, Memphis Grizzlies, $5,600 – Stephenson missed last game with a wrist injury, and I have yet to see an update on his status. If he plays, he’s a lock for my lineups as he is the only playmaker the Grizzlies have right now. Further, P.J. Hairston is dealing with an injury, and Vince Carter’s status is up in the air, further decimating this squad. Stephenson should be expected to play big minutes if he suits up tonight, and he should have no trouble producing against a poor defensive Timberwolves team. The Grizzlies point guards (McCallum and Weber) aren’t capable of creating opportunities for themselves or others, so expect that responsibility to fall on Stephenson, who should have a huge game. Watch the news through the day and be ready to get Stephenson in your lineups if he’s given the all clear.
Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves, $5,700 – LaVine has been a go-to cash game play for a while as he’s playing heavy minutes and routinely finishing in the 25 to 30 point fantasy range. You can throw all of your personal biases about targeting the Grizzlies out of the window as this team has been ravaged by injury and is currently starting one (Tony Allen) of its starting five. My expectation would be that Allen is tasked with defending Andrew Wiggins, which should open up additional opportunities for LaVine. Expect another solid day from LaVine, who runs almost no risk of dropping a dud and crushing your lineups.
Matt Barnes, Memphis Grizzlies, $5,600 – I don’t think anyone is ever excited about rostering Matt Barnes, but it’s worth mentioning that he was on his way to a productive night in Houston before the Rockets completely ran away with the game. That’s going to be an issue going forward with this Grizzlies team as they’re going to get run out of the arena, especially on the road, by some teams. At home, against the Timberwolves, there is little to no risk of that. Minnesota is a bad team that plays atrocious defense, and given Barnes is now one of Memphis’s primary sources of offense, he should have little trouble reaching value against this team. With news of P.J. Hairston’s injury, Memphis is even thinner on the wings, and if Lance Stephenson also sits, you can expect Barnes to play as many minutes as he can handle tonight. He should be targeted in all game formats.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, $10,300 – Two recent sub-40 fantasy point performances may serve to drive Durant’s ownership down, but he’s going to be a matchup nightmare for the Celtics tonight. Jae Crowder is best suited to defend Durant (who is matchup-proof anyway), but he’s out for tonight. In what should be a very fast-paced, high-scoring, and close game, I’m expecting Durant to post a huge line tonight. I think you can pair him with Westbrook (most players won’t do this) if enough value exists at other positions to allow for it. He’s the top option at small forward, one of the top plays on the entire slate, and I think he posts a 50+ fantasy point line tonight.
Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls, $5,300 – Taj should be a popular play today with Pau Gasol already ruled out, but I see no reason to fade him in cash games. He should play big minutes against a Wizards team that struggles with rebounding the ball. He’s not going to get a ton of looks on offense, but given the heavy minutes workload, he should be able to grind his way to a 25 to 30 fantasy point performance tonight. He runs very little risk of posting a dud, and I’ll be looking to lock him into my cash game lineups tonight.
Tobias Harris, Detroit Pistons, $5,800 – After a long string of consistency, Harris dropped a dud last game in Washington. The Pistons were never in the game, and I think we can chalk this one up to a fluke performance. He should get back on track at home against a Hawks team that has done a very poor job of defending opposing power forwards. They’re also among the worst teams in the league in terms of rebounding differential. Harris is the perfect example of a cash game play as he consistently gives you around 5 points per $1000, but doesn’t really have the upside you’re looking for in tournaments.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings, $11,100 – Cousins is easily the top play at center facing a Pelicans team that he’s averaging 56.4 FanDuel points against over three games this season. New Orleans has no answer for him (does any team?), and in what projects to be a close, high-scoring game between two teams that have little interest in playing defense, expect a monster game from Cousins. He disappointed a little last night as he only posted 47 fantasy points in an easy win over the Lakers. That’s probably his floor tonight, so be sure to lock him in if enough value presents itself at other positions.