After a big fantasy night from the 13 game Friday night slate, we have a pretty chill five games to work with tonight. Golden State at Milwaukee shapes up to be an interesting one, not that there's ever a reason to not like a game featuring Steph Curry of course. Oklahoma City tries to clinch the last playoff spot in the West, against the tough defense of Utah, who leads the league in fewest points allowed since the All Star Break. Meanwhile, the Bulls are gigantic favorites over the Knicks, who are the worst defensive team in the league since the break. It looks like a lower scoring slate overall, and with fewer players taking the floor, the factors you use to pick your lineups are critical. Here I look at which players get the best defensive matchups of the night as well as a few to use based on great salaries or game flow opportunities.
Denver Nuggets @ Portland Trail Blazers over/under 209.5, Trail Blazers -8.5
Somewhere in the back of my mind, my first instinct is still that this is a great game. Then I remember that the Nuggets are really bad this year... They are bottom five in the league in defensive efficiency at every position except point guard. That said, there is still fantasy value in bad basketball; I like players from both sides of this highest projected scoring game of the night. My favorites are highlighted below. Damien Lilliard is the one guy on Portland who doesn't get the plum matchup, and he's coming off a really bad fantasy night in Phoenix. I still like him as a GPP play today. LaMarcus Aldridge is priced too high for me given the other options in play, even in this amazing matchup with the Denver frontcourt. I don't like a lot of value plays in this game because they're all so inconsistent. I'd use Wilson Chandler and Jameer Nelson in all formats if you need to save at the wing positions, and Will Barton only in tournaments.
Players to Target
Ty Lawson PG Denver ($7200): Ty Lawson sat out the second half of a back to back a week ago so make sure to see that Denver isn't doing something similar tonight before you lock him in. If he plays, and I think he should, he gets a great matchup with Lilliard in a fast paced game. Lawson has been a little up and down this month but has back to back near 20 point games, and he's still getting plenty of assists and steals to pad his stat line. He's 3rd in the league in assists per game. At his current salary, I think he reaches value pretty easily tonight.
Joakim Noah C Chicago ($6900): Getting to use the starting center for a team facing New York's 6th worst center defense (in fantasy points allowed) at this price is a treat. As Noah has had a few days to rest and hopefully heal his nagging injuries, he should be good to go tonight. Playing around 25-30 mpg, Noah is the rare big man who can come close to a triple double any given night. He's a safe bet for 30 fpts with upside tonight.
Draymond Green SF Golden State ($7600): Yes, Draymond Green has had a couple of pedestrian performances lately. But he's still a monster, and in a tight game with the Bucks, I like him a lot at this salary. There aren't great options tonight at SF, per usual, making him even more attractive. While the Bucks are a good defensive team overall, they have allowed the 6th most fantasy points to SF this season, and Green thrives in tight games.
Pau Gasol PF Chicago ($9000): Pau Gasol is tied for 6th in the league in blocks (2/game) and is 4th in rebounds with 11.8/game. The Bulls locked in their playoff spot already, but they haven't played since Wednesday and Gasol should be good to notch his 48th double double tonight in front of the home crowd. The issue with Gasol is not the talent or the matchup--the Knicks are 22nd in defensive efficiency to PF over the last 10 games--but with the blowout risk in this game. The Bulls are 16 point favorites. You're hoping Gasol is the one that gets them out to a big lead if you roll with him tonight.
Russell Westbrook PG Oklahoma City ($12,800): Am I crazy to pay this price for Westbrook, coming off a down game (16/4/7/2 steals) against the league's best team defense? Maybe. This is a matchup column and the matchup isn't there at first glance, but looking a little deeper we see that good point guards have been able to exploit the Jazz a bit lately. Ty Lawson posted a 40 fantasy point line against them last night, while Damien Lilliard racked up 50 against them on Wednesday. No disrespect intended, but Westbrook is on another level than those guys (every guy, maybe). Trey Burke and Dante Exum have their moments, but Westbrook is going to dominate this game. If you can build a decent lineup around him, I like it a lot.
Robin Lopez C Portland ($5300): I mean, you have to have some exposure to the guys who will beat up on poor Denver's generous frontcourt tonight and if you're not comfortable spending $9400 on LaMarcus Aldridge, Lopez is the next best thing. He's a key piece to a Westbrook lineup, in my opinion. Lopez provides pretty low upside, but he can take advantage of weak opponents as seen by his double doubles against the Suns and Rockets yesterday and earlier this month.
You can make a case for
My love (perhaps obsession is a better word?) with Dennis Schroder ($5300) is going nowhere. Charlotte's tough, but Schroder has the advantage of usually facing teams' second units. His minutes have been there, and more often than not, so has his production.
Mo Williams PG Charlotte ($6600): I just expect a bit of a let down here after his monstrous contribution to a valiant Hornets effort at Washington last night. Williams put up 55.8 fpts in 41 minutes against a strong Wizards defense. Atlanta is no slouch defensively either, but more importantly, Williams is likely to play fewer minutes tonight if reports of a still-sore knee are true. Beware.
Enes Kantor C Oklahoma City ($7100): Not that I really believe I'm so powerful, but just by virtue of including Kantor here he'll probably go off against the leagues best C defense and Rudy Gobert tonight. His 22 minute stint in the blowout loss on Wednesday really let me down, and while he should see more playing time tonight in a tight game with the Jazz, I'm not using him in this matchup.