The NBA is back, and we have our first big tournament slate of the year. Wednesdays are always jam-packed full of games, and there are some large prize pools on FanDuel. Let's take a look at some guys I like for this inaugural Wednesday of the 2015/2016 season.
Top Play – Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers ($9,000)
Wesley Matthews is no longer in Portland. Nicolas Batum is no longer in Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge is no longer in Portland. Robin Lopez is no longer in Portland. That means we have the Damian Lillard show! He is going to put up some huge statistics this season, and it won't be long before he is placed in the same pricing tier as Russell Westbrook. This is a favorable matchup against the Pelicans, who have Jrue Holiday on a minutes limit.
Value Play – Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets ($5,500)
Ty Lawson is now in Houston, and the Nuggets appear comfortable handing the reins over to rookie Emmanuel Mudiay. He played in China last year after being deemed ineligible to play college basketball by the NCAA. He will certainly have some growing pains, and his turnover issues will be a problem, but the ability to contribute across the board will be there. This is going to be a fast-paced game against Lawson and the Rockets, and Mudiay should match up with Lawson more often than backup (and better defender) Patrick Beverley. He is a solid value option right out of the gate.
Top Play – James Harden, Houston Rockets ($10,800)
The Rockets/Nuggets contest has the highest projected total of the night, with Vegas pegging the game for around 212 points on the NBA odds board. There should be plenty of opportunities for James Harden to produce against a weak Denver defense. The only downside is that Harden will match up against one of the team's better defenders in Gary Harris, but that is only a minor concern. His upside is upwards of 50 real points and 75 fantasy points in this game.
Value Play – C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers ($5,200)
Remember the discussion I had above regarding Damian Lillard? Someone is going to have to step up as a secondary scorer in Portland, and C.J. McCollum is the most likely candidate. It's certainly more plausible than expecting it to be Meyers Leonard, Mason Plumlee, or Al-Farouq Aminu. McCollum garnered a lot of buzz in the preseason and won't be available for this cheap price tag for too long. Take advantage while you can.
Top Play – Paul George, Indiana Pacers ($8,500)
The freakish athlete is back. It's great to see Paul George contributing for the Pacers, and to his credit his confidence never wavered for one minute. In the only preseason game where he played regular-season type minutes, he put up 26 points and 13 rebounds against the Bulls in 35 minutes of playing time. He added two steals and a block, too. Those are elite numbers, and his price seems too low at $8,500 even though he has a tall task going up against DeMarre Carroll. The tough matchup makes him a better tournament play than a cash game play, though the price tag is enticing in any format.
Value Play – Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets ($6,500)
Nicolas Batum always struggled to reach his fantasy ceiling in Portland, as he was often the third wheel behind Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. That will not be the case in Charlotte, as he will find it easier to co-exist with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. To wit, Batum's usage rate was almost five percent higher in the preseason than it was in even his best year with Portland. That's not even considering his ability to produce in many categories. A resurgent year is in the cards, and he is a great play at $6,500 for the season opener.
Top Play – Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans ($11,200)
If his preseason usage is any indication, Anthony Davis is in for a monster fantasy season. He is taking three pointers, being utilized in all aspects of the offense, and of course contributing defensively and on the glass. Tyreke Evans is out for an extended period, Jrue Holiday is not 100% healthy, and a few other role players are out as well. It all points to a big start to the season for Davis. He didn't have an all-world game in the opener against Golden State, but a strong bounce back is likely against a weaker Portland front line.
Value Play – Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers ($4,500)
He is coming off a gruesome injury and hasn't proven much in regular season games at this level, but Julius Randle is a fantastic tournament play at just $4,500 on Wednesday. He looked good in the preseason, and he should get plenty of minutes as the Lakers don't have much depth up front. This price tag is simply way too cheap, and I will have plenty of shares of Randle in what profiles as a sneaky high-scoring game to target.
Top Play – Greg Monroe, Milwaukee Bucks ($8,000)
The usage rate for Greg Monroe should go through the roof in Milwaukee. He no longer has to worry about co-existing with Andre Drummond, nor does he have to worry about random benchings from Stan Van Gundy. He is going to be a go-to player in this offense, and he gets an even bigger boost for the first game as Giannis Antetokounmpo will be suspended. Expect the offense to run through Monroe, and he should have a solid day against the developing Knicks.
Value Play – Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves ($6,100)
Given the recent struggles in Minnesota, fans will no doubt be excited to watch the young Karl-Anthony Towns in action. He logged a preseason-high 31 minutes in the last contest, putting up a solid line of 18 points and 12 rebounds in the process. He will also chip in defensively with plenty of steals and blocks, and he is a legitimate candidate for the Rookie of the Year. The mid-range price tag is very affordable, and he has a great matchup against an aging Roy Hibbert. I expect Towns to burst onto the scene with a very nice game.