Lucky for me, given the up and down nature of this week's NBA slates, we get a good one this Sunday. FanDuel gives you the choice of an 11 game slate including Miami-Chicago and OKC-Cleveland starting at 1:00 ET, or a nine game slate starting at 6:00 ET. Unlike Saturday night, there are a ton of players I want to use tonight. Taking a bunch of contextual factors into consideration, we'll consider a few of the best games to target as well as the top matchup plays of the day and a few to avoid.
Clippers @ Suns
This game owns the highest total of the night (222.5) with the smallest spread (Clippers -2) which is a recipe for fantasy gold. It's rare to get the Clippers in a close, fast paced, high scoring game where you feel confident that the starters will play hard for a full complement of minutes, but that's exactly what should happen as they go to Phoenix to take on the surging Suns. Phoenix has won seven of their last ten games, is ranked 2nd in offensive efficiency and pace, and is top 5 in shooting (TS% and eFG%). Players from both sides of this game should be popular, but critical, parts of winning lineups tonight.
Thunder @ Cavaliers (early)
Cleveland is looking a lot more like the team we all thought they'd be lately, riding a five game win streak. They're small favorites in another high scoring game vs OKC this afternoon. Neither team brings a strong offensive or defensive identity to the court, which allows us to effectively exploit some specific matchups. In particular, you'll get to revisit the Kevin Durant or LeBron James decision as they go head to head. It's also a nice spot for both PG.
Pistons @ Raptors
The Raptors are decent favorites in another game with a 200+ total. However, six of Toronto's 15 losses have come in the last 20 days. The return of DeMar DeRozan has frankly become a nightmare over the past week, a period in which he has scored 14 total points. Vegas clearly believes a return to their home court in Canada will right some wrongs. The Pistons on the other hand, continue to play well since Josh Smith's departure, but the loss of Brandon Jennings is a blow (yes, as frustrating as he may be for DFS, this team is better with him in the lineup). That said, DJ Augustin makes a great value play tonight. The last time these two teams met (Jan 12, 2015 in Toronto), the Pistons won 114-111. I think the Raptors take this one with ease.
Timberwolves @ Hawks and Celtics @ Warriors are very tempting games to target for DFS. The matchups are among the best, these absolutely dominant Atlanta and Golden State teams have plenty of stars to pick from, and the totals are high and sky high, respectively. The problem is that both games are predicted to be huge blowouts (Hawks -17.5 and Warriors -17). I won't be avoiding them completely, but it'll be smart to avoid going all in on high priced players from either game.
DeAndre Jordan--C LA Clippers $8300
If you read this column regularly, you know I'm a big DeAndre Jordan supporter. You also know that picking on the Suns' sieve of a frontcourt is a regular thing for me. The combination tonight is irresistible. The game flow factors highlighted above and his price add to the motivation to build around Jordan tonight. He leads the league in rebounds/game with 13.4, and in good matchups a 15/15+ double double is well within his reach.
Jeff Teague--PG Atlanta Hawks $8200
To be honest, Jeff Teague is not a player I've rostered very often over the years. But there's no denying he's playing solid ball right now and is a big part of facilitating the Hawks' success. Tonight he takes on the Timberwolves 2nd worst PG defense. This game has a chance to get out of hand early, but Teague is still priced reasonably enough that he should be able to meet value en route.
Pat Beverley--PG Houston Rockets $5200
Patrick Beverley gets arguably the best matchup of the night as the PG facing the Lakers, who are league worst in defensive efficiency against PG, and who give up the most fantasy points to PG. Somehow, the spread on this game is only 7.5 and it features a nice total as both teams are top 10 in pace. Beverley should get his typical 30 minutes, a chance at some uncontested 3's, and enough rebounds and assists to meet value. The Lakers shoot-first strategy has kept their turnovers down, but with Kobe Bryant out, increased ball distribution could open up some steal opportunities for the opportunistic Beverley as well. He's a nice value play with upside.
Matt Barnes--SF LA Clippers $4900
It makes sense to take advantage of this game at every level. The Suns are actually ranked worse against SF than they are to bigs, giving up the 3rd most fantasy points to the position this season. Matt Barnes' salary is kept low because despite starting, his minutes fluctuate as the wing positions in LA are typically manned by the hot hand. Plus, the Clippers are involved in so many blowouts that he sometimes doesn't get a chance to reach value, as was the case vs Brooklyn Thursday night. Tonight lines up well for Barnes to rack up fantasy points on both sides of the ball as Phoenix averages 15.1 turnovers per game. He's a cheap way to gain exposure to the best game on the slate.
Kevin Durant--SF OKC Thunder $10,800
If you're playing early, you're going to want to include Kevin Durant in some of your lineups. The Cavs are ranked 8th in defensive efficiency to small forwards and that translates directly to fantasy points allowed. With KD and LeBron James priced the same, it's a tough decision. Consider that Durant averages 3 more points, and shoots 3% better against teams starting LeBron James compared to his career averages. Both superstars will come to play today, but I give the advantage to Durant.
Kyrie Irving--PG Cleveland Cavaliers $8800
Is Russell Westbrook simply too busy compiling counting stats to play defense? (no complaints here, btw)... Whatever the case, OKC allows the 6th most fantasy points to opposing PG. Kyrie Irving has no trouble scoring, but the peripherals are super inconsistent. He has 12 assist or 5 steal games, but they're few and far between, making it hard to justify his top tier salary most nights. Today is a good spot to roster the typically low-owned Irving.
Bradley Beal--SG Washington Wizards $6200
This should be another good game to target, with a high total and narrow spread. The Nuggets are ranked 4th in defensive efficiency at SG. Although Beal tends to do best in competitive situations (some of his worst games have come against the 76ers, Knicks, and Nets this year), the pace of this game should help him meet value. He's scored double digit points in nine of his last ten games, but really needs the rebounds and assists to pay off his salary.
DeMarre Carroll--SF Atlanta Hawks $5400
Minnesota is terrible at defending just about every position, and SF is no exception as they give up the most fantasy points in the league to the position. DeMarre Carroll flies under the radar in Atlanta, especially with Kyle Korver breaking records and whatnot all the time, but Carroll is a valuable piece of this Hawks team and a useful value play at SF on FanDuel. He consistently plays 30+ mpg even in blowouts, and though his shooting is up and down, he should be able to take advantage of the higher pace defenseless Timberwolves tonight.
Marcin Gortat--C Washington Wizards $5900
Everything I said above about this game applies to Gortat as well, and you know to at least consider bigs against the Nuggets by now. Gortat isn't the highest upside player, but 30 fantasy points are well within his range, and most nights he's near a double double with 30+ mpg. He's a safe, cheap play at C if you need to save there.
Amir Johnson--PF Toronto Raptors $5200
On paper, a PF matchup with the Detroit Pistons is downright mouthwatering. Then when you realize that Amir Johnson is that lucky PF, your mouth dries up real fast. Why is dry mouth such a common side effect, anyway? I can't trust Johnson, no matter the matchup. The Raptors rotations are amongst the hardest to predict. Some will no doubt try to chase Patrick Patterson's hot Friday night. While I don't expect a repeat performance, Patterson has been playing well lately, so I'd prefer him at $4400 to Johnson in this nice matchup, but both are a risk.
Steph Curry--PG Golden State Warriors $10,100
No offense, Steph, it's just that the price tag is so high, and your team doesn't need you to be as amazing as we all know you can be. I still love you. Keep winning, keep smiling.
Roy Hibbert--C Indiana Pacers $5600
A game with a 210 total, in which Roy Hibbert faces an Orlando frontcourt giving up the most points to opposing C (2nd in defensive efficiency) seems like a no brainer. Again, it comes down to the player. Hibbert's minutes are all over the place, he has 5 and 6 fantasy points in his last two games, despite 40 fpt upside. He has 7 total rebounds in the last three games and his blocks tend to come in unpredictable bunches. Consider him in tournaments only, and then sparingly.